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6/14/2019

ENCORE: Libraries Help Fight the Summer Slide — Angie Jacobsen, Ohio Library Council

By: Guest Blogger

Because the Summer Slide is not playground equipment

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on June 7, 2018, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post to remind families to check out their local library’s resources and help students continue learning all summer long.

School may be out for summer, but learning is always in season at your local library. Ohio's public libraries serve a critical function in summer learning, in many cases, acting as the only safety net against the “summer slide” — the documented decrease in reading proficiency of students who do not read during summer vacation. The stakes for children who do not read during the summer are high. Substantial research on this topic shows that elementary school students who lose reading skills during the summer will be two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade. It's usually the students who can least afford to lose ground as readers who are most likely to suffer from summer reading loss and fall behind their peers. Parents and teachers alike have long asserted that regular use of the local library improves children’s reading dramatically. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore all the library’s resources and programs.

Every public library in Ohio offers a summer reading program for children with organized activities, projects, games and incentives to promote reading during the summer months. This year’s theme is “Libraries Rock” and includes a variety of musical activities from making instruments to dance parties. For hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s kids, these programs develop positive attitudes about reading and strengthen the skills they learned during the previous school year. Preventing the “summer slide” continues to be the main objective of summer reading programs.

Ohio’s public libraries provide quality learning activities that are fun and encourage some of the best techniques identified by research as being important to the reading process such as storytelling and book discussions. Librarians know how to connect kids with books and encourage readers, especially those who are reluctant, with different formats such as eBooks, magazines, audiobooks or comics. Families can try out digital formats and borrow devices such as tablets, MP3 players and even Wi-Fi hot spots.

Parents often indicate that summer is the most difficult time to find productive things for kids to do. For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer where they can access free educational activities. Libraries also are natural spaces for serving meals to children whose access to lunch disappears when school is out. Free summer lunches are available at more than 120 libraries across the state. To find a location, visit education.ohio.gov/kidseat.

In addition to reading, children can participate in activities at the library that support their curiosity and creativity including physical makerspaces, coding classes, production studios for digital media, virtual reality and more. Many libraries offer hands-on science and math activities that let kids brainstorm, problem solve and work together on projects. By taking an informal and playful (and sometimes messy and loud!) approach, libraries see these activities as opportunities for children to further their sense of discovery. Children who join summer library programs keep their brains active and enter school in the fall ready to succeed. An Ohio Public Library Directory is available at https://library.ohio.gov/using-the-library/find-an-ohio-library/. Check your local library’s website for a calendar of summer activities to see how you can keep kids reading and learning all summer long!

Angie Jacobsen is the director of Communications for the Ohio Library Council. The Ohio Library Council is the statewide professional association that represents the interests of Ohio’s 251 public library systems, their trustees, friends groups, and staffs. You can contact Angie by clicking here.

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5/23/2019

Building Strong Partnerships to Support Digital Learning

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

GettyImages-628066912.jpgHow many of you remember the Carol Burnett show, either reruns or originals? I realize I am dating myself here! Growing up, watching these comedic partnerships was one of the highlights of my family’s week. What we really watched for was Tim Conway trying to break up Harvey Korman in every sketch, and Tim was always successful. In one of the most famous sketches, Conway plays a dentist and Korman the patient. It is one of the funniest TV sketches in history, making the Korman-Conway partnership one of the most successful.

Tim Conway’s passing last week made me think about why this partnership was so successful. Good and successful partnerships involve a common vision and values and a willingness to do more and stretch to make the partnership work. Think about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They had a common belief that personal computing was the future, and both brought a different set of skills. Jobs was a master marketer, and Wozniak was a software genius.  

Successful partnerships have something called synergy — the collective is greater than the equal sum of parts alone. Even animals understand this — just look at pack behavior in wolves. In his poem, The Law for the Wolves, Rudyard Kipling wrote “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

We are only as strong as our partnerships. When we think about the advancement of civilization, we realize nothing happens in a vacuum. People have to work together because survival depends on it. We form partnerships, though, for many reasons. For example, partnerships can be romantic, for business or recreational. Some are permanent and some only last for a project or a short time. Some are on purpose and some accidental, like the famous chocolate/peanut butter combination!

In education in Ohio, we believe so strongly in the power of partnerships, it is one of three core principles for success in Each Child, Our Future, Ohio’s strategic plan for education:

PARTNERSHIPS: Everyone, not just those in schools, shares the responsibility of preparing children for successful futures. The most important partners are parents and caregivers, who have the greatest impact on a child’s development. Other critical partners include educators, institutions of higher education, business, philanthropy, employers, libraries, social service organizations, community members, health care providers, behavioral health experts and many more. Put simply, partnerships transform the education experience.

