Schools see drop in report card scores

Published 12:21 am Sunday, October 2, 2016

Educators say state’s report card scores not accurate reflection of districts’ students, teachers


The Ohio Department of Education said its district and school report cards are supposed to give educators and the community a “clear picture of the progress of your district and schools in raising achievement and preparing students for the future.”

Districts in Lawrence County and across the state, however, have said this year’s results do not accurately represent the learning that is taking place in their schools but, instead, are more telling of the ODE’s inconsistencies with standardized tests — three different tests in as many years — and a confusing measuring system.

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According to data from the ODE report cards, almost 60 percent of school districts in the state received a D or F for achievement. Nearly all schools missed the state standard for eighth grade reading.

So what exactly do the report cards measure?

For the 2015-2016 school year, districts and individual schools were graded on six broad components — achievement, which is broken down into a performance index and indicators met; progress; gap closing; graduation rate; K-3 literacy; and a new category, prepared for success.

Achievement — The achievement component of the report card represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall. Indicators met measures whether the percent of students scoring at least proficient meets established thresholds. Performance index shows how well students performed on the tests overall.

Progress — The progress component of the report card looks closely at the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.

Gap Closing — The gap closing 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 — The Graduation Rate component of the report card looks at the percent of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four or five years.

K-3 Literacy — The K-3 Literacy component looks at how successful the school is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond.

Prepared for Success — Whether training in a technical field or preparing for work or college, the Prepared for Success component looks at how well prepared Ohio’s students are for all future opportunities.

The ODE released a 32-page guide on its website that explains each component is detail and how to read a district’s report card. The guide and the report cards can be viewed at

The highest scores in the district were from Chesapeake High, who had an A in the category of graduation, and Chesapeake Elementary, who scored a B in progress.

“Our elementary school performed well,” Chesapeake Superintendent Jerry McConnell said. “They have done so several years in a row, and our middle and high schools continue to improve.”

In the category of achievement, the district received a D for performance index, based on how many students passed the test, and an F on indicators met, which tells how well the students did in testing.

In the category of gap closing, Chesapeake schools received an F.

“Overall, the general tone of the test itself changes every year,” McConnell said. “Every year, we have to make accommodations to it.”

And for graduation, the district received an A for four-year graduation and an A for five years.

McConnell took pride in this ranking.

“Our goal is to graduate students and our grades in both are As,” he said.
McConnell added that the schools have building teams, teacher teams and teams at the district level, working on improving academic performance.

“They meet regularly to discuss curriculum and how we can improve lots of things and make things better,” he said. “Our teachers and administrators are not reluctant to prepare for testing and our students are eager to learn.”

McConnell said it would be an improvement if the state gave them more consistent expectations each year.

In the area of achievement, the Dawson-Bryant Local School District as a whole received a C. The elementary school scored a 78.3 percent for its performance index and a 50 percent for its indicators met.

The school received passing marks in mathematics for all grades that took state tests, while the language arts were lacking for each grade, as well as science at the fifth-grade level.

The middle school received a 70.8 percent for its performance index and a 37.5 percent for indicators met. Areas of seventh grade math and eighth grade math and science were passing, while language arts for sixth, seventh and eighth grade were not. Sixth grade math and social studies also fell short.

At the high school level, the performance index was 61.1 percent, while indicators met was 50 percent. The school passed in areas of testing for the 11th grade OGT except for science, while the other high school tests in algebra I, English I and government.

For progress, the district got a B grade.

In gap closing, the district got a D, with the elementary receiving an F, the middle school an F and the high school an A.

For graduation rate, the high school got a B with a score of 92.6 percent. The state average is 83 percent.

In K-3 literacy, the elementary school scored a C. According to the data, 98.7 percent of third graders met the reading requirements for promotion to the fourth grade, while 62.5 percent of third graders scored proficient on the state reading test.

In the area of prepared for success, the district received a D, with data showing that 36 students earned a remediation free score on all parts of the ACT or SAT, earned an honors diploma, and/or earned an industry-recognized credential.

For superintendent Steve Easterling, the report card system is frustrating.

“There has been a lot of talk about the report cards and the inconsistent methods that were being used to evaluate students at our schools district,” Easterling said. “But the methods need to be more far and consistent and measure what is being taught and learned yearly.”

