Y’town’s state report card shows schools in jeopardy

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A dozen F’s on Youngs- town School District’s state report card should be considered the warning bell for the urban system.

By this time next year the grades from the statewide proficiency tests had better show marked improvement, or there could be a restructuring of the failing schools.

One solution would be for the state to turn the worst performing schools in Youngstown into charter schools. This isn’t idle chatter.

Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich has taken a particular interest in the city district because it has been in the academic cellar for so long.

It was Republican Kasich’s appeal to local business and community leaders to come up with a plan to reform the district that led to enactment of House Bill 70. The law, commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, contains two significant provisions. One is the appointment of a special academic distress commission to govern the district. Two is the creation of a chief executive officer position with full authority over the day-to-day operation of the district.

The CEO supplants the superintendent and the elected school board.

The Youngstown School District Academic Distress Commission hired Krish Mohip to serve as the first chief executive officer of a public school system in Ohio.

Mohip, a veteran educator from Chicago, began his assignment in late June 2016 and spent the first nine months developing an academic recovery plan.

Parts of the plan took effect last school year, but the majority of the changes that touch on all aspects of the system have been put in place this year.

In other words, Mohip will be singularly responsible for the 2017-18 state report card.

Opponents of the Youngstown Plan are quick to blame Mohip and the distress commission for this year’s state report card with the 12 F’s, two B’s, one C and one D.

Public scrutiny

While we have consistently argued that it would be ridiculous to expect a sea change in the academic performance of the students after just one year and three months in Mohip’s tenure, the CEO has opened himself up to public scrutiny by taking credit for the B grade on the Kindergarten to Third Grade literacy component.

He also talked about the five-year graduation rate. The 79.8 percent on the 2016-17 card was an improvement over the 74.2 percent in 2015-16.

“That’s significant and we’re proud of that progress, but we also recognize that we have a lot more work to do,” Mohip said in a news release issued on the day the Ohio Department of Education made public the test results for all school districts in Ohio.

He would have been well advised not to claim any credit for any improvements because now his detractors insist he owns the entire report card.

An objective review of the past seven years will show that the failure of the city school district is deeply rooted, and drastic action is required to bring about the recovery.

There is no going back to the days when the elected school board held sway and often undermined the ability of the superintendent to make the changes necessary.

Mohip has spent the last year building his leadership team and shoring up the central office. The latter part of last school year focused on academics. Hence his taking credit for the grade improvements in the report card.

“This school year has a laser focus on instruction, and we expect next year’s report to reflect that,” the chief executive officer said.

The community has the same expectation.

Despite the vocal critics, Mohip has enjoyed strong support from the distress commission, parents and guardians and grass-roots organizations.

The return to neighborhood schools has been well received, while the implementation of new discipline policies is designed to keep errant students off the streets.

There also have been major changes in the ranks of principals and extensive training in new teaching methods.

We have been unwavering in our support of the distress commission and the CEO because of our long-held belief that the status quo was unsustainable.

That said, our backing will evaporate should we find that Mohip isn’t living up to the commitments he has made to the children of Youngstown.

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