Wednesday, January 17, 2001

CPS redesigns high schools

Tech, college prep programs would try to lower dropout rate

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's high school students could have new choices in August.

        Options for juniors and seniors would include information technology, a virtual (online) school and traditional college prep programs.

        Freshmen and sophomores could take advantage of “preparatory academies” focusing on the basics needed to pass the state proficiency test in reading, writing, math, science and citizenship.

        Plans to restructure Cincinnati Public Schools' five neighborhood high schools were hashed out by the Board of Education and administrators Tuesday. The board is expected to approve the new schools at its Monday meeting.

        The new options also include an international, a vocational and a military school.

        The district has spent more than a year studying ways to redesign its large high schools — Aiken, Taft, Western Hills, Withrow and Woodward — into small-model high schools.

        High dropout rates and low passing rates on the state proficiency test prompted the need for redesign, which the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) proposed a few years ago.

        Rick Beck, CFT president, said he thinks the district needs to be more aggressive in its redesign, which would happen in phases.

        “Changes could be more dramatic if we planned for a year and then implemented it all at once,” Mr. Beck said. “They are rushing something they don't need to.”

        More than $3 million in grants would be used to train teachers and implement the programs, which also would serve special-needs students.

        “I don't think the issue is whether or not there needs to be redesign, but what should the redesign be?” board member Harriet Russell said.

        Here are the basics:

        • Walnut Hills, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Hughes Center and Clark Montessori high schools would not be part of the restructuring.

        • Schools would be organized into two components: a preparatory academy for ninth- and 10th-graders and a senior institute for juniors and seniors.

        • Tenth-graders would have to meet standards to advance to the senior institute.

        • Each school program would have its own curriculum, and enrollment would be limited to 600.

        • Students would be able to attend any high school in the city.

        If the plan is approved, here's what will happen come August:

        • Taft will open the information technologies senior institute and preparatory academies.

        • Aiken will operate a college preparatory senior institute and preparatory academies.

        • A virtual high school will be in a facility to be determined.

        The district's other high schools will begin planning to start preparatory academies and senior institutes for the 2002-2003 school year. This will include Western Hills and Withrow.


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