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Clark-Shawnee ranked 16th for student growth

One local district ranked in the top two percent in the state on a list of schools for making more than a year’s progress with their students during the 2011-12 school year, while another fell near the bottom.

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools was 16th in the state out of 834 public, STEM and community school districts in the value-added rankings, a list the Ohio Department of Education produced for the first time this year. Graham Local Schools ranked 805.

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” said Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris. “We’re really tight, and we’ve also really asked our staff to do a lot of things, so it makes me really, really proud of our staff and their work.”

Value added aims to measure whether a district has helped students grow a year or more during the course of the school year. It’s based on test scores for students in fourth through eighth grades on the Ohio Achievement Assessment.

“This is the first year that they’ve ranked them as part of the new system,” said Morris. “We’ve done well on value added, it’s always helped us on the report card, but we’ve not had a measure exactly like this before.”

Most of the components of the state’s accountability system are based on achievement, or proficiency on the tests administered. Value added measures student’s growth or progress, regardless of whether they passed the test.

“When we’re looking at achievement, we’re just measuring what kids were able to do at a specific point of time based on what they knew when they got here,” said Mary Peters, senior director at Battelle for Kids, a Columbus-based non-profit organization. “When we’re measuring growth, what we’re really measuring is what are we doing with the kids that we get.”

Tecumseh Local Schools was the only other Clark or Champaign county district in the top 100 on the list. Six districts were above the expectation for value added for 2011-12, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Graham was the only local district to fall below the expectation of one year’s growth, after two years of meeting the measure.

“What we’ve kind of been able to discern is our really high-achieving kids, our high-achieving students, those are probably the ones that we’re not able to get to that year of improvement,” said Superintendent Norm Glismann.

He pointed out that Graham performed well on other measures, with 22 of 26 indicators for the percentage of students who pass tests and a performance index score of 97, ranking 475 on a list of 942 schools statewide.

But Graham has faced financial problems for the last two years and it’s taking a toll, he said. Graham spent about $7,597 per student, the 18th lowest in the state among public school districts in 2011-12.

“When we were in the process of over two years making $2 million in cuts in the districts, we cut 26 teaching positions,” Glismann said. “Class sizes are higher, there are less teachers in the district so I’m sure that that’s part of the reason.”

Many districts near the top spent much more, although Clark-Shawnee, which also has budget problems, spent about $8,355 per student, the 71st lowest in the state.

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