Charter schools in Ohio are, by and large, a failure, with only two dozen out of the nearly 300 scoring above the state average on performance measures. Even so, there is no sign that the charter schools initiative, which was launched 15 years ago, has lost the support of Republican Gov. John Kasich and the GOP controlled General Assembly.
We have long argued that taxpayer dollars are being squandered on this still-unproven experiment in education and believe state government needs to find real cures for what ails the public school system.
That said, there’s a success story in the bleak charter school saga that should stand as an example of how to do education right.
Youngstown Community School, which serves inner city students, has earned an “excellent” designation on the 2011-12 state report card, the second one in three school years. It was excellent in 2009-10, but dropped to “effective” in 2010-11.
The holistic approach to education has attracted the attention of state education officials.
“Youngstown Community School proves every day that failure is not an option,” said Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent of public instruction with the Ohio Department of Education, in a letter to Principal Sister Mary Dunn.
Sister Mary took over the school last year from Sister Jerome Cochoran, whose name is synonymous with educating Youngstown’s at-risk children.
YCS is one of 163 Ohio schools selected as a School of Promise.
Two years ago, the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education presented YCS, located on the South Side of Youngstown, with its 2010-11 Honor Roll. The coalition is a grassroots advocacy group for public charter schools.
In commending the school on its “excellent” rating, Sawyers said, “Strategies by you and your staff to close the mathematics and reading achievement gap for students who represent a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are working, and we hope you will share them with other Ohio schools.”
Quite an endorsement for a school that is an offshoot of the Millcreek Children’s Center, which opened in 1976 as a preschool serving Youngstown children age 3 to 5. Millcreek provides a quality early learning program that has been helping lower-income working families for more than 30 years so that their children get an early boost to succeed in kindergarten.
Parents asked Sister Jerome for a high-quality elementary school, resulting in the YCS elementary school opening its doors in 1998 with 36 kindergarten pupils. It has since added grades first through sixth, totaling 327 children in the 2010-11 academic year.
YCS alumni total 308 students.
The school has experienced phenomenal success under the guidance of first Sister Jerome and now Sister Mary.
The school has class sizes of one teacher to every 16 students and 96 percent student attendance.
Student character building is also important at YCS, with programs such as Great Expectations Awards. It encourages and recognizes students monthly who display good citizenship, honesty and respect for their parents, teachers and community. Youngstown Community School, which has a long student waiting list, is sponsored by the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
There are many aspects to the school’s success, but one of the most important is discipline. Students are required to stand when an adult enters a classroom and are expected to silently walk down the hallways.
It’s something that’s desperately needed in the public school system.