The Ida B. Wells Community Academy
1180 Slosson Street
Akron, Ohio 44320-2370
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
COUNTY: Summit IRN: 133553
Part I: Annual Report for 2002-2003
September 30, 2003
Ms. Angela M. Anderson, MBA
Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer
Dr. Edward W. Crosby, PhD
Founder and Program Management Consultant
The Ida B. Wells Community Academy (hereinafter “the Academy”) was chartered by the Ohio Department of Eduation on May 4, 1999, and opened on August 30, 1999 as an independent, nonsectarian and public Community School in Akron, Ohio. It was incorporated as the Ida B. Wells Community Academy, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, on December 29, 1998, and was granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status on May 19, 2000. The Academy’s Learning Center for 1999-2000 was located in the Salvation Army Post at 1104 Johnston Street. Its Administrative Offices were at 395 East Tallmadge Avenue. The Army, however, only allowed us to enroll 50 students in grades Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd, 10 fewer students than proposed in our chartering contract. On August 11, 2000, the Learning Center and administrative offices moved to 670 Wooster Avenue (now Vernon Odom Blvd), where more spacious accommodations were enjoyed along with the hospitality of Antioch Baptist Church’s congregation. Here the Academy’s enrollment could increase but not to the extent proposed – 120 students over two years. We remained at Antioch until 2002, during which period we taught grades K to 4; however, our contract required the addition of one grade per year and the facilities at Antioch would not allow the addition of a fifth grade. For example, in order to make room for a fourth grade class, the administrative offices were forced in 2001 to move from the Learning Center proper to another building located on the premises. On August 5, 2002, the Academy’s Learning Center and administrative offices moved to Mt. Olive Baptist Church. In this facility the Academy enjoyed enough space to adequately house its complete academic program – grades K to 6.
In our 2001-2002 Annual Report, the Academy announced the partial to complete loss of the valued assistance of the Academy’s founder and Board of Governors chair, Dr. Edward W. Crosby. Dr. Crosby also resigned as the the Academy’s superintendent because of a flair up in a health condition that had plagued him since the Academy’s founding. He did, however, agree to remain on the Board and continue his active involvement in the Academy as a program management consultant, in which position he would maintain close contact with the Academy’s new administrative leadership by telephone, email, FAXes and regular weekly meetings at his home or when possible at the Learning Center. The Board of Governors passed a resolution (Attachment I) authorizing this procedure and the elevation of Ms. Anderson to the position of Interim Chief Administrative Officer until such time as permanent replacement was found. In this way, Dr. Crosby helped to facilitate the new leader’s transition. A more detailed discussion to the abovementioned favorable and unfavorable happenings will be addressed in later sections of this report.
1. The Academy’s Educational Mission
The Academy’s mission is to educate young people in a year-round – 210-day academic year – educational program. Over the duration of its 5-year contract, it will educate children in grades K to 6 using a holistic educational program that is personalized, problem-posing and problem-solving, centered in the humanities, natural sciences, language arts, social studies (citizenship), the performing and graphic arts and African American culture studies. This mission is buttressed where possible with electronic technology and emphasizes the establishment of a Learning Community designed to shift the traditional educational paradigm and thereby enhance its students’ academic competency (proficiency, if you will) and reunite the traditional subject areas and learning activities so that students are better able to understand the relationship of one subject area to another and education to their present and future lives. We invite the reader to study, ” Rossi and Montgomery’s (l994) “Educational Reforms and Students At Risk: A Review of the Current State of the Art” (see their “Conceptual Framework of Youth Development and Educational Performance” on p. 4 below and Attachment II for excerpts from their “Educational Reforms and Students At Risk” and “An Alternative Model of Student Performance”).
The Academy was founded to serve low- and medium income African American, White, Native American, and Latino American students. The latter two groups did not respond to recruitment posters, advertisements, or fliers. In short, the Academy was open to all school-aged youth residing within the Akron public school district and its surrounding metropolitan areas. The Academy, moreover, addresses its curriculum and educational services to the needs of underachieving and under-represented youths. The Academy’s Board decided to enroll students, who lived outside Akron through an "Interdistrict Transfer Program." Currently, the Academy has enrolled students from Barberton (3), Kent (1) and Woodridge (1). The Academy has enrolled and retained students over 5 years as follows:
Since its inception, the Academy has sought to provide an education that is nurturing, intellectually stimulating and that imbues in its students intellectual curiosity, a mutual respect for learning proficiency, academic competence and the attainment of knowledge of their history, culture, traditions and values. The Academy continues its drive to accomplish these aims and to establish a Learning Community and environment that is supported by a curriculum reliant in part on the learners' life experiences at home, in their neighborhood, in their city, and in the society at large. The Academy’s programming structure has undergone some alterations designed to produce measurable performance outcomes in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and the natural sciences. These alterations will be discussed later.
To meet the Academy’s learning objectives, we introduced during 2002-2003 a curricular program with commensurate activities that were based on individual student interests, needs and abilities and that would allow students to grow intellectually and at their own pace. This program allowed faculty to sharpen their methods for attaining higher achievement expectations for themselves and their students. Students are assessed at the beginning of the school year to determine where they are academically, particularly in reading and math scores. “Meeting students where they are socially, culturally, physically and academically and then moving them to higher and to more advanced academic levels” is one of the essential curricular and procedural elements imbedded in the Academy’s ODE contract’s Exhibit 1 – Educational Program (pp. 3, 13-16). Of especial importance in this context is the programmatic notion that all children can learn. It is incumbent on the Academy to devise the means and to design the appropriate strategies to “lead that learning out,” i.e., to make it happen.
The Academy's adjusted educational philosophy and curricular structure were effective additions to its program structure and instructional design. This structure incorporates the following:
3. Curricular Focus
The Academy’s curriculum, augmented by Scholastics Literacy Place, Everyday Mathematics (University of Chicago) and the Scots-Foresman Science Program (McGraw-Hill) and a number of other commercial curricular programs was strengthened with the faculty’s innovative injections of their own curricular strategies. The Academy’s emphasis is on high academic expectations and moral and social responsibility. These emphases and increased academic proficiency have helped influence a larger number of parents to continue the enrollment of their children. The Academy continues to strive to maintain its average 15:1 student to teacher ratio which strengthens its efforts to increase its students’ educational performance while at the same time diversifying educational content. In some instances during the past year (and perhaps the next), we have had to make some minor adjustments to
our obligation to keep classes small. On very few occasions, because of over enrollment in a grade level, have we exceeded this ratio by placing in one class 18 to 20 students and assigned an assistant teacher to that class insure all students were given as much individual attention as possible.
The Ida B. Wells Community Academy's curricular focus followed the ODE’s standard competency based school curriculum with one noteworthy exception: The Academy strived to infuse into its curriculum an emphasis on Africa, African America, Native America, Latino America and the world. These elements we considered vital to the correct and diversified education of its enrollees. We have, however, not been able to do this as well as we had intended. The curriculum is also designed to promote two cognitive styles, one analytical, the other relational. Each style requires intensive professional development for the Academy’s teachers, parents, and students so that they work as a team. In this regard, we are still working on perfecting a student development process that satisfies us. Nevertheless, teachers have been successful in producing students who share with them the responsibility for striving toward building a family-like learning environment. They now complete all tasks put to them by their parents, teachers and Academy administrators with less resistence. These assignments include: service activities, tests, demonstrations and performances. There are five grading periods during the academic year. At the end of these periods, students receive report cards.
4. Academic Strengths and Areas of Improvement
One of the most significant academic strengths is the Academy’s decision to maintain an average class size of 15 students per teacher and to extend its academic year to 210 class days. It was our belief, and still is that given the nature of the students we are be enrolling: low and middle income youngsters, who are primarily African American and have previously had bad learning experiences in Akron, Ohio's public elementary schools (see Attachment V: (a) Akron City School District's 2000 Results by Gender and Ethnic Group and (b) Rates of Suspension and Expulsion Tables; see also the Report Cards recently published for each of the Akron City Schools with substantial numbers of African American students: http://www.ode.state.oh.us/reportcard/archives/Default.asp). These facts necessitated these and other policies even though they increased our staffing, transportation expenses, and other costs. Taking into consideration that the United States has become a very complex post-industrial, technological society, the Academy's leadership also effected an educational process that would work toward answering these changes in American society by striving to create a educationally sound response. In spite of unanticipated obstacles, the Academy has met the educational goals addressed in its mission statement, remained true to its contractual obligations, and pursued in good faith the educational objectives itemized in its chartering contract.
