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Grading academic progress

There was a little bit of déj vu when the results of the 2009-2010 state report cards were released Friday morning by the Ohio Department of Education.

Only one school in Lawrence County received an excellent rating, just as was the case last year. However, last year’s winner, South Point schools, dropped down to effective, while the Fairland district recovered its designation of excellent, which it had received for the 2007-2008 school year.

There are six rankings a district can receive depending on its overall performance: excellent with distinction, excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.

Both Rock Hill and Green in Scioto County ranked continuous improvement.

This time the number of indicators were cut down from 30 to 26. That came about when the Ohio House suspended the assessments in writing at grades 4 and 7 and social studies at grades 5 and 8 for this report card and the one coming up next year.

The two biggest percentage changes came from Fairland and Rock Hill schools, both districts beating their previous performances. Fairland got 96 percent of the 26 indicators over last year’s performance of 80 percent of indicators while Rock Hill shot up 22 percentage points going from 33 percent to 54 percent of indicators met.

Green schools also outperformed last year’s indicator performance getting 13 out of the 26. However, Ironton schools dropped 15 percentage points meeting 15 of 26 instead of 22 of 30.

These performances are based on meeting or exceeding the state-set goal of 75 percent for all subjects tested in all grades except the 11th grade Ohio Graduation Test where 85 percent must be met.

Districts must also meet a graduation rate of at least 90 percent of their students and attendance must be no less than 93 percent in order to meet that indicator.

Here is a closer look at the seven public school districts in Lawrence County and neighboring Green schools in Scioto County.

FAIRLAND

After taking a drop last year to an “effective” rating, the Fairland school district moved back up to its “excellent” status, with the only exception being Fairland Middle School, which stayed at “effective.”

As a district, the Fairland schools met 25 out of 26 state indicators, an improvement from the 24 out of 30 indicators met in the 2008-2009 school year.

The performance index earned 99 out of 120 possible points. The district was determined not to have met the AYP goals, putting the district in the “at risk” category. In line with last year, the district received a “below” rating on the value added measure category.

The state requirements were met across the district in all categories except for eighth grade science, dropping from 71.5 last year to 60.7 this year. This is the lowest category for the state percentages as well.

The attendance rate for the 2009-2010 school year was 94.3 percent, meeting the state requirement of 93 percent. The graduation rate was 93.2 percent, surpassing the year’s state average of 83 percent.

Superintendent Jerry McConnell was very pleased with the report and especially the ranking of an excellent district.

“I think we did really well,” McConnell said. “We are very proud, obviously, that we earned that credential.”

McConnell said the teachers and administrators work hard at challenging the students, but also have a group of motivated students and parents.

“We have a team effort here,” he said.

McConnell added that the school will continue to take a look at the curriculum, but not just for ways to improve the lowest of the scores. He said, as a school system, they are always looking for ways to do better.

CHESAPEAKE

Chesapeake schools again pulled in an effective rating. Both the elementary and middle schools were ranked excellent, but the high school only was rated effective.

However, the district overall topped last year’s results in the value-added category by receiving a plus symbol indicating that the district has achieved more than a year of expected growth for the past year.

Should Chesapeake get another plus for 2010-2011, that could push the district into the excellent rating category.

For this past school year overall Chesapeake met only 19 state indicators compared to 23 for 2008-2009. Most of that drop is because of the removal of the four achievement tests mandated by the state legislature.

However, the district did drop in eighth grade mathematics from 75.9 percent to 69 percent and the 11th grade Ohio Graduation Test from 89.6 percent to 82.9 percent.

Reading scores for third and fourth grades went up a few percentage points. Third grade reading improved 2.4 percent over last year’s card while fourth grade reading went up 7.4 percent.

The state requirements for all five categories of the 10th grade OGT exceeded the state standards, but only reading, math and writing of the test for 11 graders ranked as high. The science and social studies segments for the test came in below the state requirement.

For the second year in a row the district’s adequate yearly progress was not met, while the graduation rate went up almost a full percentage point.

“It is hard not to get excited that two out of three buildings received an excellent rating,” Dr. Scott Howard, Chesapeake superintendent, said. “The middle school had phenomenal growth rates. They took the kids where they came in and had excellent growth. The 10th grade kids met all five indicators. Now we have to examine our report more closely. The single biggest rating is the value added that says, when you get above average, staff is picking those kids up where they are at and are helping them reach at least a year’s growth.”

SOUTH POINT

Last year South Point was the only school of the seven county districts to earn an excellent rating. This year South Point dropped to effective for the district and all three schools.

However the district did improve dramatically its seventh grade reading scores by 25 percent from 69.3 percent to 86.4.

The district also exceeded the state requirements for four out of the five sections of the 11th grade OGT, barely missing the standard for science.

However scores went down in third and eighth grade math and 10th grade science.

Third grade math went down almost 12 percent with eighth grade scores in that subject taking a 17 percent drop. Science scores for the 10th grade OGT reached a low of 67.9 percent compared with last year’s 77.5 percent.