Easterling noted that over the past three years, the state has changed its method of testing each year, leaving teachers and students with higher expectations of performance for tests they haven’t been able to prepare for.

“Each different test measures different content, and I think it’s confusing to students,” he said. “It increases stress and anxiety among students and teachers. I think we do need to be help accountable, but the system is just not fair.”

“Are all these tests, is this what’s best for the kids?” Easterling said. “It seems like we spend so much time testing and that takes away from classroom instruction time.”

In the category of achievement, the district received a C for performance index, and a D on indicators met.

In the category of gap closing, Fairland schools received an F.

And for graduation, the district received an A for four-year graduation and an A for five years.

The highest grade in the district was Fairland High, in the category of graduation, where they earned an A. Fairland Middle had the highest average overall, with Bs in achievement and progress. All schools received Fs in gap closing.

No officials from Fairland schools were available for comment.

As a whole, Ironton City Schools received a D grade in the achievement category.

Ironton Elementary ended with a 76.5 percent for a C grade on performance index and 44.9 percent for a failing grade on indicators met for an overall achievement grade of C. Ironton Middle School ended with an overall achievement grade of D with 68 percent on performance index for a D and 10 percent on indicators met for a failing grade. Ironton High School got a 61.3 percent for a D in performance index and a 38.5 percent for a failing grade in indicators met, making an overall achievement grade for the high school a D.

All three schools received a failing grade for the gap closing category.

Ironton Elementary School received a 50 percent, Ironton Middle a 0 percent and Ironton High School a 33.3 percent.
In the progress category, as a district, Ironton received a D grade with Ironton Elementary getting B, and the middle and high schools both receiving a D.

The elementary school received a failing grade with a 16.4 percent for K-3 literacy.

At the high school level, Ironton High got an A for graduation rate with 93.9 percent of students graduating in four years and 95.3 percent of students graduating in five years. The high school also received a D grade for the prepared for success category, which looks at how well students are prepared for future opportunities, including training in a technical field or preparing for work or college.
Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance said that although he and other local school districts fully support high educational standards and quality measurement systems, there are a number of factors contributing to the drastic drop in grades, citing students taking three different tests in three years, increased cut scores and increased percentages.

“Ohio’s students have been subject to three different tests in three years. Previously, all students in grades 3-8 took the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) in reading, math, science and social studies,” Nance said. “Ohio then moved away from the OAA to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for the 2014-15 school year. Most recently, PARCC was disbanded and replaced by the American Institute of Research (AIR) for 2015-16.

“Expecting students to navigate three different types of tests in three years on the same learning standards is like having an official change the worth of a football touchdown in the middle of a game; a decision resulting in immediate frustration for players and spectators alike.”
Increased cut scores refer to the increasing required score for a student to be considered proficient in a certain area. From the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year, an increase to be considered proficient was implemented in 17 of 31 test areas.

“For instance, a sixth grade student in 2016 needed to score 70 percent higher on the math AIR assessment than a student taking the math PARCC assessment in 2015,” Nance said. “Area school officials are pleased the state expects individual students to reach higher levels to be considered efficient.”

Increased percentages refer to the percentage of students needed to score proficient or higher in a particular grade and subject area. There was an increase in 22 of 27 tested subjects from the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year.

“Our local school districts find solid merit in each of the changes of the measurement system, especially if each were properly and individually implemented,” Nance said. “However, the running target of implementing them all at one time leads to skewed results and misrepresentation of the real learning and achievement of our students and the real progress of our schools.”

Rock Hill
The Rock Hill Local School District receive a D grade for the achievement category.

As a district, Rock Hill Schools received a 69 percent for a D grade on performance index and a 10 percent for a failing grade on indicators met.

Individually, the elementary, middle and high schools received D grades in achievement with Rock Hill Elementary getting a 73.7 percent for a C on performance index and 33.3 percent for a failing grade on indicators met; Rock Hill Middle receiving a 67.3 percent for a D grade on performance index and 10 percent for a failing grade on indicators met; and Rock Hill High School getting a 62.1 percent for a D grade in performance index and 23.1 percent for a failing grade on indicators met.

In the gap closing category, the district received a 33.8 percent for a failing grade. All three schools received failing grades in gap closing with the elementary school receiving a 41 percent, the middle school a 0 percent and the high school a 33.3 percent.

