Thursday’s release from the Ohio Department of Education of the 2018 state report card showed Lorain County districts with marks that range from an overall grade of A in Avon — the only district to earn the high score — to F in Lorain —the only district to get such a low mark.
The overall grade is the newest piece of the state’s grading puzzle.
This is the first year of the composite grade, which uses the results in six components: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, Graduation Rate and Prepared for Success. Each component is weighted differently, with Achievement and Progress making up 20 percent each of the total overall grade. The other four components are weighted at 15 percent each of the overall grade.
Arguments for and against the grading scale have waged on for years, but on the state level it appears the system is in no danger of going away.
“The overall grades provide a quick snapshot of district and school performance,” said Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction. “But they don’t tell the whole story. It’s crucial that we dig into the data to ensure we tend to the needs of each child in Ohio.”
A stakeholder group is working to identify ways to improve the report card system, which could see legislative adjustments by year’s end.
Room to improve
With an overall C grade, there is room to improve in Sheffield-Sheffield Lake. Looking at the individual schools, the district is strongest in its elementary schools — both Forestlawn and Knollwood earned A grades in both their overall grade and achievement, which represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed.
“The true measure for us is that students are showing growth each and every year,” said Superintendent Mike Cook. “They are getting smarter. Also, that our district is aligning to teach the standards that are being addressed on the tests. All kids bring different things to the table and we work with each one to help them improve from where they begin.”
Midview School Superintendent Bruce Willingham reminds people that the report card is a “snapshot in time.” The district also got a C, which Willingham says is adequate progress.
“As a district, Midview is not pleased with just being defined as ‘adequate,’ nor is it believed that it is a true reflection of everything our staff and students do day-in or day-out,” Willingham said. “The district is confident in the initiatives and plans it has in place to show continued growth and performance while supporting the unique needs of each individual it serves.”
Cook said he values any piece of data that can guide improvements in instruction for student.
“While the scores are not where we want them to eventually be, we have shown growth in many areas and we are focusing on that fact,” he said. “When you think of earning indicators, our percentages have increased. However, the state raised the cut score to 80 percent so even though we improved, when they moved the indicator mark, it made it a harder target to reach.”
When looking at student achievement and how indicators are met, Amherst Assistant Superintendent Mike Molnar said there are several areas where Amherst is close to hitting that mark including third-, fourth-, sixth- and eighth-grade language arts, which are all less than 5 percentage points away from the threshold.
“In some instances, we are talking about two, three, four or up to 10 kids that missed the mark, sometimes just by one or two questions,” Molnar said. “But we know that every kid is not going to pass every test every year. We want to ensure kids are growing every year, and that is what the progress grade tells us. As an administrative team, we feel we have made so many strides and we have set the stage for taking students to the next level.”
Elyria making gains
Let’s look at Elyria Schools for an example of how the moving target affects report card grades.
Elyria’s overall grade is a D. That includes a D for the Achievement component, F for Progress, D for Gap Closing, C for Graduation Rate, D for Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers and F and Prepared for Success.
The scores are a far cry from where the district was four years ago.
In 2014, the district began showing huge gains.
That year, 72.8 percent of third-graders scored proficient or higher on the math standardized tests. This year, just 51.3 percent hit the proficient threshold. That’s just one example.
During those years, Elyria, like the rest of the state, grappled with numerous iterations of tests and changing curriculum. Districts had no choice but to retool.
Ann Schloss, the district’s associate superintendent, said with a threshold of 80 percent proficient, Elyria is working to climb the achievement ladder, but there is progress in the data.
“The high school showed extreme growth,” she said. “They went up on almost every single testing component. We met the indicator for retakes on end-of-course exams. American government and American history came close at 74.6 percent and 74 percent, respectively. Last year, we scored in the 50s and 60s in those areas. Biology went from 47 percent to 66 percent.”
While the graduation rate and literacy score did not move on the A-F scale, the district is improving toward the state’s benchmark for both.
Schloss said several new and continuing programs in the district aim to increase the scores in the coming years.
The enVision2.0 math program is now districtwide, a new tutoring program is in placed for high school students who have to retake end-of-course exams and an Ohio Striving Readers Literacy grant is providing programming for fourth- through ninth-graders, she said.
True value-added education
In a small district of fewer than 1,000 students, Columbia knows that every student counts toward success, so to see the gains from 2017 when the district met just eight academic indicators to now with 14 academic indicators met, the feeling is excitement, said Superintendent Graig Bansek.
“We are very excited for the progress we have made compared to last year and just as excited for the progress we will hopefully make next year,” he said. “Obviously, we are going to do better and we are going to give teachers and students every avenue to do better. We have placed intervention programs across the district from kindergarten to high school. We have a new rubric to get into honors and AP classes. We are working really hard to give out kids an A-plus quality education.”
Oberlin Superintendent David Hall shares that sentiment.
“We would like our parents to know that the report card is only one measure,” he said. “The district utilizes many measures to illustrate student social and academic growth for the whole child. Our teachers, administrators, and support staff will analyze all of our assessment data points to determine what additional supports are needed for our students and teachers. We have great students and staff in the district.”
And while value-added is a term used to determine how much progress a student is making, districts measure the value they add to education in ways that aren’t necessarily reflected in report cards.
“Our students get a lot of one-on-one experiences with their teachers,” Bansek said. “It is very difficult to do that always with a larger district. Our kids are all involved with some wonderful things that are not recognized in a report card, community service in their district, churches, and communities — the stuff that makes us a true Raider nation.”
“Also, the report card doesn’t measure how great our robotics team is,” Cook said. “How our choir and band perform. There are so many components that make up a school.”
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