Putting First Things, First

WES Leadership DayAs adults, we struggle balancing our have-to’s with our want-to’s. But, one group of Worthington students showcased their commitment to this habit among others to a room full of special guests. Worthington Estates Elementary has adopted The Leader in Me as a foundation for the school, which helps students to become leaders of their own learning. The Leader in Me is an educational adaptation of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits.

The day included musical performances by students of all ages, tours of the school where student work had been hung proudly in each hallway, and classroom visits. It was a great day at Worthington Estates. The entire school community was engaged in celebration and reflection of a truly special place. Children are learning the basic principles of taking care of each other and balancing their individual lives. These students are well on their way to becoming great leaders!

Please have a relaxing Spring Break with your family and friends and take time to “Sharpen the Saw.”

– Thomas Tucker, Superintendent




Spring Break

photoIt’s that time of year again: the birds are beginning to return to Worthington, the first buds of spring are sprouting on trees and hordes of families are fleeing the winter weather of Columbus, Ohio.  Ah, spring break.

In Worthington spring break separates our third and fourth grading periods.  It signals that we have not only survived a winter for the ages, but that when we return from break graduation for our seniors is right around the corner.  In Worthington sixth grade students are anxiously awaiting their transition to middle school and 8th grade students and casually acting like high school is of no concern.

The first spring break is often attributed to a swimming coach at Colgate University who in 1935 brought his team to train in Ft. Lauderdale during spring break. An annual aquatic conference followed, as did swimmers’ less athletic friends.

As a 41 year old adult I grew up with MTV  broadcasting their annual spring break special from Daytona Beach. In 1986 Mr. Mister and the Beastie Boys performed.  In 1988 I was on a Worthington High School Lacrosse spring break trip to play games on Long Island, NY when the famed Guns-n-Roses song, “Patience” made it’s debut.  I can still remember where I sat in my hotel room with Keith Poss, Will Morris, and Dave Bickell.

This year the Thomas Worthington Baseball team is playing games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The Worthington Kilbourne Bands will be in Los Angeles, California and many elementary families may run into on another on the gulf beaches of Ft. Myers, Clearwater, or Siesta Key, Florida.  Other students and families will find a little more time to connect with one another at home.

No matter what spring break holds for your family.  Enjoy the short break.  Spring is coming to Worthington.  Graduation is right around the corner!

– Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent



The Worthington Academy

LOTHhilliardchair-2In March of this year State of Ohio Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Richard Ross stated that “One million Ohioans have never graduated from high school, and we are adding roughly 24,000 youngsters to their rank each year.”  In an effort to decrease this number and to better meet the needs of all Worthington students Monday evening (3.24.2014) at the Worthington Board of Education meeting I (along with many others) will share with the BOE a new concept for Worthington Schools that we are calling the Worthington Academy.

As planned the Worthington Academy would provide personalized, evidence-based educational programming for Worthington City Schools students at risk of dropping out. This programming will directly affect our ability to (1) improve educational outcomes for at-risk students, including high school graduation and college and career readiness, (2) meet or exceed our district-wide goals for graduation rates and measures of student academic growth, and (3) connect at-risk students to our community’s robust network of businesses and civic leaders for enrichment and support.

Worthington City Schools operates two large high schools that currently serve a tier of students who are not succeeding in our traditional programs and, consequently, are at risk for underperformance or dropping out. An analysis of our district’s student performance and outcomes data highlighted a significant barrier to student success: a substantial number of our at-risk students have either dropped out of school entirely or withdrawn to attend a 100% online charter program.

During the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year, Worthington High Schools lost 38 students to alternative school choices. Over the past four years, Worthington has lost 211 high school students to alternative schools. With Worthington Academy in place, our district would be able to provide choice to these students. Three comparable districts, Hilliard, Olentangy, and Westerville, serve their students in their own programs. Hilliard City Schools currently serves 71 full-time students and numerous flexible on-line options. Olentangy Local Schools OASIS program currently serves 125 students. Westerville City Schools serves 158 credit deficient or high risk dropout students at their Education Opportunities for Success (EOS). Looking at our first semester withdrawal numbers, four year trend data, and comparable school districts there is a growing need in our district to provide a viable choice to the Worthington school community.

The barriers to success that result in these outcomes vary: some students simply feel disconnected from a learning system they see as impersonal and inflexible; some fall behind on earning credits toward graduation due to gaps in academic knowledge; others struggle to balance home and job obligations with a traditional school schedule; and still others are part of an increasing trend of our students whose school anxiety leads to problems with attendance, work completion, and socialization.  We custom-designed our program to address these local barriers to success while simultaneously leveraging evidence-based programming aligned with the six recommendations outlined in Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide (Dynarski et al., 2008).

The Worthington Academy is designed to dovetail with our district’s other specialized programs. Already, Worthington City Schools offers non-traditional educational options through our Linworth High School and Phoenix Middle School programs. But neither of these programs, unlike the Academy, is designed to target the specialized needs of our students who are credit deficient and are at risk of dropping out. Still, the Academy’s design preserves for at-risk students the option to participate in learning pathways, including the Project Lead the Way/STEM program, which are offered at our traditional high schools. Ultimately, the Worthington Academy will provide the targeted interventions necessary to make an impact with students at risk of dropping out while simultaneously better supporting their continued opportunities for participation in the rich array of academic and co-curricular offerings at our traditional high schools.

Our hope is to have the Worthington Academy operational for students as soon as possible.  Monday’s presentation will continue the discussion and will help us to refine our ideas to determine our course of action.  Please consider joining us and providing input at the Worthington Education Center, 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road, 7:30 P.M.

-Mr. Jeff Maddox, Director of Innovation and School Support


Ohio Graduation Testing

testingpleasedonotdisturbThis week high school students in Worthington will take their Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT).  Students in Ohio must pass all five parts (Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies) of the OGT in order to receive high school diplomas.   Students have multiple chances to pass these sections beginning with their sophomore year.  In 2009, the Ohio legislature passed an education reform bill eliminating the OGT in favor of a new assessment system (Next Generation Assessments). The development and transition to this new assessment system will take several years and creates several unique challenges.

As you are likely aware Worthington and all other Ohio schools are teaching new content standards (content standards describe the knowledge and skills that students should attain, often called the “what” of “what students should know and be able to do.” They indicate the ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning and investigating as well as important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas and knowledge essential to the academic area of study) this year in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.  The Language Arts and Mathematics standards are the Common Core State Standards.  Because the standards have changed, this year’s OGT’s will align to both the old standards and Ohio’s new learning standards. Next year, both the OGT’s and Next Generation Assessments will align to Ohio’s new learning standards.

To accomplish this alignment questions on the OGT which were originally created and aligned to the 2001-2002 standards were reviewed by the Ohio Department of Education and American Institutes for Research staff, and then by committees of Ohio educators. During the review, each question was either aligned to a new learning standard or identified as having no alignment and therefore removed from the test bank.  This year’s tests are thus referred to as dual-aligned and are unique in the history of the OGT.

In addition to the challenge of assessing both the old and new standards, another challenge is that as the law stands today, schools must begin giving students in high school the Next Generation Assessments during the next school year (2014-2015). Not only will next year’s 10th-graders (the class of 2017) take the Next Generation Assessments, they must also take the OGT. Students will need the graduation tests to meet current legislative graduation requirements.  As a result, if the requirements remain the same, next year’s sophomores will take significantly more tests.

Currently a graduation requirements committee of the State Board of Education is working to develop new graduation rules. However, legislation will be needed to make the rules effective for the Class of 2018.   The Columbus Dispatch wrote about this challenge in the 3/9/14 edition of their newspaper.

The future of the OGT and Next Generation Assessments will sort itself out over time.  This week over 700 Worthington sophomores will take the exam for the first time and some juniors and seniors will seek to make the passing score that has eluded them in previous attempts.  A high stakes graduation exam is a stressful experience for 15-18 year old students.  Our students don’t need luck, they’re well prepared.  They will however need stamina and perseverance because five exams in one week would tax anyone.  If you know a high school student, cut them some slack this week.  They lost an hour of sleep over the weekend and they’re testing all week.

Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent 


Four Days in Worthington

photoLast Wednesday morning I had a meeting at the Worthington Education Center that began at 7:45 A.M.  Before attending the meeting I needed to drop my fifth grade daughter off at school for her 7:30 A.M. intramural floor hockey game.  Thus, for me began an incredible four-day stretch of activities and opportunities for students that I believe is what makes Worthington a special place to live and raise kids.

Obviously on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday our students were in school and learning from the best teachers in Ohio.  Our students were engaged in courses such as Digital Electronics, Calculus BC, AP Chemistry and STEM Physical Science.  This goes without saying.  However, what makes Worthington special is not only what happens in the classroom but what also happens outside the classroom.  Here’s just a snapshot of this four-day stretch.

Wednesday:  On Wednesday evening two events took place simultaneously that are uniquely Worthington.  At Colonial Hills Elementary the students, under the direction of the amazing Gretchen Wessel, participated in the student lip-sync.  The crowd was engaged and went wild as songs from the 80’s to current hits were performed by our students.  Across town at the exact same time the Worthington Hills sixth grade was presenting their interpretation of “The Wizard of Oz.”  This musical was done by the Worthington Hills class of 1982 when Worthington Youth Boosters Director Rob Mottice was the “Tin Man.”  In 2014 Jackie Wolford starred as the “Scarecrow.”

Thursday:  On Thursday the staff at Liberty Elementary held a Literacy Academy to help parents engage their students to improve their reading skills.  Over 500 parents gave-up their evening in order to come to school to learn more about the reading and writing process so that they could partner with the school and their child.  As food began to run out, Principal Holly Coombs ordered another 30 pizzas.  Even adults learn better on a full stomach.  500 parents came to learn about reading and writing!  500!

Friday:  On Friday afternoon the elementary archery teams from Bluffsview, Granby, and Worthington Park, competed in the State Archery Tournament in Downtown Columbus at the Arnold Classic.  On Friday evening Wilson Hill Elementary sponsored a family movie night at the school.  Students and parents alike came for an evening of fellowship and fun.  Just a few blocks over the Worthington Education Association held a community reading night for “Read Across America” at the Worthington Community Center.  Each participant left with a free book and hundreds of families benefited.  Finally, Friday was opening night for the Thomas Worthington High School Cardinal Theatre’s production of Singin’ in the Rain.  The production starred student board of education member Chole Beck and featured sets where it actually rained on the stage.  The talent of our students was on full display.

Saturday:  Saturday was Worthington Science Day at Thomas Worthington.  Over 300 students chose to give-up their Saturday to enrich their learning.  They participated in a Science Fair,  Design Challenge and Invention Convention.  Community volunteers from across Worthington provided judges and logistical support.  At the same time at Worthington Kilbourne our annual pancake day ran in support of Worthington athletics.  Both Wolves inc. and Cards inc partnered together to provide thousands of community members pancakes, face painting, inflates from SuperGames, cheerleading performances, etc.  This event annually brings the entire community together in support of our athletes.

What’s amazing about this four-day stretch? Actually, nothing.  Pick any four days in Worthington Schools and you’ll see similar opportunities across this school district.  Did I mention we had school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well…

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent