Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wow -- this is what a charter school should be

The following was announced today in the Columbus Dispatch. For readers outside our community, Battelle Memorial Institute is one of the largest and most respected private research organizations in the country. Some of the more famous examples of their work: a) invented xerographic photocopying, which they spun off as a little company called Xerox; b) the candy coating on M&Ms; c) key technologies required for the Manhattan Project in WWII (they still operate the DOE Labs in Hanford WA); d) the lifting mechanism installed in the Glomar Explorer used to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine. The list is massive. The Ohio State University is the second largest university in the country (behind the University of Texas), and it operates a vast research program. Battelle and Ohio State have been closely linked for years, and the two campuses are side by side.

I pray this experiment will be overwhelmingly successful, encouraging other pairings of universities and successful businesses to operate schools for science, leadership, public service, business and a myriad of other fields. It's high time American businesses quit sitting back and hoping our failing pubilc schools would produce their future leaders and contributors!

From the Columbus Dispatch: 18 Jan 2006:

A new high school? Big deal.

But this high school has the backing of Battelle and Ohio State University, behemoths that will put muscle behind its math and science focus. It will be small, free and open to students in the 16 Franklin County public school districts.

And there’s nothing like it in Ohio, and few if any comparisons in the country.

The Metro School will open this fall to ninth-graders and add a grade each of the next three years. Only 100 students will be admitted in each grade.

"It’s an unprecedented partnership," said Brad Mitchell, CEO of the Educational Council, a consortium of the Franklin County school districts. "It’s a unique public-private partnership. This will help make high school more relevant, successful, rigorous."

Education leaders nationally and in Ohio have said schools need to produce more students skilled in science, technology, engineering and math — the socalled STEM disciplines, which are viewed as being important job-generating fields. "In the 21 st century, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are too important" to ignore in schools, said Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton. More schools with similar focuses are in the pipeline, he said. The partnership, which will be officially announced today, along with the Metro School’s location, goes beyond the ties many schools have with private business — tutoring and mentoring. The university and Battelle — together, worth billions of dollars — will maintain an intimate relationship with the school and its students.

In addition to the $1.2 million donated by Ohio State for building leases, university faculty members will be involved in training teachers at the school. It’ll be a learning lab of sorts, testing new methods of teaching math and science.

Battelle, a science and technology company based in Columbus, donated more than $500,000 for startup costs and also will help students discover math, science and engineering. "By investing in this new school, we’re investing in the future of our community," said Carl F. Kohrt, president
and CEO of Battelle. Here’s how the school is planned to work: Slots will be allotted to each district based on its size. Columbus Public Schools, with almost 60,000 students, would get the most slots at about 140. Students interested in college hoping for a nontraditional high-school experience may
apply, write a letter of interest and interview with school staff. The staff will select the "best fits," then allow the school district to select from the list of candidates. Metro School students won’t all be the best and brightest, officials say, but a mix of different abilities.

If students want football, band or drama, they’ll get it at their home high schools. "We’re looking for a student who is motivated, wants to go to college, but needs a little extra help," Mitchell said. "Every district has students like this, and a big, comprehensive high school can only do so much."
There will be diversity requirements. Teachers, who haven’t been hired yet, will come from the
school districts. They won’t stay at the school permanently but will learn new teaching methods there and take those methods back to their home schools and pass them on to other educators. State funding will follow the students who attend the Metro School — much like it does when students leave districts for charter schools — but additional costs will be funded through grants and support from the university and Battelle. In time, the school hopes to be self-sufficient. Officials yesterday wouldn’t say how much it will cost to run.

Students’ ninth- and 10 th-grade years will be spent doing required coursework and preparing for the Ohio Graduation Test, which sophomores take. Upperclassmen will spend most of their time getting work and internship experience. "The school’s unique academic focus and learning opportunities
will help put Columbus and the state of Ohio at the cutting edge, enhancing math
and science education for students and educators alike," said Ohio State President Karen A. Holbrook. The school will be led by Marcy Raymond, a former Reynoldsburg High School administrator who has school-reform experience, said Reynoldsburg Superintendent Richard Ross. School districts say they’re pleased to have another option for kids with interest in math and science. There
are few local options now, save Horizon Science Academy, a charter school. "Reynoldsburg is always positive about choices for kids and families," Ross said. "We see this as another opportunity for our kids and parents to choose."

The Metro School also is designed to make traditional public schools more competitive with charter schools and private schools, which will be eligible this fall for students using state tuition vouchers.
"We’re living in an education market where public schools have to be as adept and responsive as
they’ve ever been. We want to make public education in Franklin County the first and best choice," Mitchell said.

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