Saturday, July 20, 2002

Most CPS elementaries failing

But students can bus to better schools

By Jennifer Mrozowski,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than half of Cincinnati Public Schools' elementaries aren't meeting state improvement goals, but thanks to a new federal law, kids in those failing schools have a chance to go to better schools this fall.

   The following schools did not meet state-defined improvement goals for at least two consecutive years, according to a preliminary list by the Ohio Department of Education. Districts will have to offer students transportation out of those on the list to successful district schools, where space is available.
   The list could change by August as data is verified.
   Cincinnati City Schools
   Bond Hill Academy
   Burton Elementary
   Central Fairmount Elementary
   Chase Elementary
   Cheviot Elementary
   Gamble Elementary
       Heberle Elementary
   Heinold Elementary
   Hoffman Elementary
   Hyde Park Elementary
   John P. Parker Elementary
   Losantiville Elementary
   McKinley Elementary
   Midway Elementary
   Mount Airy Elementary
   North Fairmount Elementary
   Oyler Elementary
   Pleasant Hill Elementary
   Pleasant Ridge Elementary
   Project Succeed Elementary
   Quebec Heights Elementary
   Roberts Elementary
   Rockdale Academy
   Roselawn Condon Elementary
   Rothenberg Elementary
   Sayler Park Elementary
   Schwab Elementary
   Silverton Paideia Elementary
   South Avondale Elementary
   Taft Elementary
   Vine Elementary
   Washburn Elementary
   Washington Park Elementary
   Westwood Elementary
   Whittier Elementary
   Windsor Elementary
   Hamilton City Schools
   Harrison Elementary
   Madison Elementary
   Van Buren Elementary
   Middletown City Schools
   Jefferson Elementary
   Mayfield Elementary
   McKinley Elementary
   Lockland City Schools
   Lockland Elementary
   Mount Healthy City Schools
   Frost Elementary
   Rex Ralph Elementary
   North College Hill City Schools
   Becker Elementary
   Northwest Local Schools
   Houston Elementary
    Norwood City Schools
   Norwood View Elementary
   Source: Ohio Department of Education
        The law requires the district to offer students the option of transportation to more successful schools within the district.

        The Ohio Department of Education released a preliminary list Friday of 415 schools - about one of every seven Ohio schools - that don't meet strict state achievement targets required in federal education legislation signed by President Bush in Hamilton in January. The list could change by August after districts review the state's data.

        Six Butler County schools are on the list along with 42 schools in Hamilton County, 36 of which are Cincinnati schools. No schools in Clermont or Warren counties were on the list.

        Cincinnati schools spokeswoman Jan Leslie said the district will give transportation priority to the lowest-achieving and poorest students. They will be offered transportation to successful schools where space is available. Ms. Leslie said the district supports the concept of the federal legislation, designed to hold schools accountable and provide options for parents whose children are in persistently low-achieving schools.

        “It should be an incentive to all of us and our schools to look for solutions for the children who are struggling,” she said. “We've been prepared for it."

        Still, requirements of the federal law, including ranking all students by poverty and achievement, then offering students transportation options by this fall, could be problematic, Ms. Leslie said. That's because districts have 30 days to review the data sent by the state departx ment of education, at which time the department of education will revise its list. School starts in Cincinnati on Aug. 26, in just over a month.

        “It might be after the start of school that students and parents decide to move,” she said. “The logistics of it are challenging.”

        State officials say many parents may opt not to take advantage of school choice, especially since schools will be sending parents information on their plans to improve and meet the achievement goals.

        “What we hope is that this will generate a discussion with schools and communities—about how schools intend to improve performance,” said Joseph F. Johnson, special assistant to the state superintendent. “The first impetus of this legislation is to get these schools that are not achieving at high levels to improve teaching and learning. What Congress also is saying is where we have schools that have not improved, it's important to offer parents a choice."McKinley Elementary School parent Dee Fricker said she wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to send her 9- and 11-year-old kids to another school. McKinley, in Columbia Tusculum, is one of the schools on the list.

        “I think it's pretty preposterous,” she said. “It's not a feasible thing for a district to be able to do. The focus should be on fixing schools, not abandoning schools."

        The schools on the list had less than a 2.5 percentage point increase in students passing fourth- or sixth-grade reading and math proficiency tests for at least two years in a row. They also had fewer than 42 percent of their students demonstrate proficiency in reading or math.

        The state used proficiency-test data from past years to determine the list, but also included preliminary proficiency-test results from the past school year.

        In schools that haven't met the state's goals for more than two consecutive years, school districts must provide children with supplemental services, such as tutoring. Most of the 415 schools on the list haven't met their improvement goals for four or more years. For those, school districts will have to choose among several options: replace key staff, adopt new research-based teaching methods, decrease school management authority, employ an outside consultant to advise school management, extend the school day or reorganize the internal school organization.

        Cincinnati school officials say the district's 4-year-old accountability plan is similar to the federal education law. In Cincinnati, persistently failing schools have to undergo overhauls by hiring new staff and seeking community input to create a new direction for the school.

        “Most of the things that are recommended are things we believe in and agree with, and many of our schools are doing,” Ms. Leslie said.


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