The first in a series of changes to the annual report cards that grade Ohio public school districts rolled out Thursday morning, with apparently few surprises.
A number of Portage County school superintendents reported having trouble accessing the results on the Ohio Department of Education website starting at 11 a.m. Thursday. Some had preliminary data matching the data posted by the ODE.
The ODE uses the results of 24 state tests to show just how well students are achieving and learning. Seventy-five percent of students passing earns a district an indicator. That will jump to 80 percent in 2013-14.
In a change this year, schools receive grades ranging from A to F on nine performance measures, including graduation rates and student proficiency.
The letter grades are replacing the status system of ratings, which previously included excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.
A new component called “Gap Closing” has replaced Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. Waterloo Superintendent Matthew Montgomery described Gap Closing as a measure of whether students received a year’s worth of education in school.
“Performance Indicators” and “Performance Index” are a measurement of the “Achievement” component of the report cards. According to the ODE, Performance Indicators “show how many students have a minimum, or ‘proficient,’ level of knowledge.”
The Performance Index “measures the achievement of every student, not just whether or not they reach ‘proficient,’” according to the ODE.
Schools also were graded on Progress, or how well they educate gifted, disabled and the lowest-scoring 20 percent of students, and Graduation Rates over four- and five-year periods.
“Education on this system and how it’s being rolled out over the next several years is confusing,” Montgomery said.
Full reports are available at the ODE website, http://education.ohio.gov.
In a county where half of the superintendents are new, several leaders who have only been in their districts a few weeks found themselves struggling to explain what happened before their tenures.
The Kent City School District met 21 out of 24 performance standards, earning a B grade. Kent schools also received a B in the Performance Index, As Bs and a C in Progress: Value-Added categories, Cs in four- and five-year graduation rates, but an F in Gap Closing: Annual Measurable Objectives.
Superintendent Joseph Giancola said the district is proud of its overall grades and the growth students have shown. Director of Assessment Linda Paulus said the F in AMO is somewhat misleading because of an above-average number of foreign students, who take courses at Kent State University along with English language learning classes at the high school.
Because those students often start class later than usual in a semester and leave sooner because of their schedules and curriculums, the AMO, which measures growth in specific demographic groups, is negatively affected.
The district has also instituted the state’s new common core standards that not all schools have adopted yet. That change in standards also impacts the measurement of student growth, Paulus said, because the same measurements are applied to two different curriculums.
Meanwhile, the district’s average graduation rates would be higher, Giancola noted, if state and federal statutes didn’t conflict with each other.
Federal law requires schools to educate developmentally disabled students through their 22nd birthdays; however, the state counts those students against graduation rates because they didn’t graduate in four or five years.
Despite one F grade, Ravenna Superintendent Dennis Honkala focused on the positives, saying the results represented a dramatic turnaround from previous years.
Ravenna received an F in the Gap Closing component. Previously, that component was marked as “met” or “unmet.” Honkala said the result wasn’t that surprising, saying that the district has been changing programs for students with special needs, and just implemented “full inclusion” last school year.
But Honkala was most proud of his district’s Value Added” scores, which included 3 A’s and four areas with “double digit” improvement — three in math and one in reading. The only C grade in Value Added scores was a marker measuring progress of gifted students.
“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “I’m extra proud of our teachers and pleased with the progress they’ve made, and students and parents as well.”
The district earned C grades in graduation rates for 4-year and 5-year students, and in performance index components.
He said the district has been trying to improve its scores for years and will continue to work on the other factors.
Aurora City Schools, rated “excellent with distinction” in the 2011-12 school year, received A’s in seven categories in the new format. Superintendent Russ Bennett said district officials are “very pleased.”
Aurora received A’s in performance indicators, performance index, overall value added, gifted students value-added, disabled students value-added, four-year graduation rate and five-year graduation rate.
The district received a B in the Gap Closing component, and a C in the “lowest 20 value-added” category under Progress. Bennett was not concerned about that grade, noting it signifies the district is meeting the standard.
“To get an A, we’d have to perform two levels above the standard,” he said. “With our gifted students already performing in the high 90th percentile, it’s very difficult to do that. Although some people might look at a C as being a low grade, we’ve still met the target.”
Crestwood’s new superintendent, David Toth, said the district is “pretty excited” about its Achivement scores. The district earned a B in performance index and an A in indicators met.
The district earned C and D grades in its Value Added progress scores, with the D grade measuring progress of gifted students.
It earned an F in Gap Closing and B grades for both 4- and 5-year graduation rates.
“We need to improve in that area,” he said of the Gap Closing scores.
