YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS District again finds itself in academic emergency

The district's reading score improved dramatically on this year's tests.
COLUMBUS -- Youngstown City Schools have fallen into academic emergency, the lowest of five state categories that measure achievement.
The district's reading score in the second year of the Ohio Graduation Test was the only goal out of 23 for testing, attendance and graduation that it met this year, according to results for the state's eight biggest school districts released by The Associated Press.
Tenth-graders took the reading and math graduation tests for the first time last year.
Starting with the tests administered in March, pupils must pass in five subjects to graduate. This is also the second year for the third-grade reading test.
It will be harder this year for districts to maintain or improve their academic status because under federal requirements the state added five new goals and increased the standards for meeting several others.
Teachers and students knew the 2004 graduation test was just to collect comparison data, said Rosie Marich, who oversees testing for Youngstown schools.
A big jump
Eighty-four percent of the district's sophomores passed the reading test, up from 59 percent last year, she said. The goal is a 75-percent passage rate on all tests.
"This was the first year it counted for a high-stakes test," Marich said.
The state has worked with struggling districts, Marich said. "We have been given a lot of money for intervention."
Youngstown Board of Education President Jacqueline Taylor said the district is developing programs that emphasize leadership in the classroom. Others are designed to improve attendance and retention rates, she noted.
Shortening the time kids are off for holidays this year could have a positive impact on attendance, Taylor predicted. In the 2004-05 school year, the district came close to meeting the 93 percent state standard in attendance, she added.
Other key areas being addressed are expecting more from pupils and providing a safer environment for them to learn, Taylor pointed out.
"We have to do things differently and be sure of higher expectations, and that classrooms are positive places," she said.
Other gains in the district include a 56.9-percent graduation rate this year ending in June. That reflects a 2.8-percent increase over the 54.1-percent rate ending in June 2004. The number of students graduating from The Rayen School as well as Woodrow Wilson and Chaney high schools increased during the same time.
The promotion rate also improved, meaning that fewer pupils failed. Improvements were seen in five grades.
Only four districts were in academic emergency last year, including Dayton, among the urban districts. Youngstown was removed from academic emergency status several years ago and had since been in academic watch.
The categories in decreasing order of academic standing are excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.

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