Making the grade
Lawrence County schools receive evaluations from Ohio Department of Education, within state average
By Heath Harrison, Dustin Melchior and Mark Shaffer
COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Education has released its report cards for school performance for the 2017-2018 academic year, and most schools in Lawrence County fell within the state average, earning a C overall.
The Tribune examined the scores of all Lawrence County school districts, as well as Green Local Schools, just across the border in Scioto County, and spoke with administrators for their take on the results.
Symmes Valley Schools earned the highest score in the county, with the district receiving the sole overall B. Students were treated to a district-wide party earlier this month to celebrate the results.
Rock Hill was the lowest in the county, earning a D overall.
This year’s scores are also the first to include the Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School, which opened its doors in August 2017.
Schools were graded for the following components:
• Achievement – Represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall. A new indicator measures chronic absenteeism.
• Progress – Looks closely at the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.
• Gap Closing – Shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for our most vulnerable students in English language arts, math, graduation and English language proficiency.
• Graduation Rate – looks at the percent of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four or five years.
• Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers – Looks at how successful the school is at improving at-risk K-3 readers.
• Prepared For Success – Examines 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.
As the Columbus Dispatch recently reported, lawmakers have seen a correlation between low school performance and poverty in report card results and the many in the Legislature are seeking to rethink the formula of how schools are funded in the state as a result.
The Dispatch reported that, of the 145 school districts in the state earning a B or higher, only four came from lower income areas.
The report cards have been the source of some controversy among educators in the state. As is often the case when rating school performance, some local administrators shared statewide concerns over whether the report cards offer a clear picture of what takes place in a school system’s classrooms and spoke of the limits of standardized testing.
In some parts of the state, local school districts have taken to issuing their own report cards to provide what they feel is a more accurate indicator.
As the Department of Education states on its website, “Report Cards are only one part of the story. To get a fuller picture, we encourage you to visit schools, talk to educators, parents and students, and review the school’s or district’s webpage.”
For more information and a further breakdown of results, visit district/overview/045294
Chesapeake schools received a C overall, scoring highest for graduation rate, where they received an A. They received a B for Gap Closing and scored a C for Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers.
The district received Ds for achievement and progress, and an F for Prepared for Success.
Of the schools within the district, the elementary school ranked highest, earning a B overall and As in Progress and Gap Closing, and Cs in Achievement and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers.
The high and middle schools received Cs overall, with the high school’s highest score being an A for graduation and the middle school getting a B for Gap Closing.
Superintendent Jerry McConnell said he was pleased with his district, regardless of how report cards are calculated.
“I’m proud of our administration, staff and students for their effort,” he said, adding that they work closely with individual students to help them improve.
He said he was especially pleased with the A for Graduation, which he said was the “ultimate goal” of a school for its students.
He said the schools could improve in the area of math.
“It seems difficult at times,” he said of the standardized testing for the subject.
McConnell said the district offers after school help to students in this area.
“We can always make adjustments to improve,” he said. “But at Chesapeake, we have great staff and students and we’re always proud.”
Dawson-Bryant Schools received an overall C grade on the most recent state report card.
“Overall, I thought it was OK, but we’re not completely satisfied. We always want to do better,” Superintendent Steve Easterling said. “I’m very proud of our Graduation Rate and Gap Closing, but the thing about the state report card is that it’s just one way to measure a school district. But there are a lot of other things that are not reported on the report card.”
Dawson-Bryant received an A in the Graduation category, and an A in the Gap Closing category. For Achievement and Progress, the district received C grades, and in Prepared for Success, received a failing grade.
Easterling said that he doesn’t take a lot of stock in the Gap Closing portion of the report card, because considering the size of the district, it is hard to offer the courses needed to get a good score.
“Last year, our class of 2018, we had 10 honor graduates, 31 honor graduates with distinction and 32 state honored diplomas. We also had more than 700 college credits and 19 career vocational certificates. Those are some of the things that should be considered, but that don’t show up on the state report card,” Easterling said. “But those are things that define a district when you look at the whole picture.”
