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Lessons from Cincinnati:  Total community effort begins to show results

Date Published: 06/27/2011

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Lynda Jackson is a southern lady with a sweet disarming drawl, but she's a steel magnolia when it comes to school improvement and demanding real results. Jackson is the superintendent of the school district in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and she's steering this very poor school district toward individualized learning plans for every student. She also is transforming Holmes High School into an "early college high school," with a goal of every student earning at least 15 college credits before graduation.

Meanwhile, over in Cincinnati and on both sides of the river, the Ascend Performance Institute is developing high-performing teams of principals and teacher leaders through intensive, accelerated sessions featuring best practices and case studies and taught by topnotch leaders in education, business and medicine. The template for this instruction was drawn from the Mayo Clinic model of integrated expertise and "putting the patient (students) first."

A pivotal catalyst for these efforts and countless others in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is the Strive Partnership, described as a "backbone organization" of truly comprehensive community sweep, dedicated to improving student success. Strive has more than 300 partners, including the region's leading corporations, regional business associations, the Catholic schools, lots of foundations and nonprofits, early childhood advocates, and of course, the school districts and higher education systems.

I'm privileged this week to be part of a "Student Success Core Team" from Grand Rapids with the support of the Blandin Foundation, taking an immersion course on the Strive model and other education reform efforts in the region. The Strive example also is being studied by a working group of Twin Cities

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