Chaney STEM gets statewide attention for accomplishments

While the Youngstown City School District still has a way to go before it earns an excellent rating on the state report card, it can revel in the fact that the Chaney Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics School has attracted the attention of the Ohio Academy of Science — after just one year of existence.

The Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for Excellence in STEM education put Cheney in exclusive company. Only 62 schools throughout the state earned the award for accomplishments last school year.

In announcing the recipients, Lynn E. Elfner, the Ohio Academy of Science’s chief executive officer, offered this insight: “Receiving a Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for Excellence sends a clear signal that these schools and teachers value student-originated, inquiry-based science and technology education as envisioned for the next-generation science-education standards being developed nationally.”

Chaney scored nine out of 10 on its application. The participants had to conduct a science fair with at least 20 students, qualify at least one of those students for a Science Academy science day, have students participate in at least one more youth science activity outside of the classroom, such as field trips, and convince outside professionals from STEM business and education that the school’s program met the definition of STEM education.

In other words, the competition for the awards was intense and demanding.

The award is especially sweet for the Youngstown school district because it was just 18 months ago that Chaney was transformed from a traditional high school to a STEM magnet for students in grades 6 through 12 and a visual and performing arts center for the same grades.

Chaney’s rebirth was part of the district’s revitalization plan developed by Superintendent Connie Hathorn, with the help of many others. It shook the system to its core, and generated support and criticism in the community.

Hathorn, who came to Youngstown from Akron, would not let the chatter distract him from his goal of reengineering the schools to meet the needs of students and accomplish specific goals.

But because the district is under state-mandated academic watch, a special distress commission, in conjunction with the superintendent and the board of education, has developed an academic recovery plan.

The updated plan went into effect this year, which means an improvement in the state proficiency test scores should be evident in the 2012-13 school year.

Early College

The Youngstown Early College is the only school in the district that is designated excellent on the state report card. The district is hoping to improve from academic watch to continuous improvement.

The award earned by Chaney STEM is the spark that the district has needed.

So, what kind of brain ticklers are the students taking on?

Consider teacher Cory Rudibaugh’s sophomore engineering class. Students Regina Comer and Jeraile Moreland, both 15, and Takeyla Clayton, 16, designed a machine composed of pulleys, levers and knobs to lift a weight.

The machine could well symbolize the effort being made to lift the weight of academic stagnation in the city school system.

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