Easterling added that the district would use the report card to gauge where it can improve and things that should be worked on.
“We’ll use the report card to look at so our staff can address some of the issues,” Easterling said. “I’m very proud of our graduation rate and gap closing, but I don’t agree with the criteria for everything.”
Fairland schools earned the average of a C for overall performance.
The district received As in Gap Closing and Graduation Rate, while getting Cs for Achievement and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers.
Fairland received Ds for Progress and Prepared for Success.
Among individual schools, Fairland East Elementary, which serves kindergarten through second grade, scored highest, earning an A overall.
Fairland West, which served third through fifth grades, received a C overall, with its highest score being an A for Gap Closing.
The middle school received a B overall, earning an A for Gap Closing and a B for Progress.
The High School scored lowest within the district, receiving a D overall. It earned an A for graduation, but received Ds for Achievement, Progress and Prepared for Success and an F for Gap Closing.
Fairland Schools Superintendent Roni Hayesdid not respond to The Tribune’s request for comment.
Green Local Schools got an overall grade of a C as a district on the most recent state report card.
In the Achievement category, which represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students on tests overall, the district received a D grade.
For the Progress portion, which looks at the growth students are making based on their past performances, the district also received a D. The district received B grades in the Gap Closing and Graduation Rate categories, and another D for Prepared for Success.
Gap Closing shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English language arts, math, graduation and English language proficiency. Prepared for success is how well the district is able to train its students for work in a technical field or for college.
Ironton City Schools received a C overall, scoring an A for graduation rate. They received a C for Gap Closing.
The district received Ds for achievement and for Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, and an F for Prepared for Success and for Progress.
In the individual schools, Ironton Elementary had an overall grade of C. For gap closing, the school got an A. For achievement and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, the school got Ds and got a C for progress. Prepared for success was not recorded.
Ironton Middle School got had an overall grade of D, as well as Ds for Achievement and Progress. It got an F for Gap Closing. Prepared for success was not recorded.
At the high school, it has an overall grade of C. It got Ds for Achievement and Progress. It improved over the middle school with a B for gap closing. The graduation grade was an A with 96.8 percent of students graduating within 4 years and 99 percent of students graduating within 5 years. Statewide, the graduation rate for four years is 84.1 percent in four years and 86.1 percent within 5 years.
Rock Hill School District received a D. It got an F for Progress and Prepared for Success. It got Ds for Achievement, Gap Closing and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers.
Progress measures the growth of students are making based on past performance. All grades were making less progress than expected in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science.
Prepared for Success looks at how well students graduating in 2016 and 2017 are prepared for future opportunities.
It got a B for Graduation Rates.
Rock Hill Elementary got an overall grade of C, with Ds for Progress and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers. It got a C for Achievement and an A for Gap Closing.
Rock Hill Middle School got an overall grade of D, with Ds for Achievement and Progress. It got a C for Gap Closing.
Rock Hill High School got an overall grade of D, with Fs for Achievement and Gap Closing and a D for Progress.
It got a B for its graduation rate with 91.5 percent with students graduating in four years and 95.8 percent of students graduating in fiver years. Statewide, the graduation rate for four years is 84.1 percent in four years and 86.1 percent within 5 years.
For Gap Closing, the school got an A. For Achievement and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, the school got Ds and got a C for Progress. Prepared for Success was not recorded.
South Point Schools received a C overall, with the district’s highest score being an A for Graduation.
Bs were earned for Gap Closing and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, while the district received Ds for Progress and Achievement and an F for Prepared for Success.
Among individual schools, the district’s two elementary schools, Burlington and South Point, scored highest, earning Bs overall, with both earning As for Gap Closing and Bs for Progress.
Burlington also scored an A for Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, while South Point received a C in that category.
For Achievement, South Point Elementary earned a C, while Burlington scored a D.
The middle school received a D overall, with it s highest score being a B for Gap Closing. The school received a D for Achievement and an F for Progress.
