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Voinovich School dean, Mark Weinberg, accepts the Friends of Battelle for Kids award on behalf of the School.
Voinovich School Founding Dean, Mark Weinberg, accepts the Friends of Battelle for Kids award on behalf of the School.

Battelle for Kids presents award to Voinovich School, marking new phase in relationship

Daniel Kington
October 11, 2016

In May 2016, Battelle for Kids honored the Voinovich School with the ‘Friends of Battelle for Kids’ award for “outstanding work in promoting the improvement of educational opportunity for rural students in Ohio” and the School’s “years of dedicated partnership with Battelle for Kids.”

Founded in 2001, Battelle for Kids seeks to improve educational equity and opportunity for all students by developing services and products to help teachers, local leaders and school systems. The program has partnered with the Voinovich School for 14 of its 15 years in existence.

The relationship began in 2002, when the Voinovich School served as the external evaluator on Battelle for Kids’ first project, the Schools’ Online Achievement Report (SOAR) initiative. The project sought to better measure student academic achievement and progress in order to tailor education to the needs of individual students. Since then, the Voinovich School has served as the external evaluator on several other Battelle for Kids projects.

Maintaining and nurturing this relationship was the number one factor that prompted Battelle for Kids to grant the School the award, said Marsha Lewis, one of the Voinovich School’s senior data analysts for research and evaluation projects.

“Almost as long as they’ve been in existence we’ve been able to provide support,” Lewis said. “We’re able to offer them the expertise of Ohio University, enabling them to do better work by giving them feedback and allowing them opportunities for reflection through our evaluation services. I think that’s why they wanted to recognize us on their 15th anniversary, because we’ve been one of their longest standing partners.”

Brad Mitchell, the managing director of strategy and innovation with Battelle for Kids, said that he and his organization have greatly appreciated the School’s contributions.

“The Voinovich School has been a vital partner in the development of Battelle for Kids,” Mitchell said.  “They have continually helped us with initiatives that have impacted the quality of teaching and learning for many districts in Ohio and across the country.  We have come to learn and respect that Voinovich researchers know how to properly balance the rigor demanded of university personnel and the day to day realities of educational practitioners. Our partnership with the Voinovich School has helped solidify the legitimacy and relevance of our school improvement work.”

The relationship between the two entities is continuing and growing as the Voinovich School and Battelle for Kids undertake a new project.

Still very much in the conceptual stage, the project is called “Appalachian New Economy Partnership: Reinforcing Talent Management Connections.” Its goal is to create a regional school-to-workforce pipeline based on students’ interests and talents.

Lewis summarized the project as: “a comprehensive way of looking at talent and how talent fits with the needs of employers.”

In previous partnerships, the Voinovich School has been an external evaluator of a Battelle for Kids program. This time, the School and Battelle are creating a program together.

Right now, the project is in the research phase. The Voinovich School and Battelle for Kids are trying to identify the talents currently in demand regionally, explore students’ ability to develop their talents through existing regional educational institutions, and determine the relevant measures to consider moving forward. The aim is to use their research to work with key education, economic and civic leaders to create a pilot program to respond to regional needs. The Voinovich School and Battelle for Kids will execute the in-depth planning process and search for funding sources before finally launching a pilot program.

“The center of this work is the students,” Lewis said. “We want to get a deep understanding of what students’ aspirations are and engage the community in thinking about what the region needs and how to connect that with what students want to do and what their passions are. We want to figure out if students’ interests fit with employment opportunity in the region and determine whether that can be matched up. If not, then how do we create a means of matching those things up?”

Faith Knutsen, the associate director of TechGROWTH Ohio, is also involved in the new project, providing a social-entrepreneurship perspective.

“We’re attempting to address underemployment and unemployment in a disadvantaged rural area as well as any potential disconnect between how our youth are being prepared and the marketplace for jobs and employment that they’ll find when they get out of school,” Knutsen said.

In Knutsen’s view, actual regional cultural change is a potential project outcome.

“We want to nurture and expand on new, entrepreneurial and forward-looking ideas in order to enhance and improve opportunities for today’s youth.”

For Knutsen, the only way for this project to be truly successful in achieving this sort of cultural change is by providing more people with more information through the spreading of resources that are not typically available to everyone.

“It excites me that a project like this could bring many of the advantages that more fortunate kids have to those who don’t have many resources – advantages of mentorship, internships, field trips and connectivity with a broader world through which a modern job can be found.”

Knutsen and Lewis find the project exciting both for itself and because it represents a significant development in the Voinovich School’s relationship with Battelle for Kids.

“We have a long-term transactional relationship,” Lewis said. “But, really, we’re becoming more like strategic partners because we’re now helping them co-create projects. This is where our relationship has moved in recent years, and this is where the new project has moved.”

Brad Mitchell of Battelle for Kids said he was excited about the possibilities of this developing relationship as well.

“We are now working together for the purpose of advancing individual and local prosperity,” Mitchell said. “So we’ve become much more than a delivery partnership for professional services. Voinovich folks are also thought to be partners and allied change agents.”

In some ways, the award that Battelle for Kids presented to the Voinovich School at their 15th anniversary ceremony not only celebrated the relationship between the two groups, but also represented a new phase of that relationship – one of partnership and of “the co-production of public value,” as Lewis put it.