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State report card results provide baselines for area districts

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One portion of the reports cards for districts and schools released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Education aims to answer a simple question: How did students do on state tests?

According to data, not well in Lorain County or across the state.

Of the more than 600 districts in Ohio, just 23 earned an A grade for indicators met, which looks at test data and wraps the grades into a district’s overall achievement grade.

The most-common grade statewide? An F.

In Lorain County, nearly every districts failed, with Avon Lake and Avon earning grades of B and A, respectively. Amherst fared slightly better than the pack with a D.

“We knew that changing the threshold to 80 percent by indicator would be a challenge for our district, as it would for other districts,” said Graig Bansek, superintendent of Columbia Schools. “We made gains in 17 of the 23 tested subject areas.”

While the indictors met measure only contributes 25 percent toward the overall “achievement” component grade — the performance index makes up the remaining 75 percent — it does show important information on how many students in the district have a minimum level of knowledge in a particular subject.

It also shows how far districts have to reach to meet basic proficiency on state tests — a benchmark met when 80 percent of students can pass.

Finding a baseline

If not for last year, Thursday’s release of report cards for districts and schools likely would have come with shock and disbelief from school communities along with concern about the grades.

The 2015-16 report reflected new tests, higher benchmarks to gauge proficiency and new areas of measurement, and the results were less than many districts had hoped to see. This year, with the same test and the same grading scale, districts say they have an opportunity to show true areas of growth.

Districts and schools were graded on six components beginning with the 2016-17 school year. The components are achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation rate, K-3 literacy and prepared for success. Districts and schools received grades of A through F on each of the six components and most of the individual measures. There are no new measures on the 2016-17 report cards.

“Having set high expectations for what our students must know and be able to do, our children and schools are stepping up to the challenge,” said Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction. “We’re seeing increases in achievement across the state. I continue to be impressed with the dedication of Ohio’s educators and our students’ desire to learn more and more.”

Within the achievement component of the report card is an individual measure known as the performance index. It measures how well students performed on state tests and offers a good gauge to see how districts and schools are improving.

Wellington Schools increased its performance index by 7 percent going from 66.3 points from the 2015-16 school year to 70.9 points in the 2016-17 school year. The increase moves the district from a D to a C grade in performance index measure.

There are six levels on the index and districts receive points for every student in each of these areas, not just those who score proficient or higher — the higher the achievement level, the more points awarded in the district’s index. This rewards schools and districts for improving the performance of all students, regardless of achievement level.

Seeing growth

Keystone Superintendent Franco Gallo said students took the state test online last year for the first time versus paper-pencil testing the previous two years. The district saw improvement in 18 of 23 tested areas compared with 2016, Gallo said.

“Teachers worked hard to dissect their standards and provide higher level instruction to all students,” he said. “Students worked extremely hard during testing and took the tests seriously.”

Elyria’s report card shows growth in 16 of the 23 achievement indicators but the district received a D for its achievement grade.

“We are seeing growth year after year that’s sustainable; it’s growth we can build on,” said district spokeswoman Amy Higgins.

Calling last year’s report card the transition year and this year the baseline year, Elyria Superintendent Tom Jama said the district is striving for continuous growth. Overall, Elyria earned three Fs, two Ds and a C for its graduation rate of 84.8 percent.

“Going forward we have work to do, of course, but we’re confident in our staff and the instructional practices and platforms we have in place,” he said. “It’s all about the kids, and we’ll get it done. We’re progressive thinkers and eager to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students.”

Students in Wellington continue to improve on proficiency levels within grade and subject areas. The highest percentage of students proficient in a tested subject area was fifth-graders in science who came in at 92.7 percent proficient and met the state indicator. The next subject area to meet the state indicator was high school government with 89.3 percent of the students proficient.

Third-graders are tested in reading and mathematics. The state standard for proficiency is also 80 percent. Wellington third-graders came in at 79 percent in mathematics.

“The state report card gives a benchmark for student learning,” Wellington Schools Superintendent Ed Weber. “We will work closely throughout the year to continue to improve teaching and learning, while honoring that our students are more than just test scores. Our Board of Education will continue to make investments into our academic and student life programming to develop and prepare our young people for their future goals and dreams.”

How to improve in Elyria

With that 80 percent proficiency standard in mind, Elyria is working hard to put supports in place to better teach students today’s curriculum standards that dig deep into content.

“The standards and assessments today aren’t satisfied with a student’s ability to recall information; students must show an understanding of process, too,” Higgins said. “Critical thinking is a 21st century skill, and the standards are emphasizing these skills, digging deep into comprehension and knowledge. It’s a mind shift for students and teachers, and we’re still making the transition.”

One area of focus is reading. High school English-language arts classes focus on the technical aspects of writing, literature and English.

“There’s little focus on reading, but there needs to be,” she said. “We’ve seen great success at other grade levels with reading platforms, like Achieve 3000, for instance, that differentiate instruction and learning materials based on the student’s reading level.”

Districtwide, the math program, Envision, is helping Elyria make gains at the elementary level. This is the first year of implementing enVisionmath at Elyria High School in Geometry, Algebra 1 and Algebra 11.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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