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The Sound of Ideas

Standout Schools in Northeast Ohio

Posted Friday, June 19, 2009

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Standout Schools in Northeast Ohio The numbers have been tallied and the results are in; 12 high schools in NE Ohio are ranked in Newsweek's list of the top 1,300 public high schools in the country. The list, developed by Jay Mathews, The Washington Post's education columnist, is based on the number of students taking advanced placement tests divided by the number of students who graduate. What are these schools doing to stand out above the rest? Can other schools follow suit? How much of their success has to do with the schools and how much is related to the demographics of the student body? Join us for a conversation on what schools can do to reach their achievement levels, and what the levels should be. That's Friday at 9 on 90.3. *Photo Courtesy of The Plain Dealer


Education, Other, Community/Human Interest


Jay Mathews, Education Columnist for The Washington Post & NEWSWEEK contributing editor
Scott Stephens, Senior Writer for Catalyst-Ohio Magazine
Dr. Joanie Walker, Principal of Avon Lake High School
Kert Boedicker, Principal of Chagrin-Falls High School
Larry Petry, Principal of Firestone High School, Akron

Additional Information

The Top of the Class, Newsweek's List of 1,500 Top U.S. High Schools
Newsweek's Best Public High Schools List Includes 11 from Greater Cleveland by Jane Okoben, The Plain Dealer
Newsweek's Top High Schools List is Off Base, by Dan Brown, The Huffington Post
Is AP Good For Everyone? It's Debatable, The Washington Post
DISD Scores Big in One Study, Lower in Another, The Dallas Morning News
U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools
Catalyst Ohio, Independent Reporting on School Reform

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Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

Katy McGrath 9:47 AM 6/19/09

Northeast Ohio has 13 high schools that made the Newsweek Top High School list.  Kenston High School in Geauga County is 1,107 on the list. 

Please see the attached comments from Jay Mathews

Newsweek apologizes to the teachers and students of Kenston High
School for failing to include the school in the initial online publication
of our America’s Top High Schools list. Kenston officials filled out and
returned the form we sent them weeks ago, but for reasons that remain
unclear--perhaps a computer malfunction on our part--we did not see the
form. We will add Kenston to the list when we do our update on June 18. Its
index rating will be 1.450. It is difficult to say exactly what rank it
will have, because we will be adding other schools to the list, but it
should be about 1,100, or slightly higher. This puts it in the top 4
percent of all U.S. public schools measured this way.
Please accept my congratulations for your school’s exceptional
performance. We will try to make sure we don’t drop the ball again next
time. ---Jay Mathews, Newsweek contributing editor and Washington Post

Melissa 9:54 AM 6/19/09

Parents are important (especially in terms of readiness); however, ultimately family and home life are not a variable schools can control. Often they are used as scapegoats when students experience failure. Research says it comes down to the core and the relationship between the pieces: teacher - student - curriculum.

Roslyn, Solon 10:08 AM 6/19/09

So many kids do take the A/P classes but many high schools do NOT require that those children take the A/P exams. How do you distinguish those schools that have children successfully pass the A/P tests and those that encourage kids to take A/P classes but do not hold them accountable to take the A/P tests. Do you think many of these schools now know that using these A/P classes for this purpose of getting positive reviews from such organizations as Newsweek.

Katie, Akron 10:09 AM 6/19/09

I went through the Brecksville-Broadview Heights school system, and I am currently a mother living in the Firestone district. Hearing your guest’s list of local schools who rank excellent, it illuminates once again the huge discrepancies in school funding in affluent and poorer communities. I think it’s clear from this list that includes Hudson, Aurora, Orange, Chagrin Falls, Avon Lake, Brecksville, Beachwood, etc and not inner-city communities that it is time to END the classist way that schools are funded here in Ohio. We’re perpetuating a system that ensures that wealthy children stay wealthy, and working class children stay on the bottom with poorer-performing schools. Isn’t it time we fund all schools equally, so that all of our children may have access to AP/IB courses and be afforded the same opportunities?

Anonymous 10:10 AM 6/19/09

It seems that there is so much more focus on AP students. Where is the focus on supportive services for students @ the other end of the spectrum? And was that taken into consideration in this as well?

Bobbie Hendrick, Lakewood 10:12 AM 6/19/09

If a school makes the test mandatory, who pays for the test, about $80, for underprivileged kids?
On another topic, studies have shown that studying music increases “intelligence” and achievement in other subjects.

