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Project Achieve brings encouraging results to Cleveland Hill School District

A districtwide initiative in Cleveland Hill that centers on collaboration and student achievement is increasing student test scores, supporting teacher growth and encouraging everyone in the district to focus on the same goals.

Next year will mark three years of Project Achieve, the district’s plan for helping students achieve New York State’s Common Core Learning Standards by using performance data to make program and instructional decisions.

“We use formative assessments, or periodic assessments, in the data area. If students aren’t understanding something, we need to go back and reteach them, in a different way,” said Daryl C. Janus, director of curriculum and assessment for the district.

Project Achieve has involved just about everyone in the district, from staff to students to administrators in Cleveland Hill.

“Project Achieve is unique in regard to the universal recognition that positive results happen because of the collaborative project that exists between building administrators, district administrators and teachers,” said Patrick D. McCabe, Cleveland Hill Elementary School principal.

The efforts at the district seem to be working.

For the 2013-14 school year and before, Cleve Hill had several grades in the lower half of Erie County rankings for math and English. In 2014-15, the first academic year for Project Achieve, all those same grades were ranked in the upper half for the first time.

In fact, in 2014-15, Cleve Hill was ranked in the top quarter across the state with similar schools in grades 3 through 5.

Representatives of other districts have been visiting Cleve Hill to determine whether Project Achieve is something that those districts might want to try, McCabe said.

Project Achieve comes at substantial cost, though much of it is subsidized through Board of Cooperative Educational Services programs at a rate of about 70 percent reimbursement in the following year. Cleveland Hill has spent $401,815 on the program in the 2014-15 school year and $198,260 in this school year and is planning to spend $152,760 next year, for a total of $752,835.

The costs come from a partnership with BOCES, including substitute teachers, materials, assessment development and technology. During the first two years of Project Achieve, the district has acquired new mobile devices through Erie 1 BOCES. These include 307 Chromebooks, 123 iPads, four carts for iPads and 32 MacBook laptops.

Even with these expenditures, Cleve Hill has managed to stay below the state tax cap for the last three years and plans to be so for 2016-17.

Andrea S. Kersten, Cleve Hill’s middle school principal, said Project Achieve has made an impact on virtually every aspect of the instructional program at the middle school. She added that it has empowered teachers to make systemic change and emphasized that they’re learners, too

“As the building principal, Project Achieve has provided me with additional resources to support and empower the teacher leaders within the building,” Kersten said. “Our students are better prepared to know all that it means to be college- and career-ready due to their collaborative efforts and strategic planning.”