11 Ohio districts, 3 charters get U.S. aid


COLUMBUS - Eleven school districts and three charter schools in Ohio have been awarded a total of $95 million in federal School Improvement Grant funds.

Among the 42 schools to benefit from the three-year grants announced by the Ohio Department of Education are 12 in the Cleveland district, 7 in the Columbus district, and 6 in the Cincinnati district.

The grants were available to certain underperforming schools and schools with low graduation rates, and 210 applications were received, according to department data.

Deborah Delisle, Ohio superintendent of public instruction, credited the schools receiving funds with innovative thinking in grant applications.

Of the schools awarded grants, 36 were required to apply based on one of four models. Most of those schools chose a "transformation" model that includes replacing the school's principal and making efforts to improve teachers, instruction, and learning time and to involve the community. Others chose a model that replaces the principal and at least half of the staff.

Two models that were not chosen by any of the grant recipients would have required schools to close and send students to other district buildings or to reopen as charter schools.

The transformation model is probably the "softest" method and likely the best option for most schools, said Jack Jennings, who leads the Center on Education Policy in Washington, which has studied school improvement efforts.

"It's probably the one that makes the most sense to the most educators," he said. "It sounds tough to say dissolve a school, make it into a charter, fire all the teachers. But those things don't always work."

For schools in the Columbus district, plans include paying teachers based on performance, reducing class sizes, and adding evening and weekend classes.

"We will be rolling out things this fall that we haven't done before," Superintendent Gene Harris said.

Each school receiving a grant must meet annual goals to keep the funds.

The U.S. education department awarded $132 million in stimulus funds to Ohio for the grants. The state has set aside $30 million for a second round of grants.