Graduation rates improved from 62% to 82% and the graduation gap has narrowed. Perhaps the best news is not only that this model has positive effects, but that the Foundation says it’ll be cheaper to replicate.
Ohio High School Transformation Initiative
Program raises graduation rates
Poor districts succeed with smaller schools, rigorous classes
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 3:10 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Since 2002, in the 35 participating high schools in eight districts:
• High-school graduation rates have increased from 62 percent to 82 percent.
• The graduation gap between participating schools and all Ohio high schools has narrowed by 77 percent.
• Passage rates for both reading and math on the Ohio Graduation Test improved, 89 percent of the districts reported.
“We now know how to transform failing high schools,” said Chad P. Wick, president and chief executive officer of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a Cincinnati-based organization which focused on education reform.
“We must apply what we now know towards ensuring all kids, regardless of their race or economic backgrounds, succeed in schools that help them succeed in life. No more excuses.”
Wick met last week with Gov. Ted Strickland, who will unveil an education-reform plan early next year, to discuss the effort. While the governor’s office declined to comment on the proposal, the relatively small price tag is a big plus as the state’s budget crisis threatens to undermine Strickland’s efforts.
KnowledgeWorks and other partners, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, invested $100 million to develop the high-school initiative, train teachers and launch a second effort aimed at getting more high-school graduates to continue on to college.
Wick said now that the models are in place, program costs will be minimal.
The initiative has focused on smaller schools, more autonomy for school administrators and teachers, personalized instruction and flexible schedules to allow students to spend more time as needed on difficult subjects.
Columbus school officials say the small-school concept led to improved performance among students at Brookhaven High School, the only school in the Columbus district participating in the initiative.
“We’ve learned a lot and it has worked well although we have not been able to fully implement it at Brookhaven as intended,” said Jeff Warner, spokesman for the Columbus City School District.
At Brookhaven, passage among first-time takers of the reading portion of the Ohio Graduation Test was 69 percent this year, up from 37 percent in 2004. That’s the highest jump of any participating school.
The smaller learning environment, Warner said, allows for improved relationships and understanding between students and teachers and more personalized instruction.
Harold D. Brown, executive director of EdWorks, a new affiliate of KnowledgeWorks focusing on high-school improvement, said it boils down to commitment and staying the course.
“We have shown that real improvements in student achievement are possible, even in our most distressed communities,” he said.
Partners, which include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, invested $100 million.