An Ohio Collaborative for Educating Remotely (OCER) grant has supported critical, behind-the-scenes work during the pandemic, with results that will far outlast COVID-19. Sponsored by Philanthropy Ohio and the Ohio Department of Education, the $125,000 grant award directly supported our district in meeting two objectives. CPS school leaders participated in a four-day professional learning event, focused on ensuring equity in student learning. Secondly, new templates for Schoology lessons were created with Universal Design of Learning principles, making it easier for students and families to navigate remote-learning lesson plans.
First published in August 2020, OCER focused on a different stratum of efforts to address pandemic-exacerbated educational inequities. The program is designed to complement concurrent funding efforts that aim to provide broadband internet access and IT devices for distance learning. OCER funds prioritized ensuring higher quality learning experiences for students learning remotely. Beyond ensuring that students had access to online lessons, applicants had to demonstrate that their proposed programs promoted the effective use of materials, devices and platforms in the interest of meaningful learning.
OCER funding was integral to launching the district's Accelerated Learning program. Designed to deliver equitable and meaningful learning for all CPS students, the program ensures "every child, regardless of circumstance receives on-grade level, high-quality curriculum, instructions, and technologies." Accelerated Learning focuses on acceleration and just-in-time learning, rather than burdensome remediation, through which skills are often taught in chronological isolation.
The success of the Accelerated Learning initiative required the buy-in of school leadership, across the district. OCER funds saw to just that. Principals and assistant principals from every CPS school engaged in an extensive and penetrating professional learning experience to support enhanced learning cultures within our schools. UnboundED, the nationally recognized convener of the highly lauded Summer Institute, facilitated an interactive Virtual Summit, emphasizing how to implement equitable instructional strategies, despite the complexities of the COVID-19 era.
Schoology lessons were greatly enhanced. Families simply felt deluged last Spring by the number and variety of platforms, portals and sites they had to navigate to access school lessons. With the support of OCER funding, a team of instructors not only designed high-quality lesson plans, but designed a more intuitive system to support online learning. CPS worked with University of Cincinnati faculty and staff to learn and adopt Universal Design of Learning (UDL) principles. Following formal style guides, UDL was used to infuse Schoology with consistent structure, colors, icons and style. Additional styling and special content support an array of diverse learning styles.
CPS appreciates the support of the Ohio Department of Education and the exemplary efforts of Philanthropy Ohio to attract donors, statewide, to help schools address the overwhelming educational inequities that were caught in the flood lights of the pandemic.