Youngstown commission official: Set benchmarks for school improvement

By Denise Dick


The moving target for state report cards presents challenges for schools and school districts trying to make the grade, officials say.

“We’re not moving fast enough. We know that,” city schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn told members of the Youngstown City Schools Academic Distress Commission at a meeting Thursday. “We’re making gains, but it’s not fast enough.”

The city schools earned five F’s, two D’s and two C’s on the 2012-13 report card released last month and next year the measures are expected to increase, raising the bar for schools and districts. Doug Carpenter, a representative from the Ohio Department of Education, urged Hathorn to set benchmarks for improvement and then to celebrate those improvements.

Paul Williams, commission member, said he was speaking with the chairman of Lorain schools academic commission who believes many more school districts will fall into academic distress and be assigned commissions.

“There are a lot of problems with these targets,” Williams said.

Charter and community schools are having the same difficulties as school districts.

“In Youngstown, charter schools did no better in the performance index than what the Youngstown City Schools were,” said Adrienne O’Neill, commission chairwoman.

She asked Hathorn to develop benchmarks for commission members to talk about at next month’s meeting.

In other business, O’Neill suggested a countywide group of teacher leaders from different school districts form so teachers could learn from what’s happening in other districts.

The idea was spawned by a letter that the Campaign for African American Achievement wrote to Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction. One of the suggestions in the letter is that Ross identify three public school districts and three charter schools in Ohio that have received high marks the past three years.

It suggests they be schools with demographics similar to Youngstown, and they be used as models of excellence for the school district.

O’Neill, however, believes there’s something to be learned from what’s happening in suburban districts too.

Betty Greene, commission member, said the atmosphere in suburban districts is more nurturing while in urban schools, it’s more authoritarian.

She said that Youngstown Early College has a more nurturing environment than many other city schools.

Susan Moorer, commission member, agreed.

“There’s a sense of belonging,” she said. “The kids are proud to be there. They want to be there.”

O’Neill said she’s seen that nurturing atmosphere in some city school buildings.

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