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S.C.O.P.E. Primary earns state recognition

2/20/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

S.C.O.P.E. students use a pond and fish tank located in the lobby for a variety of learning opportunities. Shown from left are Nathan Jones, 8; Aaliyah Patterson, 7; Anthony Fuline, 8; Emi Hostetler, 8; and Valerie Victor, 7.
The Greater Summit County Early Learning Center houses S.C.O.P.E. Preschool and Primary School, together known as S.C.O.P.E. Academy. Shown above is a new sign for the school, located at 2141 Pickle Road.
Shown is first-grade teacher Amy Watkins working with students Bailey Nice, 7, behind her and Abbie Pantea, 6, and Travis Howell, 7, sitting next to her.
Shown is 6-year-old Becca Padgett reading with assistance from an audiobook.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
SPRINGFIELD — S.C.O.P.E. Primary, offering what administrators are calling an innovative learning environment for children, is celebrating success.

The school, which began with two kindergarten classes in 2009 and has since added first through fourth grades, was selected this past fall by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS) for the 2013 Charter School of the Year Award at the Early Learning/Elementary Level, Middle School Level and High School for all of Ohio based on its Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Performance Index score, as well as for its best practices and innovation, according to Principal Teresa Graves.

The ODE Performance Index score is derived by combining individual students’ results on tested subjects in grades three through eight in the Ohio Achievement Test and the 10th grade Ohio Graduation test, according to the ODE website. S.C.O.P.E. received a score of 121, one of the highest in the area, according to Graves.

“This award represents our efforts in focusing on increasing educational access, innovation and quality,” said Graves, who has 18 years of teaching experience in the classroom and six years as an administrator/principal. “We have been working on a prekindergarten to grade four demonstration model of delivering best practices to our children. We feel that this award is a reflection and culmination of our work.”

Graves explained S.C.O.P.E. Primary, also known as the Greater Summit County Early Learning Center, is a “public conversion school.” She said the concept for the school began in 2008 with Summit County Opportunity Preschool Education (S.C.O.P.E.), a preschool offered through the Summit County Educational Service Center.

Both the preschool and primary school are located in the Springfield Local School District’s vacant Boyer Kindergarten Center at 2141 Pickle Road, and together, they are known as S.C.O.P.E. Academy. The school also operates a preschool in Tallmadge.

Graves explained S.C.O.P.E. is a public school and also a teaching center. Currently, there are 156 students in preschool through fourth grade, with students from all communities accepted at the school. All of the teachers either have their master’s degree or are working on one, and one also is a national board-certified teacher.

In addition to academics, the school offers gym and music, with art and technology integrated into the curriculum, and there are plans to add a performance arts program soon, according to Graves. She added students learn languages such as French, Spanish and Chinese through instruction embedded into other classes, and after-school enrichment classes such as dance, fitness and steel drums, as well as a FIRST LEGO League competition team, are offered.

Graves stated S.C.O.P.E. classrooms have a SMART board, laptops, iPads, digital cameras and MP3 players, as well as “observation windows” all designed to encourage learning. The school has no busing and no cafeteria.

She said administrators at the school have worked with The University of Akron College of Education to evaluate and enhance the curriculum at S.C.O.P.E., and the school has been sharing its best practices with others. To date, about 300 teachers from around the area have come through the school to see what it is doing, and they also have mentored 43 student teachers, according to Graves.

The GAR Foundation has recognized S.C.O.P.E. Primary’s work, and in November, it gave the school a $435,000 grant. The grant will be administered over three years and is designed to help the school share its best practices with others in the county.

On Jan. 30, OAPCS and ODE officials visited the school to see what S.C.O.P.E is doing, said Graves.

“Our curriculum is based on required state standards, and teaching is driven by innovation and data,” she said. “The learning is project-based, focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and has a global focus. It is a different type of delivery system that is more creative, with real life applications, and is focused on enhancing learning in young children.”

For example, in preschool during a segment about pets, activities included reading books about pets and making homes for various kinds of pets out of cardboard, paper and other items. Preschool teacher Kelsey Hilbert used those activities to study shapes, angles and colors, create signs consisting of words and do other learning-based activities.

“It’s a deeper thought process and connects learning to real life,” said Hilbert of the activities.

Fourth-graders are continuing studies on butterflies they started in first grade. The students began by studying them, researching and planning a butterfly garden and then building one, and in that process learned the butterfly bush is not the best plant to sustain the fragile winged insects, according to Graves. The students planted milkweed, watched the butterfly lifecycle, and Skyped with students in Mexico to talk about the monarchs, all while meeting state standards in the curriculum, she added. The students also were encouraged to teach what they learned to other students.

“This has taught them about continued learning and motivates them to learn,” said Graves.

Another primary school learning project involved 18 raised garden beds and two pots. In addition to doing research, designing and building the raised bed gardens and planting seeds, students cooked the produce in various ways, took surveys on which method produced the best tasting results, did problem solving after learning about what plants thrive best in certain conditions, and they had to write about their findings and take photos of plants. They used the survey information to decide what plants to grow next season, said Graves.

S.C.O.P.E. students also learn from projects that aid those in need from around the world, according to Graves. One such project included raising funds to build wells in Africa. Students also had a speaker from Darfur and Kenya come in to talk to them, built a model well and Skyped with children from Africa.

“We want students to think about what they can do for others,” explained Graves. “If they can learn to communicate with other children across the globe, they can be a part of the solution and innovation needed for the 21st century. It gives them an edge to be able to work together with everyone.”

Graves added that administrators constantly evaluate their methods to maintain their best learning practices.

“Our staff engages in guided facilitation, observation, interaction and data collection to oversee learning opportunities for our children,” said Graves.

For more on the school, visit cybersummit.org/SCOPE/.

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