LAKE AREA – The Ohio Department of Education released some of its 2014 state school report card data last Thursday.
The release was limited to graduation rates, kindergarten through third grade literacy, and preparation for college and careers for the 2014-2015 class. Local results varied widely.
According to the ODE, the K-3 literacy score answers the question—are more students learning to read in kindergarten through third grade? It shows the percentage of how many K-3 students improved their grades to meet state standards over the previous year. It does not show the percentage of K-3 students who are literate.
The graduation rate score answers the question—what percentage of ninth graders graduate within four or five years?
In Licking County, Lakewood Local Schools received 42.3 percent K-3 literacy for a D, and 87 percent of ninth graders graduated in four years, for a C, however; 90.8 percent graduated in five years, for a B.
“The latest release of the 2014-2015 Report Card indicates improvements needed in the district,” said Lakewood Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews. “Even though this report is released in January, with little time since the year is half over to make improvements, we already knew that we needed to make improvements with K-3 literacy.” She said the district changed staffing, moved a teacher to the position of district literacy coach, and implemented new progress monitoring tools.
“We don’t focus on a grade,” Andrews said. “We are focusing on improving core instruction and providing for essential professional development for staff.” She said the state would continue to implement new assessments and adjust baseline scores as adjustments are made at the Ohio Department of Education. “We won’t rely on the summative data from the department to make immediate adjustments as we ensure all our students are on track to graduate, are reading at grade level and meeting grade level benchmarks,” Andrews said. “It’s discouraging that data is released so late and we continue to make corrections to data that will be released next month.”
Andrews said the graduation rate on the district report card includes the students enrolled in the Lakewood Digital Academy, the Lakewood Local School District sponsors. She said Lakewood High School had received an “A” (94.8 percent) in its graduation measure. Data from the digital academy is reflected on the overall rating of the district. “Our goal will be to have both the high school and digital academy reflect a 100 percent graduation measure,” Andrews said.
The news was better for Fairfield County’s Walnut Township Schools, where 71.4 percent of K-3 students meet state requirements for a B, and 91.5 percent of ninth graders graduated in four years, for another B. According to the report, 86.5 percent of ninth graders graduated for a C.
“We are very pleased with our scores,” said Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner. “As most schools, we were concerned about what our outcomes would be. It is a testament to the hard work put in by our students and teachers. We will now continue to obtain the ‘A’ grade on the next go-around.”
Also in Fairfield County, Liberty Union-Thurston schools had a 46.8 percent K-3 literacy improvement for a D, but its four-year graduation rate is 90.1 percent for a B, and its five-year graduation rate is 97.3 percent for an A.
Superintendent Todd Osborne said no school district wants a D in any category, but particularly in the K-3 literacy category, looks can be deceiving. “Liberty Union-Thurston’s goal is to have every student reading on grade level,” he said. “The literacy score does not take into account the individual growth of the students that started the school year below grade level in reading. We have several students that have made significant progress from their original testing date, but they are on grade level reading at this point. We are confident that each student will continue to grow and they will be on grade level.”
Osborne said teachers and staff members are working on their own system to measure student growth, which would clearly show that students who need help are making progress and developing skills quickly.
“We will work with our teachers and review our measuring points and determine if we need to design a new way to measure our growth,” Osborne said. He said the district would not wait for the state to redesign its own progress chart and begin working on a better method to determine a student’s academic growth per year. The district’s system would have defined checkpoints to help illustrate academic growth. “We are accelerating kids,” Osborne said. “We’re dedicated to it.”
In Perry County, Northern Local Schools were not rated on the K-3 literacy category, but logged a 90.9 percent four-year graduation rate or a B, and a 91.8 percent five-year graduation rate, also for a B. “That’s pretty good for not knowing what the tests were going to be,” said Northern Local Superintendent Tom Perkins. He said Northern Local K-3 students scored very strongly on spring literacy tests and did not have the opportunity to show progress on follow-up tests, which accounts for the NR grade.
As far as graduation rates are concerned, Perkins said he’s frustrated the state will not count deferred students— those who continue special education past the usual graduation age—toward that graduation total. Deferred students may continue to seek special education from the district until they are 22 years old.
“Overall, we’re happy with where the district is at and the results available,” Perkins said.
The state will release more school report card information next month.
In other school district news,
• Andrews said Nick Novotny is an American Legion state Americanism test winner. He received recognition Jan. 21 at the Lakewood High School conference room. “He has been awarded an all expense paid trip to Gettysburg and Washington DC. While on this trip Mr. Novotny will have the opportunity to sit in during a state department briefing and will be one of the group that will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Andrews said.