There’s cause for concern but no reason to panic – yet – over the Youngstown City School District’s continuing academic turmoil. Eight years have passed since the urban district was placed in academic emergency by the state, and while there have been some improvements, the overall grade of “F” remains a stark reminder of the deeply rooted problems undermining progress in the Youngstown schools.
To be sure, last week’s state report card was disappointing, given our strong belief that the city’s children have been victimized by irresponsible adults for too long. However, we aren’t ready to throw in the towel.
Throwing in the towel could result in the dismantling of the school district. Students would be sent to adjoining systems. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has made it known that turning back the clock to the pre-emergency days is not an option.
Thus, while we are dismayed that Youngstown received an overall grade of “F” in the 2017-18 state report card released last week, we aren’t panicking. We continue to believe the system is on the right track and that the leadership now in place has the vision, the commitment and the ability to turn failure into success.
Earlier this year, the governor, who was instrumental in the creation of the Youngstown Plan, stated unequivocally he will not abide by any legislative attempt to dismantle what is now in place.
Here’s what Kasich told The Vindicator:
“Anything that would come to my desk that would have anything to do with eroding this plan, I would veto.”
The governor went on to say he would reject with “vehemence” an attempt to amend or kill House Bill 70, which gave birth to the Youngstown Plan.
Under the plan, the elected board of education has been relegated to an advisory role, which is appropriate, given its level of competence.
In place of the board, there’s a special state-mandated academic distress commission charged with setting policy. But its more important responsibility is the hiring of a chief executive officer to run the district in place of a superintendent.
Veteran Chicago educator
The panel brought on board veteran Chicago educator Krish Mohip, who began his assignment in mid-2016. That’s why it is ludicrous to blame Mohip or the academic distress commission for the outcome of the 2016-17 or 2017-18 state tests.
The history of academic failure in Youngstown goes back decades, culminating in the state declaring an emergency in 2010.
Thus, the criticism being leveled at Mohip, his administration and the commission lacks credibility and is without foundation.
It has taken the CEO the past two years to not only chart a new course, but to change the mindset of teachers and other district employees. He also has spent an inordinate amount of time with parents, guardians and community and business leaders to secure their participation in the academic resurrection of the district.
To be sure, there have been miscues that have prompted us to criticize Mohip in this space. However, we are confident that the academic recovery plan he has developed, in conjunction with the distress commission and the state, will ultimately bring success.
“Obviously, an overall F is not what anyone wants to see – we still have a long way to go – but I’m pleased with the progress we’re making, and I believe next year’s report card will be even better,” Mohip told The Vindicator after the results were released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Education.
But before the CEO sets expectations for 2018-19, we would urge him to host public meetings throughout the district to give parents, guardians, students and other stakeholders a chance to ask questions about the test scores and the initiatives that have been launched to address the shortcomings.
It isn’t enough for Mohip to say that he’s pleased with the progress being made.
His critics will point out, for example, that the district’s K-3 Literacy grade dropped from a B to a D. The test is designed to show how well at-risk K-3 readers are performing.
Mohip says the drop was caused by a change in tests, yet other districts showed improvement in K-3 Literacy.
The CEO must know that last week’s report card will intensify calls from his critics for his resignation or firing. While we don’t put any stock in what they have to say, we do believe the community at large is looking for some assurance that the latest overall “F” grade is the last one the Youngstown City School District will record. Mohip must deliver success.