Charter schools optimistic despite failing grades from state

Jayden Rudriguez, 13, left, Aliya Merriwether, 13, and Teagan Kiehl, 13, all eight-graders at Horizon Science Academy in Youngstown, study together by using their study guides for an upcoming science test. The academy received an overall grade of a B in state report cards for community schools, the highest ranking of the 11 charter schools in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Staff photo / R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — Only one community school of the 11 in Trumbull and Mahoning counties earned as high as a B grade on the state report card released this month, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Horizon Science Academy of Youngstown received an overall grade of B, including an A in progress and Bs in gap closing and improving at-risk K-3 readers, and a D in achievement. Because it is a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, it received NR’s — not recorded — for graduation and prepared for success categories on the report card.

Throughout the state, 250 community schools received traditional report card grades.

Six community schools earned As, 26 earned Bs, 60 earned Cs, 87 earned Ds and 71 earned Fs, according to Ohio Department of Education spokesman Dan Minnich.

Area community schools earning overall C grades were Southside Academy, 1400 Oak Hill Ave., and Stambaugh Charter Academy, 2420 Donald Ave., both in Youngstown.

Schools earning overall D grades were Steam Academy of Warren, 261 Elm Road; Summit Academy Community School-Warren, 2106 Arbor Ave. SE; Youngstown Academy of Excellence, 1408 Rigby St., Youngstown; Youngstown Community School, 50 Essex St., Youngstown; and Hope Academy for Autism, 1628 Niles Road SE, Warren.

Schools that received overall F’s were Summit Academy Alternative Learners, 1461 Moncrest Drive NW, Warren; Summit Academy-Youngstown, 144 N. Schenley Ave.; and Summit Academy Secondary-Youngstown, 2800 Shady Run Road.

Community schools that earn overall F grades three years in a row, if they meet specific criteria, must close, according to state officials.

Horizon Science Academy is part of the Concept Schools chain located in seven Midwest states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. The chain has 19 schools in Ohio.

Kapki said the school has been having teacher-based meetings weekly for the last several years, analyzing data and working to find ways to better serve its students.

“We are doing tutoring in math and reading at least twice a week,” Kapki said. “We are constantly telling our students they can achieve whatever their goals are with hard work and support. I believe they know we care about them and their futures.”

For Southside Academy Principal Stephanie Groscost, the school’s overall C grade is a definite improvement over 2018’s overall D grade.

The kindergarten-through-eighth grade school earned Bs in progress and gap closing.

Southside Academy is one of 20 schools in the Educational Empowerment Management group.

“There has been a cultural shift in the last four years,” Groscost said. “We’ve been allowed to have more independence, so we put a lot of focus on basic reading, concentrating on phonics in the early grades, as well as comprehension and interpretation.”

“We want more engaged readers, because that will help them in all other subjects,” Groscost said. “We are giving our students achievable goals. Our parents are more involved than in prior years.”

Over the next school year, the school will focus on improving attendance and proficiency scores, Groscost said.

Youngstown Community School’s director Rachel Smith said the school’s leadership clearly is not satisfied with the overall D score it earned on this year’s report card. But the school has experienced a significant jump in the gap closing category, from a D to a B, she said. The school’s progress grade improved from an F last year to a D on the most recent report card.

The gap closing component reports how students in certain subgroups perform on state tests and their schools’ graduation rates compared to the collective performance of all students in the state. The subgroups include racial / ethnic groups, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged pupils.

Progress component looks at the growth all students are making based on their past performance. All tests are used to measure growth in grades 4 to 8. At the high school level, only English language arts and math tests are used.

“We are working to close the education gap in our subgroups and focusing how to improve learning among each of them,” Smith said. “By focusing on subgroup improvements, it will help with our overall grades, including test scores, progress and our K-3 readers.”

Youngstown Community School has existed since 1998. It is an independent school. It just added the seventh and eighth grades in the last two years. It had 340 students last year.

Like other schools, Smith emphasized its administrators and teachers are meeting regularly to study available data to learn their strengths and weaknesses, and to develop strategies for improvement.

“We are not looking for short term improvements that will not last in the long term,” she said. “We are focusing on strategies that help our teachers and students not only today but but also in future years.”

Youngstown Community School Principal Gregory Dobrowolski said that all data from the school report cards and other testing are presented to all teacher during their weekly meetings.

“We are holding our teachers accountable,” Dobrowolski said.

Smith said the trends have been that students are entering the school less school-ready than in previous years.

“We have a program in which kindergarten students are able to come into the school three weeks before the school year,” Smith said. “We are exposing them to school and our curriculum. We want to meet the kids where they are educationally. Some are entering school a year behind of where they should be.

“We sometimes are trying to play catch up in getting them to grade level,” she said.

Both Summit Academy-Youngstown and Summit Academy Secondary-Youngstown received overall grades of F and received Fs in every applicable standard measured by the state report cards.

Eric Marthaler, superintendent for Summit Academy Management, which operates 24 schools throughout Ohio, said that student progress is not often clearly translated through report card grades.

“We look at the state report card data as a snapshot in time for us to prepare our students for the tests for the next school year, and we look at ongoing assessments to educate children at their own academic level,” Marthaler said. “Test scores are not a full reflection of what our students are capable of.”

Summit Academy Community School in Warren received an overall grade of D, with a C in progress and Fs in every other category. Both Summit Academy-Youngstown and Summit Academy Secondary-Youngstown received overall grades of F and received Fs in every applicable standard measured by the state report cards.



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