What does this look like in practical terms? I couldn’t do my work around transformation in schools to support environments for digital learning without my extensive educational partners. I often collaborate with educational service centers and educational technology agencies to plan events. In a recent discussion with educational service center partners to plan for the Future Ready in Action conference sponsored by the Ohio Educational Service Center Association, we discussed partnerships and their impacts.

Amy Harker, the career readiness coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio said partnerships are “important to support work, provide more opportunities for students (business and school partnerships) and create broader idea generation.”

I also worked with the curriculum director of Butler County Educational Service Center, Georgine Bowman, who said, “The power of partnerships is to provoke thinking, give multiple perspectives, and enhance learning experiences.” This is the kind of thinking that builds strategic partnerships.

Another conference I recently planned, the Schools Reimagined Reboot, was a leadership conference in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center and WOSU Classroom. This conference was a day to be inspired, reimagine teaching and learning and look creatively and openly at finding more opportunities for students beyond traditional instructional practices.

The Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center curriculum director, Amanda Mahon, was central to planning the School Reimagined Reboot. Regarding the power of partnerships, she said, “Our organizations each bring a unique perspective, skill set and priorities to a project. In working together, we are able to capitalize on each other’s strength and bring a high-quality, holistic approach to professional learning.”

Amy Palermo, executive director for content at WOSU Classroom shares a similar belief. She said, “Partnerships build on capacity and strengthen the work and content that is delivered. They are vital for continued quality work. Ours works because of the experience and expertise we each uniquely bring to the table to build on professional learning that is impactful and meaningful to others.” 

If you want to find ways to work with your community more and build partnerships, look for inspiration in the Future Ready Ohio Framework. The framework helps align perspectives of district work around a goal for personalized learning. One of the gears is specifically about Community Partnerships:

Community partnerships include the formal and informal local and global community connections, collaborative projects and relationships that advance the school’s learning goals. Digital communications, online communities, social media and digital learning environments often serve as connectors for these partnerships.

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Future Ready offers targeted support for building partnerships if you are a district leader, principal, technology leader, instructional coach or librarian. However, everyone in the school can be part of making connections and developing partnerships. Here are some tips:

  • Establish and foster relationships to support school culture and vision;
  • Collaborate and engage all community members, including parents, local businesses, local organizations and taxpayers without children in schools;
  • Develop, model and amplify the district brand through existing and new communication channels;
  • Expand learning beyond the school day;
  • Engage the community in developing and implementing a vision for personalized learning;
  • Leverage student and community talents and resources to support desired learning outcomes;
  • Provide community and parent learning events to support partnerships and increase learning and engagement opportunities for students.

The overarching idea is to reach out however you can. Use the Future Ready Framework to help you plan. Use Each Child, Our Future as your guide. As an educator, as a leader, as a community member...for each adult, our common goal remains a steadfast and unwavering belief in success for all. This achievement does indeed take a village, a village of dedicated folks who want all students to have success, because our shared futures depend on it.

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3/14/2019

Proof Positive that Partnerships Transform the Education Experience

By: Marva Jones

GettyImages-866758230-2.jpgSix months ago, I continued my work on behalf of our state’s students and families as I began working at the Ohio Department of Education. As I reflect upon my first 180 days, I remain energized by the Department’s focused efforts, actions and determination to make a difference in the education community. My experience thus far has continued to allow me the opportunity to sink my teeth into more of Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future.

One of my through line career goals (which I call Marva’s Main Missions) has been to maintain and develop respectful and trustworthy relationships – in essence, build partnerships.

Each Child, Our Future states that everyone, not just those in schools, shares the responsibility of preparing children for successful futures. I have been fortunate enough in my career to have worked on several partnerships which mirror this fundamental theme outlined in Ohio’s strategic plan for education.

