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Continued: In Cincinnati, they're closing the achievement gap

  • Article by: KIM MCGUIRE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 10, 2014 - 10:37 PM

“It’s very satisfying to … teach some things,” said Pearson, an engineering manager. “And it’s significant for them to have someone ask about their grades or give them a hard time if they’re not trying.”

Cincinnati’s business community has played an integral role in turning around tough schools. In many cases, their help has been funneled through Strive, which has convened businesses, social service agencies and higher-ed institutions to help improve education in the Cincinnati area.

Strive’s guiding principle is straightforward: Bring people together. Have them agree on a few common goals. Develop a way to measure success toward goals. Keep programs that work; drop those that don’t. Hold everyone accountable.

When research showed that one-to-one tutoring was boosting achievement, Strive and its partners rounded up 1,000 tutors. “You’ll see that there are things that are being leveraged in a school district that have very little or no impact,” said Greg Landsman, the partnership’s executive director. “And it’s up to us as a community and a partnership to have those tough conversations about what’s working. We know [tutoring] works.”

Unequal at an early age

This year, the Strive Partnership and United Way began a campaign to provide subsidies to get every 3- and 4-year-old into a quality preschool program. That effort is expected to cost up to $17 million annually.

While the school district has succeeded at narrowing achievement gaps at many grade levels, black kindergarten students enter school far behind their white peers.

It’s one of the racial inequities officials acknowledge still plagues the district. In addition, black boys often academically lag behind black girls.

These are just some of the reasons why the district continues to pursue new reform initiatives. There is already talk of refocusing on high schools as class sizes grow and test scores slip at some.

Ronan said even she’s not sure which initiative is having the most impact. “That’s something … researchers can sort out if they want,” she said. “It’s my job to throw everything I have at the problem.


Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469


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  • Della Goodwin-Sebron’s preschool class lined up to change classes at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, an elementary school in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Davosha Holmes dropped an egg that had been soaking in vinegar for two days and went through an oxidization process in her science class at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy. The school is one of the district’s success stories, where 99 percent of students live in poverty.

  • Principal Alesia Smith poses for a portrait after patrolling the hallways of Rothenberg Preparatory Academy. The Cincinnati Public School has between 400 and 420 students from preschool to sixth grade. Every day Smith greets her students by name with a hug and smile.

  • Fourth-graders Shalana Crompley and Davosha Holmes inspected an egg that had been sitting in vinegar for two days in their science class.

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