Saturday, April 27, 2002

Hamilton schools called most improved

Report shows big gains on standards from '00 to '02

By Jennifer Mrozowski,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton City Schools is the most-improved urban district in Ohio, based on academic report cards from 2000 to 2002, according to a non-profit Ohio think tank.

        The district showed more academic improvement over the last two years than three-fourths of all Ohio school districts, said Andrew Benson, president of New Ohio Institute. The institute is a non-profit policy research organization.

        Cincinnati rated 19th out of 21 urban districts in its rate of improvement on academic standards.

        “Hamilton showed spectacular and steady progress,” Mr. Benson said. “If I were a district about Hamilton's size, I'd be booking a trip down there to see what they're doing that I'm not doing.”

        The New Ohio Institute analyzed improvements districts made from 2000 to 2002 on the state report card. Standards reviewed include students' passing rates on state proficiency tests, graduation rates and attendance rates.

        The institute examined whether districts improved by at least five percentage points in standards they hadn't met.

        For example, the state report card shows whether districts have met a state standard to have 75 percent of students pass the 4th grade reading test. If a district did not reach that standard, the New Ohio Institute analyzed whether the district improved in that area by at least five percentage points from 2000 to 2002.

        Critics have said the state report card only show a “snapshot' of students” academic achievement but no indication of progress.

        The New Ohio Institute study is a useful companion piece to the state report card because it shows progress despite challenges districts face, Mr. Benson said.

        Janet Baker, superintendent of 9,300-student Hamilton City Schools, said district officials were thrilled with the report. She added that the improvement resulted from hard work.

        Hamilton schools met 15 of 27 state standards on the report card in 2002, an improvement from 12 the year before. Mr. Benson's report went a step further by noting improvement in areas where the district didn't meet the state standard.

        The report showed Hamilton improved by at least five percentage points in 80 percent of the state standards they hadn't met before.

        “Everyone here is focused on improving our results,” Ms. Baker said. Some initiatives include intervention plans in every school building and free summer school for students who need extra help.

        Cincinnati met eight of the state's 27 standards in 2002, an improvement from five standards the year before. The New Ohio Institute's report pointed out that Cincinnati progressed at a much slower rate than Hamilton. The district improved by at least five percentage points in just 33 percent of the unmet standards.

        District spokeswoman Jan Leslie said the 42,000-student urban school district advocates looking at both progress and the annual snapshot of achievement on the report card. She said the district uses both measures in its own accountability system.

        “We're working hard to improve our achievement levels,” she said. “We are making progress but we would certainly like to be making more.”


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