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NEA Foundation grant helps Columbus educators increase efficacy, improve student learning

Additional in-school professional development, planning time, community outreach via home visits prove key

WASHINGTON, DC (September 16, 2015) – Columbus educators, led by the Columbus Education Association (CEA) and Columbus City Schools (CCS), and the United Way of Central Ohio, and supported by a five year grant from the NEA Foundation, have dramatically improved professional development, deepened their understanding of their students and forged better relationships with parents.

“Over the past five years, the Columbus educators union and district have worked side by side to transform their approach to the ongoing professional learning of educators, enabling educators to regularly contribute to school- and district-wide improvements,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We’ve seen educator teams design and implement their own professional development, observe and support one another, collaborate on lessons and partner to better use data. All of those things improve the learning conditions for students, and we are delighted to have helped support and to celebrate this important collaborative work.”

Since 2010, the $1.25 million NEA Foundation grant has been matched financially and otherwise by a supportive community. This collaborative effort, led by the local educators union and school district, had the primary goal of improving professional development for educators and, in doing so, close the achievement gaps for students at 14 schools from the Briggs and Linden-McKinley feeder patterns. The work included three over-arching aims:


  • Strengthen teaching effectiveness by embedding professional learning in active practice.
  • Engage educators in the design, execution, and delivery of high quality professional development.
  • Increase opportunities for educators to share their experience, expertise and challenges with each other through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), peer review, and continuous support.


“Students are best served when teachers are agents, not objects, of change,” said Tracey D. Johnson, President of the Columbus Education Association. “By funding additional planning time for educators in the 14 schools, as well as providing in-school professional development, the NEA Foundation grant provided Columbus educators with the supports we needed to strengthen the effectiveness of the Professional Learning Communities, which, in turn, has led to a whole range of improvements in professional development and instruction. We are building the capacity of teachers in their classrooms and as leaders of the profession.”

Support made possible by the grant, produced the following results:

  • Nine out of 10 educators confirmed that PLCs (called Teacher Based Teams, in Ohio) have had a positive impact on their schools.
  • Educators say instructional practices are more data driven, collaborative, and include assessment of gaps in student learning.
  • Enhanced alignment to district-and state-wide changes promoting the use of PLCs and building-based leadership.
  • Increased educator satisfaction with professional development and additional leadership opportunities (Forty-five teachers took part in the rigorous National Board Certification Teacher training in 2014-2015.)


“We know that sustainable reform in large cities only occurs when business, community and education leaders work in concert with each other,” said Columbus Superintendent Dan Good, Ph.D. “Over the life of the grant, Columbus educators made more than 1,100 home visits. As a result, community and parent involvement has significantly expanded, along with educators’ cultural competencies. Home visits are becoming a key component of school and district culture, increasing the likelihood that this outreach will continue after the grant ends.”

Project schools and the district overall are demonstrating progress on the NEA Foundation initiative’s goal of reducing achievement gaps. Positive indicators include:

  • Five schools and the district reported significant increases over five years (2009-10 through 2013-14) in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading.
  • Of those, three, Wedgewood Middle School’s 8th graders, District 8th graders, and Linden-McKinley STEM Academy 10th graders, had increases of more than 24 percent.
  • Three schools and the district reported significant increases over five years (2009-2010 through 2013-2014) in the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in mathematics.
  • Of those, two, Linden-McKinley STEM Academy 10th graders, and District 8th graders, had increases of about 15%.


The NEA Foundation publishes in-depth coverage and analysis of innovations designed by union-district teams to increase teaching effectiveness and student achievement. Three of our issue briefs (Teachers Unions, Peer Assistance and Review, and High Performing School Systems) feature the work of Columbus and have been shared with educators and educator leaders nationwide.

About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives. We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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