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Educational Reform

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Essay title: Educational Reform

Gifted Educational Reform Program

PROPOSAL: A reform program that is to be put in place to revitalize the deteriorating Cleveland school system, while at the same time enhancing the national collegiate society.

It is no small secret that the Cleveland schools are in shambles. Financially, the schools report bigger deficits almost every single year, and we continue to elect mayors and council members with even bigger promises to fix them. It has become increasingly clear that we are unable to put a legislative program in place that works, even temporarily. All that is being done is asking for more issues to be voted on. This proposal aims to correct that, and if successful, could be implemented nationally, which in turn would yield more achievement.

In order to fully understand how to fix the problems of Cleveland public schools it is obviously necessary to realize what the problems are. Cleveland Municipal School District is clearly in trouble on more than one front. It remains well short of where it ought to be; students trail state averages by large margins in nearly every major academic area. It is equally clear, however, that the district is doing vastly better than it was in 1998, when district control was given over to the mayor and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was recruited from New York to run the operation. Since 1998, the district says its graduation rate has climbed from 28 percent to around 50 percent (this statistic alone proves nothing as better record keeping seems to have influenced graduation as much as increased performance). A better indicator of improvement, performance on state proficiency tests, provides similar information about the district; the critical subjects of math and reading have shown remarkable improvement throughout the grade range, but especially in the elementary grade levels. While performance on these tests is still far behind state averages, scores in the district have improved in some areas by as much as 160 percent from 1998 to 2003. So while student performance is still a big problem in the Cleveland city schools, a bigger problem is funding. Simply maintaining the current level of performance, let alone improving performance, will almost definitely cost more money, not less. It is not just increasing health-care costs that are to blame either. The current funding system has been declared unconstitutional and yet it remains mostly unchanged. Already struggling Cleveland taxpayers continue to falter in their support of the system. Privately run but tax-funded charter schools that have already taken $150 million from the district’s operating funds in the last seven years are expected to take another $324 million over the next four years. To add to all of these funding problems, Cleveland officials, for whatever reason, admittedly waited at least four years too long before seeking a tax increase in November of 2004, slowing down funding advancement even more.

We propose an educational voucher program of sorts, but not in the traditional sense. Our program will institute an honors educational system, which sets up the top percentage from each of the inner city schools, and places them into a ‘gifted’ program.

Of course, taking the brightest out of the regular classrooms and placing them in “gifted” classes in and of itself is not enough to improve the school system. Removing any contact of these children with other students could result in prejudices, conflict among peers, and no hope for the rest of the student population. Instead, we want to incorporate the skills and abilities of our brightest into the rest of the school. This is where we implement the Tutoring Program. Students with less than satisfactory grades will be required to attend mandatory tutoring sessions until they show significant improvement in their studies. These students will be paired up with children from the gifted classes who will provide assistance and help the struggling students with their work. Tutoring does not necessary have to take place after school as this interferes with extracurricular activities. Instead, tutoring sessions will replace study halls, which for most students, sorry to say, are already a waste of time.

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