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New school grades show lower scores

Springfield’s Estrop says report shows city is gaining ground despite F’s.

Local school districts’ learned Thursday how they fared in the state’s new report card system that measures student performance and progress, but the superintendent of the area’s largest district criticized the changes.

A Springfield News-Sun analysis of available data showed the top districts in Clark and Champaign counties — based on five key performance measures — were Northwestern Local Schools in Clark County and West Liberty-Salem in Champaign County.

Both earned two A’s and three B’s in the performance measurement areas that affect the greatest amount of students and that can be measured by objective data.

Those measurements include state standards, performance index, annual measurable objectives — formerly called annual yearly progress as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act — and four- and five-year graduation rates.

On the bottom of the list, when considering performance measures, was the urban Springfield City Schools, which earned one A, one D and three F’s.

“… An official of the Ohio Department of Education made it very clear that schools will see poor grades in some areas as a result of adjustments in this new report card,” Superintendent David Estrop said. “I think it’s important for people to know that this jolt that he talks about … is going to last three years.”

Springfield was the only district in the two-county area and one of two large urban districts to meet none of the 24 state standards. However, Springfield was the only among the large urbans to receive an A in the overall value-added component.

The district showed continued improvements in progress measurements. Those included A’s in all value-added areas except gifted value-added, in which it got a C.

“Many schools and districts will see lower grades than past report card rankings would have led them to believe or expect, but we must have the courage to be honest with ourselves and honest with our communities about where we really stand,” State Superintendent Richard A. Ross said Thursday during a conference call with media representatives before results were released.

Estrop used an analogy of a basketball hoop being raised at halftime to describe the changes.

“We learned of this jolt mid-year in January. And even Michael Jordan, I suspect, would have difficulty scoring as well in the second half if the basket had been raised six inches higher than what he was used to,” Estrop said. “So the fact that we are being jolted for three years, with the state of Ohio raising the basket and reduced performance being the result, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.”

And, he said, the state advised the district to switch to common core teaching standards mid-year last year, but for testing purposes, kept the old state testing standards.

“So two things happened at half-time: the basket got raised, and the way you scored got changed based upon (the state’s) advice,” Estrop said.

Estrop said he’s frustrated with the changes because the district was one student away from meeting the state standard for reading in 10th grade and close in other grade levels.

“You can see it even in the performance results over time, we’re clearly gaining ground on everybody else because in terms of progress, our kids are … making more progress than most of the state of Ohio,” he said.

West Liberty-Salem was the only district in the two-county area to meet all 24 of the state standards, according to the report.

Among progress measurements, which are more subjective than performance measures, Northwestern earned A’s in overall, disabled and lowest 20 percent value-added areas, but received a D in gifted value-added.

“I’m very pleased that Northwestern teachers and students continue to improve in the area of value-added, which is student growth,” Northwestern Superintendent Tony Orr said. “We are very pleased that we met a greater number of indicators this year, and we’ve already formulated a plan to attack fifth- and sixth-grade math to help our students realize additional success in those areas.”

West Liberty-Salem earned B, C, D and F’s in the value-added categories of overall, disabled, lowest 20 percent and gifted, respectively.

Meanwhile, Greenon Local Schools was one of only two districts in an eight-county area covered by the Springfield News-Sun and Dayton Daily News that got A’s on all four pieces of the value-added progress measure, according to the report.

“Progress data measures how much our students grow over the course of a year,” Greenon Superintendent Dan Bennett said in a statement Thursday. “This tells us that our students are making tremendous strides over the course of the school year. From our gifted students to our students with disabilities, the report card results show that the efforts of our teachers are making a difference in our student’s lives.”

A new report card website that was expected to launch to the public at 11 a.m. Thursday was only sporadically available most of the day. And secure log-ins provided to districts to see their data was also only sporadically available Thursday, some officials said.

None of the state’s 610 public school districts got A’s in all nine categories, and none got all F’s.

The new system might confuse parents and those unfamiliar with it because it doesn’t yet include an overall district grade. And it’s a major change from the way districts were previously described, such as the familiar labels “academic emergency” and “excellent with distinction,” with state officials moving to the letter grade system.

Overall grades, state education officials said, can’t be calculated until 2015 when 17 different measures in six categories are rolled out.

Staff writer Jeremy Kelley contributed to this report.

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