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Morning Shots

Being Clear About Where Schools are Heading (Joe Nathan)

How’s this for guts? The Cincinnati, Ohio Public Schools have just adopted a plan describing in clear, ambitious detail, their goals for the next five years. It’s a bold, important document, one that communities all over the country can learn from. Even districts with higher achievement than Cincinnati may gain from studying their easily understood, concrete goals.

Cincinnati’s strategic plan describes where the district was in the 2004-05 school year, and where it wants to be by the 2010-11 school year. For example:

  • High school graduation rate: 77 percent of 9th graders who entered four years earlier graduated in 2004-2005. That’s up just over half in the 2000-2001 school year. But the district rightly is not satisfied, and wants to achieve 95 percent by 2010-11.
  • College entrance tests: Most recent figures available show that 53 percent of CPS students take college entrance tests. The district wants to increase that to 75 percent. The district also wants to increase the average students’ score on the ACT from 20 to 23, and the average combined score on the SAT from 869 to 1000.
  • Rigorous high school courses: CPS wants to increase the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college level courses from 18 percent to 30 percent.
  • Kindergarten readiness: The district aims to increase the number of kindergarten students "on track" from 49 percent to 59 percent.

These are examples of 16 different indicators that the school board has adopted. This is a great example of using various assessments to measure progress. (You can see the full plan here.)

Over the last five years, our Center, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has worked with Cincinnati’s high schools, helping them increase graduation rates, test scores and attendance. But I was not involved in the creation of the district strategic

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The View from Behind the Counter (John Dewey)

Regular Edspresso readers know "John Dewey" is working towards certification as a math teacher.  Click for his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth columns.  As always, he prefers to remain anonymous. -ed

Exalted Readers:

Greetings and thanks to my many fans and well-wishers for their undying support, encouragement, wisdom and guidance.  I am happy to say that my Math Teaching Methods, Part I is at long last over.  For those of you wondering how I’ve done, I’m getting an A in the course.  I have not kept secret from the teacher my opinions of how math should be taught and though we disagree, he has offered me this final email message: “I have very much enjoyed sharing the classroom with you.  Your insights and comments have been extremely valuable, and your willingness to communicate your point of view has served as model behavior for your classmates.  Thank you very much.”

There are some positive aspects to Mr. NCTM I’d like to mention.  He has had 30 years of experience teaching high school math, knows quite a bit of math, has a good sense of humor, and has provided my class excellent advice regarding classroom management issues, and other things such as how much material to cover in one lesson plan, and what concepts students find difficult.  Our difference in opinions has not influenced the grading of any of my work.  (Note: He does not yet know about this column, so if you wish to tell him about it, please wait until after the grade is in the transcript.)

My classmates are quite bright, and if I led you to believe they are all dyed-in-the-wool constructivists, let me set the record straight.  Only one

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“Be Perfect”: Ridgeview’s Second State Championship (Terrence O. Moore)

If you are looking for heart-pounding movies to check out over the break, you might try Friday Night Lights, a good movie chronicling the true story of Odessa Permian’s bid for the football state championship in the late 1980s.  The movie does a great job of capturing the intensity–some would say mania–surrounding Texas high school football.  Everything seems to be riding on the state championship; the local teams are just the warm-up for the Big Game.  As everyone in Texas knew at the time, Permian boys did not just start playing football in high school.  Their fathers and lower schools drilled them for years.  By the time they played varsity, the players for the “MOJO” team were competing on a level equivalent to many small colleges.  The mania for football glory has, admittedly, a less glorious underside.  The players and the school did not spend a great deal of time or energy on academics.  The whole town of Odessa lived and breathed what seventeen-year-old boys did on the football field.  After graduating, those who did not go on to play college ball lived the rest of their lives with their glory behind them. 

At the same time, one would be a spoilsport indeed who did not admire the drive of these young athletes.  The coach of Permian (played by Billy Bob Thornton) constantly challenged his team in pre-game and halftime pep talks to “be perfect.”  Nothing less than perfection would be good enough.  One fumble, one bad pass, one missed tackle or block could lose the game.  Perfection at seventeen: is it too much to ask?  Not according to champions.

Over the past five and a half years, Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado has been building itself into an academic powerhouse as impressive as any high-school

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