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Lorain superintendent: Wait before drawing conclusions on preliminary data

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LORAIN — While other Lorain County district superintendents decried the preliminary testing data released by the state earlier this month as invalid, Lorain Schools Superintendent Jeffery Graham said it’s too early to say what the raw data will mean for his district, which is fighting to stave off state takeover.

Graham’s remarks came more than a month after he said he doubted Lorain could comply within two years with a new state law designed to strip poor performing schools of power in the name of reform. Right now, district officials are analyzing and crunching numbers in hopes of seeing what, if any, progress students made when taking tests last spring developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

“The student scores are very preliminary at this point,” Graham said in an emailed statement sent several days after comment was sought on the data. “And with so much at stake, we’re taking our time to comb through the information and reflect. What we have is just a peek at the raw information, it still needs to be cleaned up by the state, and that might not be final for another month or so. For us, this is baseline data, and when we have a clearer picture of where we are we’ll react to it accordingly. It will be some time yet before we can do that.”

Other local superintendents have said the numbers don’t reflect the strengths of their districts and have publicly dismissed the results.

Lorain doesn’t have that option.

It is one of two districts in the state under the watch of an academic distress commission. And, if it can’t pull itself out of the state oversight, it will could fall victim to the “Youngstown Plan,” which was enacted by the state Legislature to combat years of academic failure by the Youngstown Schools. It allows for the disbanding of existing academic distress commissions and the creation of new ones as well as the appointment of a CEO with the power to hire, fire, make changes to student instruction and alter collective bargaining agreements in affected districts.

State officials said they cannot comment on the future of Lorain or any district based on the preliminary data.

“In terms of how the data impacts districts, we cannot comment on anything at this time, as the final data sets have not been released,” said Toby Lichtle, assistant director of the ODE’s Office of Communications and Outreach. “This preliminary testing data itself is not final, and the other pieces have not yet been released. The report cards will start rolling out in January, at which time it would be more appropriate to discuss where districts stand.”

The Ohio Department of Education published the preliminary performance data based on last spring’s state tests in math, English language arts, science and social studies. Districts received the results in October and the information made public Nov. 20.

State officials have said the results should not be compared to the previous Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Test scores because the PARCC tests were new tests with greater expectations.

However, it appears from the preliminary data that students in Lorain continue to be the lowest-performing in the county, putting up proficiency rates far below other districts.

Passage rates, which are subject to change, for English language arts tests didn’t climb above 62 percent proficiency for any grade. In math, the passage rate in all grades was below 50 percent proficiency.

Graham said when fuller results are in, Lorain will emphasize comparing scores to similar districts based on shared student and community demographics.

“As everyone knows at this point, we’ve had another change in the test, making it very difficult to measure real growth,” Graham wrote. “We want to make sure we have an accurate reflection of how our students grew in comparison to those in similar districts. It’s just too early to determine meaningful progress right now.

This data can’t tell us much of anything yet, but our hope is that it will tell us if the steps we’ve taken are helping our students to be successful.”

According to the Ohio Department of Education, communities that mirror Lorain include Canton, Springfield, Hamilton, Euclid and Youngstown schools.

When looking at those similar districts, Lorain could emerge as near the average in terms of performance. While Springfield and Hamilton put up higher preliminary numbers than Lorain, Canton was comparable. There, preliminary test scores in math are between 29 percent and 49 percent of students at proficient or above. The district’s English language arts scores are 59 percent and 73 percent of students at proficient or above.

Lorain has to score a C or better in the value-added and performance-index categories of the state report card for the next two years to comply with state reforms.

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