Like all of the public schools in Ohio the Columbus Public Schools have a low graduation rate for its students. And like all of the public schools in this country the Columbus Schools have a racial gap that is disheartening and depressing. Two methods used by the Columbus Schools to help minority populations are aware of mentoring and smaller sized high schools.
I like both of these ideas because I think they address two of the core difficulties of minor achievement: income and role models. As parents in the Columbus Schools discuss the inequities of magnet schools, charter schools, and who gets money for what, it's easy to forget the underlining causes of low achievement.
Columbus Schools students raised in poverty are unquestionably to have well-educated role models who can teach them what successful behavior looks like. Low income parents are usually less able to spend time in their children's Columbus Schools, less able to help with homework, and less aware of the impact of reading. If the Columbus Schools are serious about helping minority students rise above their current situation, then the realities must be addressed.
The National Society of Black Engineers sponsors junior chapters in Columbus Schools middle schools that are intended to increase student's interest in math and science. But the power of this type of program for low-income minority students goes way beyond an introduction to these subjects. For a Columbus Schools student who has grown up in the projects to realize that someone from that same background can lead a different type of life can be a revelation. Columbus Schools students, minorities or white, need to see people they can relate to in successful positions.
In fact, some successful Columbus Schools high school students are now mentoring middle school students. I find this so exciting. This is exactly the type of activity that will give low-income students the drive and hope to rise above their current station in life.
The other transformation in the Columbus Schools is the shift from large high schools to smaller schools with 500 students or less. One of the best parts about this is the potential for teachers and parents to create a learning community. Smaller Columbus Schools have higher attendance, lower drop-out rates, and less teen crime and pregnancy. A large reason for this is the more familiar environment between students, teachers and parents. One of the problems that have gone unaddressed in inner-city Columbus Schools for too long is the discomfort that low-income parents often feel in the academic world. Columbus Schools that reach out to parents, and offer parent education, are the ones most likely to propel their minimum and low-income students to excellence.