School district report cards mixed bag

Superintendents balk at some results

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

A partial district report card for the 2014-15 school year released last week by the Ohio Department of Education suggests that, in the three available categories, some Fulton County schools didn’t fully live up to their potential.

But in some cases the superintendents have balked at the results, and one has filed multiple appeals.

Of seven graded categories, only three – K-3 Literacy, Graduation Rate, and Prepared for Success – are presently available. The remainder, which include Financial Data, Achievement, Progress, and Gap Closing, will be released at the end of February.

Under the K-3 Literacy category, only Evergreen Local Schools fared well, with a B grade. The Archbold, Swanton, and Fayette school districts scored Ds, and Pike Delta York (PDY) a C. Wauseon and Pettisville schools weren’t graded in the category because less than five percent of kindergarten students in those districts were not on-track.

According to the ODE, the literacy grade answers the question of whether “more students are learning to read in kindergarten through third grade.” It rates improvement of students who were not initially on-track.

With a single exception, graduation rates for ninth graders, during a four-year period applied to the Class of 2014 and a five-year period applied to the Class of 2013, were generally average to excellent throughout the county. PDY schools recorded a D for the four-year rate, with 83.6 percent graduating. However, the district received an A for the five-year rate, at 95 percent.

Graduation grades for the county’s other school districts include: Archbold, four-year, A, 94.4 percent, and five-year, A, 99.1 percent; Evergreen, four-year, B, 92.5 percent, and five-year, A, 95.9 percent; Fayette, four-year, A, 97.1 percent, and five-year, B, 91.2; Pettisville, four-year, A, 98 percent, and five-year A, 97.9; Swanton, four-year, C, 87.6 percent, and five-year, B, 94.8 percent; and Wauseon, four-year, A, 96.5 percent, and five-year, A, 93.7 percent.

Wauseon Superintendent Larry Brown said he is happy with the district’s graduation rates.

“While there is room for improvement in the area of graduation rates, Wauseon schools are pleased to be one of only three county school districts to receive graduation rate ratings in the ‘A’ range for both the four-year and five-year graduation percentages,” he said.

Brown declined to discuss the other two available categories, saying he’ll wait until the remainder of the categories are released in February. “There’s more heart to the story there,” he said.

In the Prepared for Success category, which asks whether graduating students are prepared for college or a career, the report card offers the percentage of students in each district who participated in the 2014 American College Test (ACT). The results are: Archbold, 70 percent; Evergreen, 67.7 percent; Fayette, 70.6 percent; Pettisville, 80 percent; PDY, 47.4 percent; Swanton, 53.3 percent; and Wauseon, 61 percent.

In Swanton, Superintendent Jeff Schlade said the district is appealing the status of its data. It’s also working with the State Support Team Region 1 to improve the D the district received for K-3 Literacy.

“This is not systemic across the district, but we need to provide more emphasis as necessary in specific subgroups of our student population, such as special education. The state’s system of reporting isn’t obvious to the layperson in that regard,” he said.

With resources provided through the Ohio Improvement Process, the district plans to examine available data, “then develop a focused plan,” Schlade said. “That will help us to make those changes which will have the greatest impact on those students’ achievement.”

He believes the state made numerous errors in reporting, But Schlade said it’s important to note that Swanton’s faculty is committed to providing students with a superior educational experience.

At Archbold schools, Superintendent Aaron Rex he was pleased overall with the report card results. “We usually do well with graduation rates,” he said.

He said the district’s D grade in the K-3 Literacy category can be interpreted subjectively. He said the grade is based on 11 students who needed to move forward in literacy, only four of whom made adequate progress.

“To me, that doesn’t rank a D score, but it is what it is,” Rex said. “You’re taking a snaphot of the kids. So overall, you’re looking at about 400 kids (in the school). It’s an inaccurate portrayal of the quality of our program. It’s not an accurate reflection of the type of excellence we’ve had in the past.”

He added, “When you think about that, it’s not a huge measure of kids. But when you look at a smaller district, it’s sometimes a tougher measure.”

The district’s students taking the ACT scored an average 23, one point above the state average.

“A 23 is a solid score,” Rex said. “We’re in line with everybody else. That’s pretty consistent with what we’ve done every year. Our school district ranks with distinction every year, so I don’t know if (the report card) effectively measures the type of job that we do.”

PDY Superintendent Ted Haselman said the ODE’s scores for his district are downright inaccurate and a misrepresentation.

“We have been monitoring the data for weeks, and currently have multiple appeals into ODE questioning the accuracy. If the appeals are accepted, which we believe is a strong possibility, PDY’s scores will improve both in percentages and by letter grades,” he said.

Haselman said he’s not as concerned with the ODE’s practice of releasing partial report cards as he is with their timeliness. He said receiving the data so late into the next school makes addressing improvements difficult.

“While all of this data is important, it is only a small snapshot of a school district,” he said. “I know at Pike-Delta-York we have an enormous amount of great things taking place that will never show up on an ODE state report card.”

Those “non-reportable” items include the fact that over two-thirds of PDY high school students participate in the fine arts, he said. And through a partnership with North Star BlueScope Steel, elementary and middle school students are educated on environmental safety through the company’s wetlands area.

“These are a few examples of how PDY is educating the whole child,” Haselman said.

Superintendents balk at some results

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.

David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.