EATON —Preble County School Districts recently received the 2019 Ohio School Report Cards, but Preble County superintendents don’t believe the report cards are an accurate representation of the work schools are doing.
Instead, they want residents to focus on the work they are doing together to improve mental health education in the districts and the quality of students graduating from Preble County schools each year.
Preble County schools’ overall rankings were reported by the ODE as:
Eaton: District Grade – B; Achievement – C; Progress – B; Gap Closing – A; Graduation Rate – B; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – C; Prepared for Success – F.
National Trail: District Grade – C; Achievement – D; Progress – D; Gap Closing – C; Graduation Rate – A; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – C; Prepared for Success – F.
Preble Shawnee: District Grade – C; Achievement – D; Progress – B; Gap Closing – B; Graduation Rate – A; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – B; Prepared for Success – F.
Tri-County North: District Grade – C; Achievement – D; Progress – A; Gap Closing – B; Graduation Rate – B; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – D; Prepared for Success – D.
Twin Valley Community: District Grade — D; Achievement – D; Progress – D; Gap Closing – D; Graduation Rate – A; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – C; Prepared for Success – D.
All five Preble County superintendents recently addressed their overall district grades.
“Obviously, we are all striving to make sure we receive the best possible ratings we can. When we initially looked at it, there were some areas we were disappointed in, some areas we were not surprised in — just because what we know and what we have observed as we have talked about the report card,” National Trail Superintendent Bob Fischer said.
“When it comes to our report card, it is one of those things where we are looking at the student data and what we can do to improve our classroom instruction and improve our overall results for our kids. That is what the bottom line comes down to when we receive our report card information.”
Twin Valley Community Superintendent Scott Cottingim said, “We are disappointed. We have worked for a number of years at making sure our curriculum is aligned with the standards. When I say we are disappointed, just because we ended up with a ‘D.’ With that being said, there are a number of components that we were real close to meeting indicators. We made a lot of progress from last year to this year.
“Still, we are not happy with our letter grade and don’t necessarily believe it is an accurate representation of the Twin Valley experience. When you look at graduation rate and having kids career and college ready, I think we are doing a good job of that at Twin Valley. We will look at the data, make sure everything is in line, and that we are doing all we can do to have Twin Valley viewed on the State Report Card in a better way.”
Preble Shawnee Superintendent Matt Bishop noted, “Overall, we were pleased with the progress we made. Some of our achievement scores were not where we want to be. We are making progress with each of the components — we either stayed the same or we increased. Last year, I would say the same as this year, the report card is not an overall measure of everything that happens in the district, but it is a barometer of how we are making progress.
“We are not where we want to be, but we are moving in that direction, which is important for us.”
“We look at this as a snapshot — it is just one measure,” Tri-County North Superintendent Bill Derringer said. “We are so much more than what just gets measured on the State Report Card. We really think, in Preble County as a whole, we are kicking out really good kids — a lot of kids are going on and being successful. We like to focus on that.
“With that being said, this year we did improve. We are happy that we improved and we are very close in several other areas. When you are at a small school, like we are, every student makes a huge impact. If you have a class of 60 or 70 kids, each kid counts as more than one percent. We are looking at the data and trying to make improvements, like everyone else is. I’m very happy with what our teachers and doing and I think we are moving in the right direction.”
“I think the ‘A’ through ‘F’ letter grade system is ridiculous,” Eaton Superintendent Jeff Parker said. “I think it’s an oversimplification of a complicated process. I think it minimizes what our teachers are doing every day by saying, ‘Here’s a letter grade.’ People on the outside might not understand that, but that is because, if you take a look at the data and everything that goes into it, that is why I say it is an oversimplification.
“With that said, I’m obviously pleased with some of the improvements we made. I think it is wrong to focus on the letter grade being the improvement or not being the improvement. I’m very proud of the work that is continuing at Eaton. It was before I was there as Superintendent and it is continuing. What we will do, what is valuable, is looking at the data and identifying what we are doing that is working and what looks like, based on the data, what we are doing that we need to get better at.”
The superintendents continue to point out ways in which the School Report Card fails to portray the work being done in the districts.
“Lets keep this in mind, too, the test data that is collected is on one day. [The School Report Card] is based on one day of a child’s life when they come in, sit down, and take a paper/pencil test,” Fischer said. “We have all focused on gifted learning, which is about differentiating what you are doing in the classroom for different levels of children. We are being asked to give paper/pencil test to all students when there are other means to find out what students truly know.
“The Report Card is not talking about the things we are doing in our classrooms as far as the efforts we’ve put into mental health, the things we’ve done with our success liaison, the things we are truly improving to try to build upon communities. The Report Card doesn’t address any of that — that is the disadvantage of having a letter grade on one specific day on one type of test, that maybe some students struggle with taking that test.”
Fischer added, all five superintendents are working together to implement programs countywide which positively influence students.
“We focus on mental health, because that is a huge component in making sure our kids’ mental health is taken care of,” Derringer said. “Before you can educate a child, you have to make sure you are meeting their basic needs.”
“Another new initiative is the edition of Harold Niehaus’ position — the career exploration, career development component. Getting more work opportunities into our students’ hands,” Fischer added.
Instead of focusing on the letter grade, the Preble County superintendents will look at the data received from the School Report Card to improve going forward.
“We’re going to do the best we can do every day. Give us the data and the feedback and we will look at that and where we get better. We are going to do that as adults, because we got into education caring about what’s best for kids. We’re going to take that information and see what we’re doing well and what we need to get better at. The data will show us that and day in and day out we will look at it,” Parker said.
In conclusion, Parker noted, “Let me be clear — we understand and want accountability. It’s just, assigning a letter grade, I believe, minimizes what we do.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH