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Fledgling School Fares Well on State Graduation Exams: Metro High Kids Focus on Science, Math; Scores Top Many Across State

July 27, 2008

By Jennifer Smith Richards, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jul. 27–Metro High School was built on a basic principle: Good enough isn’t good enough.

Now it has some proof that it’s living up to that. The first group of Metro sophomores has scored impressively on the Ohio Graduation Tests, when compared with their peers in Franklin County and statewide.

The science- and math-focused school:

–Has the second-best passing rate in math, compared with preliminary graduation-test data from the 16 Franklin County districts.

–Ranks No. 20 statewide — that’s among 610 school districts — in math passing rates.

–Has a higher percentage of students reaching the top scoring level on tests than most school districts. Only 12 districts statewide had more students reach the “advanced” tier in reading. Metro was No. 11 in science, No. 15 in math, No. 18 in social studies and No. 75 in writing.

The state has not released school-level detail on the Ohio Graduation Tests yet, but Metro leaders released their data.

Why is a school entering its third year doing so well? And what is a fledgling 200-student school doing that hundreds in well-established districts aren’t?

“I think (the success is) probably a combination of the expectation for mastery — we keep working at it and working at it and working at it until they can prove they know it — and the exposure to critical thinking,” said Principal Marcy Raymond.

Freshmen take only math, language arts, science, social studies and foreign language. Math lasts for two hours each day, and no low-level course is offered — everyone takes Algebra II, even those who come in without Algebra I.

Metro is the state’s first STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school. It is the model for five more across the state, including Linden-McKinley in Columbus.

“Any school can do it,” Raymond said. Showing how, she said, “is what a demonstration school can do — it cannot be so special or so different that it can’t be doable in schools anywhere else.”

Maybe Metro enrolls the county’s brightest students, too?

No way, says Brad Mitchell, who heads the Educational Council, one of the school’s partners along with Battelle.

“In our first class, the majority of our kids were high C-minus to low B-minus students,” Mitchell said. “About 25 percent were A students in middle school. There’s some evidence to suggest there that we weren’t creaming off the crop.”

Mitchell is moving next month to head the newly formed Ohio Stem Learning Network, which will oversee the creation of the state’s STEM schools.

Some Metro students had significant reading and math deficiencies and need to catch up, according to tests given at the beginning of the year. Some are accelerated and take calculus classes at Ohio State University. But most are just average — mirroring students in the Franklin County school districts from which they come.

Demographically, the students are diverse. About 41 percent of Metro’s students who took the graduation tests are black, 48 percent are white, 5 percent are multiracial and 6 percent are Asian.

jsmithrichards@dispatch.com

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