Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(13) Going For the Gold In Our Schools

Note: In 2005 the schools of the two school districts of Gallia County were antiquated.  In an unprecedented move, the State of Ohio agreed to finance the major part of building three new high schools, a grade school, and remodeling of others all at the same time if the voters would approve a levy that was rejected several times previously.  The new schools were dedicated within days of each other in August 2009.  Although the figures in this article, originally published almost two years ago, are somewhat dated, they still give a reasonable picture of today's reality.  There are probably few if any significant changes since that time.  The principles I tried to demonstrate are certainly very current.  

                                        OUR NEW SCHOOLS:  GO FOR THE GOLD

Published in the Gallipolis (Southeastern Ohio) Daily Tribune December 2009

        Interesting is a recent article in U.S. News & World Report which recognizes America's Best High Schools. More details can be found at USNews.com or in the magazine itself. U.S. News in conjunction with School Evaluation Services uses a three-step process that analyzes first how schools are educating all of their students, then their minority and disadvantaged students, and finally their college bound students based on student scores on statewide tests, Advanced Placement tests, and International Baccalaureate tests.

       The top ten states with the best schools are in order of rank: Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Vermont, Washington, Maine, and Maryland. It was shocking to read that Ohio lags far behind at number 39, one notch ahead of West Virginia. Clearly, our legislators and the Ohio Department of Education have a lot of work and soul searching ahead of them.

        Of the 18,743 high schools analyzed, the only one in Ohio to receive a gold medal for making the top 100 or 99.5%tile is Walnut Hills High in Cincinnati at number 65. The diversity of having 37% minority students apparently helped it. The next 491 schools (6 = 1.2% of them in Ohio) are above the 97.5%tile and received a silver medal. These include two in Dublin and one each in Cleveland, Columbiana, Columbus, and Dayton. The next 1189 schools (39 = 3.3% of them in Ohio) are above the 90.7%tile and obtained the bronze medal. Those receiving the bronze in southeastern Ohio include Chesapeake High School, Clay High School in Portsmouth, Dawson-Bryant High School in Coal Grove, and Frontier High School in Washington County.

       The majority (51%) of the schools that received medals were rural or small towns far from the cities. These are comparable to our schools. Over a third (37%) of the medalist schools had over 50% of their students classified as being from poor families and many of these schools (13% of all) had 75% poverty rates. A fourth of the winning high schools had mostly minority students. Among these medalists, 13% of the total have student bodies where minorities dominate (over 75%). Clearly, they overcame many obstacles and became champions. So can we.

       Martin Luther King High School in Nashville received a gold medal for being ranked number 30 despite the fact that it is an old dilapidated rat infested school. This proves the main point of my article in the November 18 issue of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune that despite having three new state of the art high schools in Gallia County, it still boils down to Teachers, Students, and Parents. The greatest challenge is to effectively utilize the new schools and obtain an excellent return on our investment and not waste our newly acquired educational resources.

       Having a long range plan for continuous improvement and accountability along the way, it is very doable for our high schools in Gallia County to obtain national recognition for “consistently outperforming state standards” and receive at least a bronze medal. We can do that in five years especially considering that several of our schools have already reached the State's standard of “Excellent”.

       Why not aspire to be the best with teachers and administrators that demand the best of themselves and their students? Because the teachers can't do it alone, just as important is the role of parents to supplement, support, and reinforce the hard work of the teachers from the time the kids are toddlers. We must educate the parents to work effectively with the teachers, to take greater responsibility in the education of their children and insist that they do their very best and more outside of the classroom, using home and community resources during the school year, holidays, and vacations. May the parents support their children in academics as well as they support them in athletics. In the final analysis it depends on the kids aspiring to be the best on their own initiative. They want to be the best athletes. Why not also the best scholars? May our new schools be a catalyst and a turning point as we reach for the gold!.
        
       Even if we do not reach the ideal at the top of the mountain, a few steps in that direction is progress. At least we have something to aim for.....the gold. Address any comments to pauls@rio.edu.

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