After two years of racking up an excellent rating on its state report card, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School appears headed for a lower grade.
Preliminary school report cards released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Education show an “effective” rating for Taft, a technology-magnet school for grades 9-12 in Cincinnati’s West End. Taft had won accolades nationally for its steady climb from academic futility during the past seven years. In that span, Taft went from “academic emergency” in the 2004-05 school year to excellent in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mainly on the strength of Ohio Graduation Test pass rates that were the highest of all public high schools in Southwest Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education gave it a coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.
[Download the Ohio Preliminary Report Cards spreadsheet here.]
CityBeat called those achievements into question in a February article ("Miracle or Mirage," issue of Feb. 22). CityBeat found that the same graduating classes (2009-10 and 2010-11) that were posting regionally high OGT pass rates had average composite ACT test scores of 15, or the 10th percentile in Ohio. CityBeat also took the first hard look at an independent audit showing that, of 1,707 erasures on Taft OGT exams in 2006, 88 percent resulted in correct answers, an outcome one nationally prominent testing expert called “not logical.” Cincinnati Public Schools, then led by former superintendent Rosa Blackwell, refused to investigate the matter, and ODE let the district get away with it.
For the 2011-12 school year, Taft still posted high pass rates on the OGT, but its graduation rate of 82.1 percent (down from 91.4 percent in 2010-11) and attendance rate of 91 percent (down from 96.7 percent) were below state benchmarks, leading to the effective rating on its interim report card.
While Taft fell from excellence among the city’s public schools, another school, James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Spring Grove Village, received its first-ever excellent rating. And Walnut Hills extended its long-running streak of excellent ratings. Winners of effective ratings were Clark Montessori and Withrow University high schools.
As for the district, Cincinnati Public Schools itself fell one notch on its state report card. Last year, CPS was rated effective, making it the highest-rated urban school district in Ohio. For 2011-12, it dropped to “continuous improvement.” Said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh: “We really would have loved to have gotten effective again, but the fact remains that overall performance, as rated by the state performance index, did reach 88.5, which is our highest score ever, and we continue to improve.”