Sticking With it…Innovative Vertical Teaming

Because of a major gift from Bank of Cleveland, exciting change is happening at E. L. Ross Elementary School.  Vertical teaming, challenge-based learning, and iPad Learning Labs will challenge, encourage and motivate students this fall. 

A comment by Steve Jobs on education reform caught the attention of Scott Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Bank of Cleveland.  He had recently discussed the local educational scene with friend and BOC Board Member Steve Robinson and Lynn Voelz, Executive Director of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.  The statements by Jobs stimulated a second meeting and another productive conversation. 

E.L. ROSS PRINCIPAL Lisa Earby, left, talks to four of her fourth-graders about the new iPads students will be using at the school in an innovative pilot program during the 2012-13 school year. Students, from left, Alexis Overly, Marc Rogers and Malaki Tripp, look at the new iPads, which were purchased with a $30,000 grant from the Bank of Cleveland. Banner photo, LARRY C. BOWERS

In close contact with the community on a daily basis, Mr. Taylor knew the ongoing efforts of our two local school systems to enhance education, producing graduates who have the skills necessary for the world’s best jobs…and for our local job market which is dramatically changing.  And he wanted to support that effort.

Challenging children to reach their full potential, reducing high school dropout rates, teaching with a goal toward marketable skills necessary for today and the for-seeable future, and using technology creatively to enhance and accelerate the process of education motivated both Jobs and Taylor.  To quote Steve Jobs, “blow up what doesn’t work or gets in the way…engage a child’s imagination…give teachers closer, more human, more rewarding interactions with their students…give children lesson plans tailored to their pace and needs.” 

Taylor’s conversation with Voelz was a strategic move because the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation supports both local school systems, providing funds for programs and projects not covered within regular budgets.  He was confident that the greatest impact of a gift could best be realized working through the Foundation. 

After the discussions with Taylor and Robinson, who also serves on Foundation’s Executive Committee, Voelz met with school personnel to explore their needs and projects which related to the interest, vision and criteria stimulated by the Steve Jobs’ article.

Ultimately, a project at E. L. Ross Elementary School was chosen to receive the very generous gift from Bank of Cleveland supporting purchase of an iPad Laboratory.  Lisa Earby, in her first year as Principal, had been concerned about the school’s need for updated technology.  She was also focused on increasing the students’ growth scores and creatively challenging them to excel and grow beyond the established grade level curriculum. 

Taking these concerns to her teaching team, they eagerly embraced a model which would address the school’s unique needs and change their culture of instruction.  E. L. Ross is the only elementary school within both local systems which serves only 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students.  The model, fitting perfectly with this demographic, will be adopted in the next academic year, combining Vertical Teaming and Challenge-Based Learning served by the iPad learning labs purchased through this gift.

Vertical Teaming is a new model of elementary school organization in which a team of three teachers works together with the same group of students for three years. Each teacher will teach one subject (Math, Language Arts, or Science) to all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students assigned to the team every day.  Having knowledge and teaching aptitude of all three grade levels, teachers will facilitate student growth beyond a given grade level or reinforce skills at a lower grade level as necessary.  Homeroom teachers will focus on Writing and Social Studies for specific grades.

Challenge-Based learning is an innovative teaching strategy used to address issues that are important to today’s students, using technology to solve real-world problems.  This is a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning in which the students will utilize the iPad Learning Labs and the multitude of applications available for all subject areas.

Ms. Earby elaborated, “The goal of this project is to leverage technology, continuously improving learning outcomes ...To accomplish this, the school must be more than an information factory; the school must foster a culture of exploration, inquiry, and invention. The teachers believe they must be more than information experts; the teachers (want to) be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills alongside our students.

“Our goal (facilitated by this project) is to fully engage students in school - intellectually, emotionally, and socially. The technology purchased with this gift has the opportunity to expand instructional materials beyond a teacher’s wildest dreams. The possibilities are endless.  We are so grateful for the generosity of Mr. Taylor and Bank of Cleveland.  This will be an incredible opportunity for our students and our teachers.”

The Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation works with recipient schools and teachers to provide donors with feedback and measurable results which account for the effectiveness and impact of each gift. Mr. Taylor stated that making a contribution through the Foundation assured his Board the gift would be used as directed and the results tracked and reported back to them.  

Lynn Voelz and Steve Robinson were excited about this significant contribution and its potential for impact beyond E. L. Ross.  The generosity and forward thinking of Scott Taylor has fit extremely well with the Cleveland City School System’s desire for progressive, innovative and effective approaches to education.  They invite others with charitable interest to invest in education through the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation. 



A major gift from Bank of Cleveland is bringing exciting changes in learning to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.