Marion City Schools is implementing an aggressive reform effort to improve performance at all grade levels. The ultimate goal is to reach every student and to increase the size and quality of Marion County’s workforce, enhancing the competitiveness of local companies, increasing incomes, and improving the economy.
The ability to read, write, and use language effectively from the early grades onward is the foundation of success in school and later in a career. The district is using a framework developed by the Literacy Collaborative at The Ohio State University to ensure that all students gain these skills. The framework includes many opportunities for reading and writing across the entire curriculum. Instruction is provided in large group, small group, and individualized settings to respond to students’ different learning styles. But in order for the program to succeed, teachers must be properly trained and guided.
“Literacy coaches” are trained at Ohio State and placed in each school. These literacy coaches oversee the program and provide training and resources to classroom teachers to ensure that the program is properly implemented. Both literacy coaches and teachers receive ongoing professional development. The success of the program is tracked through ongoing monitoring of student success, and adjustments are made as necessary.
Mathematics is equally important, and is a subject that is a significant challenge for many students. Here Marion City Schools is implementing the Next Generation Learning model to ensure that students are learning the concepts and are able to apply them – particularly those who would otherwise be underserved and left behind. This model emphasizes personalized, engaging, and interactive teaching adapted to the student’s learning pace and style. It clearly spells out goals and measures the student’s progress against those goals, and provides additional help when the student needs it.
Industry leaders in all fields call attention to the need for “soft skills” in the workplace. These include the ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing, to work together in teams, to interact appropriately with supervisors, peers, and customers, to solve problems, and to take responsibility for their job duties. Leadership skills or potential is also important across the board in the increasingly team-oriented work environment. To address this need, Marion City Schools is implementing Franklin Covey’s “The Leader in Me” program, which has been adopted by more than 2,000 schools in 35 countries.This program is based on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and founded on the premise that everyone has leadership potential. It is not an isolated program but is designed to infuse leadership development and habits throughout the entire curriculum in all grades.
Marion City Schools is also implementing two efforts to prepare students for college, a career, or the military after graduation. The district is a member of the Ohio Board of Regents’ GEAR UP Ohio consortium, which provides grant funding with the goal of making college attainable for low-income students and those who would be the first member of their family in college. Students in middle and high school are encouraged to enroll in college preparatory courses, and they and their families are provided college application information, financial aid resources, and direct scholarships. Tutors and mentors are provided to students and professional development opportunities are offered to those working with them. The Ohio State University’s Marion Campus will provide dual enrollment offerings so that students will have college credit before leaving high school.
Finally, Marion City Schools is designing Career Pathways at the high school level. These are programs that provide an introduction to specific careers as well as training that can result in credentials and certifications that are recognized by industry. They are also “stackable,” meaning that they can provide a basis for higher-level certifications that can be earned as the individual advances in his/her career. These programs focus on careers that are in high demand locally. They include computer science, health technologies/exercise science, and logistics/supply chain management, with others under discussion.