2016: Yellow Springs year in review — Schools see growth, recognition
- Published: January 5, 2017
Federal testing waiver denied
Yellow Springs was one of about 15 districts statewide, including both public and STEM schools, that applied for and were granted a state waiver from most mandated testing in 2015. Ohio’s department of education then applied on the schools’ behalf to the federal government for a federal waiver, which would have allowed schools to cut back on the number of state and federal tests they administered. District leaders believe testing is at odds with the district’s project-based learning approach, or PBL.
But in February, the federal government denied this waiver, meaning that the district will have to take most required tests, including end-of-semester exams and a test required to graduate. Yellow Springs, however, remains a state waiver district, which means that it can apply for state testing waivers or waivers from related policies, such as the tying of teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests.
YSHS among top Ohio schools
In May, the US News and World Report named YSHS the best high school in the Miami Valley, the 13th best high school in Ohio, and the 391st best high school in the country, as part of its annual school rankings. The ranking puts Yellow Springs High School in the top two percent in the country, according to the report.
Top of their class
Gabriel Day was named valedictorian for the YSHS class of 2016, with Henry Potts-Rubin named salutatorian.
PBL still key
Project-based learning, or PBL, continued to be the focus of the district’s educational approach. District staff members were asked to speak at a number of PBL-oriented conferences throughout the year, and Yellow Springs schools also hosted teachers from throughout Ohio, who observed district classrooms and participated in training exercises taught by district staff.
Seventh-grade students completed a three-day, 65-mile biking, camping and canoeing trip in the beginning of September, riding from Yellow Springs to Loveland. According to teachers and administrators, the trip was an exemplary PBL project, combining math, biology, literature and physical education before, during and after the trip.
Growth and a new position
The district experienced enrollment growth in all of its schools, bringing the total number of students to a level not seen since the early 1980s. At the start of the 2016 school year, McKinney Middle School and YSHS had a combined total of 389 students, versus 342 at the end of the last school year. Twenty more seniors are expected to graduate in 2017 than 2016.
The district also created a new administrative position, director of advancement and community relations, which was filled by former village resident and YSHS graduate Dawn Boyer.
Discussing new buildings
In the fall, the district began exploring the options to renovate the current school buildings or build new ones. The district will be interviewing interested architectural firms. The selected firm will then present a feasibility study of the building options to the community for discussion in spring 2017.
Security measures in the schools
In December, the school board agreed to go forward with plans to add a buzzer and camera to the front doors of Mills Lawn Elementary and YSHS/McKinney, a decision prompted by a trespassing incident in Mills Lawn in early December. The decision followed discussion with Mills Lawn teachers and staff. The doors to all district schools will be locked in both the front and the back, with visitors needing to get approval before entering.