Dayton Public Schools’ state report card for 2017-18 will be worse than the year before, Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli told school board members Monday night, once again raising questions about possible state takeover in fall 2019.
On Tuesday, the state and DPS gave different answers about whether Dayton — already among the worst-performing districts on state tests — is one year or two years of negative performances away from takeover.
Ohio schools are subject to state takeover by an Academic Distress Commission if they have three consecutive years of specific poor performance levels on the state report card, according to state law.
Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said Tuesday that DPS’ 2016-17 results qualified as Year 1 of that poor performance. Report card results are not official until mid-September, but since Lolli said DPS’ scores dropped this spring, that makes it likely that 2017-18 was Year 2 toward takeover.
If that’s accurate, this coming school year will be the crucial year for DPS to avoid state takeover, as students would have to improve on state tests this coming spring, or the state takeover process would begin immediately after report card release in September 2019.
Both Monday and Tuesday, Lolli questioned whether that takeover timeline was correct. Lolli said the team that ODE sent to Dayton in May, including director of Academic Distress Commissions Clairie Huff-Franklin, told DPS officials that 2016-17 results did not count as Year 1 toward Academic Distress, meaning the earliest a takeover process could start would be September 2020.
But later Tuesday, Halpin said she had double-checked with ODE’s accountability office, which confirmed Dayton already had the first qualifying poor year in 2016-17. That means failing report cards this fall and next fall “would trigger an ADC in September 2019 after the report card is released,” Halpin said.
The takeover rules are complicated by the fact that some state report card metrics change from year to year. When a district does face takeover, an Academic Distress Commission is appointed, with the state superintendent naming three of the five members. That commission then appoints a CEO to run the district, with Ohio law giving the CEO broad powers to change district operations.
While 2017-18 results are preliminary, Lolli said the district’s overall report card “dropped,” with small improvements on some subject tests, but declines in others.
“I want the board of education and the public to understand that the test results that come out … are not likely going to be the best work that you’ve ever seen produced by our Dayton Public School district team,” Lolli said.
Dayton Public Schools’ performance index on state tests for 2016-17 was 47.6 of 100, behind all of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts except for Trotwood-Madison. DPS got an “F” on performance index that year, and the grade is likely to remain an “F” this year. The district got a “D” in year-over-year progress last year, showing higher gains than all of Ohio’s large urban districts except Toledo. That grade for 2017-18 is not yet clear.
Reflecting on DPS’ new 2017-18 results, Lolli said the turmoil of last school year likely contributed to the test score decline. The district narrowly avoided a teachers strike at the start of the school year and lost many teachers to other districts. Superintendent Rhonda Corr was ousted in November, leading to significant leadership shakeups. The winter featured a public discussion of likely school closings (only one closed so far), and this spring, bus drivers came two days away from striking.
“What I will say to you is that we are committed to using (the new results) as our baseline data, so that from this point forward, that baseline of test results from last year will become what we measure ourselves against as we start giving those monthly reports to the board of education about our strategic goals and strategic actions,” she said.
Mohamed Al-Hamdani was the only school board member to directly address Lolli’s comments on test scores Monday night, thanking her for being honest about the results.
“We expect better of ourselves and we expect better of our district,” he said. “Our students, our scholars can achieve. I look forward to setting those goals with you. And we will hold your feet to the fire.”
School board members Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Robert Walker focused on recent improvements in morale and energy in the district as DPS tries to make progress this year. Lolli had talked about early work toward creating a known level of expectations for the whole district — what she called “The Dayton Way.”
“I think a lot of the issues around our performance within Dayton Public Schools is a result of organizational culture,” Wick-Gagnet said. “And I believe that establishing some baselines of expectations and performance, and establishing a Dayton Way model, will go a long way toward rebuilding that organizational culture.”