Read about CRP's current activities and research in central Ohio and beyond. Click on one of the recent news items below, search by keyword, or choose a number or letter in the grey box.
To view the listing by date of articles mentioning CRP or related to CRP work, click here.
Middle schools' reviews divided
Principals paint rosy picture; teachers want major changes
Saturday, February 20, 2010
by Jennifer Smith Richards
Most of Columbus' middle-school principals think their schools are doing OK, even though most of the schools got a D or F on the state report card.
Teachers and other employees have a different view of the middle schools in which they work. They think their buildings are doing poorly overall.
The district hired Columbus-based Community Research Partners to study what principals, teachers and parents think of its 23 middle schools and what must be done to turn them around. The group conducted interviews and focus groups last fall; some of the teachers' ideas are being put into motion next school year.
Of the 45 principals and assistant principals interviewed, six said their schools were performing poorly. Ten thought they were performing well, and 29 said they were performing "fairly well" or "moderately well."
Test scores "are a snapshot in time," said Ridgeview Middle School Principal Sharee Wells. "We see the day-to-day improvements and successes of our students."
Most of the schools' academic records don't bear those improvements out, but Superintendent Gene Harris said principals were considering other types of victories when they spoke to researchers. They were not ignoring the schools' brutal academic realities.
None of the district's middle schools met federal progress goals in math or reading last school year. More than one in three didn't teach a year's worth of material.
"What they see is a holistic approach," Harris said. "They were not at all oblivious to the fact that by the absolute standards, they have challenges."
The study says teachers and principals are proud of things such as having established a dress code or uniform policy, offering incentives for attendance and having respectful relationships among staff members and students.
Beery Middle School Principal Ed Baker said principals are working hard to fix academic problems. Meanwhile, they must act as cheerleaders, he said.
"We cheer on a daily basis. That's the only way we're going to get any academic improvement. We want them to continue to strive to be successful," he said.
Researchers also asked staff members and parents what was keeping middle schools from getting better and what needs to change.
Most teachers, aides and school workers besides the principal think the schools are trying to teach too much with too-little depth. They say the district has been too prescriptive in how schools must structure schedules.
Teachers want block scheduling or something similar in which students wouldn't switch teachers for every subject and would spend larger chunks of time with one instructor.
Harris said administrators are trying to create new scheduling options for next school year.
Also on teachers' wish list: a later start to the day because middle-school students have trouble being productive at 7:30 a.m. That's unlikely to happen because busing would become more expensive and a change would affect elementary-school start times, Harris said.
Roberta F. Garber, executive director of Community Research Partners, said middle-school staff members seemed committed to helping students.
"Sometimes you could do something like this, and there would be finger-pointing or blaming others for problems," she said. "Mostly, we heard from people who were committed to their schools, doing a good job and had good ideas for how to improve middle schools."