Youngstown City School District

"Where KickUp has been really helpful is highlighting small but mighty shifts in practice — the smaller results that are the direct evidence of success in the short term."

Youngstown City School District

Greg Kibler, Deputy Chief of Data

Executive Summary

Struggling with academic outcomes in an economically-disadvantaged region, Youngstown City School District needed to shift instructional practice with a focus on equity. With KickUp, YCSD built a data framework that invested teachers in their own feedback and coordinated real-time interventions to what students needed most. The results? A strategic alignment that’s closing the achievement gap across demographics.

About Youngstown City School District

Serving “Rust Belt’s Silicon Valley” of Youngstown, OH, Youngstown City School District (YCSD) operates 13 preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools across the city and surrounding Mahoning County. Nearly all (99.4%) of YCSD’s 5300 students are economically disadvantaged, while 18.7% are students with disabilities, and 4.8% are English Language Learners.

The Challenge

Since 2010, Youngstown City School District has been in Academic Emergency based on failure to meet state minimum targets for academic performance. But while the district struggled with academic outcomes, 96% of its teachers were rated as “Skilled” or “Accomplished” on the most recent Ohio Teacher Evaluation System cycle — among the highest in the state. In light of the discrepancy, YCSD began pushing for more frequent and actionable evaluations with the goal of uncovering hidden issues, shifting instructional practice, and creating a culture of efficiency-driven excellence.

The Solution

With the input of parents, community members, School Board leaders, and district officials, YCSD adopted a Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework: a set of instructional practices designed to improve equitable outcomes across their school network. With Kickup, YCSD sought to:

Non-evaluative walkthroughs are a critical part of GRR’s core philosophy. YCSD believes that a learning cycle in which teachers are given quality feedback on their teaching on a frequent basis will shape instruction, inform ongoing supports, and improve student learning. Beginning in September of 2017 and continuing throughout the 2018-19 school year, GRR training and calibration occurred for staff and administration.

Partnering with KickUp allowed YCSD to align real-time interventions precisely in accordance with what would most benefit teachers. For example, after noticing differences between observer scores, YCSD led a workshop using recorded classroom observations to help observer teams synchronize their reports with the rubric. YCSD then spent the following month focused on improving the “bite-sized action step” feedback shared with each educator to ensure it was actionable. Instructional coaches reserved time with building principals to review walkthrough data and align instructor supports. As a result, the district now has more reliable data and established a culture of team buy-in across district leadership.

“Our data review process evolved from directive to collaborative, or from punitive to supportive,” says Kibler. “By bringing educator cohorts together to go over their own data, we truly feel that the new process was integral to helping our teachers self-solve common problems and drive student learning.”

“It’s been a dramatic and amazing shift. We’re moving from ‘getting things done’ to ‘making things effective.”

Greg Kibler

Deputy Chief of Data

And bigger and better things are still to come. At the GRR pilot’s conclusion in summer 2019, the district is now folding in PBIS and literacy evaluation structures into their existing KickUp framework. These new structures are designed to illuminate trends in outcome data, such as discipline incidents by time of day, and suggest causes and next steps. Evaluators have also relaxed the schedule of their walkthroughs to make space for less frequent but more thorough feedback. “It’s been a dramatic and amazing shift,” says Kibler. “We’re moving from ‘getting things done’ to ‘making things effective.”


In the Classroom

A Focus on Equity


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