Charter schools suffer setbacks from pandemic | News, Sports, Jobs

While numbers on recently issued state credentials for Mahoning Valley’s charter schools are encouraging, they have not been immune to similar struggles that have plagued public schools in the region trying to retain pre-pandemic test scores.

However, Youngstown charter schools overall slightly outperform the Youngstown City School District in progress and achievement when averaging the eight Youngstown charter schools’ scores on the Ohio Report Card. When it comes to early literacy and closing gaps, they are on an equal footing.

However, the municipal schools have nearly 5,000 students, while the charters have more than 2,000.

There is also a significant gap in attendance with charter students with 84.85 percent attendance compared to 79.4 percent YCSD attendance.

The YCSD’s top-rated category, gap closing, received three stars, a bright spot for the district, Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Batchelor said recently.

“These actions show that our children are growing and we are doing our work to close the gap,” he said. However, he acknowledged the shortcomings that COVID-19 has inflicted on the district.

Comparing the Warren City School District to charters in Trumbull County, the testimonials show that the four charters overall outperformed Warren schools in attendance and in filling gaps. Warren has nearly 5,000 students while the Trumbull charters total about 500.

Warren’s Superintendent Steve Chiaro recently argued that the formula used to generate the rankings does not give an accurate representation of the district. Chiaro, for example, said the district’s third-grade data shows a sustained upward trend in early literacy except during the onset of the pandemic. “The report does not accurately measure the fact that our students have consistently improved in this area since 2017,” he said.


Report cards released this month by the Ohio Department of Education reflect schools’ test scores from the previous school year and other metrics. No overall grades or ratings were given for districts or buildings. But this year’s report card features a new ranking system of one to five graded components:

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One star means this school requires significant help to meet government standards.

Two stars mean the school does not meet government standards for academic performance. Three stars mean the schools meet government standards.

Four stars mean schools show clear evidence of exceeding government expectations.

Five stars mean that a school significantly exceeds government standards for academic achievement.

Here’s a look at Mahoning Valley Charter School’s performance:

Mahoning County

Youngstown Academy of Excellence: The pandemic forced students at the Youngstown Academy of Excellence out of the classroom in March. They continued their education online for the rest of the year – similar to most schools across the country. This caused what Superintendent Jon Natko described as a ripple effect, with students returning ill-prepared for the following year’s tests.

“If you think about it, these students spent three quarters of the year online, and the next year you’re preparing for the tests, so the kids have been everywhere in terms of their educational development,” Natko said.

YAE students had three options once COVID-19 measures allowed class sessions to resume: they could use a hybrid method, a mix of in-class and out-of-class learning; or stay online for those who didn’t feel comfortable; or return to class full-time.

Natko attributes the school’s slight gains in test scores to these options being offered to students. The results rose from 47 percent to 49.8 percent in the last certificate.

The test results show that YAE performs similar to national expectations. There was also a small increase in students who are competent and a 4 percent increase in final year students who are rated both successful and advanced.

Next year, Natko expects the performance index to increase by 5 percent.

Stambaugh Charter Academy: The academy saw one of the biggest dips in its overall test scores since the pandemic. In 2019, overall test scores were 84 percent and have since fallen more than 30 percent. This year’s total score is 51 percent – down nearly 3 percent from 2021’s numbers.

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There was a minimal increase in students improving on the Ohio State Tests of Proficient, Accomplished, and Advanced Students.

In a statement, a spokesman for Stambaugh said: “While we have seen growth in English language arts over the past year, math skills have declined slightly. Our students have experienced similar challenges to their peers in other districts during the pandemic, so we remain focused on addressing learning losses due to COVID-19 and improving students’ overall competency.”

Horizon Science Academy of Youngstown: In a statement, the school said it is in the midst of a post-COVID recovery. But HSAY still hasn’t crossed the 71.4 percent threshold of its pre-COVID-19 test scores. However, the school improved by 7.5 percent from its 2021 numbers, which are now at 60.2 percent.

HSAY scored five stars for progression and closing gaps, while only scoring two stars for achievement and early literacy.

School principal Ferhat Kapki said in a statement: “Although we have areas for improvement in the achievement and early literacy components, this is an encouraging sign as all schools seek to recover from COVID-era learning losses. The administration believes that the high ranking is due to the dedication and hard work of the school staff, our families and the students. We have a strong focus and commitment to learning here. We will continue to strive for success in all four areas to improve student achievement and prepare them all for the future.”

The newspaper solicited responses from the other Mahoning County charters last week, but they did not respond.


STEAM Academy of Warren: Following its July 2021 acquisition, Principal Wendy Thomas has overseen STEAM as she managed to rise above pre-pandemic test scores, scoring 62.9 percent overall, while still only having two stars for her performance achieved. The results also showed an increase in students tested as competent, adept, and advanced.

Several grade levels in English language arts and math have shown significant progress compared to expected growth in Ohio State tests.

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Thomas’s students have faced the same COVID-19 slumps as students at other schools, causing a 15 percent drop over the past year. To remedy the effects of those left behind, the school used small groups.

“It’s about focusing on each student and figuring out what they need help with and teaching them their specific needs,” she said. The teachers focused on four to six students in small groups, depending on their level

In January, Thomas said she realized the educators at the school needed to do something when the results of the Ohio Department of Education’s Restart Readiness Assessment Test showed her that students weren’t where they were supposed to be, particularly in relation to on the art of the English language.

“When we saw that, we knew we had something to teach before the March re-examination,” Thomas said. She said when the students took the same assessment again, the numbers were comparable to those on the report card results.

Thomas said that STEAM has a new curriculum for the start of the school year and she has already seen an improvement in the literacy component. Her focus this year will be seeing K-2 students see improvement. Last year, she said, her focus was on literacy, or students in grades 3-8.

Summit Academy Community School: Scores for SACS gave them a 42.2 percent overall test score. The school saw a 0.6 percent increase in student enrollment on attained performance indicators. The school saw a 4.3 percent drop in proficient students and a 1 percent drop in advanced students.

In terms of the school’s progress, SACS received three stars – showing that it meets the state standard at several grade levels.

The newspaper sought answers from the other Trumbull County charters last week, which did not respond.

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