Three Ohio proposals among finalists for school grants

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REYNOLDSBURG (AP) -- Three Ohio proposals are among 61 finalists in a federal competition that will provide millions of dollars in support for school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education is expected by year's end to announce 15 to 25 applications picked to share in nearly $400 million through the competition, which is part of the "Race to the Top" cornerstone education initiative of President Barack Obama's administration.

More than 370 applications were submitted for the four-year awards, which will range from $5 million to $40 million and support plans to personalize learning, close achievement gaps and prepare youngsters for college and career success.

The Ohio proposals were submitted by Cleveland schools, the Reynoldsburg district in suburban Colum-bus and a network of 15 districts in rural southeast Ohio called the Ohio Appalachian Personalized Learning Network Collaborative.

Michael Sawyers, the state's acting schools superintendent, said the proposals offer impressive and innovative ideas.

"They are examples of the creativity and drive to think differently about learning that can inspire schools across our state," Sawyers said in a statement.

Reynoldsburg's proposal includes expanding the use of analysis of student data with help from researchers at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus and using a community-wide partnership to increase students' real-world and college experiences.

Reynoldsburg superintendent Stephen Dackin said the district wants to help educators better decide what works best for students, and it believes the system could be a model for other districts.

"We put together something that I think will benefit all kids and families and communities, and that was our goal." he said. "Our goal was to make sure every kid gets what they need to have and they do it in a very flexible, personalized way, and you involved the community resources into that framework."

The Cleveland proposal talks about expanding its "Portfolio Strategy," which includes about a dozen schools that use student academic goal-setting and project-based learning.

The Ohio Appalachian Personalized Learning Network Collaborative, with Maysville schools as the lead applicant, sought a grant to offer more courses providing dual high school and college credit and to offer everyday use of online and on-demand learning platforms. The collaborative includes the Bloom-Vernon, Coshocton, Crooksville, East Muskingum, Indian Valley, Morgan, New Lexington, Northern, Ridgewood, River View, Rolling Hills, Warren and Wolf Creek local districts, along with Foxfire High School in Zanesville.

Ohio has twice received money in other Race to the Top competitions. It won a statewide grant for $400 million in 2010, and last year received $70 million to improve early learning programs and access to them.

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