Wednesday, June 14, 2000

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Covington schools examined closely

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Poor teachers produce underachieving students. Poor management wastes resources and time.

        Teams of state auditors said they found numerous examples of such problems in Covington's schools. Here is a summary of their findings.

Holmes High:

        • Students interviewed did not seem to make the mental connections between knowledge of their school subjects and the real world. They could not convey why it is important to learn what they were being taught.

        • The state requires school counselors to develop “individual graduation plans” for each student in the eighth grade and to annually review them to ensure that students learn what they need to graduate. There was no evidence this was being done or that even one adult was helping them with career planning.

        Holmes Junior High:

• Teachers overused worksheets to instruct, leading them to neglect other ways students learn.

        • Students were unaccustomed to producing high-quality work and they did not make the connection between instruction, learning and proficiency.

        John G. Carlisle Elementary:

        • There was no student work displayed in classrooms, a method of helping students understand and reach education standards.

        • Teachers relied mainly on textbooks; there was a lack of variety in teaching to meet the needs of a diverse population.

        • There was little evidence the school's homework policy was being used.

        First District Elementary:

        • The school's intense reading program drew high marks, yet academic performance in other content areas lagged.

        • The work ethic of the school changed drastically after the intensive reading sessions each morning; subjects were taught with noticeably less focus.

        Latonia Elementary:

• Only 22 percent of students were given opportunities that foster high levels of learning. The rest had few chances for enrichment and an easier curriculum.

        Ninth District Elementary:

        • Teachers talked to students individually about their work, but rarely did they do more than just repeat instructions or tell children when they were right or wrong.

        • There was excessive use of copied worksheets, workbooks, textbooks and other prepackaged programs.

        Sixth District Elementary:

        • Staff and students did not have adequate access to computers and other technology.

        • Teachers were being taught computer skills but not how to incorporate computers into classroom learning.

        Glenn O. Swing Elementary:

• Special-education teachers said they spend more time taking care of students' personal, nonacademic needs just to prepare students to learn than they actually spend teaching subject material.

        • Students' classroom behaviors often present barriers to learning, but the school and classes had no consistent discipline plan.

        Throughout the district:

        • There were substantial discrepancies in student-to-teacher ratios in classes. Some teachers had 6.24 more students than oth ers teachers. Accusations by some staff that “the squeaky wheel gets greased” were apparently justified, the audit found.

        • The logs students sign whenever they enter or exit the school were being ignored. Schools are responsible for students and should be aware of their comings and goings.

        • Teachers were unaware of teaching strategies that address diverse cultural learning styles, so instructional resources and books were not reflective of racial, ethnic or gender diversity and in some cases were inaccurate.

        • The district has a de facto two-tiered education system, allowing for discrepancies in student academic placement, teacher assignment and allocation of resources. In short, advanced learning programs were the best equipped and staffed.

        • Too many minority students were being labeled special-education students.

        • The numbers of minorities employed as faculty or district staff was disproportionate and inappropriate, considering the schools student body. Only one member of Covington Schools' central office staff is a minority.

Covington schools fall short
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