  • During my tenure in Warrensville, we partnered with South University. Eighth grade boys were paired with faculty and staff to sharpen the students’ ideas about life after high school into real aspirations. The faculty mentored these youngsters every other week for a semester. These young boys became young men during the half a year by building their relationships into a strong partnership. The boys took part in several activities, such as attending the college course taught by their mentor, introducing the mentor to their families, enjoying dinner or a sporting event together and inviting the mentors to their own eighth grade class.
  • As a curriculum director in Massillon City Schools, I partnered with the library, district staff, parents and the entire community to focus our efforts on preventing the summer slide in literacy. Everyone was involved in donating books to the library. In turn, adults borrowed these books so they could be models for the students in their homes and neighborhoods. The students would read for small prizes and activities that occurred at the library during the summer. Eventually this turned into bonus points at the start of the school year.
  • In Canton City Schools, we partnered with philanthropic organizations. Most notably I worked with the Sisters of Charity in a program called Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK). SPARK is a family-focused program designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The program offers free in-home visits with parents and caregivers to prepare 4-year-old children for kindergarten and future success in school. SPARK coaches provided new books, art and school supplies to families when they visited. During the regular visits, the coaches modeled skills and behaviors for parents so they could continue supporting their children when the program ended. In a simple twist of fate, 15 years later when briefly working at The Literacy Cooperative in Cleveland, I supervised the coaches for the SPARK program. The authenticity of the program and purpose had not lost its effectiveness.
  • A partnership with the city of Massillon and civic organizations highlighted the importance of performing well on an annual academic test. Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It became a mantra for all students, and the city embraced and echoed the theme of student success. When the time came for students to “show what they know” on the test, a banner for academics (not athletics) was hung across the main street in downtown Massillon. There was no doubt that the city was dreaming and believing all students could achieve greatness.
  • Based on my studies in mental health services, I was offered a seat on the Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board. Given the social challenges that our students were struggling with at that time, I was at the table to maintain the effectiveness of this innovative partnership, provide targeted supports and create hope for students and their families.
  • As principal of Dueber Elementary, I worked to assist families that needed help beyond what we could offer at school. Well before the 21st century programs that are so common today, we partnered with Dueber United Methodist Church. This partnership connected teachers, parents and the faith-based community to provide tutoring services and a place of refuge for students in a latchkey like program.

These partnerships, and many more, continue to help students and families. Addressing the needs of the whole child starts with parents, caregivers and schools and extends to other government and community organizations that serve children. Sometimes these services are disjointed and siloed, but partners must work together to provide seamless supports. Success requires the collaboration of parents, caregivers and families and the education system, especially the early childhood education community. I have experienced firsthand how partnerships transform the education experience – just as we illustrate in Each Child, Our Future.

Marva Jones is senior executive director for Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Marva by clicking here.

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12/6/2018

GUEST BLOG: The Power of Partnerships in Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child and Community — Lindy Douglas, Alexander Local Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-470237304.jpgAs the superintendent of Alexander Local Schools, I am proud to tell you about our success providing students with wraparound services. Wraparound services are additional supports for students that help them meet their basic needs so they can focus and do well in school. The wraparound services offered in Alexander include mental health counseling and health care services. Some people may wonder if mental and physical health care have a place in school, but I firmly believe they do.

Alexander Local Schools is located in Athens County. It is a rural, Appalachian district. All the school buildings are located on a single campus. Unemployment, poverty and drug addiction affect many families in our schools. As superintendent, I became aware of the number of children who needed medical or counseling services. The teachers and I were running into situations where some children were not receiving proper medical attention. In many cases, it appeared the parents were not following through with planned appointments. Even when families recognized the need for these services, they still had to pull children out of school and travel to appointments. Parents worried about losing their jobs as a result of missing work to take their children for services. Some families did not have transportation or money for gas.

There are many challenges in our community, and I wanted to help address them. The other educators in my district and I began speaking with various agencies about how we could help families get the services and supports they needed. We decided to pilot a wraparound program by inviting one counselor from Hopewell Health Centers to put an office in our building for one year. We referred children to this counselor when they needed deeper, more intense counseling than what the school alone could offer. We worked with teachers and the counselor to build a positive rapport and buy-in with the staff, parents and community. 

What began as a one-year pilot has grown. Our campus now houses offices for four different service agencies. Currently, we have Hopewell Health Centers, Health Recovery Services, Athens County Children Services and Holzer on our campus. We give them space in our buildings for free so they can provide their services to the children. We also meet with the agencies annually to talk about what is working and what needs improvement. We encourage them to build their clientele in our community. During the summer months, they can continue using our facilities. 

These services have become a part of our school culture. Counselors are honorary staff members. They attend staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences and Intervention Assistance Team meetings. We embrace their knowledge and expertise. By providing services on our campus, we have seen improvements in our school and our community. The most significant improvements have been increased attendance and graduation rates, reduced behavioral issues and better scores on state tests.

Here are a few other benefits to implementing these programs on campus:  

  1. Convenient primary care and preventative medical services are offered to district staff, students and the community.
  2. There is increased access to health care providers without the need to travel to a larger facility.
  3. We have streamlined care from a community health and specialty care perspective. This keeps students in the classroom and student athletes on the playing field. 
  4. Students and families have an increased awareness of available services. Many may not have sought care otherwise.
  5. Student athletes receive athletic training support in partnership with Ohio University.
  6. The school’s ability to make direct referrals increases productivity and improves service agency caseloads.
  7. Barriers such as transportation, accessibility and parental time off work are eliminated.
  8. Having agencies on campus increases the attendance rate, and the agencies are experiencing fewer canceled appointments. Agencies are working closely with the district to meet insurance billing requirements.
  9. Support agencies report that partnering with the schools in some situations has helped them improve parental engagement.
  10. Being in the school building provides immediate access to communication with teachers and staff who see the students daily and often are the first to encounter behavioral issues. This helps the clinician take a comprehensive approach to treatment. Once a treatment plan is in place, educators and clinicians can monitor interventions and assess treatment success.
  11. Being part of the school reduces the stigma attached to seeing a counselor. Clinicians often wear school badges to help them blend in with school staff.
  12. The district has increased the number of professional counselors on staff.
  13. An outside agency can complete risk assessments for children who make threats. This allows for an immediate intervention.
  14. Students receive medical treatment immediately.   
  15. We are able to provide free sports physicals and a staff doctor for the football and basketball teams.

The greatest benefit, and the thing that I am most proud of, is that we are now addressing the whole child. Addressing the whole child allows children to have necessary supports, enhances wellness and fosters learning and development. Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, Each Child, Our Future, recognizes how critical it is to meet the basic needs of the whole child, and we are working hard to do just that. Thanks to partnerships built within our own community, our small district is making a big impact on each student and our community.

Lindy Douglas is the superintendent of Alexander Local Schools. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and master’s degree in Educational Administration from Ohio University. She has been an educator for 29 years, working in public schools in Southeastern Ohio to better the lives of children by increasing their knowledge and improving their education.

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10/4/2018

ENCORE: Not Even Once... Addressing the Opioid Epidemic — Christa Hyson

By: Guest Blogger

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Nov. 2, 2017 but some things are so good they deserve another look! Christa wrote this blog when she worked at the Cincinnati Department of Health. She is now the Senior Manager, External Relations for the Health Collaborative in Cincinnati.  We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to learn about the HOPE curriculum.

11-2-17.jpgI am not a teacher by profession, but I try my hardest to be a good one. I have great admiration for what classroom teachers do every single day across the world. Whether it was a part of previous positions I’ve had or currently in public health — teaching has always been an integral part of my work. In addition to teaching, I’ve had the opportunity to work with youth on prevention education curriculums ranging from tobacco to communicable disease. None have been as challenging as attempting to address the opioid epidemic.

I don’t claim to have all the answers to solve the opioid epidemic across this country, but I wish I did. It has torn apart families, crumbled portions of our workforce and completely rocked the medical community. This epidemic has no road map. There is no established, evidence-based practice that says if you do “x,” then you will receive “y” as a positive result.

As a public health professional, I try to think of ways to avoid adverse health outcomes. While this sounds oversimplified, prevention is the backbone of public health. Working for the Cincinnati Health Department, I am a witness to the constantly moving pieces of this epidemic — from endless overdose data, to potential policy changes, to Quick Response Teams and resource identification.

Working from different angles on this epidemic, I felt more could be done on the prevention side. I was fortunate to find an organization willing to fund a prevention initiative. My project is entitled Not Even Once. Not Even Once aims to implement the HOPE (Health and Opioid Prevention Education) curriculum at Oyler School. Oyler was strategically selected as a pilot site for HOPE due to the high number of overdoses in the surrounding neighborhood. Prevention curriculums like HOPE are key — key to saving lives, saving resources and most important, preventing youth from ever starting to abuse drugs.

What makes HOPE different is that it is the opposite of most anti-drug programs. It is pro-youth empowerment; pro-good decision-making; pro-self-respect. Kids are told, “No,” enough. This curriculum puts them in the driver’s seat of their own lives. It gives them the tools to use throughout their lives to build resiliency, self-respect and community awareness. It goes beyond basic knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes and turns it into functional health knowledge.

