By Amanda Tonoli
An Ohio Department of Education review of Youngstown City Schools reveals clear goals and measures of success though instruction may not be in line with state standards.
“I really agree that we have to get the standards curriculum instruction and assessment right,” said John Richard, Youngstown Academic Distress Commission interim chairman. “It’s not being dealt with at the classroom level.”
Although the district is not without challenges, CEO Krish Mohip said a number of successes achieved throughout the last two years under his leadership need to be celebrated.
Some of the successes include a large amount of professional development for teachers, a better-kept information and record system and “a districtwide understanding of what instruction should look like,” he said.
Mohip is put in place by House Bill 70. HB 70, commonly referred to as the Youngstown Plan, was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in July 2015. It enabled a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire Mohip to lead the district. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control.
Clairie Huff-Franklin, ODE Academic Distress Commissions & Education Reform director, presented the ODE review, conducted in the district from March 19-23, during Friday morning’s Youngstown ADC meeting.
Huff-Franklin said the CEO of Lorain City Schools, another district under HB 70, refused an ODE review and it’s commendable Mohip accepted.
The review’s executive summary included three sections – strengths, challenges and recommendations:
Strengths included clear goals and measures of success, use of “evidence-based instructional framework across all-content areas,” requiring district employees to provide feedback on practices, successful collection and analysis of student data, a plan developed to address student behavioral needs and efforts to address the needs of the whole child.
Challenges included a lack of communication to all stakeholders about the district’s progress, inconsistent educational evaluations, elementary school leadership teams without improvement plans, a lack of shared accountability, the selection of “instructional resources not aligned to Ohio’s Learning Standards” and support systems not fully implemented.
Recommendations in-cluded a call to improve upon the challenges the district faces.
Richard said both Mohip and the Youngstown ADC need to consider the ODE’s review and “face what’s working and not working.”
Mohip responded to the review by echoing Huff-Franklin.
“I did not have to do this [review], and I could’ve chosen not to do this,” he said. “In fact, I made the decision [to participate in the review] against some people’s judgments.”
But Mohip said his focus has remained the same throughout the entirety of his time in the district – “teaching and learning.”
“I walked into a school district where everybody seemed to be blaming everybody else,” he said. “School districts were blaming parents. Parents were blaming the school district. Everybody had a reason for why our children were not achieving. ... But I’m here to say we’re not looking to blame but to say these are the issues and this is what has to happen, and we’re going to move our district forward.”
But what cannot be measured in the review, and what is a key contributor to what may be a failure in the district, Mohip said, is community support.
“What is going to ultimately see whether this district fails is if we as a community do not come together,” he said. “We need to, as a whole unit, push forward the progress for our children. ... If we continue to fight against what is happening here in Youngstown and also Lorain and we continue to blame instead of support then we are not going to see gains.”
Mohip did say he would update his strategic plan and was still overall “extremely pleased with the direction the district has gone,” and he would welcome another full district review by the ODE.
Nick Santucci, Youngstown ADC member, said the office of the CEO will continue to work with the state “to try to continue to address some of these things.”