PREBLE COUNTY — Officials at the five Preble County school districts continue to review their 2016-2017 state report card data. Results from the report card show Eaton Community Schools and National Trail Local School District as the highest ranked districts, however, some superintendents have questioned whether the report card is a useful tool or whether the data it reflects is flawed in nature.
For the State Report Card, each Ohio school district is rated on six components.
•Achievement: this component represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed on them.
•Progress: this component looks closely at the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.
•Gap Closing: this component shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable populations of students in English language arts, math, and graduation.
•Graduation Rate: this component looks at the percent of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four or five years.
•K-3 Literacy: this component looks at how successful the school is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond.
•Prepared for Success: this component looks at how well prepared Ohio’s students are for all future opportunities.
While overall district grades will not be available until 2018, Eaton Community Schools was one of only two Preble County school districts who did not get an “F” on any component. According to Superintendent Barbara Curry, the district has made significant gains in some areas.
“We were recently notified that the district’s Value-Added data ranked among the top 20 in the state. This achievement indicates that our staff was able to significantly exceed the state’s expectations for students’ learning growth with greater success as compared to other schools in Ohio. It is evident that our teachers are committed to the success and advancement of each student,” she said.
The district received a “C” in “Achievement,” “A” in “Progress,” “C” is “Gap Closing,” “B” in “Graduation Rate,” “C” in “K-3 Literacy,” and a “D” in “Prepared for Success.”
“The report card continues to be a tool that we use to identify the educational strengths of our district, as well as opportunities for growth. Comparing this report card to the previous one, the district improved in three areas, while maintaining our status in the remaining three categories,” Curry added.
“Our dedicated staff continues their commitment to implementing a Comprehensive Continuous Improvement Plan for the district, with the focus on increasing student achievement and academic rigor. Together we are persistently working to prepare each student to be college and career ready.”
The other Preble County school district which did not receive an “F” on any component was National Trail Local School District, however, Superintendent Jeff Parker was one of two county superintendents who questioned the usefulness of the State Report Card.
“There is more to education than test scores. As educators, we are not going to define ourselves by test scores. We’re going to look at those things and look at the data that is provided, but I’m not going to let it define us,” he said.
“We know we have a lot to do so we can improve, but there is also a lot that we do that is already great. As educators, we need to dig into the data and figure out why we scored why we did. For example, last year on our Gap Closing, our students with disability and our students who are economically disadvantaged were added onto that. We got an ‘F.’
“A big thing our district leadership team focused on for this year was what the data was telling us and what was going on with those student groups. We did and we improved up to a ‘C,’ but we need to continue moving along those lines.
“It’s unfair to put letter grades on this stuff, because the public sees those grades and begins to think we aren’t doing our jobs. This over simplifies a complicated system.”
The district received a “D” in “Achievement”, an “A” in “Progress,” a “C” in “Gap Closing,” an “A” in “Graduation Rate,” a “C” in “K-3 Literacy,” and a “D” in “Prepared for Success.”
The other superintendent who had strong words for the State Report Card was Twin Valley Community School Superintendent Bob Fischer.
TVS received a “D” in Achievement, a “D” in “Progress,” an “F” in “Gap Closing,” an “A” in “Graduation Rate,” a “C” in “K-3 Literacy,” and a “D” in “Prepared for Success.”
“I think it is important that as we move into election time and where we are right now that we have a fairly good understanding of what this report card means. I had an individual, as I’ve watched people’s election in my own community of Germantown, we have people saying that the school is not doing its job, because of where the report card is at. I have issues with that,” he said.
“I’m going to stick to what I’ve said on numerous occasions: there is more and more research that indicates testing is not the kind of means to bring about the sort of school achievement and improvement our legislators seem to be looking for. I believe that as an educator we need to focus on what is best for all kids.
“We have a lot of disadvantages of what our kids deal with and we need to focus on helping those things improve. If those improve, the testing issue will as well.”
He added, the State Superintendent informed the schools back in August the State Report Cards were never meant to rate schools, but instead to give them information on how they can improve.
“If that is the case, then why are we given grades? Because that doesn’t seem to be the message that is getting across,” he noted. “If you look at the top 30 districts who received As, if you look at what their average income is just in those districts, the income of those families is $54,000.
“The bottom 30 that were listed based off the performance index, the average income was $25,000. The top 30 districts in the State of Ohio, their poverty rate is eight percent. The lower schools have a poverty rate of 87 percent. Twin Valley South falls between 47 and 50 percent poverty. Guess where our test scores are? In between.”
“I think it is ridiculous that we are having to be graded by this report card,” Fischer added. “That people are looking at this and thinking that the school is not doing its job. We are doing a lot of great things here at Twin Valley South and we are seeing a lot of improvement. Are there things we should continue to work on? Absolutely.
“The teachers are doing things to make learning better for our kids, but until the State Superintendent or the legislator decides that testing is not the way we should be going, we are going to continue to face this battle. I look at [the report card] and I see a bunch of letters that mean very little to me.”
“Would we like to improve? Would we like to be As? Yes, but we have obstacles, because of what we deal with in our community,” he said.
Likewise, instead of letting the Report Card grades define them, Preble Shawnee Local School Superintendent Matt Bishop is choosing to focus on the improvement that shows in the grades they received this year.
The district received a “D” in “Achievement,” a “D” in “Progress,” an “F” in “Gap Closing,” a “B” in “Graduation Rate,” a “C” in “K-3 Literacy,” and a “D” in “Prepared for Success.” Overall, according to Bishop, the school went from an A, two Ds, and three Fs to a B, a C, three Ds, and one F.
“Specifically looking at the results of our State Testing, there were areas where significant gains were realized. We were close to getting six areas met — coming up one percent short in Grade 4 Math and five percent short in Grade 4 Social Studies,” Bishop said.
“These results show what we are doing is working. We may need to tweak a few things here and there, but our process is working and we are improving. It is easy to get caught up in the county comparisons. Are we satisfied to be at or near the bottom in so many areas? Absolutely not.
“There is not a magic bullet that will somehow spring us to the top,” Bishop continued. “What we do have is a baseline from which to build. This is a process and as long as we implement our plan with fidelity, we will continue to see gains.
“If we can borrow the frequently used political poll title “Right Track/Wrong Track,” I believe this data, along with our MAP data, Special Education Rating, and our ACT Composite, shows we are on the Right Track.”
The last of the five Preble County districts, Tri-County North Local Schools, is choosing to focus on the report card as only one indicator of the district’s performance. However, according to Curriculum Director Beth Manor, they are pleased to have seen improvements in select areas.
This district received a “D” in “Achievement,” an “A” in “Progress,” an “F” in “Gap Closing,” a “B” in “Graduation Rate,” a “C” in “K-3 Literacy,” and a “D” in “Prepared for Success.”
“Here at TCN, we are choosing to focus on the areas of growth, and celebrate those gains. As our students and teachers have demonstrated, last year there was a strong focus to improve our teaching, learning, and testing operations,” Manor said.
“As evidenced by the ‘A’ in the ‘Progress‘ category on our 2016-17 school year report card, this effort was rewarded. We are very proud of our students and teachers for this accomplishment. By continuing to make a strong focus on our teaching and learning conditions, we plan to continue to see improvements on the overall achievement side of the report card.
This year, we were pleased that ODE Superintendent DeMaria provided all schools with the opportunity to add a self-created district profile that provides our community with additional information about our district. This profile along with our report card will provide a more well rounded picture of the educational opportunities that our district provides to our students and families.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH