Blog Post Category:

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.

Leave a Comment
11/1/2018

Each Child, Our Future…Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

By: Marva Jones

ThinkstockPhotos-76763121.jpgI first heard about Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education when I began looking for my next gig at the Ohio Department of Education. As I read the plan, I thought: Now here is something I can sink my teeth into and make an impact. Honestly, I believed the Department needed something to guide its work, make policy decisions and connect with families, communities and partners to reach each child and affect their future. So, I read on.

There are more than 134,000 full-time educators serving in 3,600 public schools and educating approximately 1.7 million school children in Ohio. The strategic plan was built by Ohioans for Ohioans and launched by Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction and the State Board of Education in the summer of 2018. More than 150 Ohio-based partners worked to develop the plan. Approximately 1,200 Ohio citizens — including parents, caregivers, preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, business leaders, employers, community members, state legislators and, of course, students themselves — attended meetings across the state to review the plan and provide feedback. In total, more than 1,350 Ohioans helped develop the plan.

The plan made me think of my teaching days, but more importantly, it brought up memories of when I became a principal early in my education career. Being the head of a school combined my favorite aspects of education: student interaction, implementation of curriculum, mentoring and supporting teachers, achievement gains, reducing behavioral issues, and partnering with parents and community members. Everything we did focused on how we could positively impact the lives of the children. This sounds just like the strategic plan components.

Specifically, I had a flashback to when I became a new principal in 2006-2007 at Dueber Elementary in Canton City Schools. Being the youngest of 24 principals in the system, I thought about the monumental goal of educating each child. To do this, one of my main missions was to create partnerships with families and community members. I wanted the school to be a great place for students and a place where teachers loved working! That became my mantra.

This document provides an excellent summary of the strategic plan. It highlights that the strategic plan encompasses the following components:

Four Learning Domains — Foundational Knowledge & Skills, Well-Rounded Content, Leadership & Reasoning, and Social-Emotional Learning.

One Goal — Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are: enrolled in post-high school learning; serving in a military branch; earning a living wage; or engaged in a meaningful self-sustaining vocation.

Three Core Principles — Equity, Partnerships and Quality Schools.

10 Priority Strategies — 1) Highly effective teachers and leaders; 2) Principal support; 3) Teacher and instruction support; 4) Standards reflect all learning domains; 5) Assessments gauge all learning domains; 6) Accountability system honors all learning domains; 7) Meet needs of the whole child; 8) Expand quality early learning; 9) Develop literacy skills; 10) Transform high school/provide more paths to graduation.

The state-level vision provides an aspirational guide for students, parents, partners and the education system: In Ohio, each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient lifelong learner who contributes to society.

My mission as a principal more than 20 years ago included many of these components. In my coming blogs, take a stroll down memory lane with me and discover how aspects of the strategic plan always have been sprinkled liberally throughout my career. I hope this will help educators see how the work we do aligns with the plan and helps us recognize the difference we are making for each child and the future. In my next blog, I’ll share my thoughts on partnerships.

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

Leave a Comment

Last Modified: 5/17/2019 3:20:37 PM