Loren Genson, Kiera Manion-Fischer and Dan Pompili | Staff Writers
School districts used to seeing themselves rated “excellent” or “excellent with distinction” on their annual state report cards now are seeing lower ratings under a new system of letter grades.
Medina County districts were graded in nine categories with a mixture of A’s and B’s — and some D’s and F’s. While county school districts still are performing well overall on state tests, some did not see good ratings in new, specific subcategories.
For example, Medina Schools, rated excellent last year, and Cloverleaf Schools, rated excellent with distinction both received C’s and D’s in specific “value-added” grades measuring the performance of gifted students and students with disabilities. Value-added refers to whether students in grades four through eight exceeded, met or learned below expected goals in reading and math.
Kris Quallich, director of educational services for Medina Schools, said years of cuts and failed levies may provide an explanation for the grade.
“This is where you’re going to start to see where the lack of services are really hurting us. I think that’s what you’re seeing,” she said. “Whereas in Brunswick, where they’ve been able to pass levies, they’re able to help kids make progress. We’re struggling to help kids make progress.”
School officials have pledged to bring back reading and gifted intervention specialists at the elementary level if a five-year, 5.9-mill levy is approved by voters.
Medina Schools was the only district to get an “F” in the overall value-added category. Medina Interim Superintendent Dave Knight described the value-added grade as “a mathematical algorithm that takes some serious work to sort out.”
The district met 24 out of 24 state standards, earning it an “A” in that category, and received a “B” for a performance index of 102.8.
“Those A and B scores on our report really reflect the kind of achievement that is occurring,” Knight said.
Christina Hank, Medina’s secondary curriculum coordinator, said Medina Schools still would be rated excellent if the old system were used.
“I think it’s detrimental to the culture and morale of a community to think that one letter defines a community,” she said. “We would not measure a kid during a whole year based on one test.”
Hank pointed to successes shown in the report, such as the fact that the district had nearly 70 percent of students take the ACT in the 2011-12 school year, with an average score of 23.
Under the new system, districts will not receive overall rankings until 2015. This year, they were graded in nine categories, including:
• Standards met — Schools are expected to have 75 percent of students get passing grades or better on the reading and math tests in third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades, and passing grades on reading math and science tests in fifth and eight grades.
Schools also are expected to have 75 percent of students test proficiently in the reading, math, writing, social studies and science sections on the Ohio Graduation Test in 10th grade. In 11th grade, 80 percent of students are expected to get passing grades or better on the test.
In total, that equals 24 standards. Schools with all standards met mean at least 75 percent of students test proficiently on tests up to 11th grade and 80 percent of students test proficiently on the 11th-grade test.
• Value-added grade — Measures test performance over a number of years through a series of calculations. There are also categories that measure performance of gifted students, those with learning disabilities and those students who are among in the bottom fifth in test scores.
• Performance index — Measures the achievement of every student. The measurement awards schools that improve the performance of both lower- and higher-performing students.
• Annual measurable objectives — Measures the performance of specific groups of students, including different racial and economic demographic groups. According to the Ohio Department of Education, a school cannot get an “A” in this category if a demographic of students is not reaching the goal set for all students.
Following is a roundup of how Medina County’s six other school districts fared:
Black River, the county’s smallest district, was the only district to not meet at least 23 out of 24 proficiency standards. The district hit only 20 standards.
Fewer than 75 percent of students met the proficiency mark for all fifth-grade tests, including reading, math and science. Third-grade math scores also fell below the required 75 percent proficiency at 73 percent.
The district received a “B” in performance index, a “D” overall value-added grade and a “C” in annual measurable objectives.
On the 10th-grade graduation tests, though, Black River led the county in writing despite placing sixth in reading. The district also was second in science.
“We’re disappointed, because we’ve been excellent in the past and we’d like to maintain that,” school board President Janet Eichel said. “We’ve made a few changes this year, so hopefully we can improve next year.”
Eichel said new teacher evaluation standards are causing problems as well.
“There’s so many rules. The teachers can’t teach like they used to because they’re worried about following this rule and meeting that standard.”
Brunswick Schools performed among the best under the new rating system. Previously designated as an excellent district, its scores surpassed those of districts that received excellent with distinction ratings in past years.
Brunswick received a value-added grade of “A” and “B” grades in performance index and annual measurable objectives. The district also received “A” ratings for scores achieved by students with learning disabilities and low-performing students.
Fourth- and seventh-graders ranked first in reading proficiency in Brunswick. More than 95 percent of 11th-graders were proficient on the Ohio Graduation Test in reading, math, writing and social studies, and 94 percent were proficient in science.
Brunswick Superintendent Michael Mayell said his district’s success on the report card was because of district staff — teachers, support staff and administrators, as well as a supportive board of education and community.
“In Brunswick, we have worked very hard to make sure we meet the needs of every student, and I think that’s what this report card shows,” he said. “That has to be attributed to the wonderful staff that we have.”
He said the report card also showed areas where the district can improve. For example, the district received a “B” in the four-year graduation rate, which was 91.5 percent and the second-lowest rate in the county. “That’s something we definitely want to be an ‘A’ on,” he said.
Mayell also said he didn’t think the report cards should be used to compare districts.
“These report cards are not meant to compare districts,” he said.
Buckeye Schools received “B” grades in the three major categories: performance index, measurable objectives and value-added grading.
“Obviously we’re disappointed. We consider ourselves to be a first-class school system, so anytime we don’t achieve whatever the highest rating, we’re going to be a little disappointed,” Superintendent Brian Williams said.
In other categories, the district didn’t perform as well, hitting 23 out of the 24 standards it was asked to meet on test proficiency. Fifth-grade math was the only test on which more than 75 percent of students didn’t receive proficient scores.
Buckeye received a “B” for its four-year graduation rate, but at 90.9 percent, it was the lowest in the county.
Williams said his district will strive to make changes to improve, but cautioned that the state ratings don’t always represent a full picture.
“Ratings don’t always reflect everything that’s going on in a school district,” he said.
Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said he needed to learn more about what Cloverleaf’s letter grades mean.
“This year, we’ve received an overall value-added grade of ‘C,’ “ he said. “Does that mean we met the expectations? I don’t have that rubric, that mechanism. It’s difficult to explain that to our constituents.”
Kubilus said that although state Superintendent Richard Ross urged school officials not to compare their new ratings to previous report cards, he asked “What else do we have?”
Cloverleaf received a performance index of 100.3, which correlates to a “B,” he said. “Before this year, a 100 or greater correlated to ‘excellent,’ “ he said.
All Medina County school districts received a “B” in the performance index category.
Also, Cloverleaf, along with most county districts, met 24 of 24 state standards, but received lower value-added grades — a “D” in “gifted value added” and a “C” in the “disabled value added” category. Cloverleaf received an “A” for its graduation rate of 93.2 percent.
Kubilus said he also will need to clarify exactly how districts were judged to come up with the letter grades.
“When we identify where our weaknesses are, we’re not going to complain about them; we’re going to work diligently to improve them,” he said.
Highland Schools, which received a rating of excellent with distinction for the past 13 years, received “B” grades across the board in the three main categories: performance index, value-added grade and annual measurable objectives.
What was surprising to school officials was a rating of “F” in a category that looks at the performance of gifted students.
“Obviously, the reported grade of ‘F’ in the value-added category for our gifted students is something that clearly stands out from our other grades,” Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said. “We will look at the data behind that one component, once it becomes available, to see what it reveals to us, and then we will work to make necessary adjustments moving forward.”
Highland has a higher enrollment of students in the gifted program than other school districts, which could impact its scores. At Highland, 32.6 percent of the district’s 3,140 students are enrolled in the gifted program.
Brunswick and Medina enrolled 23.5 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively, of students in their gifted programs.
The number of students enrolled, however, can’t be the only factor in the “F” rating. Wadsworth Schools received a “B” in the gifted category and it enrolled 32.7 percent of students in its gifted program.
On tests, Highland students consistently were among the most proficient. More than
97 percent of Highland 11th-graders were proficient in every subject on the Ohio Graduation Test, and 100 percent of 11th-graders passed the reading portion.
Highland students also had the highest four-year graduation rate in the county at 97.4 percent.
Wadsworth Schools met all 24 state standards. Wadsworth received a “B” in performance index, an “A” in value-added grade and a “B” in annual measurable objectives. It received “C” ratings in categories used to measure the performance of students with disabilities and lowest-performing students.
The district ranked second in the county in performance index, four- and five-year graduation rates, and attendance.
In test proficiency, Wadsworth placed first in the county in fifth-, sixth-, eighth- and 11th-grade math; fifth- and sixth-grade reading; and 11th-grade science.
On the 10th grade graduation test, Wadsworth ranked fourth in the county in three categories: reading social studies and science.
“We’re grateful for the areas we’ve done well in and we’re going to continue to work on the areas where we need improvement,” Wadsworth Superintendent Andy Hill said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or email@example.com. Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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