Champion on the Ropes, by Jennifer Smith Richards, Columbus Dispatch, October 3, 2010.

Champion Middle School (Ohio’s lowest-performing, located in the state capital) is gearing up for a “turn around”—again. Several previous attempts have proven unsuccessful. In 2005, the district reconstituted Champion and replaced most of its staff, yet the school remains awash in discipline problems (2,300 incidents last year) and heartbreakingly low achievement (11 percent of its seventh graders are proficient in math). Nor are the school’s customers happy; 60 percent of parents who live within its boundaries choose to send their child to another Columbus middle school. Yet $3 million in federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) money has been earmarked to turn Champion around once and for all. Among other things, the money will be spent to develop better discipline practices, buy new technology, and pay for a “schoolwide rally to excite students about learning.” Come on, who are we kidding? If we were serious about helping students at schools like Champion, we would be shutting the school down and re-opening it under completely different (i.e., non-district) management. But who knows: maybe that rally will do the trick after all.

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