Transforming Ohio Schools

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Ohio Public Schools have undergone significant changes since 2004 due to the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative (OHSTI). This is a plan that replaced the Ohio Schools’ massive and ineffective high schools with almost 60 smaller schools. The funding for this effort came from a number of both government and private sponsors.

The Problems with Ohio Schools

Ohio Schools are not in good shape. According to information from one of the supporting partners, Knowledge Works, only 32% of graduates from the Ohio Schools are ready for college after graduation, only 70% graduate, and only 30% will receive a bachelor’s degree within ten years. In addition, the racial gap is alarming. Only 12% of African-American and Hispanic students are considered college ready. This ranks Ohio Schools as the second lowest in the nation for this measurement.

But the problems within the Ohio Schools don’t stop there. In the large Ohio Schools attendance was poor, high school students were not engaged in learning, and the expectations were low.

A Possible Solution for Ohio Schools

The OHSTI has been described as “one of the nation’s most aggressive school improvement efforts.” It doesn’t hurt that the initiative has the backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In fact, the initiative was largely spurred by Bill Gates’ assertion that American schools are in a crisis state, and that smaller schools have more to offer. In June of 2007 the Ohio Schools received $7.4 million to strengthen the OHSTI. Here’s why.

Numerous studies over the past 3 decades have found that students in smaller schools exhibit better grades, increased college enrollment, better attendance, and a better sense of belonging, safety, and security. All were missing factors for a large number of students in the larger Ohio Schools.

The smaller sized Ohio Schools are showing success with the new high school model by doing a number of things differently. Ohio Schools can now focus on individual learning styles and multiple intelligences; both pedagogical methods proven to increase student achievement. Students in small Ohio Schools also focus on a specific major, like business or languages, which makes learning more relevant. Finally, students participate in real world activities that require teamwork and higher level thinking skills, rather than the traditional “lecture and regurgitation” method.

Funding for Ohio Schools

Since 2004 the Knowledge Works Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, along with the Ohio and US Departments of Education, and local organizations have funded 58 small Ohio Schools. The small schools are showing improvements. But the nation will watch Ohio Schools closely to see if funding, improvements, and government support for the program continues. Private funding for public schools has become a national trend that many think may be the solution to public school woes.

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