Eye on Education

How High Poverty Schools Can Still Produce Excellent Students

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Students in Steubenville take a break from their day to smile for the camera.

Schools in high-poverty neighborhoods can produce excellent students, especially with the right leadership. At least that’s the finding of a new study commissioned by the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio State University.

The study, called Failure is Not an Option, examined nine schools in Ohio that all have poverty rates above 50 percent and still perform highly.

According to the study, the schools had principals who had a clear vision for their school and saw poverty not as something holding students back but instead an obstacle to be tackled. Creativity and collaboration between teachers were encouraged, and students were expected to meet lofty goals.

[Read the entire report here.] 

At a press conference earlier today,  interim Ohio schools’ Chief Michael Sawyers seized on the finding that strong school leadership helped propel students to success. WOSU reports that Sawyers emphasized the need to remove poor performing principals from schools, and replace them with better ones.

“The reality is we’ve been part of the problem,” Sawyers said. “We have to step up to the plate and say, ‘you know what? We have to take some responsibility here as educators.’”

The study’s author came up with a list of recommendations, including planning for smooth transitions between principals, engaging teachers, making sure new teachers are in-line with the school’s vision and celebrating success.

The schools studied are:

  • East Garfield Elementary School in Steubenville
  • Eastmoor Academy in Columbus
  • Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati
  • Northwest High School in McDermott
  • River Valley Middle School in Bidwell
  • Citizens Academy in Cleveland
  • Hannah J. Ashton Middle School in Reynoldsburg
  • Grove Patterson Academy Elementary School in Toledo
  • MC^2 STEM High School in Cleveland.



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