We are successfully meeting the challenge of educating a student body comprised of only low and middle income African American young people, many of whom are beset by a constellation of educational obstructions: low expectations; special needs, particularly behavioral needs; a paucity of appropriate role models; a living environment that is not conducive to high educational aspirations, etc. In essence we were dealing with an at risk population even though our contract does not describe it as such. We have highlighted this situation in each of our three previous Annual Reports -- 1999-2000, 2000-2001, 2001-2002. The "Conceptual Framework of Youth Development and Educational Performance" serves to model the Academy's programmatic attempts to develop an educational program designed to engage students in academic pursuits using a realistic educational approach in tune with their living and learning styles. Those enrollees who are not directly impacted by those negatives mentioned above are nevertheless impacted secondarily by having to learn in a milieu where they must contend with those students who are deserving of a quality education but are not yet equipped to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition, by lengthening the academic year by six weeks (30 class days), we sought to not only gain the additional learning time needed to bring our students up to par, but also to use the six-week summer to provide intervention services, i.e., remedial reading and math instruction, as well as other subject matter not adequately learned.
The “Conceptual Framework” was developed in 1994 by Robert Rossi and Alesia Montgomery of American Institutes for Research and reported under the title "Becoming at Risk of Failure." In this lengthy report, they presented in their Chapter 5, section c, "Education Reforms and Students at Risk: A Review of the Current State of the Art," an interactive model of those forces which poor students in general and African American students and their families in particular have to contend with. The opening paragraph of this chapter, makes the following declaration:
. . . A student's personal, home, community, and school characteristics should not be studied in isolation -- all these variables contribute to student performance, and they are strongly interactive. Recognizing these interactive dynamics, we integrate various theoretical perspectives to explain the variety of reasons that some students fail and others succeed.
The complete report is available at Education Reform Studies. The title page, the Executive Summary of this report and a discussion of the Conceptual Framework and how it operates are in Attachment II. Of importance here, is the fact that the Academy has attempted to utilize this framework to guide the development of its overall program and curricular structure. This is not to say we have perfected it. On the contrary, it establishes how concertedly the administrators and faculty have from the very beginning devoted themselves to the struggle to create methodologies that further educational reform for similar young people.
As will be demonstrated below, the Academy has, from the outset, installed and/or hired highly qualified Board members and administrators and has sought and retained a 100 percent certified teaching corps. The current Board members have MAs, MEds, JDs and PhDs. Three have considerable years of teaching experience ranging from 25 to 45 years (their resumes are on our Web site at http://hierographics.orq/Academvlndex.shtml); the teaching faculty also reflect a variety of degree levels ranging from a BS in Education to a Master's degree (rosters of faculty from 1999 to 2002 are found on the Academy's Web site and in its three previous Annual Reports). The Academy anticipated to hiring only teachers willing to introduce innovative teaching methodologies and curricular offerings. To this end we offered teachers a starting salary of $27,500. Those with experience and advanced training were offered $30,000 or more. This starting salary we were informed was above or comparable to the salary offered beginning teachers by the Akron Public Schools. The Academy's overall salary structure in 1999 and beyond was, and still is well above the average salaries offered by community schools in Ohio: The Legislative Office of Educational Oversight reported in April 2000 that the average salary of community schools in Ohio during 1998-1999 was $22,050 with 4.2 average years of service. Teachers in City School Districts with 14.8 average years of service received a salary of $43,162. Confirmation of this report on faculty salaries may be found accessed at http://www.loeo.state.oh.us/. There is one caveat that must be mentioned here. These salaries were based on 12 months. During 2002-2003, the Academy offered first-year teachers a starting salary of $28,500 for 9 months. Teachers hired with more teaching experience and have an MEd or equivalent preparation are offered $30,000 or more for 9 months. Those faculty selected to teach during our 6-week extended summer session (the fifth grading period) received a stipend of $3,437. Faculty hired for the full 210-day academic year, therefore, would earn a salary ranging from $31,937 to $33,437 or more.
In our third and fourth years, the Academy had more success in hiring a corps of not only competent state certified instructors with varying amounts of experience but also those who are committed to the Academy's educational mission. Moreover, during its four years of existence, the Academy has met with academic success; however, that success cannot be displayed with OPT results because for the first two years of operation, we had no students eligible to take the examinations. In our third year, only 11 students took the test and the results were pitifully low as we had expected, not because of the quality of their instruction, but rather, in some instances, because of their previous educational preparation. The Academy recently received from the ODE its Local Report Card for 2002-2003. It does not provide satisfying information on improved student performance. It does, however, indicate a 91.6 percent attendance rate, and a 100 percent teacher certification rate; however, it also states we failed to meet 93 percent state AYP requirement which forced the “academic emergency” rating. We believe better indices of academic success are found in the results on selected commercial standardized tests administered by the Academy's faculty along with other assessment tools. (The Local Report Card for FY 2002-2003 is Attachment VI which is bundled with performance analyses on the Iowa Basic Skills, CAT-5, and Terra Nova Tests.) You notice on the Local Report Card for 2002-2003 that there are several errors: First, the Academy’s full and correct name is “The Ida B. Wells Community Academy.” It bewilders us to find that ODE persists in using an appellation that refers to the Academy as “School.” Second, in 2002-2003, we taught grades K thru 5, not K to 2, if that had been the case we wouldn’t have had students taking the OPTs. Which brings us to the third anomaly: It difficult to understand why our fourth grades have results showing for only the writing test. What happened to the scores for the other four tests? When we called to discover the reason, we were told the error must be attributed to our EMIS coordinator, for EMIS only reports the data our EMIS coordinator has inputed or has failed to input. We couldn’t find the logic behind this answer and gave up trying because the Academy’s EMIS coordinator confirms the correct data had to be inputed; the Neonet computer would not allow her to do otherwise.
In 2002-2003, we continued to assess students using in-class administered tests, portfolios, demonstrations and presentations. While we cannot present all of these portfolios, etc., here, we have submitted results for the Terra Nova test administered twice to our Kindergarten through 5th grade students with some most encouraging outcomes. These outcomes are discussed below. The Academy has over the years from 1999 to 2003 retained 10 of its original students, or 20 percent of the 50 students we originally enrolled. These 10 students represented three grade levels: Kindergarten (4), First Grade (1), and Second Grade (5). These students' performance on the Terra Nova is indicated below.
Student Academic Progress Assessment
(as determined by grade level ranking on the Terra Nova Test for reading,
language, math, science and social studies. Tests were administered in the Fall
and Spring of 2002 and 2003)
N = 10 -- students who have attended the Academy for 4 years.
Entering grade level and grade level at time of testing are within parentheses ( ).
We find it difficult to assess the academic progress for all of our individual students over the full four-year period, for our student body has in some years changed considerably. The performance data spoken to above and documented cannot in our opinion give a true picture of reality. The data do, however, indicate that, although not dramatic, considerable intellectual value has been added. The reasons for the inconsistent cohort of students are: (1) The students' parents have moved not only to other parts of the city and also to other cities within the state. In many instances parents have moved to other states; it is interesting to note that on one occasion a parent and child moved to Georgia, within a year returned to Akron and re-enrolled her child only to de-register the child later and (2) some parents have simply exercised their right to choose and have enrolled their children in other public or private schools.
Curriculum Matches the Academy’s Mission
The Ida B. Wells Community Academy has a curriculum in place that speaks directly to our mission. The mission of our school is to provide students of all abilities and backgrounds with a year-round educational program in grades K-6 with a holistic emphasis. This holistic approach consists of a personalized, problem-posing, and problem-solving instructional emphasis. Our curriculum supports and follows the standards for all grade levels as set forth by the State of Ohio, yet we also place strong emphasis on the humanities, natural sciences, African American history, and, where practical world studies. Today, one hundred percent of the students enrolled at the Ida B. Wells Community Academy are African American. Our goal is to begin to provide them with a clearly defined sense of their own history, and from there, relate it to their place in today's world. We want our students to receive instruction that considers their past, as well as providing them with the tools that will prepare them for their future. To that end, the Academy has made a commitment to securing computers, and internet service in all classrooms, and technological enhancers to provide an adequate exposure to some of the technology students will surely be using in the future. All students at the Academy have the opportunity to use computers daily, whether it is for typing a story they may have written in language arts, or for researching a topic on an Internet web site, or for playing an educational game such as Math Blaster, Mancala (Omweso, Wari -- African counting games), or computerized Africa or USA Map puzzles.
