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School Issues: By the Numbers

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott School Issues: By the Numbers
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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.

CLICK HERE for more ongoing information and discussion on the Columbus Education Commission.

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  • This probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway… with Columbus City Schools being the largest district in the state of Ohio, it naturally provides a lot of diversity and range in the quality of schools throughout. Which means that there are some really awful schools, and some really amazing schools, all within CCS.

    The awful schools need to be fixed, period.

    But there are opportunities for sending children to get great educations within CCS. It’s not an automatic death sentence district-wide. ;)

  • leftovers

    “But there are opportunities for sending children to get great educations within CCS. It’s not an automatic death sentence district-wide. ;)”

    It would be great to have some kind of path to follow that would guarantee results. I don’t know too much about the CCS and would like to stay in a more urban area when we have kids. I wonder if maybe even such a guide exists already?

    The latest administrative scandal at CCS really bothers us, hopefully there will be a large shakeup in that area with a lot more accountability. You have to be able to trust their numbers.

    Our neighbors ended up sending their children to Ecole Francaise and are very happy with it, but it has a tuition of close to $7k.

  • lizless

    These are really eye opening numbers between SW and CPS, first time I’d seen such a comparison. It’s pretty staggering.

  • @leftovers – Agreed. It would be nice to have a resource for navigating the entire system and being away of all options. We had to do a lot of research last year for Kindergarten and much of it was confusing along the way.

  • Roland

    Nice article. What’s tough to nail down is the answer to why the 3rd grade results are the way they are. Could be so many things.

    What is not shown is the effectiveness of preschool programs in getting kids to score higher on the KRA-L, or the participation rates of both districts. We can’t really say that increasing access to preschool programs will help or not without knowing this. Maybe improved access would help, although only just a little.

    Those 3rd grade results are scary. It’s clear that the focus should be on what happens after preschool.

  • RobEvans_ReimagineCbusEd


    I’m Rob Evans, serving as spokesperson for the Columbus Education Commission.

    For more on what’s emerging from Reimagine Columbus Education, I’d strongly encourage Columbus Underground readers to head over to our site: http://ReimagineColumbusEducation.org

    There, you’ll find presentations from all of the commission meetings, short summaries on meeting topics like early childhood education, and the full video from every meeting.

    And, if you have a good idea about the future of education in our community, share it! We’re collecting ideas for the commission’s final recommendations to Mayor Coleman and Council President Ginther on this page: http://reimaginecolumbuseducation.org/get-involved/tell-us-your-good-idea/

    Thanks everyone,

  • lizless

    Hi Rob, Thanks for weighing in. Can you comment specifically on this particular article? I’d love to know your response to these staggering numbers, is your group aware of these numbers? Why the focus in pre-k when the problem seems to happen after that? What is happening to the kids at CCS? Any explanation why SW students are doing so much better than the Columbus students? Who are you holding accountable for these failures to our kids? How have the current school board and recent past school board contributed to CCS’s issues and are they being held accountable for their failures? Also, isn’t the fact that you’re presenting your recommendations to Council President Ginther somewhat inappropriate given that Ginther served on the school board during the height of the problems at CCS? Has anyone taken time to review Ginther’s involvement or considered that perhaps he was part of the problem?

    Sorry for all the questions, I am so happy you’re willing to engage with us. Your response above came off as pandering somewhat. I think many of us are really concerned about what happened here and would like to hear from you.

  • roy

    Dear Rob: Are you in PR? Because it’s bad ‘public relations’ to post on a news story without actually posting on the news story, encouraging instead that readers visit your website. You may still have time to edit your post, get a fresh start.

  • susank

    Those are some scary figures. What is going on at CPS?

  • Merion Village Mama

    @ Leftovers – Daycare for an infant downtown is around $1100 per month. $7K for private school tuition will seem like a sweet relief after forking over that much money for 5 years.

    I believe the Catholic school on 3rd is under $4K per year and there’s a Lutheran school in our area that charges less than that for one year’s tuition.

  • readysetdisco

    CCS students enter kindergarten as equal to their peers, but there’s a huge discrepancy between the population demographics and instruction quality in Clintonville and the underfunded East side. I’m interested in seeing the comparative rates of inequality between the school systems.

    Also, are community schools served by CCS bussing included in this equation?

