Professional Educators

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland discusses Columbus' service learning grant as NEA Pres. Dennis Van Roekel looks on.

Service-Learning and Innovation in Columbus, OH

Disciplina in civitatem – Education for citizenship. The official motto for Ohio State University is taking on a new, stronger meaning for public school students in Columbus, OH, thanks to a grant designed to help priority school students excel at learning and serving their communities.

Last week, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel was in Columbus for the announcement that the NEA Foundation has been awarded a $550,000 grant to partner with Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology and the Columbus Education Association to provide K-12 teachers in Columbus City Schools professional development that will help them institute service-learning projects for students.

Columbus City Schools, which serve a large population of economically disadvantaged students and students of color, will use service-learning to boost student achievement and community engagement.

Learn & Serve America, a program of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, awarded the funds to help the NEA Foundation and its partners implement “Bringing Learning to Life.” K-12 teachers will be trained in how to implement service-learning projects that help students see the clear connections between their academic curriculum and real-world experience, while simultaneously strengthening students’ connections to the communities in which they live.

The grant proposal was written by staff from NEA’s External Partnerships and Advocacy Department, and the NEA Foundation will be providing oversight as the grant is used to bring service-learning to Columbus.

“Teachers will receive professional development to help them create more effective hands-on learning opportunities for students,” said Van Roekel. “We look forward to seeing the work that comes out of this project – it is our hope we will be able to replicate it in other places.”

Service-learning, an education movement that traces its roots back more than a century, has been shown in numerous studies to improve academic outcomes for students and to help them build critical thinking and teamwork skills. Students see relevance and results from their service-learning projects, and the projects allow schools to build collaborative relationships with community groups.

During his visit to Columbus, NEA Pres. Van Roekel had the opportunity to witness several innovative programs designed to improve student achievement at Columbus priority schools.

Dennis Van Roekel addresses an audience about Service Learning in Educatoin in Columbus, OH

Van Roekel toured West High School, a federal School Improvement Grant recipient where nearly all students are classified as economically disadvantaged by the Ohio Department of Education. West is taking a collaborative approach to school reform by forming an “Innovation Team” of teachers and administrators tasked with transforming teaching and learning at the school.

Champion Middle School, another Columbus priority school visited by Van Roekel, is experimenting with a $4,000 a year bonus to attract teachers to this hard-to-staff school.

South Mifflin STEM Academy, an elementary school visited by Van Roekel, is implementing proven academic supports to boost student achievement. The school offers a pre-K program to help four-year-olds prepare for school, and uses subject-area specialists to provide extra support for students.

South Mifflin also has instituted a parental engagement program, where parents are invited to the school once a month for a coffee klatch.

To read Van Roekel’s impressions from his visit to Columbus and priority schools sites throughout the nation, click here.

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