Demand Better Schools in Ohio

Among nine schools the Ohio Department of Education is holding up as models of success under trying circumstances is East Garfield Elementary in Steubenville. There, in an urban setting with many students from economically challenged families, local educators are doing wonderful work.

East Garfield meets all 26 of the state’s indicators of school quality. It has achieved a score of 102.9 on the state’s performance index.

After leaving East Garfield, youngsters go on to other Steubenville schools, which have a graduation rate of 100 percent, with students who do very well on state proficiency tests. In science, for example, 93.5 percent of Steubenville high school seniors achieve “proficient” scores on the state science test.

Taxpayers get all this by spending an average of $10,571 per pupil, per year in Steubenville schools.

But look elsewhere in, for example, Cleveland Municipal ($15,072 per pupil annually) and Columbus City schools ($14,967 per pupil, per year).

In Columbus, Como Elementary School meets just five of the state’s 26 indicators. The school system’s graduation rate is 77.6 percent.

In Cleveland, Oliver H. Perry Elementary School meets one – yes, one – of the 26 indicators. The city school system’s graduation rate is 62.8 percent.

Frankly, we’re not certain all the exposure in the world to model schools such as East Garfield will do any good in rotten-to-the-core school districts such as those in Columbus and Cleveland.

Would East Ohio residents tolerate a school meeting just one of 26 state quality indicators? We doubt it.

And therein may lie part of the answer to school reform in Ohio: accountability. There need to be consequences for mediocrity in public education, and we wonder whether they exist in some Buckeye State school districts.