Youngstown Early College boasts 100 percent graduation rate
By Denise Dick
When the Youngstown City Schools have topped a list in recent memory, it hasn’t been for a good reason.
While many city district schools continue to struggle with low test scores, one school defies that trend.
The latest example of Youngstown Early College’s achievement is its ranking among Ohio’s urban high schools by four-year graduation rate.
YEC’s is 100 percent, putting it at the top of the list that was compiled by the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
Monica Jones, YEC principal and dean, believes the school’s size – 238 students – plays a role in its achievement.
“The small-school model works,” she said,
The data is from 2014.
Housed in Youngstown State University’s Fedor Hall, YEC allows students to earn college credit in college classes while still in high school.
As ninth- and 10th-graders, YEC students complete most of their high-school course work. They spend the bulk of their time during their high-school junior and senior years on the YSU campus, taking college classes.
They accomplish that through block scheduling.
Ninth-graders, for example, take English 1 one semester and English 2 the following semester, rather than taking the first level of English as freshmen and the second during their sophomore year.
The overall city school district four-year graduation rate hovers at about 67.8 percent with Chaney and East high schools at 83 percent and 64.3 percent, respectively.
YEC students come from the same neighborhoods and circumstances as their counterparts at the other two high schools. To be admitted, students must pass state tests with a proficient score and maintain good behavior and come to school. But YEC doesn’t select only high-achieving students.
“We’re not taking just the high-achieving students – although we do get them,” Jones said.
What’s more important is that the students meet the requirements once enrolled.
Shyann Green and Rachelle Bennett, both 17 and YEC seniors, will graduate this spring with their associate degrees.
Both applied to YEC as eighth-graders because they believed it would provide better opportunities for them.
“I thought it was a great option,” Shyann said. “I could earn an associate degree in my last two years of high school.”
Though the program is accelerated, both girls say it’s manageable.
“I just study more,” Rachelle said.
Rachelle plans to enter YSU to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Shyann is studying anthropology and is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree next year. She wants to continue her education and ultimately secure a doctorate.
Besides the small-school element, Jones lists high expectations as a factor in YEC students’ achievement.
Teachers, administrators and staff expect students to perform well, she said. If school personnel don’t believe in students and their ability to succeed, students know that.
“They are expected to graduate,” Jones said. That’s just the understanding.
“We don’t even talk about that,” the principal said.
They’re also expected to be college-ready and to continue in school and earn their bachelor’s degrees.
The school provides layered interventions in a supportive environment.
All 12 of the school’s teachers meet regularly with administrators to assess students individually to determine where they may need guidance or extra help. YSU or Eastern Gateway Community College professors teach the college courses.
“We talk about every student,” Jones said.
It allows school personnel to coordinate approaches and share information, allowing them to recognize students who may need extra help.
Juniors are teamed with academic coaches and academic coordinators to help them navigate college. Those coaches and advisers act as liaisons between high school and college for those students.
YEC students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree from either YSU or EGCC upon graduating high school. But that’s not guaranteed.
“This year, we have 30 students who will earn an associate’s out of 50 seniors,” Jones said. “That’s a high for us.”
In 2008, four students earned their degree, and the average has been 12 to 16 students.
Over the years, YEC personnel have worked with YSU and EGCC officials to ensure YEC students are prepared to enter college classes.
“We have what we call Fast Track,” Jones said. “Ninth- and 10th-graders go out on campus with a mentor or a coach.”
They meet with advisers weekly.
Jones expects numbers to increase when those changes have been in effect longer.
“We’ll start to see the fruit of that,” she said.