The district basically met the same percentage of its state indicators, pulling 18 out of the 26 maximum. Its performance index went up about five-tenths of a point and overall the value added measure come in on the plus side, a jump over last time.

“We would like to have a perfect rating,” Ken Cook, South Point superintendent, said. “I think our teachers and kids are working a lot harder … the teachers, students and parents are working together.”

Cook was unable to pinpoint precisely why there was a drop in 10th grade OGT science scores.

“Sometimes it is just the group of students and maybe we need to look at that,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t catch something.”

And he cited results from testing of special education students as the main reason the AYP wasn’t met this year.

“We have some work to do more to bring in those students,” Cook said. “I am disappointed from dropping to effective from excellent. I think we did pretty well when you look around the state. I think we do have some improvement and we are not going to stop.”

SYMMES VALLEY

The Symmes Valley district received an effective rating. It met 22 of 26 indicators and scored 98.4 of 120 on the performance index. The value-added measure was met, but the AYP was not met.

“We were close but we didn’t reach it,” said Jeffery Saunders, Symmes Valley superintendent about the school’s AYP. Saunders said he was pleased by the overall scores in the district, but said there is always room for improvement.

The multi-level school met 10 of 14 indicators.

At the third and fourth grade levels, improvements were made in both reading and math.

Third graders made an eight-point gain in reading to 86.3 percent and a 6.5-point gain in math to 80.4 percent.

Fourth graders made a five-point gain in reading to 89.1 percent and an almost nine-point gain in math to 87.5 percent.

Fifth graders decreased in both reading and math. They showed a more than 15 percent decrease in math. Both scores are below the state standard of 75 percent, with the reading score at 71.9 percent and the math score at 52.6 percent.

Sixth graders also decreased in math and reading, by a little more than a percent in each category. Reading scores were 93.7 percent and math scores were 95.2 percent.

Seventh graders made a dramatic increase in reading scores. They increased from 78.6 percent to 90.5 percent. Their math also increased almost five points to 92.1 percent.

Eighth grade achievement in math, reading and science declined. All scores were above the state standard for the 2008-2009 year, and all but the reading dropped below. The math scores dropped from 89.7 percent to 72.7 percent.

Saunders said that there are already plans in place to raise the elementary math scores.

“All students levels three through eight will have a math class and a math lab taught by the same teacher,” he said. “It should really make a difference.”

Saunders said that the math lab would be more practical applications of math using real life stations.

The high school was listed as excellent and met all of its indicators and its AYP.

Saunders said that they were looking for a perfect score last year.

“We got that this year,” he said.

Tenth graders taking the OGT made slight improvements in reading and math but had decreases in writing, science and social studies. Their writing scores made the largest decline by over 7 points to 86.7 percent. All areas still met the state standards.

All junior OGT scores rose. The state standard for juniors is 85 percent. The largest gain was in science. They rose from below the standard at 83.5 percent to 91 percent.

“We’re very proud of our students and our staff,” said Saunders. “We’re excited overall about the report card. There is always room for improvement.”

GREEN

The Green Local School District received a continuous improvement rating. This was a drop from last year’s effective rating. Their performance index dropped 2.5 points from last year to 87.6 points out of 120. The AYP was not met and was labeled “at risk” again.

Superintendent Ronald Lindsey is optimistic that positive changes are on the way.

“We have a lot of things in place that are working, but we don’t have everything implemented yet,” he said. He also said that the teachers are working hard and that interventions are in place across all grade levels.

At the elementary level, third and fifth graders had an increase in math scores, but still fell short of the state standard of 75 percent. Third grade math increased to 72.7 percent from 66 percent. Fifth grade math increased to 60 percent from 54.5 percent.

The elementary school is only meeting the state standard in fourth grade math with 78.7 percent and fifth grade science with 78.3 percent. Fourth grade math still declined by more than three points this year.

Lindsey said that the elementary school has just acquired a new reading series to help with reading skills.

At the middle school level, the greatest gain was in sixth grade reading with a 10.2 increase to 94.1 percent. All other areas were below the state standard except eighth grade reading, which decreased a little over a point and held at 75 percent.

Middle school math took a hit, with all grades decreasing in scores. Sixth graders saw a decline to 64.7 from 69.6. Seventh graders saw a larger decline of 22 points to 37 percent. Even more dramatically, eighth graders declined 42.1 points to 22.2 percent.

“We have a computer program we put in,” said Lindsey. He said the program is going to use targeted material to improve math skills.

Eighth grade science also declined 35.3 points to 36.1 percent.

The sophomore OGT scores increased in reading, math and writing and all met the state standard. Science and social studies declined and did not meet the state standard.

Junior OGT scores declined in all areas except social studies. Reading and science fell below the state standard of 85 percent with reading at 83.7 percent and science at 81.4 percent.

Math, writing and social studies all showed 86 percent.

“Our goal in this district is to get all the schools at the excellent level or above,” said Lindsey.

He also said that the district signed on for Race for the Top funds. Ohio was awarded $400 million for education reform of the federal government’s $4.35 billion program.

