Improvement is slow for Youngstown schools

By Denise Dick


Improvement in city school students’ academic performance is happening — but only in dribs and drabs.

“In more than half of the indicators, 13 of 24, our preliminary scores show improvement in student scores when compared to the previous year,” Superintendent Connie Hathorn told members of the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission on Thursday.

In five of those areas — fifth-grade math, eighth-grade math, 10th-grade reading, 10th-grade math and 10th-grade science — the increase was at least 10 percent from the previous year.

The scores fell on 10 indicators, while one remained the same.

The data are preliminary. The Ohio Department of Education is expected to release 2012-13 report cards later this month. This year’s report cards use an A-through-F grading system rather than the rating system of academic emergency through excellent with distinction that’s been in place the last several years.

Hathorn pointed out that the performance index, the component that measures the achievement of every student, improved from 76.1 in 2011-12 to 76.9 in 2012-13, showing “a steady improvement in student achievement over the past three years.”

The district implemented a new reading curriculum last year, so it’s not surprising that some of the reading scores dipped, said Kim Davis, executive director of teaching and learning.

He said he’s not happy with the results, but the district has reviewed the data to determine what worked and what didn’t, and plans to make changes accordingly.

Math and literacy coaches were divided among buildings last year.

“We were spreading them pretty thin,” said Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent of academic affairs.

Coaches were added this year to allow each building to have its own.

More support will be given this year in the science and social studies areas. Hiscox said those subjects haven’t received as much focus as math and reading.

“We would have liked to see much larger gains this year,” he said.

Last spring, Hiscox told the commission that he expected significant gains on the upcoming report card based on practice tests administered during the year. But performance on those practice tests didn’t carry over to the state tests. He said the district is considering whether to use the practice tests this school year.

The academic commission has been in place in Youngstown since 2010, trying to steer the district out of academic difficulties.

“This message is very clear that time is running out,” Hiscox said. “The staff knows we need to see not just single-digit gains but 10, 20, 30 percent gains.”

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