By William Croyle
EVANSTON - ACT Inc. searched this fall for 10 diverse schools with consistently high ACT test scores to conduct a study on how the schools succeed.
Out of more than 4,000 schools considered nationwide, they found one of the 10 in the heart of Cincinnati.
Walnut Hills High School was the only Ohio school selected for the study that will attempt to define what makes a "rigorous" high school curriculum in math, science and English.
The college preparatory school is part of the Cincinnati Public Schools district and serves grades 7-12. Of the 1,935 students enrolled, about 750, or 39 percent, are minorities.
"We were looking for exemplary schools," said ACT spokesman Ed Colby. "We're seeing a lot of students not prepared to take college courses, and we're trying to determine what elements of high school course work prepare students for college."
According to ACT and its co-sponsor in the study, the Education Trust, half of all students entering college each year have to take a remedial course in a particular subject.
At Walnut Hills, last year's senior class had an average score of 24.7 on the ACT exam, compared to the national average of 21.8.
In 2001 and 2002, more than half of the test takers at Walnut Hills scored higher than the ACT's college-ready benchmark in science. More than 73 percent topped the benchmark in math, while more than 90 percent exceeded the mark in English.
"Teachers take their courses very seriously. They hold students' feet to the fire on what the expectations are for a course," said Walnut Hills Principal Marvin Koenig.
"I also attribute our success to the fact that we have the opportunity to work with students for six years. By the time they are juniors or seniors, a culture has been established."
The study will run through December. ACT and the Education Trust are gathering and analyzing data in the courses where at least half of the 2001 and 2002 students who took the test met or exceeded the college-ready benchmarks. Toward the end of the study, researchers will interview teachers about their teaching strategies.
"We want to see what lessons we can learn from what they are doing right," said Colby. "We hope the conclusions drawn will help other schools better prepare their courses."
The results of the study of all 10 schools will be released in the spring.
About Walnut Hills High School
Address: 3250 Victory Parkway, Evanston
Enrollment: 1,935 students (56 percent female, 44 percent male)
Minorities: 39 percent (32 percent African-American)
Faculty: 92 percent of faculty have at least master's degree or equivalent
Graduates: More than 95 percent of graduates each year enroll in four-year colleges
Claim to fame: Honors program and College Board Advanced Placement program have more courses than any school in the nation
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