  • Luce Cannon Mims

    I would say that CCS is fair in terms of how it allocates funding to different buildings in the district. When you say “underfunded” -perhaps you’re referring to differences in family incomes across town.

    You can go to the ODE’s website and view the OAA scores for any building here http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/

    To find the KRA-L scores, you have to use the Power User reports (a little more involved). The table in the article includes Columbus City Schools (and not charter or private schools). You can also look up scores for charter and private schools on the ODE site. Hope that helps.


  • leftovers

    @Merion Village Mama

    It is shocking how much it costs to raise a productive member of society ;)

    Considering all of the costs we really want to make sure we don’t shortchange our child a quality education and are afraid that with all of the shenanigans at CCS that we might not know until we are far behind. Hopefully CCS will improve by the time we need it, but as you are pointing out $7k a year might not be that much in the bigger scheme of things.

    I would pay a pretty penny for a localized up-to-date book on how to navigate childcare and education (including public, private and parochial options) in the city of Columbus. It seems everyone is forced to fend for themselves.

  • lizless

    Wonder where Rob went?

  • lizless

    From the Dispatch back in 10/12:

    By Bill Bush and Jennifer Smith Richards
    Sunday October 21, 2012 12:17 PM

    In the fall of 2004, Andrew J. Ginther, who was then on the Columbus Board of Education and is now Columbus City Council president, received two anonymous messages charging that high-ranking school-district officials were “cooking the books” on state report cards.

    MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/10/21/04-schools-audit-died-quiet-death.html

  • RobEvans_ReimagineCbusEd

    Hi Liz,

    Sorry if my comment didn’t come off as intended. I was simply trying to let people know how to share their thoughts with the commission, which seemed on point for a group discussing these issues.

    To answer some of the questions posted on this thread, let me clarify where things stand.

    It’s true that the commission has decided that early childhood education is worth investigating more, but it hasn’t suggested what solutions are needed. In fact, the commission is taking a look at virtually every aspect of education piece by piece. The meeting next week will focus on issues around career readiness and teachers.

    So pre-K won’t be the only education issue considered by the commission. In the end, whatever recommendations come out of this process will address a variety of topics. So it’s too soon to say which ones will be the main elements.

    To answer some of your particular questions, pre-K is a topic for the commission because research shows that early intervention is one of the best ways to help kids learn. (See the chart on slide 37 of this KidsOhio presentation – http://reimaginecolumbuseducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/The-State-of-Early-Childhood-Education-in-Columbus2.pdf, which is based on this material: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2812935/). It’s more effective to put them on the right path early than it is to try to help them catch up later.

    If you’d like to read any of the other background materials that were provided to the commission about early childhood, they are on this page: http://reimaginecolumbuseducation.org/jan-11-topics-state-and-federal-policiesearly-childhood/

    And yes, the commission is looking at what it can learn from South-Western, and not just about pre-K. That’s why Superintendent Wise was invited to talk to the commission last week and why other leaders of successful schools are being tapped for their expertise and experience. (Wise’s presentation included a reference to strong performance despite low KRA-L scores.)

    Last, I just want to note that this effort is not solely about the Columbus City Schools district. The goal isn’t to evaluate the current district — it’s to decide what path would best help kids who live in the district.

    I hope that helps.

  • Thanks for the extra info, Rob!

  • Luce Cannon Mims

    Interestingly, on the CEC link:


    Figure 10 and its discussion indicate that gaps are present at age 3, and the author says,

    “Schooling plays a minor role in creating or perpetuating gaps. Even though American children go to very different schools depending on their family background, test scores are remarkably parallel.”

    That will make it very interesting to learn the sorts of interventions that the commission will deem effective, no?

  • heresthecasey

    CPS needs to clean house of Harris, et al. There needs to be serious oversight and accountability for the repeated failures of the district’s administrators.

  • lizless

    I agree, heresthecasey…also concerned about the past and current school board. Especially the board that Council President Ginther served on when this was initially brought to his attention 8 years ago. The fact the committee is reporting to Ginther is pretty puzzling to everyone watching this.

  • lizless

    Great editorial from former school board member Stephanie Groce. I have to wonder why she’s not been named a member of this commission?


  • Maybe they’ll invite her to speak? Then again, uber-smart people can be intimidating . . . (and the “good ideas” shtick didn’t seem to go over very well with those peeps in the focus group).

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