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Report: Schools failing to develop students

Published: Tue, May 3, 2011 @ 12:09 a.m.


Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn

By Denise Dick



The absence of critical thinking, communication and problem-solving in the city schools curriculum makes it unlikely students will develop the same work readiness or higher- education skills as their suburban counterparts.

“Becoming an independent and self-motivated learner, a creative problem-solver and an effective team player are essential to becoming a productive and contributing citizen of the 21st century,” according to a report from EdFocus of East Palestine, one of the consultants contracted as part of the city schools’ academic-recovery plan.

“It tells me I really need to look at the curriculum,” said schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn.

He said he hopes to bring people from outside the district to help with professional development.

The consultant’s report also points to a lack of consistency throughout the district.

“The materials used, teaching strategies, classroom assessments and performance expectations for students are determined by each teacher or grade-level team in the school,” it says.

Hathorn said that’s something that has to change.

“We have to make sure the curriculum is aligned to the state standards and that there’s consistency throughout the district,” he said.

Debra Mettee, chairwoman of the Academic Distress Commission, agreed.

“That’s even more dramatic in a district with a high mobility rate,” she said.

There should be consistency within school buildings and within the district.

“You want consistency so nothing is disrupted,” Mettee said. “The standards and grade-level benchmarks should be the same so if a family moves” and a child changes schools, the curriculum is the same.

The element within the report that jumped out for her was a lack of use of standards. Some teachers didn’t have those standards, and others had them but didn’t incorporate them into lessons.

When the commission has all of the data back from the consultants, members will compile a remediation report for the district administration, Mettee said.

Part of the school district’s recovery plan calls for inclusion of 21st Century Skills, an academic program that includes a rigorous academic curriculum, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, information and media literacy and life and career skills.

“In general, the district has not made 21st Century Skills a priority,” the EdFocus report said.

Students aren’t learning the essential skills to be successful and job-ready, it says.

To fix that, the school district must “make a significant paradigm shift” to ensure all students have mastery of rigorous content, especially in literacy, math and science.

Other essential skills necessary for students are critical thinking and applied knowledge, strong oral and written communication skills, project-based learning that develops collaboration and interpersonal skills, a focus on creative and innovative solutions to problem-solving, financial literacy, skills to use technology and access information, global awareness that develops an appreciation for culture and diversity and personal responsibility, good work habits and a sense of ethics.

“There is no official indication that the district has a plan to address the 21st Century Skills,” the EdFocus report said. “The prospect of developing a [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] magnet school, however, will necessitate the thorough development of a curriculum that includes these and other 21st Century Skills.”

The EdFocus report does include commendations for the district. It says that among the 168 teachers who were interviewed and observed by the consultants, more than 90 percent identified viable strategies and techniques for intervention for students.

The district has started a program to serve its gifted students, it says.

“Among the 168 teachers interviewed and observed, there is a robust consensus that in spite of the academic challenges facing the district, there are many students who are highly capable and in need of a challenging curriculum,” according to the report.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Your taxpayers' money being wasted - Youngstown City Schools. Poverty and generations of welfare and medicaid mentality mixedin with guns and drugs have made these kids unable to learn even the most basic concepts of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Parental involvement is just not their. Good luck Connie as you try to reform this mess.

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2WilliamP(69 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

"Parental involvement is just not their."

The word you're [not your] looking for is "there."

Perhaps you should return to school to obtain "even the most basic concepts" of homophones.

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3iBuck(217 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Do they still have libraries? Oh, that's right, they renamed them "media centers" and such. Stock the libraries with a decent array of STEM books, and eventually, even the reporters will know what STEM stands for without having to research the matter and spell out the acronym.

Meanwhile, DoL sec. Solis says she's giving out $150M from H-1B visa fees for training. The fees were enacted supposedly for the purpose of retraining displaced US STEM workers, but, so far, the vast majority of the funds have been used for construction labor, oil-seed press operators and such, and very little for advanced software engineers or scientists who have been dumped to make room for cheap, more subservient foreign labor.

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4PhilipFCooper(4 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I think it's part of the problem to report that schools are failing to develop students. How about "the students are failing to develop?" How about a nod to shared responsibility?

The article reads like curriculum and teaching is inconsistent because teachers are ignorant of grade-level curricula and possible unfamiliar with material they should be teaching . But I don't know any teacher who doesn't want to and can’t teach grade-level curriculum to properly-prepared students.

As an urban teacher I know the real problem is that for a majority of inner-city students attendance is poor (<90%) and enough students' manners and behavior are often so bad/disruptive that you spend as much (or more) time working on behavior as you do on lessons, and you can't stay on track with any grade-level curriculum because you constantly have to try to re-teach to students who haven't been there and/or haven’t done the work from previous lessons, courses and grade-levels.

And, In my experience, when teachers start teaching something that is not in the high school curriculum it's because they want to help the students make up missed or un-mastered material, and not because they are fuzzy on academic content standards.
We want to give all students equal opportunities in primary and secondary education but at some point bad decisions on some students’ parts agglomerate and prevent them from being able to avail themselves of opportunities such as honors and AP courses. And at that point it isn’t in the power of a teacher, principal or superintendent to right the wrongs of 3, 5, or more, years of poor academic effort.

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5SouthSideScanner(12 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

More like students are failing to develop at home first then it shouldn't be that hard at school.

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6seminole(476 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

And you needed a study to tell you this?...

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7Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

The kids have been taught well . They are good at what they do . The subculture in Youngstown is justa rockin tha city .

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