Program leaders report on improvement effort

The district has improved in 10 of 16 targeted academic areas, and lost ground in six.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two years after the city schools developed a plan to boost student achievement, progress is mixed, but school and community leaders remain upbeat that improvement will come.
"I am slightly optimistic," said Joe Mansky, business manager of Plumbers & amp; Pipefitters Local 396 and a member of the city schools' Urban Congress. "It's still early in the game."
"The structure is in place," said Edna Pincham, former city schools board member and also an Urban Congress member. "All that we really need now is for parents, administrators, community, all of us to become involved in the system."
Improvement plan progress
Mansky and Pincham were among several community members, students and educators who spoke Thursday night when the Urban Congress reported on the progress of the district's continuous improvement plan.
State Superintendent Susan Zelman was expected to attend a repeat of the presentation this morning at Choffin Career and Technical Center.
The school board approved the 277-page improvement plan two years ago as a blueprint to move the 10,200-student system out of academic emergency by 2006.
The Urban Congress, a group of about 100 business, labor, religious and educational leaders led by Julie Michael, Gov. Bob Taft's local representative, was formed to oversee implementation.
The plan pinpointed 16 specific academic areas for improvement. In two years, the district has shown increases in 10 of the 16, and lost ground in six, according to Ohio Department of Education records.
Pincham and Mansky said they see small yet steady progress and believe the district remains on pace to get out of academic emergency on target.
"I'm impressed with the development that has taken place," Mansky said before Thursday's meeting.
"I've always been one that was kind of skeptical of the school system in general ... but I have been duly impressed with what I have seen down there, and hopefully it's going to translate into something positive."
Mansky leads a committee charged with bringing the district's graduation rate up to the state minimum standard of 90 percent. In the last two years, the rate has dropped from 68.2 percent to 53.8 percent.
Many programs have been identified and implemented to boost the rate, he said. "But it's probably going to take another couple of years before they will show any effect," he said.
Test scores
Pincham leads a committee charged with improving the district's proficiency test scores. The school district met five of 27 minimum performance standards on the 2002 state report card, up from four standards the previous two years. Only two school districts in Ohio met fewer standards.
While the district met only five standards, Pincham noted the test scores improved in 17 areas.
She said improvement will continue to come in small increments, and she said it's vital that more parents and community members get behind the effort.
"We can plan and sit down and talk about what we need to do, but until we get people actually doing things, it will not work," Pincham said before Thursday's meeting.

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