He said he was not upset about the graduation rates, but noted that “you’d always like to see it 100 percent.”
“You want to have every student graduating so you’re shaking their hand and they’re starting off to a bright future,” he said.
Field Local Schools met 23 of 24 performance standards, earning an A. The district received a B in the Performance Index, mostly Cs in Progress: Value Added and a B in Gap Closing: Annual Measurable Objectives. The district earned A’s in both graduation rates.
Superintendent David Helfinger did not immediately return a request for comment.
JAMES A. GARFIELD
As report cards go, the one for James A. Garfield was not too bad. The lowest grades were C’s, and there were several B’s and even a couple of A’s.
But like a straight-A student who gets a B, the district’s new superintendent, Ted Lysiak, couldn’t help feeling disappointed.
“When you’re a district that has been rated Excellent with Distinction for several years, when you see a B, that’s bothersome to me,” he said. “We will still be shooting for the A’s.”
Garfield’s A grades were in the Performance Indicators components and the Value-Added scores for overall values. The other Value-Added scores included a B for gifted students and C grades for disabled students and the lowest 20.
The district earned a C in Gap Closing and B grades in both graduation rates.
“The bar has been raised,” he said. “Today I think across the board, it’s been quantified as how far the bar has been raised.”
He said he appreciated that the report cards spelled out clearly what areas the district needs to improve.
The Mogadore Local School District met 22 of 24 performance standards, earning an A. The district received a B in the Performance Index, mostly Cs in Progress: Value-Added and a B in Gap Closing: Annual Measurable Objectives. The district earned a B for four-year graduation rates an A for five-year graduation rates.
“We are very, very pleased,” Superintendent Christina Dinklocker said. “We’ve been making progress for a number of years, and we’re very proud of the teachers and staff and the work of the children and support of the parents. We feel the community really embraces our children, and that’s a good story.”
Regardless of the high scores, Dinklocker said the district still has goals to further improve overal reading and math proficiency at all grade levels along with growth with gifted and students with developmental disabilities.
“I feel very optimistic we will continue that trend upward,” she said. “We see continued success.”
The Rootstown School District received an A in Performance Indicators, a B in Performance Index, three C’s and a B under Progress, a B in Gap Closing and two B’s under Graduation Rates.
Southeast schools received a C in Performance Indicators, with 17 of 24 met. Performance Index also was a C. Under Progress, there was a B, two C’s and an F. Gap Closing also rated an F, but Graduation Rates were both B’s. A message seeking comment was left for interim superintendent Thomas Inchak.
The Streetsboro School District received an B in Performance Indicators and a B in Performance Index. Superintendent Michael Daulbaugh could not be reached for comment.
Waterloo met 20 of 24 possible standards for a Performance Indicators grade of B and a Performance Index grade of B. It also received two C’s, a D and a Not Rated under the Progress component, a D in the Gap Closing component and two B’s for Graduation Rates, measuring the district’s graduation rates over four- and five-year periods.
Montgomery said he plans to hold meetings to help explain to parents and district residents the ratings and what they mean. He said a D grade in the Gap Closing component shows the district still “struggles with two groups” of students among specific groups divided by race or demographics: Special education students and economically disadvantaged students.
“I think this is showing us that this is still an area of concern,” he said, “and we are still looking very closely at how we can meet the needs of those students.”
Additional graded measures will be added to the report cards in coming years: Seven measures including K-3 literacy improvement scores in August 2014; first overall district letter grades in August 2015; and high school year-by-year improvement scores based on performance rankings in lower grades in August 2016, according to the ODE.
Six components will be considered in a district’s overall letter grade: Graduation rate, achievement, gap closing, progress value added, K-3 literacy and late high school indicators.
Windham Exempted Village met 10 of 24 performance standards, earning an F grade. The district also received a C in Performance Index, Fs in most Progress: Value-Added categories and an F in Gap Closing: Annual Measurable Objectives.
The district’s graduation rates received a D for four-year graduations and B for five-year graduations.
“Overall, we’re disappointed,” said Superintendent Gregg Isler. “That goes without saying.”
Isler said he discussed the scores during the district’s opening day meeting.
“We’re not making any excuses,” he said. “We have to get better.”
Isler did note one reason the scores are low is because of the district’s smaller student population. He said one student’s performance has a stronger impact on overall percentages.
“That causes more variation in small districts like ours,” he said.
“Progress for us is not a straight line,” Isler said . “Ultimately, some of our expectations of what we expect for our students has to go up. We’ve got some work to do.”
Record-Courier staff writers Jeremy Nobile, Dave O’Brien, Diane Smith and Aurora Advocate editor Ken Lahmers contributed to this story.