Parent perspective of Campus International School: Becky Gaylord
Reading proficiency matters early in children's lives. Significantly, it turns out. Students who read above grade level in third grade graduate high school and attend college at higher rates than peers who, years earlier, read at or below grade level, research shows.
If my child could attend a public school where the proportion of third-graders testing as accelerated or advanced readers surged from about one-third, in the fall, to nearly two-thirds, in the spring, I'd send him there.
And I do. Our 7-year-old son attends a public school in the city's Central neighborhood. He and his classmates receive daily instruction in Mandarin. They present inventions they dreamed up and built, formally, in front of their peers. They devise and build playscapes from sturdy foam blocks at recess. They thrive.
The students -- who range from kindergarten to third grade -- lead an assembly each Monday morning. As part of the program, an invited adult speaks about being reflective, principled or another of the 10 learner profiles students receiving instruction in a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum strive to abide.
This ethnically diverse group of students asks inquisitive, thoughtful questions of the grown-up guests. When I addressed the school and chose -- as a former journalist -- the learner profile of communicator, one girl asked how I progressed from school to a newspaper job. Another student wanted to know if I had to get good grades. And another asked if I had liked writing when I was their age. It was a respectful conversation with more than 200 5- to 9-year-olds.
I am not only a parent of a student at the Campus International School. I am also on the advisory board of this innovative school that's a partnership with Cleveland State University and a priority for President Ronald Berkman.
My husband and I choose to send our second-grade son here. That's why Mayor Frank Jackson's educational reform plan is especially important to us: It's personal. Schools like this one, where his grand ideas are taking root, already show incredible outcomes. This school is only in its second year. Swiftly, it has proven what nimble public schools -- staffed with talented, dedicated teachers and held accountable by parents and society -- can achieve and inspire in an urban setting.
When school leadership gets a say over how to allocate resources, who to hire and how best to engage students in their studies and their community, everybody wins.
This doesn't just show up in test scores -- although that, alone, is wonderful proof. The high expectations at Campus International School benefit the children, staff and parents. This school is a shining model for the district. Autonomy that Principal Julie Beers trusts the teachers with empowers them to excel as instructors and humans.
Last year during a bad snowstorm that struck in the afternoon, commuters crawled along city streets, and the teachers stayed past dinnertime until all students had been picked up.
My son's physical education teacher walked him to my car one day as school ended just to tell me of exceptional behavior from our often-wriggly boy.
His homeroom teachers, this year and last, gave me their cellphone numbers and invited calls and questions. They regularly answered emails I sent at night before school the next day.
Contrary to what critics charge, the mayor's reform plan is not against teachers. It's for excellence. It's for Cleveland. And it's for real.
Poverty is not the problem with Cleveland schools. Outdated ideas and low expectations are. We've got to stop insisting that rigid rules, imposed on all of us, do anything to enlighten learning. They crush creative approaches.
Campus International's school day is an hour longer, each day, than the regular city school day. And the school year is several weeks longer, thanks, in part, to an agreement the teachers supported. Why not let ideas that improve outcomes and learning spread districtwide?
Ohio's lawmakers must strip away any interest other than what's best for students. Legislators must enact the mayor's plan as an entire package of change; it will breed success.
Cleveland could boast schools full of third-graders who read above grade level, instead of the far fewer than half who do now. This plan could change the futures of tens of thousands of children. It could save the city.
Becky Gaylord is a consultant who lives in Cleveland Heights. Previously, she was an associate editor of The Plain Dealer's editorial pages.