Though only one of Trumbull County's finalists received an Ohio Straight-A Fund grant, designed to accelerate student achievement and increase student access to advanced learning, all of the proposals merit pursuit in the next round.
The Straight-A Fund is a $250 million program that promotes innovate local ideas and programs to help ''transform and modernize'' the state's educational system. The grants provide seed money for the most creative and forward-thinking ideas from educators and their partners, whether public or private.
The fund asks for local educators to pursue three goals:
Significant advancement in raising student achievement;
Significant advancement in reducing spending;
Significant advancement in directing more resources to the classroom.
In Trumbull County, six applicants - Liberty, Brookfield and Lordstown local school districts, Warren City Schools, the Trumbull Career and Technical Center and the Summit Academy Community School-Warren - made the first cut.
The Trumbull Career and Technical Center, for its Mind Body Connection proposal, emerged a winner. This program is intended to increase nutritional offerings in the lunch program and create physical activity before, during and after school in an exercise science, career-technical program classroom. Combined, those efforts are expected to improve the learning environment.
Liberty was the lead district in a collaboration that included 19 Trumbull districts (everybody except Warren) participating in a program that would have targeted early literacy success. Educational service centers were not permitted to submit grant applications, so Liberty took the lead on this collaboration.
The collaboration itself is evidence that countywide, more leaders in the education community are setting aside territorial defenses to provide increased student opportunities within their budgets.
The collaboration's program called for countywide pre-K to kindergarten transition and kindergarten through third grade literacy improvement. All 19 districts would work together, share information and create uniformity. Lakeview and Girard already have programs in place serving as models.
Warren submitted its own ''Social Emotional Learning'' Skills for Life Sustainability Project. The district faces issues different than most of the others in the county. In 2010, Warren began Social Emotional Learning in a partnership with the Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning, Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility and The Inner Resilience Program.
By improving ''social emotional learning,'' Warren hopes to reduce conflicts among students, improve classroom behavior and make other social improvements that then result in better teaching and learning environments.
A grant would enable Warren to deliver the program to all buildings in the district and create new electives - career / college readiness for eighth- and ninth-graders.
Among problems unique to Warren, compared to other Trumbull systems, is its four-year graduation rate.
Brookfield and Lordstown submitted their own Straight-A Fund applications in addition to joining Liberty's countywide proposal.
The Brookfield Warrior Digital Initiative would have created tablet learning and online textbook access for students and teachers. The Mix It Up with Blended Learning proposal in Lordstown would have enabled students to use technological tools inside and outside the classroom.
Trumbull County's other finalist was the Summit Academy Community School-Warren for its Innovative Curricular Resources proposal.
The results of the TCTC's winning program gives educators something excited to look forward to. The others, especially the countywide collaboration spearheaded by Liberty, should find a way to launch their programs, perhaps in altered formats. And they should try again for the next Straight-A grants.