Fulton County’s school districts generally performed well overall and in five of six components on their 2017-18 Ohio Department of Education report cards.
None, however, received good news about the state’s measurement of their ability to prepare students for success.
The ODE report cards for the state’s 611 school districts were released Sept. 13. The ODE has employed a format that assigns less-confusing letter grades to each category rather than numbers and percentages.
The six components the state’s school districts were graded on include Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, Prepared for Success (for definitions, see guide accompanying story). The ODE also assigned an overall district grade.
The letter grades the county’s school districts received for the 2017-18 academic year are:
Achievement: Archbold – B; PDY – C; Evergreen – C; Fayette – D; Pettisville – B; Swanton – C; Wauseon – C
Progress: Archbold – B; PDY – B; Evergreen – A; Fayette – D; Pettisville – A; Swanton – B; Wauseon – B
Gap Closing: Archbold – B; PDY – A; Evergreen – A; Fayette – A; Pettisville – A; Swanton – B; Wauseon – B
Graduation Rate: Archbold – A; PDY – B; Evergreen – A; Fayette – A; Pettisville – A; Swanton – C; Wauseon – B
Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers: Archbold – A; PDY – C; Evergreen – B; Fayette – no rating; Pettisville – no rating; Swanton – C; Wauseon – C
Prepared for Success: Archbold – D; PDY – F; Evergreen – D; Fayette – F; Pettisville – D; Swanton – F; Wauseon – F
District Grade: Archbold – B; PDY – B; Evergreen – B; Fayette – C; Pettisville – B; Swanton – C; Wauseon –B
Fayette Local Schools was the only district to receive D’s in the first five components, although Wauseon and Swanton earned two and three C’s, respectively.
All of the county’s school districts scored low in the Prepared for Success component, with four earning F’s and three earning D’s.
To view the full report cards, visit reportcard.education.ohio.gov.
Larry Brown, Wauseon schools superintendent, said, “I am proud of the efforts of the students, parents and staff members of the Wauseon school community…Wauseon Exempted Village Schools will continue to evaluate the results of these report cards as we strive for continuous improvement.”
He emphasized that, again, 100 percent of the district’s third graders received qualifying scores for the ODE Third Grade Reading Guarantee. “Nearly every school district in the state of Ohio had drastic reductions in their report card scores in recent years,” he said.
“The philosophy of working to improve the individual results and collective results of the district’s students fits the year-long focus of creating a ‘growth mindset’ throughout the entire district.”
Brown said an inconsistent monitoring system has been created because the ODE has needed to acknowledge annual legislative changes related to assessments and district report cards. He added that proposed Ohio House Bill 591 asks for additional changes in the Ohio Revised Code related to state report cards.
“The fact that 64 percent of the school districts in Ohio received overall grades of C, D, and F illustrates an inaccurate representation of the achievement of Ohio public schools,” he said. “Even our own Ohio Department of Education shared, ‘Report cards are only one part of the story.’”
Brown encouraged people “to visit schools, talk to educators, parents and students, and review the school’s or district’s webpage” to get a more comprehensive view of how Wauseon schools are doing.
Swanton Local Schools Superintendent Chris Lake, whose district scored an overall grade of C, said the goal of the state was to create a bell curve of school grades, “and that’s exactly what they accomplished with the new school report card.”
Lake said the state issued letter grades for the report card’s components to simplify the public’s understanding of a district’s performance. Yet the formula behind issuing grades remains so complex the ODE also issued 32 pages of instruction to decipher its meaning.
“I doubt if many people will take the time to read that document so they can fully understand what the grades mean,” Lake said.
He said, “The report is what it is, and this is just one tool that the district uses to measure our progress. If nothing else, it helps us to determine areas where we need to focus more effort… At the end of the day, those of us who work for the Swanton Local Schools district believe in what we are doing, and no matter what letter grade we are given we will always be asking ourselves what else can we do to improve the lives of our students.”
Diane Tache, curriculum coordinator for Evergreen schools, said she’s pleased with the district’s overall B grade. She said 64 percent of the state’s school districts received an overall grade of C or lower.
“As always, the district report card is only one measure of how well our school district performs, but what is important to realize are the improvements Evergreen has made over the past few years,” Tache said.
Evergreen schools have improved significantly in the Performance Index, Gap Closing, and Improved At-Risk K-3 Readers components, she said. She noted that over the past three years the district’s Performance Index score improved by 4.3 points, well above the state average of 2.6 points.
Tache said the district is also proud of its graduation rate which has exceeded 93 percent since 2015.
In her opinion, the individual components are more important than the overall grade. “The grade card does not represent a win-loss record, like athletics, but more of a barometer on how well the district is meeting the rigor and relevance necessary for students to be college-career ready when they leave the district,” she said.
Several flaws exist in the process of issuing state report cards, including rating scale changes from year to year, she said, but the reports have become more user-friendly.
And because the Prepared for Success component is new, and therefore uses data that isn’t current, that component grade will improve as soon as next year, Tache said.
The Pike-Delta-York school district was among approximately one-third of Ohio schools earning an overall B grade. The district met 13 of 24 Achievement indicators, as compared to seven the previous year.
“This is a 25 percent increase in indicators met district-wide. This is a great improvement,” Superintendent Ted Haselman said.
One component the district gained in significantly is Gap Closing, rising to an A grade from an F in 2016. It’s the second consecutive year a large increase was recorded in the component, which registers how well schools meet performance expectations for their most vulnerable students in several areas of curriculum.
“There is no doubt this data is proof the Pike-Delta-York local school district continues to make progress and continuous improvement,” Haselman said. “The improvements in our report card are a result of everyone’s hard work.”
Based on the letter grades released, Pettisville Local Schools ranked first in the four-county area, with a 3.2 academic rating.
“I think that any success we may have is directly attributable to the hard work on the part of the students, the staff’s commitment to preparing the students well for not just tests but life, and the dedication of parents’ and significant other adults to the students’ educational efforts,” said Steve Switzer, superintendent.
That said, he thinks reducing a school’s performance to a single rating is an oversimplification.
“It would seem more productive to, rather than simply labeling a district failing, recognize that the process of educating students is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation,” Switzer said. “Rather than privatize schools, which seems to be the state’s solution…we need to strengthen the very institutions that serve these students.”
He questions the value of the state report card results, saying, “We used to test students to determine how well they were learning, to find strengths and weaknesses in our instructional program, as well as to better assess how individual students were performing. Now the measures seem more oriented as a measure of the institution, and not as an instructional tool to improve education.”
Switzer said school districts in northwest Ohio actually don’t need the report card to prove their value.
“We received an F for three years in Value Added. We now have received an A the past three years,” he said. “Do you know what we did differently? Absolutely nothing that we were not doing all along. We need to be careful to not buy into the media narrative of our nation’s failing schools.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.