Columbus schools pass with flying colors

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“It’s a good day in Columbus Public Schools,” said district superintendent Gene T. Harris, followed by a roaring round of applause from the crowd.

As teachers, parents, principals, students and elected officials filled the room at CPS headquarters, Harris went on to describe the most recent victory of the once-struggling district.

The Columbus Public School district, on Aug. 1, announced that they have  earned a Continuous Improvement rating on the State of Ohio Report Card, scheduled for release on Aug. 14.

This is a step up for the district, which has been on Academic Watch status since 2003.

The Continuous Improvement rating was reached when CPS received a Performance Index Score of 80.5. This score  measures the achievements of every tested student within the district. It takes into account every score on tested material for grades 3-8, as well as the 10th grade Ohio Graduation Test.

The district’s Performance Index Score has jumped 17.7 points in the last six years.

“These score have brought them from the lowest levels of testing up to the higher levels,’ said Harris.

“I have to tell you, this is an accomplishment of this city, this school board, our parents, our teachers and our principals,” she continued.

When Harris joined the district in 2001, her primary goal was to move the district out of Academic Emergency status, where they had been for some time, in two years.

This goal was reached right on time. Next, a goal was set to meet or exceed a 90 percent graduation rate by 2012.

According to Harris, this will be a plus not only for the district, but for the city as a whole, as it helps to bring a higher number of qualified workers to the job scene.

In 2002, the graduation rates at Columbus Public Schools were at a low 56 percent. The district now boasts a 72.9 percent graduation rate – halfway towards their goal.

“Our success today has come from teamwork and partnership both inside and outside of the district,” said Columbus Public Schools Board of Education President Terry Boyd. “We are building a strong partnership with the city of Columbus and our business and non-profit partners are stepping up to help Columbus students.”

Another announcement made regarding the Ohio Report Card is that CPS  has met all 42 categories of  Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals.

The AYP recognizes positive achievements of students considered to have special needs. Factors leading to this designation include race, poverty level, special education students and non-English speaking students.Columbus Public Schools, as well as a district from Cleveland, are the only two districts in the state that are required to meet those goals.

“Today’s announcement is another big step to promote world-class education to every student we serve,” said Boyd.

Also present for the celebration was Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, who received a standing ovation when he described Harris as “the best superintendent in the nation.”

“It takes a community to educate a student, and that’s what we’ve got here, a community,” he said. “If we’ve come this far, we can get even further. It’s obvious that parents are stepping up.”

Harris went on to explain that this is an even greater accomplishment due to the increasing poverty levels throughout the district.

Since 2001, the percentage of CPS students who qualify for free and reduced lunches has climbed more than 10 percent.

“It’s not very often that you find a district whose poverty level increases, and so does their performance level,” said Harris.

“There’s a lot to be proud of here today and I’m proud of everything that we’re doing,” Coleman added.

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