In order to address the well-publicized woes of Columbus City Schools, the mayor has assembled a commission to fix the problems. One of the commission’s early ideas has been to improve access to preschool education.
The proposal is a little puzzling.
Consider South-Western City Schools. The superintendent of the system, Bill Wise, was asked to speak to the commission last month. He’s the superintendent of the sixth biggest school system in Ohio. It’s a system where 55% of the students are economically disadvantaged.
And where big systems tend to fail, especially ones with high levels of poverty, in 2012, Wise’s South-Western City Schools is rated Excellent.
A rise to excellence in itself is interesting, but what’s even more interesting is the statistical similarities between the students entering Southwestern City Schools and the students entering Columbus City Schools.
The districts’ entering students are doppelgangers in kindergarten readiness: they are the same. But after three years in school, the groups’ Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) scores are very different.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has a test called the KRA-L. It’s the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy, and the test is required of all children entering kindergarten in public schools. Student performance levels are divided into three categories: In “Band 1” students have the lowest scores, they may need extra help to get started. “Band 2” students score in the mid-range; and “Band 3” students have highest scores –this final group might be suited for enrichment activities beyond normal classroom plans.
Consider the kids who entered the schools in 2008. According to the ODE information illustrated in the table below, the two school systems start with students displaying similar levels of learning-readiness:
Now fast-forward to the proficiency exams those groups completed in the 2011-2012 school year:
Before kindergarten, these groups were the same. After three years of education, South-Western City Schools has moved its children ahead, and it did so with only part-day kindergarten.
It makes the Commission’s push for more pre-school seem strangely off-target. Readiness is important, but these two groups have the same level of kindergarten readiness.
And if you look at anecdotal school comparisons, the preliminary data has some student groups at Columbus schools entering with 60-70% of the population ready to learn (in Bands 2 and 3), and hitting third grade with only 20-35% of the group being proficient.
Something is happening to Columbus children when they enter the doors of the public school system.
And it has nothing to do with pre-school.
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