State education leaders say schools with high poverty rates 'can' have excellent students.
A study released today Wednesday found 'strong leadership' is key to breaking the cycle of lower grades... and the accompanying stereotypes.
Mandie Trimble of member station WOSU reports.
"We didn't know we were in poverty. We had no clue. Everybody around us was like us."
Columbus' Eastmoor Academy principal Alesia Gillison recalls her childhood.
"We didn't know we weren't supposed to achieve. We just did it because that was the expectation."
Gillison says she sets the same expectation for her students. Eastmoor tenth and eleventh graders scored in the 80th and 90th percentiles on state math and reading tests.
Eastmoor is one of nine Ohio schools studied by Public Agenda, an education research organization. Each school's poverty rate exceeded 50 percent, but they were among the highest performing schools in the state.
Gillison says the study proves poor children can excel with the right leaders and teachers.
"Once you start getting those successes, once you see this happening, then teachers mind frames will change. But if we keep saying poverty, and we keep labeling, then teachers will say well they're never going to do this."
Interim Ohio Education Superintendent Michael Sawyers calls for the replacement of poor-performing principals even though it might be unpopular.
"The reality is we've been part of the problem. We have to step up to the plate and say, 'you know what? We have to take some responsibility here as educators.'"
Cuts in state pensions might open up jobs as teachers and administrators opt to retire now.
Richard Stoff with Ohio Business Roundtable, which helped sponsor the study, called the potential retirements an opportunity to get a "new breed" of leaders in the profession.
State education officials plan to distribute the study to all schools.