Friday, April 19, 2013

Mississinawa Valley and Franklin Monroe Among Winners of Early Learning Challenge Grant

Three rural Ohio communities will be implementing the SPARK and Ready Schools program model, thanks to recently announced grant awards. Funding is provided by the Ohio Department of Education through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant.

Sandy Valley Local School District in Stark County, Logan Elm Local School District in Hocking County, and partnership between Franklin Monroe Local School District and Mississinawa Valley School District in Darite Coung are each the winners of grants of up to $125,000 to implement the Sustain in the Early Grades Demonstration Project through the end of 2015.

The winners were chosen from 15 applicants that competed for the funds. Each of the three grantees will bring the SPARK program to 100 families of preschool-age children, while the districts' elementary schools participate in Ready School efforts.

This help with - and financial support for—kindergarten readiness is likely to be welcomed by teachers and administrators alike, considering the newly passed Third Grade Guarantee legislation that requires Ohio school districts to focus each year, from kindergarten through third grade, on making sure students are reading at grade level. Those who aren't reading at grade level by the end of third grade, as indicated by their score on the Ohio Achievement Assessment in reading, risk being retained.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, SPARK Ohio's managing organization, will be overseeing and coordinating the project. Throughout the life of the project, the state will study the independent evaluation results and other measures to assess the project's impact and scalability, as it considers its options for early education policy and programming.

SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) Ohio is a highly effective, family-focused intervention program that works with families, schools, and the community to prepare children for kindergarten. The program has helped more than 2,200 families in six Ohio counties. SPARK engages parents, equipping them with the skills, resources, and support to prepare their children for school. SPARK also administers developmental assessments and screenings, and initiates referrals to needed community resources.

Evaluation results show that the program improves children's kindergarten readiness (SPARK children significantly outscore non-SPARK children in the same classrooms on the state-mandated kindergarten entry assessment). Participation in the program continues to give children an advantage through the fifth grade: SPARK children outperform their peers on the Ohio Achievement Assessments in reading, math, and science, to a statistically significant degree.

The Ohio Ready School Initiative helps schools prepare for receiving and educating children by developing connections with families and the community. Ready Schools partner with local early care and education providers, service agencies, and the community to align curricula, standards, and teacher expectations from pre.K through third grade. Currently, 37 Ohio schools are participating in Ready School efforts.

For more information, visit or contact Shana Rozier, SPARK Ohio program director, at 330-4545800 or

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