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JA program aims to boost test scores



Published: Wed, January 9, 2008 @ 2:00 a.m.

The JA program has been shown to increase college attendance.

By ANGIE SCHMITT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown City School District has joined forces with Junior Achievement in an effort to boost proficiency scores and prepare pupils for the global economy.

City school representatives announced an agreement Tuesday with the nonprofit organization to administer business and economic lessons to the district’s fourth- and fifth-grade pupils.

Using volunteers from the private sector, Junior Achievement administered hands-on lessons on financial literacy and entrepreneurship to 8,500 Mahoning Valley pupils last year, including pupils at two Youngstown schools.

Local president Michele Merkel said she is excited to begin focusing more on urban pupils.

“The need is here,” Merkel said. “When you look at where the need is, it’s in the Youngstown and Warren city schools.”

Fifth-graders across the state were graded on their social studies proficiency for the first time last year by the Ohio Department of Education. Like many schoolchildren across Ohio, meeting the new standard wasn’t easy for Youngstown pupils. Only about one in five achieved a proficient ranking, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

They struggled particularly on the economics portions of the exam, said Yvonne Lipinsky, supervisor of social studies for the district.

But city educators hope the lessons pupils learn from Junior Achievement will pay off next year at test time.

“Teachers tell us all the time that it is difficult teaching economics,” Merkel said. “We come in and reinforce what teachers have been teaching with a new approach.”

Whether those lessons place pupils at the head of a manufacturing firm in a Monopoly-style board game, or provide them a map of local business resources, it’s a strategy that works, according to an independent evaluation of the program.

Studies found that JA pupils were more likely to attend college and more likely to select a business-related major.

Junior Achievement’s lessons reached 7.5 million pupils in more than 100 countries last year.

Not only is the program effective, but her pupils enjoy it, said Maria Pappas, principal at Paul C. Bunn Elementary School.

“We had a vice president for Chase Bank teaching economics in kindergarten,” Pappas said. “It’s good for our students to see that people in the real world care about them.”

aschmitt@vindy.com


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