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School's staff being replaced: Taft Elementary hasn't raised student performance

Ohanian Comment: This breaks my heart. . . and raises my blood pressure.

What does this mean: Tim Kraus, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said nothing else had worked at Taft.

Have they tried providing the parents of the students (90% economically disadvantaged) with a living wage?

Have they tried reducing the number of students with special needs at this campus (25%)?

By Ben Fischer

Cincinnati Public Schools will replace the entire staff at the chronically low-performing Taft Elementary School in Mount Auburn.

The action is the result of the school's inability to meet improvement goals mandated by the federal government and, before that, the district for nine consecutive years.

Students there score about 20 points below the district average on standardized tests, according to state data.

The school's principal, 11 teachers and an unknown number of staff are affected.

It's the first time CPS has taken such a radical step as a result of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which requires drastic overhaul measures for any school that consistently fails to meet goals.

CPS took similar steps at nine schools under its own policies before the law came into play earlier this decade, and had instituted less severe reform plans at Taft and other schools in response to the law.

Tim Kraus, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said nothing else had worked at Taft.

Kraus sits on an joint teacher-administrative team that takes control over schools facing a redesign as a result of poor academics.

"There were minor changes over the past four years," Kraus said. "Each year, different aspects of the program at Taft had been changed, and there still was not a significant improvement," Kraus said.

CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh said she was not aware of the developments and could not answer questions.

Taft Elementary had been included in a list of low-performing schools to be included in the Teacher Advancement Program.

TAP uses a collaborative approach to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act in the hopes more drastic action will be averted.

Schools currently involved in the TAP program include John P. Parker, Rees E. Price Academy and South Avondale Elementary.

However, earlier this year, CPS took Taft off that list because there were too few teachers for it to work, said Kraus.

Teachers will be forced to reapply for their existing jobs or take employment elsewhere in the district. Re-employment is a long shot considering the district's financial woes, said Amy Hutton, a Taft teacher.

Hutton started working at the school only this year, and she said it's unfair to punish her.

"To take my position away for something that's been an ongoing problem for nine years is a concern, because my students are achieving," Hutton said.

It's unclear whether the school board has any options available to block the proposed action, but board member Melanie Bates said she'll insist on a full discussion of the plan.

She's not necessarily opposed, however. "Taft Elementary isn't one of our better schools, so we need some kind of change there," she said.

Cincinnati Enquirer


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