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.
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.
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:
- Gather data on instructional progress across the GRR framework
- Intervene mid-year to build observer alignment
- Invest teachers in their own feedback
- Protect against variability in the face of leadership turnover
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.”