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CCS To Spend $2 Million To Boost Scores, Ward Off Takeover

The Columbus City Schools' board voted Tuesday to proceed with an aggressive plan to pull away from last month’s dismal state report card grade – with the threat of a state takeover hanging over the district’s future. Alison Holm reports.  

Interim Superintendent John Stanford told the school board Tuesday night that the district’s failing grade on the latest state report card is more than an embarrassment. It puts the state’s largest public school district one step closer to losing local control. Three consecutive “F”s on the annual report would trigger a state takeover and a state appointed CEO with broad powers to bring in charters, cancel contracts and privatize services.


While the district has a long term improvement plan in place, the board Tuesday approved spending $2 million on an immediate plan to shore up scores in several key academic areas. Chief Academic Officer Alesia Gillison says it starts with professional development for teachers in areas where the district’s students are on the cusp of a better letter grade, like the 3rd grade reading test.


“And then in January we start the 8-week intense surge. We have room for 800 2nd- and 3rd-graders. They’ll co me in and they’ll take an assessment or pre-assessment so we know exactly where they are. And the teachers will work to get them on grade level or as close to grade level as we can get them, so they’ll be ready for that test.


Gillison says improvements should snowball, as this year’s 2nd graders will be even better prepared when they take the state test next year, and this year’s kindergartners will benefit from three years application of the teachers professional development. Even a modest improvement could raise the district’s 3rd grade reading scores from a “D” to a “C” – which would have an impact on the district’s overall score.


Gillison says the aggressive focus on professional development will also benefit students on the other end of the k-12 spectrum in another borderline area.


“At the high school end, once we dug into our data, we saw that geometry was an area our students were challenged in. So there’s going to be an intense professional development for all high school Math 1 and Math 2 teachers. And from that, they’ll go back into the classroom and their delivery of instruction will look different. It’ll be more focused on what those areas are.”


The board also bringing back 40 intervention specialists who were cut several years ago, to go into the schools and work more closely with students in key areas.


But teacher training and increased tutoring are only part of the districts strategy. The board will also hold three public work sessions to explain the details of the state report card, and the implications of a possible state takeover. Interim superintendent John Stanford says the meetings November 14th and 28th and December 5th, will also be an opportunity to reach out to parents, non-profits, and the faith community to enlist their help in continued improvement.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.
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