James 10:13 AM 6/19/09

First thing, a small correction. The Montessori High School at University Circle is an IB school right in the center of Cleveland.
Second thing, I went to Cleveland Heights High School and I took many AP classes that I didn’t take the test for. For me it wasn’t, to quote your guest, “all about” the test. For me it was all about the quality of the content, literature, and teachers. I wanted the material, not much else. I didnt want to take the test for many reasons. But I did want that top quality material. Is the guest suggesting that well- minded students can make these choices for themselves?

Anonymous 10:15 AM 6/19/09

Have you considered the unintended consequences or your ranking system?  I teach AP at a school which has consistently earned a perfect report card according to state rankings but did not make this list.  When US News and World Report put out the same ranking my administrators began the quest to get more kids to take AP.  As a result, I have been pressured to make my class “more accessible” (translate “easier") so that more students will take it, even if they fail the test.  Using one criteria to evaluate an entire school is misleading at best.

Joanne Johnson, Cleveland 10:18 AM 6/19/09

I am 60 yrs old.  I attended Cleveland Public Schools and graduated in 1967.  From 9th grade through graduation, I took college prep courses.  At that time the criteria for college was English-the whole 12 yrs.  Phys ed--The whole 12 yrs. Science/Math 2 years of one and 1 of another, which ever you chose.  I took math to calculus just because I tired of math.  That included geometry, algebra, trig.  Science--I took through 12th grade--Biology, Chemistry, Physics.  My Chemistry teacher was a NASA scientist.  Mr. Williams idea of fun would be a couple of chemical equations over Christmas break.  I took 3 years of French to meet the foreign language requirement.  I loved English.  From Dickens to Beowulf to Shakespeare, etc. 
I needed no remedial anything for college.  I went directly to college algebra, English, you name it. My 4 sisters did the same. Our children have gone on to college.  My youngest daughter attended BGSU in 1998 and almost tested completely out of English. We have degrees from in progress to masters. We are all CPS graduates.  We are black and we grew up in the Hough area of Cleveland. My niece will enter the 11th grade this fall and has passed all parts of the test needed to graduate.  She is 15. My grandson is now a 2nd grader.  He is in CPS.  He has been tested to read and comprehend on a 5th grade level.  His comprehension of words from learning to using in a sentence defies the experts.  If he sees a word he does not understand, he will look it up and question the meaning until he understands.  He is 6.  His IQ has been tested at 115 this past semester and that is low since he only scored a little above average on the math test.  He went from 0 to 69,000 points within a week on ‘BookWorm’ using my laptop.Our expectations are high. We want nothing less.  No child left behind is bogus and what my late father would call ‘white man’s tricks’.Where is all of this now?  What has happened that our children really know nothing?

Elizabeth, Shaker Heights 10:24 AM 6/19/09

I am a teacher at Shaker Heights High School.  While I am delighted at the description your guests gave of my school, and I agree that we offer a very high quality education to both priveleged and underpriveleged students, I am continually frustrated by education writers who don’t seem to want to do the hard work of developing more sophistocated measures to assess schools.  Instead they rely on numbers that are easily accessible to create their standards. 
Why are we always continually measuring students by how well they serve the students that need the LEAST help to perform well?  Why not develop a measure of how schools lift up those that need the MOST help - those that may not go to college, or those who are reading and writing and calculating well below their grade level?  Jay’s type of ratings continually exclude the possibly excellent performance of individual Cleveland City Schools - because they are not serving students who are headed to college.
Your second guest does a much better job of describing the kind of measures that truly reflect a school’s performance.
Why not measure the student-teacher ratio in schools, since every teacher knows that the lower the ratio, the better the performances of the students - assuming a decent teacher Student-teacher ratio is also an indicator of a district’s willingness to spend money not on status symbols but in the most efficient way to raise performance:  hiring more good teachers.
I love my school, but they continually tout the number of our students that GO to college.  No one ever does the hard research to explore how many of them SUCCEED in college - and I’m certain that that number is much lower. 
The east side of Cleveland is rich in excellent vocational programs, preparing students not only to go to college, but to support themselves in the real world.  Why not attempt to measure that?
Finally, this is the second time that I have listened to an education program on your show that invited two school principals from high performing schools that, while they surely have their own difficulties, are not tackling the difficult populations that inner city schools do.  Both of these districts are overall white and wealthy, and the performance of schools like this ( I teach in a more diverse version of theirs) is only partially due to the teacher performance, and partly due to the educational level and socioeconomic level of the families who send their kids to these schools.  I would like to hear a more diverse principal group on the show.

Trish, Orange 10:26 AM 6/19/09

At Orange High School, one thing we are suggesting that whenever you go, say something nice to the teenagers you see.. “you did a good job.” Teens make adults feel that they don’t want attention, but they really do.


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