Report cards discussed


By Eddie Mowen Jr. - emowen@civitasmedia.com



PREBLE COUNTY — School districts across Ohio – and Preble County — were given report cards by the Ohio Department of Education last month for their overall performance during the 2014-15 academic year.

Districts and schools were graded on 10 measures of effectiveness. The department previously released grades on three of the 10 measures in January.

“Ohio parents need to know how well our schools are preparing their students to succeed in college and their careers,” Dr. Lonny J. Rivera, interim state superintendent of public instruction said in a press release on Feb. 25. “Ohio’s annual report cards show how our schools are doing and where they can improve.”

Eaton Community Schools met 27 of the 32 standards, for a “B” standards met grade, and a 92.01 performance index score and grade of “C.”

National Trail Local Schools met 23 of 33 possible standards, for a “D” standards met grade, and received a 91.22 performance index score and grade of “C.”

Preble Shawnee Local Schools met 24 of the 32 standards, for a “C” standards met grade, and received a 90.54 performance index score and grade of “C.”

Tri-County North Local Schools met 24 of 33 possible standards, for a “C” standards met grade, and a received an 89.66 performance index score and grade of “C.”

Twin Valley Community Local Schools met 28 of 32 standards for a “B” grade for standards met. The district received a 94.75 performance index score, and a performance index grade of “C.”

The most recent report card looks at student progress during the 2014-2015 school year, student achievement on state tests and whether schools are reducing achievement and graduation gaps affecting populations such as minority, English language learning and economically disadvantaged students.

Some districts may see lower report card grades on some measures this year because Ohio has raised expectations for what its students must learn in the classroom, introducing rigorous learning standards and new state tests to match those standards.

“We’ve long expected that grades might decline as we began to raise the bar for our students and schools,” Rivera said. “We believe both teachers and students will take steps to adjust to the new standards and tests.”

According to ODE officials, nearly 99 percent of Ohio students took state tests last year. Even with the vast majority of student participation, the department of education will show district Performance Index grades with and without students who participated in state tests.

Last summer, Ohio lawmakers passed a provision calling for a “safe harbor” to give students and schools time to adjust to the new standards and tests.

During this safe harbor, districts will not include student progress as part of teacher evaluations unless districts and teachers agree to use the data. Schools also will not use student test scores to hold students back, except for meeting high school graduation requirements and scores on the state’s third grade reading test.

State results for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee will be released in the coming months.

Eaton Superintendent Dr. Barbara Curry said the district was aware several changes in the state’s testing program could impact results in language arts and mathematics.

“We are disappointed by the depth of that impact,” she said in an email. “We are very appreciative of the state’s responsiveness to issues with the PARCC testing platform and moving to a new system for this year that aligns to the social studies and science tests of last year. One of the greatest changes to the testing program was the computer-based delivery method. In addition, the level and depth of questions became more rigorous and the time lost to testing was immense.”

Curry continued, “Using what we now know about the testing and rigor, we have worked this year to address some of those changes. For example, we have created technology opportunities in grades K-5 that are designed to grow student knowledge of the computer, the keyboard, and most importantly composing written responses online. We have continued to work on performance skills which increase the students abilities to take newly learned concepts and make connections to applications in the ‘real’ world. Our teaching staff has worked diligently to deepen their understanding of the testing blueprints released through the testing platform. Continued efforts are being made to assure that our pacing with the standards aligns to what the students need to know to demonstrate growth and understanding of the tested content while keeping them engaged in creativity and critical thinking skills across all curricular areas.”

“We believe that the State Report Card can be a tool that can be used to analyze the educational strengths of our district as well as assisting in identifying areas in need of improvement,” Curry said. “The report card may be more of an accurate representation of the district performance when the report card reaches the point that the measurements of growth are consistent from year to year, the tools and testing platform remain the same, and all the incomplete components are fully implemented.

“Our staff at all levels is deeply committed to bringing the best learning experience to our students. They immediately began analysis of the data the minute the report card arrived and continue to look for the strategies and methods we will need to increase student success,” Curry added.

National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker said the past testing year felt like a “guinea pig” year.

“While we always will take a measured look at data results, we have to be careful this time around due to the substantial changes in 2015 testing and the testing system,” Parker said via email. “Although we knew the standardized tests were going to be more rigorous prior to their administration, it felt like a ‘guinea pig’ year. Our students, staff and administration will continue to work hard on all aspects of educating all children, which includes a lot more than standardized test scores.

“We have taken a look at how our data compares to the ‘similar districts’ as identified by ODE and after this ‘guinea pig’ year we see some reason for encouragement,” Parker noted. “We see some areas for improvement, and like just about every school system, we have already reached out to some colleagues who ‘scored’ a little better to see how they approached instruction and testing in 2014-15.”

“The letter grade approach is a simplistic attempt at a complicated system,” Parker said. “Because of people’s experiences with letter grades in school, they are going to think these letter grades are somehow figured using averages and that is not the case”

He explained: “The data and information that determines a letter grade in each category is a mile deep and a mile wide. Quite frankly the letter grade system is more confusing and less transparent than the previous system, but like any good student, we’ll strive to keep our A’s and improve our ‘grades’ in the areas where we didn’t get A’s!”

Dr. Clint Moore, superintendent at Twin Valley Community Local Schools, said despite the DRC being a “document in flux,” district officials continue to be pleased with TVCLSD’s students’ performance.

“Our teachers and administrators have been faced with the daunting task of adjusting their teaching strategies to new state curricular goals, as well as a completely overhauled system of testing,” Moore said via email. “Our District Report Card has definite areas for improvement, but we are pleased that we have some very positive results, as well. We are especially proud of our improvements in ‘Closing The Gap’ with our economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities — but feel we can do more for our gifted and talented students.

“One of the new areas being evaluated on the new report card is the data comparing student academic performance with dollars spent per student, and our results are very positive,” Moore said. “The Twin Valley community needs to understand that we are continuing to provide a quality educational program for a comparatively affordable cost.”

Responses to requests for comments were not received from officials at Preble Shawnee Local Schools and Tri-County North Local Schools.

Miami Valley Career Technical Center, where many Preble County juniors and seniors attend classes, received an “A” rating on the Ohio Career Technical Report Card.

The ODE released the Career-Technical Planning District (CTPD) Report Card on Thursday, Feb. 25, as well. The data from the report card is for students from the graduating class of 2014. MVCTC reported the following measures:

• 82 percent – MVCTC students Technical Skill Attainment. This is the proportion of students passing technical assessments.

• 96.7 percent – Four-year graduation rate

• 92.7 percent of CTPD students were employed, in an apprenticeship, joined the military, or were enrolled in postsecondary education/advanced training in the six months after leaving high school

Also included in the CTPD Report Card are non-graded measurers of Prepared for Success – Dual Enrollment while in high school, federal accountability results from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and financial data for each CTPD. MVCTC reported:

• 99.5 percent of students completing Dual Enrollment classes

• 99.2 percent Academic Attainment Reading

• 98.9 percent Academic Attainment Math

MVCTC ranked #1 in driving dollars into the classroom and other instructional costs and also ranked the best in controlling non-instructional costs.

MVCTC Superintendent, Dr. Nick Weldy, noted, “I am very pleased with the results of our State Report Card. I believe it is a direct reflection of the hard work from the students, staff, and administration. It is another way we can demonstrate to our stakeholders the level of success we achieve at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center every day.”

The ODE website, http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov has additional information on all Report Cards.

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

emowen@civitasmedia.com

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.

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