Youngstown City Schools improve academic standing

emergency status dropped

By Denise Dick


After two years, the city school district is shedding its label as the worst in the state.

Preliminary results on the state report card show the district will receive an academic-watch rating, one above the lowest rating of academic-emergency status where it languished for two years.

It was the only district in the state that had been designated in academic emergency.

The Ohio Department of Education will release official report cards next week.

Connie Hathorn, who became superintendent in January, credited a focus on instruction and professional development.

“I can’t take credit,” he said. “I’m not in the classroom.”

Douglas Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs, said curriculum dialogue — an organized way the district looks at, talks about and addresses data — also played a role.

“This is something we need to celebrate,” Hathorn said. “It’s a victory. It’s not where we want to be, but it’s better than where we were.”

Youngstown met two of 26 indicators — 11th-grade writing and attendance — one more than on the 2009-10 report cards.

He hopes that next year’s report card sees more improvement, to continuous improvement.

Other districts reported changes based on preliminary data as well.

Jackson-Milton improved two steps to excellent by distinction, the highest designation, according to Superintendent Kirk Baker. Last year’s report card ranked the district as effective.

Struthers, which had been rated excellent on three previous report cards, slipped to effective on the 2010-11 report cards.

“We made three more indicators than last year, and our performance index is higher,” said Superintendent Robert Rostan.

The value-added calculation, the measure that tracks students’ academic progress from one year to the next, dropped the district to an effective rating.

“I think our teachers do an excellent job, and I think our students work hard and try to do their best,” Rostan said.

The report cards score schools based on how students perform on a single test on a single day, he said.

At Youngstown schools, of the 26 indicators, the district improved on 17 of them on the latest report cards from the previous year’s.

Preliminary data show that Williamson Elementary School and two middle schools, Rayen Early College and Volney Rogers, increased one rating each. Williamson improved to academic watch, while both middle schools rose to continuous improvement.

Taft and Harding Elementary schools improved two rankings each, both from academic emergency to continuous improvement.

Youngstown Early College remains at the excellent designation.

All of the district’s elementary schools except Martin Luther King Elementary School improved.

Hathorn attributed that to the fact that MLK’s fourth- and fifth-graders were housed at the P. Ross Berry Middle School building rather than in the elementary building with the other grades. That’s because the school didn’t have the space.

The principal wasn’t able to monitor instruction of those students as well, he said.

MLK and East High School both dropped from academic watch to academic emergency, according to preliminary results. Chaney remains at academic watch.

As part of a school restructuring, all of MLK’s students will be under the same roof, he said.

“I am very pleased to see this upward trend in student achievement, especially in our elementary grades,” said Lock P. Beachum Sr., school board president. “It is obvious that we have a lot more work ahead of us. However, the board and I have great faith that our superintendent and school staff are on the right track and our schools will continue to make significant gains this upcoming school year.”

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