Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"KnowledgeWorks in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Education is transforming Ohio’s public schools, where only 7 in 10 students graduate every year, from a one-size-fits-all education system into schools where respect for the individual is paramount, and every child is considered 'college material.'"

The village of Stewart Africentric met last week with Superintendent James where he answered questions and spoke of the vision that APS has for Stewart Africentric as they prepare to move into their new home within the Crouse Community Learning Center.

He brought with him a new board member by the name of Amy Grom who is in support of applying the "school-within-a-school" model, which is looked upon very favorably by KnowledgeWorks, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that are both working with the Ohio Department of Education to improve the success rate of students in Ohio public schools.

Stewart Africentric was created as a small school that could give more focused attention to each and every student to increase the likelihood that they would not only successfully graduate from high school, but also successfully matriculate from the college of their choice. The recently retired superintendent was very supportive of the Stewart model. The village of Stewart Africentric expects that they will receive even more support in the future.

According to an ERIC report on the "school-within-a-school" model there are a number of factors that will lead to

success with this model. Two of the most important factors are:

Making sure the "guest" program is autonomous by having the "guest" program administered by an APS administrator.

Fully funding and staffing the "guest" program with all the staff necessary to ensure the success of the program.

One of the encumbrances that teaching staffs have had to contend with under the Bush administration is embodied in the NCLB, an unfunded government mandate. In this case government was not the solution but has caused more harm than good. By requiring the students of all public schools to meet the standards of the NCLB without giving them the financial support to meet these criteria they've created a "Catch 22" like situation within the elementary education system.

" . . . smaller schools help struggling students by raising graduation and achievement rates, according to more than 30 years of research. Small schools in other states have successfully improved student performance, reduced violence, and increased student graduation rates."

Crouse Community Learning Center (CLC) is in a new state of the art building with all of the modern accouterments necessary to run a top notch school, there's no question about that. The question is how committed is the district to the ideals of Stewart Africentric? Superintendent James has made it perfectly clear in his last two meetings with the Stewart community that over the past 10 years there have been several occasions where Stewart has been on the chopping block. He also stated that the school's overall academic performance needed to be improved in order for the program to continue, but without the proper support, particularly financially, it's a plan that's destined to fail.

The Akron Public School system has a chance to be on the cutting edge, in terms of elementary education. Smaller schools are the wave of the future and the "school-within-a-school" model is one of the ways this small school model can be implemented. The benefits are worth the effort and the expense it will take to make this model successful. The KnowledgeWorks Foundation is prepared to make an investment in our childrens' future. What is APS doing to take advantage of this opportunity? What is APS doing to prepare our elementary students to begin doing college level work from the 10th grade through 12th grade.

George Crouse Elementary School was built in 1919. It was named after one of the major benefactors and original trustees of Buchtel College, the precursor of Akron University. Buchtel College was instrumental in making Akron the "Rubber Capitol" of the world. Akron is no longer the "Rubber Capitol." In fact, Akron is a city in search of a new identity. The choices we make now, regarding the education of our children, will determine what the future will hold for Akron and the role our children and grandchildren will play in that future.

We can all agree, "it takes a village to raise a child." The question now is, what role will Stewart Africentric play in the development of that village. Moving into a modern facility is obviously a good thing for the students of Stewart Africentric. But, it could be just as beneficial for the Crouse students, by giving them an example of how to function using a different paradigm. Success at Crouse CLC can also serve as a model for other schools within APS that are going to have to operate under one roof.

At the high school level this school-within-a-school model has led to higher test scores, improved morale and decreased incidents of violence, all of which lead to improved overall academics.

The Stewart Africentric village still needs more details in regards to the implementation of this school-within-a-school model. Hopefully, some of these details will be forthcoming at the meeting with Superintendent James, at Stewart Africentric, this Friday at 11:30 AM.

Unanswered questions that remain include how will the students be prepared before they move? How will the two schools maintain their separate identities while living under the same roof, if the Crouse school colors dominate the building, as they do now? The Crouse colors dominate the majority of the walls, furniture and floors tiles throughout the building. There are also questions about students transferring from one program to the other within the building.

If this move is done right it could create a atmosphere of camaraderie and unity within the two programs, and between their respective staff members and students, making Crouse CLC a shining example for the entire district.

No comments: