The David Lawrence Effect : school score cards analyzed

Back in 2008 I wrote the following:

I predict that within 3 years, Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School will be a school of first choice, much like the vaunted St. Ivers (I mean Stivers). And, I’ll be surprised if the parents of the students attending don’t know it as soon as this school year begins. The question will be: How long will it take for perceptions to change- and the word to get out.

Thurgood Marshall is a new Dayton Public School brand, to clean up what was a bit of a mess at Col White. The name change was phase 1, the new building on Hoover was phase 2, and the new team in charge is phase 3. The Phase 4 is buy-in from the rest of the staff. And there will be buy-in.

The reason comes by way of David Lawrence, a man who doesn’t leave anything to chance.

via A man with a plan: David Lawrence, Principal Thurgood Marshall HS.

In his three years, he didn’t do enough to be able to remain at Thurgood Marshall according to the standards that are set by “No Child Left Behind,” which require a school to make a dramatic turnaround in a three-year period, or:

  • Fire the principal
  • Reconstitute 51% of the staff
  • Become a charter school
  • Close the building

These are solutions only a politician could come up with. And so we shuffle principals, then we reconstitute- but the charter option (read union busting) or the close the building (which can’t be done because they are all new buildings in Dayton and the system is at capacity) will never happen.

Today the official Ohio Report card scores came out. Let’s look at the top 6 Dayton Schools:

School Name       Annual Yearly Progress     2011 Rating      2010 Rating       Performance Index
Stivers School For The Arts   Not Met    Effective     Effective     95.8
Valerie PreK-8 School      Met      Excellent      Continuous Improvement      91.5
David H. Ponitz Career Technology Center     Met     Continuous Improvement      Continuous Improvement       87.9
Horace Mann PreK-8 School       Not Met      Continuous Improvement      Continuous Improvement      87.7
Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy   Met    Continuous Improvement     Continuous Improvement     86.4
Thurgood Marshall High School   Not Met     Continuous Improvement     Academic Watch     82.1

You notice that three of the top 6 schools are in red- signifying that they are “selection schools”- where there are auditions, or interviews or restricted populations.

Valerie and Horace Mann are elementary schools in stable neighborhoods. Note also that despite the second highest score in the district, Valerie slipped from Excellent to Continuous Improvement. These scoring parameters are not easy to meet.

Thurgood is the top rated high school without any admission selection policy. We could look back at the stats over time, and see that even with herculean effort, bringing a school around in 3 years when dealing with an urban district with 85% of the students coming from impoverished homes is a major accomplishment.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lawrence is no longer with the Dayton Public Schools, having been hired to run the Dayton Regional Stem School which is already a school of excellence. Place a bet there will be gains in performance there as well come next Fall.

Before judging schools and districts by these standards, it’s important to know that these “standards” have only a small part in the overall educational experience. Just as you are choosing a car, things like gas mileage and cargo capacity do little to tell you the difference between a Mercedes and a Ford, the complete story of the transformation of Thurgood Marshall isn’t told by these numbers.School basketball championship runs, science fair wins, chess club performance don’t show up in these numbers.

There is a marked difference in the attitudes of the students in the school thanks to Mr. Lawrence, and that’s something the state can’t put a number on.


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