State OKs academic plan for city schools

By Denise Dick



The city school district has five years to show continuous improvement under a $3.2 million Academic Recovery Plan, but how to pay for all five years remains a question.

The state superintendent of public instruction on Tuesday approved the plan.

“The approval of this Academic Recovery Plan represents a new chapter for the Youngstown City School District,” Deborah Delisle said. “The Academic Recovery Plan provides a blueprint of new and refined initiatives to provide high-quality services to all students and to provide educators with the necessary supports to effectively serve all students.”

The plan was developed by a five-member Academic Distress Commission, drafted by a consultant and submitted to the state superintendent June 28.

One portion of the plan calls for the hiring of an estimated 30 teachers to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio in all kindergarten and first-grade classes to 15-to-1.

Anthony Catale, school board president, said there are sufficient funds to pay for the first year. But the plan points to federal- stimulus dollars to fund many of the recommended programs.

After this year, it’s unclear how much, if any, money will come to the district in federal-stimulus dollars, he said.

“There are still a lot of ‘what ifs’ at this point,” Catale said.

The 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in the lower grades also means a change in the grade alignment at one school.

“At Martin Luther King [Elementary School], the fifth-graders will have to go to P. Ross Berry” middle school, the school board president said.

That means MLK will be a preschool-to-fourth-grade school while the other elementary schools in the district are preschool to fifth grade.

The other alternative for providing the additional classroom space required for the plan was classroom trailers at the school.

The district will look at longer-term solutions to the space issue for next year, Catale said.

The overarching goal of the recovery plan is to see the district designated no lower than continuous improvement by 2015.

Also by 2015, all subgroups will meet attendance, graduation rate and value-added growth targets as measured by the district and building local report cards.

District enrollment also will increase by at least 300 students, and the district will decrease the percentage of students identified for special-education services from 20 percent to the state average of 15 percent by that same year.

The plan requires the district to provide monthly and quarterly progress reports to the commission and the state superintendent.

Based on those reports, the commission or the state superintendent can amend the plan.

Ohio law requires establishment of an Academic Distress Commission for school districts declared to be in Academic Emergency and that fail to meet adequate yearly progress for four or more consecutive school years.

The city school district received a rating of Academic Emergency on the 2008-09 Local Report Card issued last August. The Youngstown Academic Distress Commission is the first Academic Distress Commission in the state.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle approved the Youngstown City Schools Academic Recovery Plan on Tuesday. The plan calls for annual measures and benchmarks to be met by the school district:

Reduce the percentage of students not proficient in mathematics and reading in each subgroup by 10 percent as measured by the Ohio Achievement Assessments and the Ohio Graduation tests, using the 2009-10 Local Report Card results as the baseline measure. There are 10 subgroups — examples would be economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency.

Raise the district Performance Index Score to no less than 80 points out of 120 possible in no more than four years, using the 2009-10 district local report-card results to detemine annual targets to reach the benchmark.

Increase graduation rate by 2 percent using the 2009-10 local report-card results as the baseline measure.

Achieve a composite district value-added rating of “met expected growth.” (This is the progress a district has made since the previous school year. If met, it means that one year of progress was achieved.) By 2012-13, achieve a composite value-added rating of “above expected growth.”

Reduce achievement gaps between subgroups by 12.5 percent as measured by state assessments using the 2009-10 local report-card results as the baseline measure.

Improve the climate and culture of the school district as measured by school climate surveys completed by students, staff and families.

Source: Youngstown City Schools Academic Recovery Plan

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