UA’s community creates a higher achieving, but less diverse, student body

By Olivia Miltner, ’13

The transition from Monroe Alternative Middle School, a Columbus City School, to Hastings Middle School in Upper Arlington was a huge change for junior Madison McNeil.

“[It] was a major shock education-wise and culture-wise, from the way people dressed, the music, the language. Everything was different,” McNeil said.

The biggest change she noticed between the CCS district and the UA school district was the increase in taxes.

“A reason why I think that UA schools are giving a better education than those in Columbus City [School District] is because [they’re] putting a lot of money into [their] schools, which is good because in order to give a good education you need to have a good foundation,” McNeil said.

Per student, taxes are higher in UA than in CCS. According to the Ohio Department of Education, the “total property tax per pupil” is almost twice as high in UA, which is just under $12,400, versus CCS, which is almost $6,400.

The difference in funding might be reflected in recent OGT scores. According to data from the ODE, for the 2010-11 school year, UA students had an OGT passage rate of 90.5 percent, while CCS students passed all five subjects 41 percent of the time.

And while CCS has higher percentages of students shown to have lower achievement levels—such as economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with English as a second language—when corresponding demographic groups are compared, UA consistently has higher scores.

Upper Arlington also excels in preparing students for post-secondary education.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the college readiness score—a calculation derived from student participation and performance on AP and IB tests—the CCS district had a score of 10.8 in 2009-10. In contrast, UA schools had a score of 56.9.

However, the CCS district has implemented plans to increase CCS students’ graduation rates and college readiness. According to Ohio Innovative Learning Environments, the district has “initiated an action agenda to help district students become better prepared for successful entry and completion of college-level English and mathematics.”

But UA, while it may shine when it comes to academics, falls behind in other aspects of preparing students for the wider world, McNeil said.

“[In CCS] it’s…a little bit more well rounded culture-wise because there were students coming from different areas around the city,” McNeil said.

Because of UA’s cultural separation, transfer students can have a difficult time integrating into the UA community.

“Most UA kids don’t really notice [that they’re just] hanging with their childhood friends [and] they’re not letting other people from the outside into the ‘UA bubble,’” McNeil said. “As for kids in CCS, they branch out so far. You can have a student from Bexley sit next to a kid from downtown Columbus.”

McNeil experienced this firsthand when she transferred to Hastings. She said that, although she was treated kindly, it took her a year to make good friends, partly because everyone had grown up in the community together.

McNeil also said the “UA bubble,” meaning the suburb is geographically and culturally separated from surrounding areas, can give students a false perception of what the larger world is like.

“Mainly [we moved here] because … we’re getting a good education. I think that’s what UA students kind of take for granted. To them… this is how schools are supposed to be. But it’s not that way,” McNeil said. “There are other schools in your backyard where this is not what their education is giving.”