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Freshly baked cookies will be the end product of a cross-curricular financial education project.

Cookie Academy Project

Antwerp (Ohio) Local School District

Special needs teacher Erin Lichty had long thought about finding extra resources for her K3 students at Antwerp (Ohio) Local School District as new achievement requirements demanded more testing and progress among such students. When she applied for the Second Annual DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION X-Factor Student Achievement Grant, she thought of cookies. “Antwerp students are banking on the fact that everyone loves the smell of freshly baked cookies!” she wrote in her application.

The students were right. Lichty’s idea, the Cookie Academy Project, won the X-Factor award out of 245 district applications.

The goal of the project is to increase the financial literacy skills and reading scores of the district’s special needs students—24 students in grades K6 and 29 students in grades 7-12. The district, which is comprised of one school building, has 669 students. Overall, the district performed with high marks in the 2007-2008 school year, with at least 93 percent of third-graders and 90 percent of eighth-graders being proficient in reading and math.


But the problem lies with the district’s students with disabilities, who are struggling. In math, only 23 percent of them scored basic and 23 percent were proficient. In reading, fewer than 18 percent were at basic level and 44 percent scored proficient. For economically disadvantaged students, 49 percent were proficient in reading, while 34 percent were proficient in math. The hope is that the cookie project, along with the AutoSkill software program, will increase their understanding.

“The Cookie Academy is practical in the sense that it gives the students a realworld experience in running a business,” Lichty says.

The Cookie Recipe

Special needs students in grades K6 will learn math, reading and technology skills through the project. High school special needs students will serve as the financial counselors to the elementary students and will keep track of finances—sorting and adding money from the cookie sales. They will also serve as role models for the younger ones.

The Academy of READING will help students become fluent in foundational reading skills, and the Academy of MATH, which aligns with the district’s curriculum, will help special needs students build computational fluency. In the end, the hope is that students will gain improved financial literacy, confidence, self-esteem, motivation and ability to focus.

“We decided that this program [AutoSkill] is very beneficial to students, and it focuses on those skills they need,” Lichty says. “We’re going to tie everything together. They will be able to read and measure and add and subtract” while they mix the ingredients and bake the cookies.

The students will pick the kinds of cookies they want to bake, Lichty says. In the life skills lab room, formerly the home economics room of years ago, students will bake once a week for about an hour and then sell the cookies in a large entry hallway of the school building another day of the week, preferably in the morning when the rest of the students are first entering school.

Five special needs classrooms will be transformed into an interactive computing environment, integrating the new AutoSkill software with SMART Board interactive whiteboards, projectors and wireless tablets into daily instruction, which will cost about $17,500.

Staff will also use a business success rubric, which will measure the success of the business. The rubric will measure bookkeeping accuracy and profit margins as well as a marketing plan, which will include the hanging of posters throughout the school building advertising the latest cookie sale.

Teacher Training

The five special needs teachers, who will be trained in how to use the software, will look at each student and figure out where he or she needs to improve and then work in class to provide extra support to meet those missing skills, Lichty says. Five substitute teachers will be called in over the four teacher training days, she adds, which will cost about $1,600.

A group of PEERS, which stands for Partners Educating, Enlivening and Reviewing Ourselves, is a professional development program based at the local Western Buckeye Educational Service Center, which shares resources with districts in two counties, including Antwerp. The PEERS group will study the process of integrating interactive technology, like SMART Boards and wireless notepads, in the classroom with the use of the software. In addition, Antwerp’s special ed teachers will observe each other in classrooms, Lichty adds. “It will be nice to give each other ideas and talk about how the program is going,” she says. “We notice that in the Academy of READING and MATH how easy it is to monitor progress [of students] and track their advancement and lack thereof and adjust the instruction. We can collaborate and give ideas on how to focus on the needs of the students.”

One-Half Cup of Success, One Cup of Preparation

Principal Travis Lichty of the pre-K6 school, who is married to Erin Lichty, says that historically the district has been successful with meeting adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. Two years ago, the district didn’t make AYP, but last year it did. “But this is not just about our district looking good on paper,” Principal Lichty says. “This will enable our kids to do better on those tests and be more prepared and make it a little more fair.”

Erin Lichty adds that she is excited about winning. “It’s been a little rough financially in this district, like the rest of Ohio,” she says. “And the kids love to cook. Cookies seem easy and fun, and everybody likes cookies.”

As enjoyable as the experience promises to be, Lichty is looking for more than a fun and scrumptious time for the students. “I’m really hoping to see a lot of improvement in their achievement scores,” she says. “But more importantly to me, I just want to see improvement in their reading skills, math skills, life skills, and the way they are going to be working together and interacting.”

Superintendent Mark Hartman adds that grant monies provide many of the district’s extra resources. “So we’re very fortunate for these kind of grants to provide us with the things we otherwise wouldn’t have,” he says. And he adds that with the greater push for proficiency under No Child Left Behind, autistic children and ADHD children have a greater challenge than at any other time. —Angela Pascopella