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New grading system challenging school districts

LAKE AREA – It used to be students sweating report cards every six to nine weeks.

Now school districts themselves are on the hot seat. District report cards were released last Friday. This is the second year for the State of Ohio’s school evaluation system to issue letter grades to school districts.

Most lake area school districts got better marks than last year, but there is plenty of room for improvement. The previous system of rating districts as excellent, effective etc. has been replaced with letter grades for four performance indicators. A single overall letter grade won’t be reported until 2016 as school districts and the Ohio Department of Education iron out the new system.

Ohio school districts are now graded on achievement test performance indicators; performance index, or individual student achievement; value added, or individual student progress over previous years; progress for various groups of students; and graduation rate.

The new grading system is tougher and some districts that once enjoyed excellent ratings now must contend with Cs, Ds, and even Fs. The achievement test standards also got tougher. Now 80 percent of a district’s students must pass the state’s subject matter achievement tests for the district to get credit. Previously, the threshold was 75 percent.

Lakewood Director of Pupil Services Patti Pickering said the district improved in six of nine areas over last year. “I’m really excited,” she said.

In achievement, Lakewood scored an 81.2 percent on its performance index for a B, and 70.8 percent on 17 of 24 indicators for a C.

The Performance Index measures the test results of every student, not just those who score proficient or higher. There are six levels on the index and districts receive points for every student in each of these levels. The higher the achievement level, the more the points awarded in the district’s index. This rewards schools and districts for improving performance.

Indicators Met measures the percent of students who have passed state tests. Test results are reported for each student in a grade and subject. At least 80 percent of students must pass to get credit for the indicator.

Right now, districts receive four progress- related letter grades: one for students overall and one each for gifted students, students who are considered lowperforming because they score among the bottom 20 percent of their peers, and students with disabilities.

Lakewood received an A for overall, which measures the progress for all students in math and reading, grades 4-8; a B for gifted, which measures the progress for students identified as gifted in reading, math, and/or superior cognitive ability; an A for lowest 20 percent, which measures the progress for students identified as the lowest 20 percent statewide in reading and math achievement; and an A for students with disabilities.

“This is where the teachers can have the most effect. The state wants to see that you’re making improvements.” Pickering said. She said the district would work on improving students’ reading and math scores.

Lakewood scored 60.4 percent on annual measurable objectives for a D. This grade shows how well all students are doing in a district in reading, math, and graduation. It answers the question – Is every student succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, or disability? The graduation rate grade represents the percentage of students whom entered the 9th grade and graduated 4 and 5 years later. For four years, Lakewood scored 89 percent for a B, and 87.1 percent in those graduating after five years for a C.

“We made positive gains in several areas but didn’t progress in others,” said Liberty Union- Thurston Superintendent Todd Osborn. “We are proud of our achievements but we understand the work needed to achieve at higher levels and that is our ultimate goal. Liberty Union will always strive to be an excellent school district and will work to meet those expectations daily.”

Osborn, who became superintendent August 1, said across the entire report card his district’s testing scores are above the state averages. “Our graduation rate ranks very high, is above state average, and above similar districts. This is a testament to the entire body of work from their start in Liberty Union Schools as a student in kindergarten through their high school years,” he said.

Like other districts, Osborn said Liberty Union’s math scores need improvement. “A commitment was made to change our elementary curriculum in math this year and the instructional integration is going smoothly,” he said. “Teachers are going through training and the Straight A Grants awarded to the Fairfield County ESC is supplementing the cost for the training and the programs associated with the ST Math Program.”

In achievement, Liberty Union scored an 81.2 percent on its performance index for a B, and 70.8 percent indicators met for a C.

In progress, Liberty Union receivedaCforoverall;aBfor gifted; an A for lowest 20 percent; andaBforstudentswith disabilities.

In gap closing, or annual measurable objectives, Liberty Union received 77.5 percent for a C.

For graduation, Liberty Union received an A for four years at 97.3 percent and another A for five years at 97.5 percent.

“Overall I’m pretty pleased with how we’re holding on,” said Northern Local Interim Superintendent Angie Gusler. She said the district needs to work on im- proving its fifth grate math scores, and the district just added a math specialist who will help coach Northern Local’s teachers. “We still have some bumps,” Gusler said. She said subgroups are being targeted for improvement and the district generally does well with reading.

“This is a mush year” for the state report cards, Gusler said. She said with the major changes in state standards, districts need to be patient, work with the changes as best they can, and use the current system to determine which areas need improvement.

“Report cards are one way to measure (achievement),” Gusler said. “Our staff always has high expectations regardless of what the state requires.”

In achievement, Northern Local scored an 83.4 percent on its performance index for a B, and 87.5 percent on indicators met for a B.

For progress, Northern Local scoredaCoverall,andD’sfor gifted, lowest 20 percent, and students with disabilities.

In gap closing, or annual measurable objectives, Northern Local received 67.7 percent for a D.

For graduation, Northern Local receivedaBforfouryearsat 90.1percentandaCforfiveyears at 88.2 percent.

Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner said he was pleased with the district’s achievement scores, but others need work. “We’re struggling in our middle grades with math,” he said, and the district is looking at alternatives for its math curriculum. Cotner said on the upside, the high school met all indicators on the OGT test and the elementary school earned an A in gap closing, but there remain other areas the district must address, such as value-added.

Cotner said the graduation rate indicator is particularly brutal for Walnut Township because its grade-level classes are so small.If just four students don’t graduate it destroys the district graduation results. Overall, though, he said math curriculum is the major concern.

In achievement, Walnut Township scored an 82.3 percent on its performance index for a B, and 79.2 percent on indicators met for a C.

For progress, Walnut Township scored D’s for overall, lowest 20 percent, and students with disabilities, and a “no report” for gifted.

In gap closing, or annual measurable objectives, Walnut Township received 64.3 percent for a D.

For graduation, Walnut Township receivedaCforfouryearsat 86.5percentandaDforfiveyears at 82.4 percent.

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