CPS “Turnaround Schools” lift district performance
Cincinnati Public Schools Elementary Initiative is being touted as a national model for its swift effectiveness at “turning around” schools. In less than two years, 13 of the 16 “Turnaround Schools” have shown measurable improvement in overall performance. At least five of the schools have jumped two categories in the Ohio report card ranking system. Six of the schools have met all of their federal accountability targets for Adequate Yearly Progress.
The five schools that have jumped two categories, achieving “Continuous Improvement” rankings are Rockdale Academy in Avondale, Roll Hill Academy in the Fay, Rothenasberg Preparatory Academy in Over-the- Rhine, Ethel M. Taylor in Millvalle, and William H. Taft in Mt. Auburn. Highlighting the achievement is the fact that none of these schools have ever before emerged from “Academic Emergency,” the lowest state ranking. Frederick M. Douglas School in Walnut Hills also moved up one category to “Continuous Improvement.”
CPS’ Elementary Initiative is a comprehensive strategy to improve performance in CPS’ lowest performing elementary schools. Strategies included comprehensive audits of each school, realignment of resources to address the needs of individual children, success plans for each child, and intensive focus on math and reading, including a change in the way reading was taught in grades 4-8, a program dubbed “Fifth Quarter” that extended learning time by a month at each school, and expanded early childhood programs including kindergarten-readiness program for at-risk four-year olds.
The district with support from the GE Foundation called upon the University of Virginia’s “Turnaround Specialist Program.” The program was developed and is delivered by the Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, which is a partnership between the Darden School of Business and the Curry School of Education. It combines the most innovative thinking in business and education, to help school and district build, support, and sustain successful turnarounds.
Since 2004, UVA has worked with schools and districts in nine other states around the U.S. to achieve successful turnarounds, but “no other district has applied these principles on a scale like this, said CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan, Monday in releasing the results.
“Based on our experience with 48 school districts across the country over the past six years, this is the best district-wide implementation of a turnaround initiative at scale that we have seen” commented LeAnn Buntrock, Executive Director, Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education at UVA. As a result of the success achieved so far in Cincinnati, the University of Virginia has made the CPS Initiative the subject of a case study and potential national model for district administrators and principals around the country.
And U.S. Secretary of State Arne Duncan has named CPS’ Fifth Quarter as an example of districts finding effective ways to help students at high poverty, low-performing schools.
To achieve these results, the principals and teachers at our Turnaround Schools have worked incredibly hard,” said Laura Mitchell, deputy superintendent of CPS and the district’s Turnaround Schools leader, “and they have succeeded in changing the culture of their schools- probably the most difficult task any organization ever faces.”
Also confirmed is that the district’s overall performance has improved. The district has ranked in “continuous improvement” for six years, but has hovered close to the next lower ranking of “academic watch.” With the turnaround of these previously low performing schools, the district has moved up to a strong “continuous improvement” ranking.