The High School received a D overall, scoring highest for Graduation with an A. The school earned a C for Gap Closing and received Ds for Achievement and Progress and an F for Prepared for Success.
Superintendent Mark Christian said he is proud of the school’s overall performance, but cautioned that the report card system may not be an accurate reflection of what takes place within the schools.
He pointed out that students from South Point have graduated with high honors and that many have and gone on to prestigious colleges.
Christian said, for one thing, the grading system is misleading, with a C indicating an average and the causal observer may associate it as low performing, thinking it is in line with the letter system student report card use.
Christian said the category of Prepared for Success, which all Lawrence County schools who were graded fared poorly in, is unfair to smaller and rural schools and they do not have the resources to match larger districts.
Christian pointed to an op-ed, written by George Wood, superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools, which stated the state is “shooting itself in the foot” with the Prepared for Success indicator.
Wood said that, this year, only nine Ohio school districts, out of 646, earned an “A” on the measure. Conversely, 555 districts, earned a “D” or “F.” Wood says the measures for the category, such as SAT and ACT scores, an Ohio Honors Diploma or completing an industry credential, which can only be earned after graduation, in an apprenticeship program, are no accurate indicators for how a student will fare in college and beyond.
Symmes Valley Schools received the highest district grade in Lawrence County with a B overall, and were even honored by the county commission at a meeting several weeks back.
“We had the highest district grade in the county. There were 28 overall As statewide, and three Bs in this part of the state, and Symmes Valley was one of them,” Darrell Humphries, superintendent, said. “The big thing for us was Progress, where we received an A. That tells us that our students are showing growth, improving and working hard everyday.”
Humphries also said that he was very proud of the district’s teachers as well, who do a great job preparing and teaching the students for the future.
Besides Progress, other categories of the state report card that the district received As in were Gap Closing, which shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English language arts, math, graduation and English language proficiency, and Graduation Rate, which looks at the number of students who graduate with a diploma in four or five years.
“We’re very proud of our graduation rate, and take pride in seeing our students leave and represent the district with a diploma,” Humphries said. “That’s something we take very seriously.”
In the Achievement category, Symmes Valley received a D, and for Prepared for Success, the district got a failing grade. But those are things that Humphries said could be very misleading.
He said that state testing, which is how the achievement portion is measured, often doesn’t show the whole picture of a student’s ability, and that smaller school districts such as Symmes Valley, aren’t able to offer as many AP or technical courses to its students, which is how the prepared for success is calculated.
“Only less than 10 percent of districts statewide got an A in Prepared for Success,” Humphries said. “A lot of the smaller school districts that don’t have the numbers to offer those kinds of courses on paper and aren’t able to compete with some of the bigger ones in that category. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not as good of a school.”
Humphries said that he is happy with the district’s overall performance on the state report card.
Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School
The newest public school in Lawrence County, the STEM+M Early College High School received mostly high marks, receiving a C overall.
STEM+M, located in South Point, is unique in that it operates independently from the other school districts.
Compared at the district level, it scored about average for the county, but, when compared to other high schools, its scores in some fields were significantly higher.
The school received and A for Gap Closing and scored a B for Achievement, the highest in the county. STEM+M received Bs in the Performance Index and Indicators met subcategories within Achievement. Its 83.3 percent for Indicators Met in state testing was the highest within the county.
The school, however, receive an F for Progress, which measures students against past performance, though interim principal Bob Jennings says this may be somewhat misleading, as the school is only in its first year. He said he expects that number to rise as the school becomes more established and accrues a record.
Jennings, has taken over for founding director Jayshree Shah following her recent departure from the school.
“We’re always concerned with how students do in terms achievement and progress,” Jennings said. “We want the best grade and we’re pleased with the B.”
He said the school is especially pleased with students meeting indicators in math and science, which is the center of their curriculum.
Jennings said they were satisfied with where they were as a “new, young school,” but they were “not going to sit on our laurels and we will challenge children to do even greater.”
STEM+M did not receive scores for Prepared for Success or Graduation, as its first class of students has not reached graduation age yet.