A few learning objectives of HOPE are:

  • Understanding the components of healthy, safe and respectful choices;
  • Identifying trusted adults;
  • Knowing how to ask for help; and
  • Understanding the differences between over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
I started teaching HOPE in June 2017 for ages 9-13 and will continue through December. From the moment the project began, I was astounded by the openness of the kids and their profound awareness of this epidemic right on their doorstep. One night a few weeks into class, my phone rang — it was a parent of a child in class, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Again, I was taken aback by her honesty. She stressed how difficult it is as a parent to talk to her children about what’s going on 15 feet from their doorstep. Instead, she tells her kids to “always stay inside” instead of playing at the park across the street.  

Some people have told me that kids in certain drug-ridden parts of town are “lost causes.” I vehemently disagree with this, especially with my kids. Because they have HOPE. I believe in the village. I believe we will overcome this epidemic one day, with people who have rallied together to empower others to fully utilize talents to create a society of empathy.

This project would not be possible without the generosity of the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, People’s Liberty and especially Dr. Kevin Lorson, Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance president and professor and Physical Education program director at Wright State University. I am eternally grateful that he was willing to take a chance on me to implement HOPE.

Christa Hyson works for the Health Collaborative in Cincinnati. Previously, she was a health communication specialist at the Cincinnati Health Department and project grantee for People’s Liberty. While at the Cincinnati Health Department, she combined her public health skills and youth prevention education to execute, Not Even Once. Click here to learn more about the Hope Curriculum.

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9/6/2018

STAFF BLOG: Getting to Class is the First Step to Academic Success — Brittany Miracle, Program Administrator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-160187188.jpgMark your calendars!

September is National Attendance Awareness Month. Regular school attendance is so important it gets an entire month of recognition and celebration! (Not that National Taco Day on Oct. 4 isn’t cause for celebration, too.)

Did you know?

  1. Good attendance is important starting in kindergarten. Children with good attendance in kindergarten and first grade are more likely to read on grade level in third grade.
  2. By grade 6, poor attendance can be an early warning sign for students at risk of dropping out of school.
  3. By ninth grade, good attendance can predict graduation rates even better than eighth-grade test scores.
  4. A student’s attendance in the previous year can predict his or her attendance in the current school year.

Students miss school for many reasons. They may be absent sporadically due to illnesses, college visits or planned family events. Other students may face more significant barriers to regular attendance resulting in more frequent and long-term absences. Some absences may be excused and others are unexcused. Regardless of the reason for the absence, every day in school matters because some lessons cannot be made up at home.

Attendance has a significant impact on achievement throughout a student’s school career. How can schools help students get to school regularly? It’s simple — talk with your students and families about the value of regular school attendance!

Building a school culture that recognizes the importance of regular and improved attendance, rather than perfect attendance, keeps students’ eyes on the prize throughout the entire year. Schools can provide individualized resources and friendly reminders about regular attendance to empower students and families to improve their school attendance.

September is a great time to start talking about attendance with your students and their families and caregivers. Use these tips when writing attendance messaging for your school:

  • Mode: Share your message using a variety of methods, such as social media, email, radio ads, postcards, magnets and newspaper ads.
  • Partnerships: Emphasize that schools and families are partners who share a common interest in students’ success. Build partnerships throughout your entire community to share your attendance messaging.
  • Comparison: Use charts, graphs and positive language to show individuals how their attendance is changing over time or how it compares to their peers. This is effective when communicating with a student about individual attendance or when encouraging friendly competitions between classrooms to meet attendance goals.
  • Individualize: Consider students’ unique needs when talking with students and families about how to improve attendance.
  • Accumulation: Highlight that a couple of absences per month add up over the course of the year.
  • Self-efficacy: Focus messaging on how parents influence their children’s attendance. Empower older students to adopt strategies to improve their own attendance.
  • Simplification: Write in friendly language that is easy to understand and free of legal jargon.
  • Frequency: Communicate early and often — before students develop attendance problems — to underscore the importance of getting to school regularly. Start your messaging with the first day of school and continue through the end of the year.

Check out Attendance Works’ website to see which districts across the nation are participating in National Attendance Awareness Month and get ideas to promote attendance in your school. Share your attendance activities with us this month and all year long on social media by tagging @OHEducation on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Brittany Miracle is a program administrator at the Ohio Department of Education. She coordinates school improvement initiatives and student support strategies—including efforts to improve student attendance. To contact Brittany, click here.

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7/19/2018

GUEST BLOG: The Ohio State Fair…The Ultimate Summer Learning Adventure—Eileen Corson, Ohio Expo Center and State Fair

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-691987756.jpgSuppose you wanted to take an in-water kayak lesson, learn to fish, plant a garden and taste the fruits of your labor, milk a cow, watch a horse show, discover fine arts and attend several music concerts. This sounds like an overflowing summer calendar. Now, imagine accomplishing all of this in a single day—it’s possible at the Ohio State Fair!