For progress, the elementary school received an F, while the middle school and high school each got a D.
Rock Hill Elementary received a 0 percent for an F in K-3 literacy, which looks at how successful the school is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond. At the high school level, Rock Hill received a B grade for graduation rate with 93.2 percent of students graduating in four years and 93.2 percent of students graduating in five years.

Also only measured at the high school is the prepared for success category, which looks at how prepared the students are for all future opportunities, both in training for a technical field or preparing for work or college. Rock Hill High School received a D grade in the category.

“Obviously, the grades are not what we hoped for,” Rock Hill Middle School principal Darrell Humphreys said of the middle school scores. “We’re just going to look for ways to improve and find ways to get better.”
Humphreys said that new state tests each year for the past three years contributed to the lower grades, but knowing what to expect will help in the future.

“Knowing what to expect will aid us in our preparation,” he said. “And this year we will be taking the tests electronically instead of a paper version.”
Rock Hill superintendent Wes Hairston and Rock Hill High School principal David Hopper were unavailable to comment by press time.

South Point
In the category of achievement, the district received a D for performance index, and an F on indicators met.

In the category of gap closing, South Point schools received an F.

And for graduation, the district received an A for four-year graduation and a C for five years.

Among the individual schools in the district, South Point Elementary fared the best, with a B in progress and a C in achievement. South Point High earned a B in graduation. All other schools received Ds and Fs across all categories.

South Point Superintendent Mark Christian said he was disappointed in the results, though, like many administrators in the state, he said his problems were more with the testing system than the schools themselves.

He said constant changes in the testing format and how the scores are cumulated account for the difference and that it is not the most accurate gauge of where the schools stand.

“This is the third year with three different tests,” he said. “We don’t take this too seriously.”
In the last set of scores released, South Point had averaged the highest in Lawrence County and also topped all districts neighboring Scioto County.

Christian said the changes in the test made it hard to prepare students. He said while no district teaches to the test, the material has stayed the same, but the format in which it was tested has changed.

For example, he cited changes to the language arts component.

“Before, language arts were reading, reading comprehension and writing,” he said. “Now, it focuses more heavily on writing.”

He said it was not accurate to believe that suddenly “all kids are stupid and the teachers can’t teach.”
He also pointed out that the sudden drop in scores were occurring statewide, with the changes in cumulating the figures, with the state average falling 20 points behind the average cut.

“When the majority of the state is 20 points behind, how right can it be?” Christian asked of the figures.

Symmes Valley
Superintendent Jeff Saunders said the Symmes Valley district was not happy with its scores.

“We are very unhappy, not just with the results, but how the results were accumulated,” he said. “Our district, we understand there has to be accountability. This has been three straight years of using different tests. They’ve tried to make the tests more rigorous. Symmes Valley used to always get great report cards. We have most of the same staff we had then. It’s just the system has changed.”

Overall, the district was given a D for achievement. The elementary school’s performance index was 70 percent or a C. For indicators met, the school received an 7 at 33.3 percent. Fourth grade social studies, fifth grade math and science and eight grade math and science, as well as high school-level algebra I got passing scores for the school. All other areas fell below the passing mark.

At the high school, the performance index was 57.9 percent, or a D. For indicators met, the school only had a passing grade for reading, leaving the district with an F grade.

Graduation rate at the high school earned the district a B, with a 95.6 percent, 12.7 percent higher than the state average.

The district received a D for both progress and prepared for success.

In gap closing and K-3 literacy, the district received an F.

Saunders said, knowing the Ohio Department of Education was changing its standards, the district hired more teachers for the elementary school to help with reading. He noted that as the ODE has continually changed its requirements, there has been no additional resources given to the schools to help the student or teachers, unless the district can afford it on their own.

“We struggle on a daily basis, we need to try and make school fun again,” Saunders said. “We feel everything that ODE is putting out is making that difficult to do. We hired the equivalent of 2 and a half teachers to put in our K-3 end of the building to help with our literacy. For us, it’s something we have to do to get these kids reading better, but that’s a lot of extra money we spent.”

Saunders said the state report card scores are not an accurate reflection of the teachers’ abilities or the students’ educations.

“Superintendents all over the state are upset over this,” he said. “There needs to be accountability, but there needs to be a better system. Until we get something more consistent, they need do away with the letter grades until they come up with a better system.”