Thursday, October 18, 2001

New ideas shape high schools


Business, college prep among models

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new entrepreneurial high school to prepare students for the world of business could open in Cincinnati as early as fall 2002 if a proposal is approved in November.

        Cincinnati Public Schools officials are considering a half-dozen locations, including several buildings in Over-the-Rhine, as well as district-owned buildings, to house the school if approved by the board of education.

        The administration also presented plans Wednesday to the board for a design technology institute to open at Western Hills next school year. All classes would include a focus on engineering studies.

PROPOSED PROGRAMS
   • Entrepreneurial High School
   2002-03: Open a 9-12 school at an undetermined site with entrepreneurial and business focus starting with 125 ninth-graders and growing to 400 students.
   • Western Hills
   2002-03: Open a design technology school beginning with 200 ninth-graders. Expand school one grade per year, with a maximum of 600 students; open a University School beginning with 200 ninth-graders and about 250 students in a senior institute for grades 11 and 12. In the University School, students can take college-level courses and are linked to a university to provide a smooth transition to college. By 2003-04, expand University School to 600 students.
   • Withrow
   2002-03: Open a new school with a college-driven curriculum, beginning with 200 ninth-graders. Expand school by one grade per year to 600 students.
        CPS historically has had a set of high schools that were generally divided between highly successful schools of choice and low-performing neighborhood schools, said Superintendent Steven Adamowski.

        “The vision is to create an entire school system of small, personalized, high-quality, highly focused schools of choice,” he said.

        University-based programs, in which schools partner with a local university to provide college-level courses and a smooth transition to post-secondary education, were also proposed for Western Hills and Withrow high schools.

        These changes are part of a massive overhaul launched this school year to restructure the district's historically low-achieving neighborhood high schools and create additional secondary programs to improve CPS's dismal graduation rate of 51 percent.

        Part of the funding for these and the district's other high school restructuring programs comes from about $4 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education to create smaller schools-within-schools. Corporations including Cincinnati Bell have contributed money, technical support and equipment, such as computers.

        Other funding comes from general operating revenues.

        Taft High School this fall began its transformation to an information technology school, while Aiken High School is creating a college-prep University Institute.

        In September, CPS launched a new virtual high school. Students complete most of their course work via the Internet.

        Like the partnership with Cincinnati Bell at Taft, Western Hills is looking to partner with EDS, a global services company headquartered in Plano, Texas, to provide design software and training for teachers to use it.

        Rick McCollum, a member of Taft Elementary School's community decision-making group, said the new program will be welcome at Western Hills.

        “Because the educational needs of Taft's children are being so poorly met ... any help is desperately needed,” he said.

        Taft Elementary now has a program called Project GRAD whose students can filter into Western Hills beginning next year.

        Members of CPS' community are interested in the possibilities.

        “We welcome the opportunity to plan and jointly dialogue with industry,” said Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. The union serves about 3,000 CPS teachers.

        “Clearly the graduation rate needs to be improved and CFT is looking at all ways to improve student achievement.”

        The college-driven program at Withrow would incorporate Advanced Placement courses, foreign language, reading requirements of 25 books and summer enrichment programs for entering students.

        Students in Frederick Douglass School in New York, upon which the model is based, also wear uniforms.

        In the new entrepreneurial high school, students would study small business and finance, intern with local entrepreneurs, tour trade and industry shows, form classroom corporations to operate kiosks and share profits and more.

        A design for the career-technical school being planned at Woodward High School is expected to be unveiled in December.

       



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