Tests point to improved designation for Youngstown schools

By Denise Dick



Based on preliminary data, city school and state officials expect the Youngstown district to move to the equivalent of “continuous improvement” on the 2012-13 state report card.

That’s up one designation from the 2011-12 “academic watch” designation, and comes just days after the city school board evaluated Superintendent Connie Hathorn, giving him a lower score than last year based largely on the fact that the district was in academic watch for a second year.

Thursday’s announcement came from Jane Sadinski of the district’s state support team, and Doug Hiscox, the district’s deputy superintendent of academic affairs, at a Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission meeting.

It’s based on mirror tests, or tests that use questions from the previous year’s Ohio Graduation and Ohio Achievement Assessment tests, taken by students this year.

Hiscox said many instructional changes have been made in the district this school year.

“‘Value added’ could greatly impact these results,” Sadinski said. “Hopefully, they’ll improve even greater.”

“Value added” measures students’ learning from one year to the next. By not meeting “value added,” a district can drop a designation, and by meeting it, it can go up one.

Sadinski said that of the 14 schools, two — Harding Elementary and Rayen Early College Middle School — could improve by two designations, increasing from academic emergency to continuous improvement.

Five more are expected to improve by one designation, with seven others seeing no change.

Wilson Middle School, Kirkmere and McGuffey elementary schools, East High School and the Chaney Campus are those expected to improve one designation, Hiscox said.

That would move East and Wilson from academic emergency to the equivalent of academic watch; Kirkmere from continuous improvement to effective, and both McGuffey and Chaney from effective to excellent.

If all of that holds true, only University Project Learning Center, which is now the district’s alternative school, would be in academic emergency next year. Hiscox said that school also is expected to show improvement although not enough to elevate its designation.

However, because of changes in the law affecting next year’s report cards, districts no longer will be given overall ratings. Instead, letter grades will be assigned to different aspects of each district’s performance.

“This is really great,” Adrienne O’Neill, academic distress commission chairwoman, said of the anticipated improvements.

“This is perfect,” said Michael Garvey, a commission member.

Hiscox said the improvements are the result of the work of many people in the district including his curriculum team, teachers, administrators and students.

News of the anticipated improvement comes the same week that the board gave Hathorn a 5 rating out of a possible 9.

Three board members — Rachel Hanni, Lock P. Beachum Sr. and Michael Murphy — didn’t sign the evaluation, saying they thought the superintendent’s rating should have been higher.

The members who did sign it — board President Richard Atkinson, Marcia Haire-Ellis, Andrea Mahone and Brenda Kimble — said they based it largely on the fact that the district was in academic watch for a second year.

At the Thursday commission meeting, members also approved an updated academic recovery plan.

In it, O’Neill referenced some of the “drama” that’s been going on among the board, the superintendent and the community.

Last September, a community engagement report prepared by the Harwood Institute found that the community has more trust in the work of the superintendent than it does in the work of the school board.

“Frankly, I don’t care,” O’Neill said. “Everyone has to join together to try to get to where we have excellent performance from our students.”

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