The interests and abilities of our students has varied from year to year, therefore it was vital that our teachers continue to develop and expand upon their teaching methods. We have been very active in terms of professional development. Our teachers are continuously "seeking" new approaches to helping students learn. It is important to have a variety of activities planned within each lesson that touch on the different senses -- sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Many of our students prefer a "hands-on" approach to learning, while others enjoy, and may learn best from written practice. We consider the learning styles of our students when assigning homework, in-class activities, and/or projects. One strategy that we have found to be successful in terms of letting the child select the best type of activity for himself is to loosely set criteria for the manner in which a project is completed -- the student is completely aware of the elements that must be illustrated or defined, but has the freedom to demonstrate his learning in a manner she/he chooses. We have used rubrics in many areas to clearly highlight critical components required to receive the maximum number of points for the particular project, and found this to be highly motivational for the students.
Our instructional delivery system is very broad. We are not simply a book and paper work learning site. The Academy firmly believes in exposing its students to a multitude of learning activities. We believe that every child can achieve and we strive to see that every student does. It is the job of every teacher at the Academy to help the students we teach find the connection and make it relevant to their community, their neighborhood, and most importantly to themselves. There are many ways that we promote achievement for our students, and the Title I - Reading and Math program is one such method successfully making a difference. The students who qualify for Title I services are fortunate to have a teacher with 20 years of teaching experience provide them with daily small group instruction. This service has been a real support and success factor for the students we serve. In addition, we have applied for and received a small amount of money ($2,000) to develop an Ohio Reads Program. The funding ran out before we could make much progress; however, with the assigning of an additional Title I - Math and Reading instructor, we feel we will be able to assure that all of our students will read by the end of the third grade. The Academy is working toward documenting the need to have all of our students rendered eligible for Title I services given their performance for the past two years on the OPTs and other standardized tests. Our Special Education program has been helpful in these same areas. Typically, the students who have IEPs will see the Special Education Specialist for small group instruction, one on one sessions, and inclusive services in the regular education classrooms. Finding a committed Special Education Specialist has dogged the Academy since its inception. That is, we were able to secure "certified" specialists, but they were either short-termers or unwilling to. devote the requisite time and attention to the requirements of the position. Moreover, we have retained the services of the Psychological Services Institute (PSI) and tested students for mental disabilities and hearing, sight and speech impairments. With the passage of HB 364 and the ability to contract with the Portage County Educational Services Center, we believe, have finally solved our problem in part.
The average class sizes at the Academy are on average 15 students per teacher which is generally much smaller than the typical public school teacher to student ratio. This then being the case we are able to do even more one-on-one instruction with our students, without having to pull them out of the Title 1 or Special Education classrooms. We believe that field trips are excellent learning opportunities, and we participate in them regularly. We find that allowing the students to do things for their community (clean-ups, planting flowers, gathering items for local charities) can provide them with a wonderful sense of value and pride. With the recent passing of No Child Left Behind, the Academy's administration sent the "POLICY BRIEF: Charter Schools and the New Federal Accountability Provisions" to direct everyone to pay close attention to its provisions. The Academy realizes the importance of our need to do everything possible to provide our students with an active vs. passive instructional program.
Areas of Improvement
In August of 2002, the Academy hired five new state certified faculty members including an individual who would replace the principal who had served from 1999 to 2002. The hiring of these individuals strengthened the Academy's faculty and administration by replacing those staff persons who had proven to be unproductive; who, we had discovered, had submitted unverifiable academic and certificate credentials; or, as was the case with the former principal, had unfortunately burned out. Halfway through the academic year, the Board of Governors, as was its custom, wrote the faculty and staff suggesting the following teaching and performance objectives:
. . . the Board of Governors . . . deems it essential that we institute methodologies designed to strengthen the Academy's delivery of its stated Operational Imperatives. The first thing we want to institute is having among our teaching cadre a fully state certified, competent, creative and innovative faculty. The Academy is without question secure in this regard and, with the hiring of new faculty for this fifth year, we are convinced of having amplified our ability to deliver quality instruction to our students. Secondly, the Board feels we must establish some rigid educational. quality standards to assure our students, their parents, the community and the Office of Community Schools that the Academy has a rigorous educational program in place.
End of Part I
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Ida B. Wells Community Academy
1180 Slosson Street
Akron, Ohio 44320-2730
Phone: 330.867.1085 FAX: 330.867.1074
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