CINCINNATI - In 2001, the Cincinnati Public School District was in trouble. The State of Ohio deemed the district to be in Academic Emergency. That's when CPS began looking to see if large, comprehensive high schools were the answer.
Current Cincinnati Public School Superintendent, Mary Ronan, says, "Oftentimes, students would just be a number because if you have 1,500 to 2,000 students in a building, it's hard to get to know everyone."
The district took a page from schools like the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, which has been heralded for focusing on not just academics, but on a specific set of skills to offer the students. The district calls these, "boutique high schools."
Schools like the Taft Information Technology High School were created. Taft has radically transformed itself from one that was failing to one with a 95 percent graduation rate. Students were given the ability to choose which schools.
It worked. The school district rose three rungs from Academic Emergency to Effective.
"Cincinnati is rated effective as an urban school system. It's the only one in Ohio," says Boardmember Eileen Cooper Reed. "There are things we're doing much better than other districts. But we still have a long way to go to make sure we are lifting up some of our most vulnerable students."
Ten years ago, Cincinnati Public was only graduating 50 percent of its students. That number has risen now to more than 80 percent. In addition, the School Board gave Superintendent Ronan the flexibility to make drastic changes, especially at the elementary school level.
"Two years ago, when Ronan became the Superintendent, she started the elementary initiative," says Reed. "Take the lowest performing schools and infuse some additional resources so you can lift them up. She turned around the 16 lowest performing schools."
And finally, the school district took on a massive building plan. Fifty schools have either been renovated or are entirely new.
But not everything is sunny at Cincinnati Public Schools. The administration realizes that while some schools are now succeeding, some still struggle to make the grade and that some children need more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.
"Some of our children don't have exposure and development. They have a limited vocabulary. We know that and we need to develop strategies that address that," says Reed. "Yes, they are poor. Yes, some of them are from broken homes. Bottom line, we've always had that. We can recognize that but it's not an excuse not to educate children because they can learn."
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