As mid-July approaches, families are trying to fit as many summer activities as possible into their remaining days of summer vacation. The Ohio State Fair (July 25-Aug. 5) is the perfect place to experience a variety of summer adventures and include some STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning for the new school year ahead.

With hundreds of exhibits and one of the largest junior fair shows in the nation, the 2018 Ohio State Fair has something for everyone.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Land & Living Exhibit is packed with agricultural activities for the whole family. Young children will enjoy driving pedal farm tractors, planting corn in a tractor simulator, harvesting wheat in a combine simulator or shopping in an interactive grocery store.

Visit the hands-on, interactive Ag is Cool education stations to learn how agriculture impacts your daily life. Milk a cow, learn the difference between hay and straw and see baby animals with their mothers. As a bonus, Ag is Cool allows exiting fourth grade students (2017-2018 academic year) and one chaperone to attend the Fair for free any one day by presenting a valid report card or homeschool form at the entrance gates.

Local Matters’ hands-on food and growing sessions empower kids of all ages to learn how to grow healthy foods, what healthy foods provide the most benefits, and how the healthful choice can also be the delicious choice! Whether you're getting hands dirty planting seeds or helping to prepare a delicious and healthy snack, you will learn that healthy eating is tons of fun. Stop by and taste different whole foods that keep your minds and bodies strong and full of energy – perfect to fuel your fun at the Fair all day long.

Enjoy free fishing for kids, kayaking, archery, a butterfly house, a watercraft simulator and so much more in the eight-acre Natural Resources Park. Kids can get up close and personal with native Ohio wildlife, dip their hands into the Scenic Rivers touch pool with crayfish and small stream fish, walk through the world’s largest geological map showing all of Ohio’s 88 counties, and explore a tall grass prairie with plants native to Ohio.

The Lausche Youth Center is the hub for all things science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Kids can unlock their invention powers at the Invention League booth, see robots in action with Technology Education, conduct experiments with liquid nitrogen and “the spinning barf wheel of science” at “Phun with Physics.” There is always a new hands-on experiment for you to try!

Inspiring art is everywhere at the Ohio State Fair. Enjoy art from Ohio’s best student artists in grades 1 through 12, as well as the Fine Arts Exhibition featuring amateur and professional Ohio artists. The Cox Fine Arts Center is a relaxing environment to soak in the arts or visit exhibits throughout the Fair featuring arts and crafts.

Music lovers will enjoy special performances around every corner! Listen to the talented students in the All-Ohio State Fair Band and All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. Attendees will want to pause and hear one of the many strolling performers or free concerts, or indulge in a big-name national music concert. Whatever your taste in music, you will find it at the Fair.

Make the most of your time this summer and visit the Ohio State Fair during its 12-day run July 25-Aug. 5. With a 165-year history of family fun, education and entertainment the Fair is a great place to build memories to last a lifetime.

Admission to the Fair is only $6 with advance purchase through Ticketmaster.com or in Kroger stores. For more information visit ohiostatefair.com or call 1-888-OHO-EXPO, or 1-614-644-FAIR.

Eileen Corson is a member of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair communications team and mom to three busy kids ages 7, 13 and 15. She enjoys sneaking fun learning into summer and promoting all the great family adventures you will find here in Ohio.

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6/7/2018

GUEST BLOG: Libraries Help Fight the Summer Slide

By: Guest Blogger

Because the Summer Slide is not playground equipment

School may be out for summer, but learning is always in season at your local library. Ohio's public libraries serve a critical function in summer learning, in many cases, acting as the only safety net against the “summer slide” — the documented decrease in reading proficiency of students who do not read during summer vacation. The stakes for children who do not read during the summer are high. Substantial research on this topic shows that elementary school students who lose reading skills during the summer will be two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade. It's usually the students who can least afford to lose ground as readers who are most likely to suffer from summer reading loss and fall behind their peers. Parents and teachers alike have long asserted that regular use of the local library improves children’s reading dramatically. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore all the library’s resources and programs.

Every public library in Ohio offers a summer reading program for children with organized activities, projects, games and incentives to promote reading during the summer months. This year’s theme is “Libraries Rock” and includes a variety of musical activities from making instruments to dance parties. For hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s kids, these programs develop positive attitudes about reading and strengthen the skills they learned during the previous school year. Preventing the “summer slide” continues to be the main objective of summer reading programs.

