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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Heights High transformation subject of Cleveland Mag article

Here's a Cleveland Magazine article on the small schools transformation at Cleveland Heights High. I spend a good portion of my week in that school (and have for the past two years) writing about the transformation. Here's a link to excerpts from last year's story.

Writer Anne Trubek does a decent job of explaining what small schools is and how it is structured at Heights, but it's difficult to show how it works. (Wonder if it's editorial policy for Cleveland Magazine not to include writer bylines on its Web site? If so, it's a crappy policy.) That's my charge—and my challenge—in writing for this year's publication (a draft for workshop is due Friday).

I was criticized last year by district officials for talking about race. Since my piece of the story was to address community involvement, I felt I couldn't skirt around the issue, rather I should address it head on. My goal wasn't to be sensational or play into stereotypes. It was to talk about and dispel the many misconceptions held by the community.

Trubek's story features students talking about how race breaks down in the five small schools. Actually, she writes about the stereotypes. Problem with that is that stereotypes are more perception than reality.

Throughout this school year I've been following a high-achieving black student in PRIDE (which she quotes one student as calling the "black ghetto" school) and an average white kid in Renaissance, "the smart kids" school).

But I'm glad to see her mention that there are no metal detectors or drug-sniffing dogs at Heights. There's a strong security presence, but for the most part the students are given respect not always found at other urban high schools.

She also mentioned the small victories. I wonder: Is it small to a student who earns a 0.33 GPA one year to be honored for earning a 2.33 GPA the next? Not to that student, not to his parents and NOT to the teachers and educators who helped him get there.

Readers should remember that the complexity of school reform prohibits us from writing a comprehensive picture of change. What we grasp for are meaningful snapshots of that change.

It's happening every day at Cleveland Heights High School in ways both large and small.


Anne said...

Dear Wendy:

Just writing to sound a note of agreement, actually with your comment about my article's conclusion: my aim in that concluding anecdote about the GPA was to make the point you do--that this is a victory worth celebrating. I used the phrase small victories to refer to Samuel G. Freedman's book of that title and, of course, the small in small schools reform.

Nice blog,and I hope our physical paths may cross someday,

--Anne Trubek

Wendy Hoke said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anne.