December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin gets Race to the Top funds

OBERLIN – Word on Thursday that Oberlin Schools was awarded a $718,000 federal taxpayer grant was a nice going away present for Superintendent Geoff Andrews on his last day on the job.

“It’s such a sweet affirmation at the end of this time to get this call from the governor’s office saying, ‘Hey, come get this $700,000 check,’ ” Andrews said Thursday. “I feel fortunate.”

Oberlin Schools was among 300 school districts and 300 charter schools competing for the Race to the Top grant. Race to the Top is a U.S. Department of Education initiative seeking to enhance students’ chances of graduating from college and getting a good job, improve poorly performing schools, better measure student achievement and improve teacher quality, recruitment and retention, according to the department’s website.

Oberlin was one of 13 Northeast Ohio schools receiving a total of $4 million, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon. Brown, who last year wrote to Education Secretary Arne Duncan supporting funding going to Ohio, said the money would “strategically address gaps in delivering a highly effective learning experience to all schools.”

Andrews, named superintendent in 2006, said the district going from academic watch to excellent on the state Department of Education report card in the last several years was a major selling point in obtaining the grant. That every Oberlin high school graduate for the last three years has applied to and been accepted at a college or university also helped.

Rather than distribute the money among the district’s schools, Andrews said most will go to resources for teachers in the district’s three International Baccalaureate Programs that run from kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through 10th grade and a diploma program for high school juniors and seniors. Rather than learning through rote memorization, the multicultural programs challenge students to learn through investigation.

“The idea is to have the students think more about what they’re learning and afterwards reflect on what they’ve learned,” said Andrews, who is leaving the district to take a job as director of an international school in Beijing. “When students are done, they’re actually thinking about what they’ve learned.”

With 53 percent of the approximately 1,200 students in the district receiving free or reduced lunches, Andrews said the award is an example that a district can achieve excellence despite high poverty.

“We have great principals. We have really hardworking teachers and we have support staff that really gets (it),” he said. “Whether you’re driving a bus or serving food or whatever, we try to talk about how everybody’s got a role in helping kids achieve.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.