Ohio’s public libraries provide quality learning activities that are fun and encourage some of the best techniques identified by research as being important to the reading process such as storytelling and book discussions. Librarians know how to connect kids with books and encourage readers, especially those who are reluctant, with different formats such as eBooks, magazines, audiobooks or comics. Families can try out digital formats and borrow devices such as tablets, MP3 players and even Wi-Fi hot spots.

Parents often indicate that summer is the most difficult time to find productive things for kids to do. For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer where they can access free educational activities. Libraries also are natural spaces for serving meals to children whose access to lunch disappears when school is out. Free summer lunches are available at more than 120 libraries across the state. To find a location, visit education.ohio.gov/kidseat.

In addition to reading, children can participate in activities at the library that support their curiosity and creativity including physical makerspaces, coding classes, production studios for digital media, virtual reality and more. Many libraries offer hands-on science and math activities that let kids brainstorm, problem solve and work together on projects. By taking an informal and playful (and sometimes messy and loud!) approach, libraries see these activities as opportunities for children to further their sense of discovery. Children who join summer library programs keep their brains active and enter school in the fall ready to succeed. An Ohio Public Library Directory is available at https://library.ohio.gov/using-the-library/find-an-ohio-library/. Check your local library’s website for a calendar of summer activities to see how you can keep kids reading and learning all summer long!

Angie Jacobsen is the director of Communications for the Ohio Library Council. The Ohio Library Council is the statewide professional association that represents the interests of Ohio’s 251 public library systems, their trustees, friends groups, and staffs. You can contact Angie by clicking here.

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5/17/2018

Personalized Professional Pathway (P3)...A Modern Spin on Classic Work-Based Learning

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-534722625.jpg“Those Were the Days” was in heavy rotation on the school bus radio when I boarded during the 1969-1970 school year. I was in elementary school and my big brother, Kevin, was a senior. We went to Bluffton, a small school in northwest Ohio in Allen County. I remember that Kevin would leave school early to go to work at Lima Lumber as part of his DCT program – Diversified Cooperative Training. You see, Bluffton was a small agricultural community, and vocational agriculture, home economics and shop class were still a strong part of the curriculum. I don’t know when the DCT program started, but it was for students whose interests were outside of the vocational agriculture, home economics and shop classes.

DCT taught students job readiness skills in class and then all students were released early to go to their places of employment. My brother and his friends worked in various job sectors. While I don’t remember much about the program or when it ceased to exist, I do recall that my brother really enjoyed the class and the work experience at Lima Lumber.

I’ve shared this memory with Department staff on numerous occasions. In fact, the more I shared it, the more I thought, “Why not consider bringing this program back?” This past September in Cincinnati, we had a team attend the fall convening for our New Skills For Youth grant. During our “team time,” we dusted off the DCT program from years gone by, gave it a face lift, added a few new dimensions and started thinking through how we could roll it out for the 2018-2019 school year. Our creative staff came up with a modernized name to replace the DCT moniker – Personalized Professional Pathways or P3.

I sat down with staff and we started to flesh out the P3 program to ensure it would be successful. Parallel to the development of the P3 program, staff also were working on developing the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it was a logical decision to blend the two together.

Similar to the DCT program, the P3 program will consist of a class on employability skills, with the foundation of the course aligning to the 15 professional skills that are part of the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. All students will be required to have work-based learning experiences. Ideally, the work-based learning experiences will be aligned to students’ career aspirations. Leveraging Ohio’s Credit Flexibility program, students’ work-based learning experiences will require training plans aligned to one of Ohio’s 39 career pathways. As a result of this alignment, students will earn career-technical education credits and possibly postsecondary credit.

Developing a traditional pathway program can be a little daunting as you consider which pathway will meet the needs of a majority of your students. Once the pathway is decided, you need to select a sequence of courses, determine classroom and laboratory space, purchase equipment and recruit enough students to make the program feasible. Many schools find this challenging due to the diverse interests of their students – especially smaller schools. Instead of choosing one or more pathways, the P3 program meets the needs of students’ various career interests and has very little startup costs.

Department staff are working with educators to develop a course outline for the P3 program that embeds the 15 professional skills on the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. This course outline will serve as the foundation of the in-school program. The essential part of the program hinges on student work-based learning. The P3 program requires the student, along with coaching from the instructor, to find employment in a sector aligned to his or her career aspirations. The instructor then works with the student and the employer to develop a training plan (resources can be found here) aligned to a career pathway course. This training plan ensures that the work-based learning experience is more than just a job – it is an authentic, work-based learning experience aligned to the content standards of the course.