ROCK HILL

The Rock Hill Local School District is again listed in the “continuous improvement” category, though the scores from the elementary and high school levels individually received ratings of effective.

As a whole, the district met 14 out of 26 of the state indicators for 2009-2010, compared to 16 out of 30 for 2008-2009. The performance index is listed as 89.1 out of 120 points. The district was judged as not having met the AYP standards.

Overall, fourth-grade reading improved slightly, and fifth-grade math took a 6 percentage-point jump from last year. Seventh-grade reading improved by 3 percentage points. The 10th grade Ohio Graduation Test percentages decreased in each category, while the 11th grade OGT percentages stayed the same or improved in every category this year.

All other categories stayed the same or decreased.

Third and fourth grade results were at or above the state averages, and all above the state requirements.

All fifth through eighth-grade categories were below the state requirements.

The area missing the mark on 10th and 11th grade Ohio Graduation Tests is the science category. The other categories for the OGT met the state requirements.

The attendance rate met the state requirements, as did the graduation rate, percent. This is above the state average of 83 percent.

Kathy Bowling, a teacher for the Rock Hill schools, has been involved in assessing what needs to be changed in the district, and implementing those changes.

While this year has been a transition year, with Wes Hairston being appointed the superintendent in August of 2009, Bowling, along with the rest of the team, has hopes for improvements during the coming year.

“This year I think, in the transition, we spent a lot of time looking at how we are doing things and the changes we can make,” Bowling said. “We held steady. I think the biggest improvement will come next year. Our middle school is where the biggest changes have been made.”

Hairston said the change to block scheduling for the middle school this year is in response to inconsistent test scores.

“Facilitating change can be a difficult process,” Hairston said. “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see fairly rapid improvement. I strongly believe in the changes that they came up with.”

Eric Floyd, federal programs coordinator for the Rock Hill Local School District, has also been working with Hairston and Bowling in developing improvements and he said the teachers have worked really hard to implement these changes.

Bowling said changes could already be seen this past summer. The schools offer two two-week instructional periods where students can get extra help during the summer in areas they want to improve in. There was exponential growth in the number of students participating this summer.

“I’m amazed at the level of support we received from the community,” Floyd said.

DAWSON-BRYANT

Dawson-Bryant Local School again earned a rating of effective for the 2009-2010 school year. The district met the state’s goals for 16 of 26 indicators, compared to 21 of 30 met last year.

The district had a performance index of 94.8 out of 120, down .2 from last year.

With 94 percent, it also exceeded the state’s required attendance rate of 93 percent. The district had a 96 percent graduation rate, which exceeded the state’s required 90 percent rate, though the district’s rate was down by 1.4 percent from last year.

The district’s value-added measure was below expected growth and the adequate yearly progress was not met.

With 92.9 percent this year, the district raised its fifth grade math achievement indictor about 30 percent from last year’s 61.4 percent.

Superintendent Dennis DeCamp attributed the improvement to a double blocking of the student’s math instructional time and the implementation of the Ohio Improvement Process.

“(Elementary principal Angie Dillow) said ‘we’ve got to bump that score,’ so there was twice as much math last year as what it was the previous year,” DeCamp said.

The district’s lost points on its sixth grade math indicator, going from 81.5 percent last year to 65.6 percent this year.

DeCamp credited the decline to a transitional period with the implementation of the Ohio Improvement Process and new leadership.

“They are working diligently and we hope to see an improvement in those scores for next year in sixth grade math,” he said.

The elementary school met the requirement for indicators in all areas, while the middle school only met the requirement for eighth-grade reading. The high school met the requirements for six out of 10 indicators.

DeCamp said overall he is pleased with the results of the elementary school and hopes to maintain those scores and hopes to improve the high school and middle school scores.

IRONTON

Ironton City Schools were rated effective again this year. The district met 15 out of 26 indicators, compared to 22 of 30 last year.

Ironton Elementary School met three of the seven indicator requirements. The school’s third grade math achievement indicator was down about 8 points to 80.2 percent from 88.1 percent last year. The fourth grade math indicator was down from 91.9 percent last year to 74.5 percent. The fifth grade science indicator was down 16 points from last year to 70.1 percent.

The middle school only met two — reading and math in the sixth grade. The high school met achievement in all but one indicator goal, tenth grade science. Last year the high school met requirements for all but one indicator as well.

The district’s performance index stayed nearly steady from last year, moving down only .3 points from 93.7 to 93.4.

The district’s graduation rate was down about 9 points from last year, going from 91.8 to 82.9 percent; the state requirement is 90 percent.

The district did not meet its adequate yearly progress and was rated below expected growth for the value added measure.

“Even though we were rated effective, Ironton is not satisfied with the 15 indicators which we received last year,” Superintendent Dean Nance said. “Our goal is to be excellent and we will get there.

“In six areas we had over 70 percent of our students proficient, but fell short of the 75 percent mark to get our point.  I feel changes that have been made over the summer will increase areas missed.  I anxiously await to reap the rewards of the hard work that our dedicated staff is doing.”