Top-performing urban middle schools

Each year Fordham analyzes  performance data of schools and districts in Ohio’s Big 8 cities, and provides a ranking of each city’s schools by Performance Index (PI) score, a weighted average of proficiency results among all tested students in that school. A school’s PI score gives an overall indication of how well its students are doing on the state’s tests, across all tested grades and subjects.  The PI score scale runs from 0 to 120 – the higher the score, the better achieving the school. A previous Ohio Education Gadfly analysis lifted up 16 high-performing district and charter schools (serving any grades), and today we bring you a list of the top-performing public middle schools in Ohio’s urban areas.

This ranking of the top 20 is all the more impressive considering that middle school-aged students are traditionally among the hardest to serve well (see this week’s review on “Stuck in the Middle”). Last year following the state’s report card release, the Columbus Dispatch ran an article about the district facing up to “ugly truths,” namely that none of its middle schools met federal targets in reading and math that year, that two in five (38 percent) didn’t teach a full year’s worth of material to students, and that nearly three in every four were rated D or F.

Other cities struggle as well (to varying degrees) to improve the achievement of middle school students. But there are several scattered across the state that are doing a phenomenal job. The table below lists them in order of PI score and includes the percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

Table 1: Top 15 highest-performing urban middle schools

Source: Ohio’s interactive Local Report Card

A few things jump out from the table. First, among the top 15 are middle schools in nearly every city: Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, and Canton. (Dayton and Cincinnati schools break down grades differently and have primarily K-8 buildings and high schools, rather than true middle schools.) In nearly every urban area, there exists a model (or several) when it comes to reaching middle school-aged students. 

Second, the list reflects a mix of charter and district middle schools. But it’s worth noting that given the relatively small number of middle school students that charters serve (compared to their home districts) they are overrepresented on this list. Charter schools’ freedom to set their own curriculum, school calendar and school day schedule, and behavioral and academic expectations for students undoubtedly plays an important role in their success.

Third, we’d be remiss not to note that several of the highest performing public middle schools in Ohio’s urban centers serve high percentages of poor students (as measured by free and reduced-price lunch eligibility). Ohio lawmakers, leaders, and educators should take pride in these high-performing urban public middle schools and do everything in their power to ensure conditions for their success.

You can also view a PDF of the full rankings, which includes all Ohio public urban middle schools.

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