Thirteen Cleveland schools got high marks recently in a study by a national education consulting group. The $200,000 dollar study was funded jointly by the Cleveland and Gund Foundations, and focused on schools in economically challenged areas. ideastream's Kymberli Hagelberg spent the day at Joseph Landis elementary and middle school to see firsthand what makes that school so special.
Principal Sandra Brinson's day begins with a watchful stroll through the halls at Joseph Landis, recognized in the study as a Cleveland School that is Making a Difference.
Brinson has taught middle school for two decades. She now presides over Landises 400-plus students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
On this morning's walk, the principal heads for two teen girls who've already been banished to the office. they've been arguing, and Brinson puts a stop to it -- fast.
Brinson:" You're going to have a good day today, I guarantee you that. OK? Because we're not going to entertain that today."
Students: "All right."
The list of schools recognized by the New York-based Institute of Student Achievement are public, charter and parochial. The research evaluated what made Landis and other Cleveland schools successful - leadership, innovative curriculum safety, and strong community and parental involvement.
Dr. Gerry House led the study.
House: "It's not sort of a tinkering process that you can do a single strand approach and expect miraculous outcomes. It's changing culture. It's changing structures. It's changing instruction."
That's not to say the school isn't struggling. Its yearly state report card dropped from Continuous Improvement to Academic Watch two years ago when the school switched to admit sixth through eighth graders. The surrounding Glenville neighborhood is dotted with vacant lots and boarded up houses. Many Landis students come from low income families, and Brinson says sometimes they need more than books.
Brinson: "You have to be a mother, then some days you have to be a psychologist -- you got to get into their heads and see what they're thinking. Some times it's are you hungry? That might be the ticket.Sometimes they just need a hug. Or they need a smile, and we do that here."
In academics, teachers focus on the basics. The first two periods are devoted to reading, writing and comprehension at the respective grade levels. Kids who need intervention get even more reading instruction. Kindergarteners write and tell their own stories to classmates about the adventures of their favorite stuffed bears. In this class, sixth graders write about their favorite monkeys.
Latanya: My name is Latanya Hill Hives, I'm 12 years old. I chose howler monkeys because I already knew stuff about them and I wanted to do snow monkeys because I didn't know anything about them."
Principal Brinson grew up in Glenville. She wants students to know that achievment is possible here. And, she has a plan for the day she finally leaves the halls at Landis.
Brinson: "I want functional adults, so when I get to be an old lady I want to go to the doctor's office and I want one of my kids to treat me. They're going to be the doctor that I visit."
(Fade out with the Landis radio club singing the school song at morning announcements.)
Kymberli Hagelberg, 90.3