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Youngstown school system hangs in balance this year

Published: Sun, January 6, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

If state education officials are to be believed, this is a make-or-break year for the Youngstown City School District. Should the system fail to show marked improvement in the state report card, the Ohio Department of Education, with the support of Gov. John Kasich, will step in.

The district has been under academic watch for the past two years, after being in academic emergency in the 2009-10 and 2008-09 school years. It was under watch in 2008-09.

With such a record, it is no wonder that the state has said, “Enough!”

Although a state-mandated Academic Distress Commission has been in charge of the district’s recovery since emergency was declared, consider this public warning from Chairwoman Adrienne O’Neill at a gathering last summer of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION):

“I don’t think the patience level in Columbus is a forever thing. In the next year, something really dramatic has to happen.”

Would a continuous improvement rating be dramatic enough for the interim state superintendent of public instruction?

In 2011, Michael Sawyers, then state deputy superintendent, did little to hide his displeasure at the school district’s touting its move up from academic emergency to academic watch.

“There’s this perception that there’s this big celebration to be had. That’s not true,” said Sawyers, who had accompanied then Superintendent Stan W. Heffner on a visit to Youngstown. They met with The Vindicator’s editorial board.

Heffner was also blunt in his assessment of the Youngstown district’s climbing out of the academic cellar:

“Academic watch is nothing to celebrate.”

The two state educators noted that the improvement was due to gains in student attendance.

By contrast, last year’s report card showed real academic progress, with the system barely missing a continuous improvement designation.

Governor’s award

Indeed, the Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for Excellence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education given to Chaney STEM School is a clear indication of the progress that’s being made.

Only 62 schools throughout the state earned the award for accomplishments in 2011.

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.

This year, the city school district could well see a continuation of the academic gains made in 2012, which Gov. Kasich and state education officials have long sought.

There would be no reason for a state takeover of the system if such progress is reflected in the new report card.


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What is the metric with respect to the academic progress of the student? Are the students prepared to be proficient, productive members of society upon graduation?

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2janpentz(43 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I think the solution is quite clear.......bus ALL YCS students to the closest suburb and enroll them in these schools and see what the result is!!!! If the state is actually serious "about the children" then show it......do.....it. I for one know what the outcome would be. So let's stop playing the blame game and address the real issues......a culture of poverty.....and neglect......

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3Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Is there anything new here?

It sure would be nice if the Vindicator noticed that there were other school districts in the area, some of them close in size to Youngstown City.

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41loaf(100 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

We need to give the teachers in Y-Town a raise. Babysitting in this town rates combat pay!

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5Mark77(7 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Solutions? Turn the system inside out and upside down. Decentralize it. What is there to lose? Powers outside the district should petition ODE to directly supervise the conversion of the entire district into an association of charter schools. The role of central administration changes to that of monitor per Ohio charter school law. NOTHING in Ohio charter law prevents such an arrangement. ALL money, every single per capita dollar including ALL local funds should follow the child through the schoolhouse door. Central admin should compete for those dollars by COMPETETIVELY providing services that each learning community values. If the service is substandard, a decision made by individual schools, then they find it elsewhere. After initial legal requirements, each school writes its own charter. Each school becomes responsible for itself. Everyone’s job becomes contingent on one thing – parents sending their child to the school. Low scores? If the parents keep sending their kids, oh well. If they don’t – then teaching and other jobs at that school are lost. How to be fair to teachers? Pull all teachers from the union pool. However, seniority plays no role in hiring at another charter building in the district. In other words, the best performers within a failing building still get first dibs on jobs because they deserve it. Also, permit entrepreneurial teachers to come together to form schools. This point is critical; teachers and principals cannot be marginalized in the process – they must be central to it. Recasting the same old employee-management model will not work. Principals? Either they lead or they are gone. Also, they should be well compensated. Teachers and kids deserve the best leaders out there. No principal should make less than $120,000 per year. Principal pay in Youngstown should be so good that it attracts applicants from across the state if not the country. The union? It can play catch up. It, like central admin is not designed for change. Rather, both institutions are designed for self-perpetuation. The focus in this arrangement is not teachers and kids it’s upon maintaining status quo. Parents? In this model if they participate all the better. If not, others will pull their weight – as is done now. Want solutions? Youngstown will not get them by business as usual.

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6cozmo(32 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Too bad the district was set up for failure by having its teachers forced to implement something that was not agreed on. LITERACY COLLABORATIVE. How can teachers be held accountable for something they didnt agree with? There were schools that have made excellent gains over the past three years, then were told to do something else this year.

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7cozmo(32 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Education is like the military it should NEVER be privatized. Its part of our democracy. Public education is for the people by the people, thus the reason for publicly electing a school board. Statistics prove that moral and economic decay coincide with lower academic performance. If public education is the problem then why are suburban public school districts doing EXCELLENT?? Fix the moral and economic decay of the city and watch how the school system would change.

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