By Denise Dick
An accelerated academic program beginning in third grade is one way the city schools hope to encourage students to stay in the district.
One of the strategies in the Academic Recovery Plan adopted last March by the schools’ Academic Distress Commission was to increase student choice beginning in the elementary grades.
“It is generally true that if parents and students choose their school, student performance is higher,” the plan says. Youngstown City School District “has experienced this phenomenon with Early College High School and Choffin Career Center.”
At a commission meeting last week, Doug Hiscox, district deputy superintendent for academic affairs, proposed an Aspiring Scholars program for third- through sixth-graders and a Young Scholars’ choice program for seventh- and eighth-graders.
“It would be an accelerated instructional program,” he said.
Students from all areas of the district could choose classes at one designated building for the accelerated courses. Placement would be determined by students’ performance.
“It would allow parents and students to choose to stay in the program and be challenged at the level where they choose to be challenged,” Hiscox said.
College in High School, which allows high-school students to earn dual high-school and college credit for some courses, would continue to be available to juniors and seniors.
Commission members indicated support for the idea.
Hiscox said that more choice options will be reviewed based on building performance data this school year.
For the past couple of years, the district has been expanding student choices in an effort to retain students and encourage former students to return to the district.
Chaney changed from a traditional high school to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and visual and performing arts campus for students in sixth through 12th grades.
District enrollment has been declining for at least a decade. In the 2002-03 school year, 10,044 students were enrolled. Last year, that number was 5,902 and as of last week, it was down to 5,651 students.
Besides population decline, the district loses students to community schools and to private schools using the educational-choice vouchers or to nearby schools through open enrollment.