A student enrolled in the P3 program will earn credit for the in-school class and credit for the work-based learning experience aligned to the student’s training plan. The employer ensures that the student is learning the technical content standards, so the student can earn course credit and be prepared to earn industry-recognized credentials aligned to the program. Students even have the ability to earn postsecondary credit through Ohio’s robust statewide articulation program (Tech Prep). The magic of the program is that it allows one teacher to help students earn credit in a variety of courses. Schools no longer have to choose which pathways they want to implement in their schools.

Staff still are finalizing plan details such as teacher qualifications, EMIS requirements and accountability aspects. I expect that to be available within the next few weeks. You can fill out this interest form to receive information about P3. Feel free to contact Cassie Palsgrove or Leah Amstutz should you have any questions on the P3 program.

And my brother, Kevin? He still works at Lima Lumber, but today, he owns the company!

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4/5/2018

STAFF BLOG: Family and Community Engagement is Something Good Schools Do — Tom Capretta, Family and Children Community Coordinator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-607460110.jpgTracy Hill is the executive director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement at Cleveland Metropolitan School District and one of the 2014 Education Week Leaders to Learn From. The first time I heard her say, “Family and community engagement is something that good schools do,” it just clicked. She made the point simply and powerfully. Family engagement and community engagement are not separate from the everyday work of schools and districts. They are, in fact, critical to the success of that work. Research even shows that effective family and community engagement can result in better grades, test scores, attendance and enrollment in more challenging courses.

Because engagement with families and communities is so critical to school success, it is a part of any quality effort to improve schools. For example, when a district carries out the Ohio Improvement Process, the district must work with families and communities to collect data, determine needs, develop an improvement plan, work the plan and evaluate the plan. As the district does this work, it develops mutual relationships with families and community members. This allows everyone to recognize their roles in improving students’ education.

At a webinar I attended in August 2017, Ron Mirr, president of the Center for Active Family Engagement (CAFÉ), shared this process in simpler terms. Below are the five steps he outlined for meaningful and organized engagement:

  1. Commit: To get buy-in from the community and families, districts and schools must clearly define family and community engagement. Districts should develop policies that create a clear direction for engagement. Districts and organizations in the community must develop and subscribe to shared beliefs about family and community engagement.
  2. Assess: Districts and schools must assess the environment they operate in. To do this, they should survey stakeholders, review what they are already doing and identify opportunities for growth.
  3. Plan: Districts and schools should develop a team of parents, caretakers, students and community members. Writing a plan that includes all parties establishes a foundation of mutual trust. To be successful, schools and districts also must provide training to staff about how to engage families and the community.
  4. Implement: Districts and schools must move beyond traditional professional development and provide coaching. Their plans must include processes for checking progress and provide the necessary resources for success.
  5. Sustain: Engagement is not a one-time event. School and district teams must routinely review data and, if needed, adjust what they are doing. They should openly create and share the next steps in the process with their stakeholders.  

These steps align to the Ohio Improvement Process. They also are accessible to parents and community members. Intentionally engaging families and communities establishes trust. Trust leads to meaningful collaboration and support in other areas.

The draft of EachChild=OurFuture, Ohio’s five-year strategic plan for education, includes Eight Guiding Principles that recognize the importance of family and community engagement. The goal of the strategic plan is to help each child become successful with the guidance and support of caring, empowered adults. The plan itself is the product of engagement with more than 150 preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, parents and caregivers, employers, business leaders and philanthropic organizations. In fact, the draft is still being discussed at public regional meetings around Ohio. You can read more about EachChild=OurFuture and comment on the draft here.

Ohio and the nation are realizing the importance of family and community engagement. It is the perfect time for our state to be the meeting place for the 2018 National Family and Community Engagement Conference. The conference, hosted by the Institute for Educational Leadership, will be in Cleveland July 11-13. More than 1,300 people are expected to attend, and there will be more than 75 workshops. This is an excellent opportunity to see how schools and communities around the country are realizing mutual goals and making the most of family-school-community partnerships. Participants will leave the conference with strategies, tips and tools they can immediately apply to their work. To learn more, please visit the conference website or contact me directly.

Tom Capretta is the family and children community coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education. He supports districts in their efforts to implement effective family and community engagement strategies and serve vulnerable student groups, including students in foster care. To contact Tom, click here.

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