Sunday, August 22, 2004

Help students learn?

As area's new school year begins, what can large urban districts do to

By Krista Ramsey
Enquirer staff writer

With a $21 million budget deficit looming, a nearly $1 billion building project under way, and fractured relationships between school board members and administrators, there is plenty to distract Superintendent Alton Frailey and the staff of Cincinnati Public Schools as the district's 2004-05 school year begins Wednesday. But one problem looms over all and can no longer be lost to distractions. That problem is dismal student achievement.

Buildings, teacher contracts, fancy new programs - none of it matters if children aren't learning and progressing. And 49 of the district's 82 schools aren't meeting federal requirements for student achievement. Six out of 10 fourth-graders haven't mastered reading. Better than six of 10 sixth-graders don't meet reading or math standards.

The district has tried to address achievement by putting more focus on attendance and early intervention programs and by aligning curriculum to state standards. The most intense discussion has raged around a controversial proposal to tie teacher pay to performance.

But critics say pay-for-performance is no magic solution, and finding funds to motivate teachers may be a moot point, given the district's fiscal woes.

So what would once and for all make a difference in student learning? We asked two national experts and a veteran Cincinnati Public Schools principal to share their thoughts on what's really effective. (See links below.)

Help students learn?
Schools need more coherent vision of reform
Best teachers need more than apples
Teacher quality key to student success
Hot Corner: Nipping at the heels of the newsmakers

Center for better understanding
NKU recognized as a regional asset
Growing NKU faces changing, modern challenges
County errors on property tax credits are rare, minor
Freedom Center's gift: shared history
Letters to the editor