School report card highs and lows: Who had A’s and F’s?

Trotwood-Madison school officials celebrated and focused on the future Thursday after the new state report card showed the district made enough improvement in 2017-18 to earn a “D” and avoid immediate state takeover.

But a few miles south, Dayton Public Schools was dealing with an overall grade of “F” – the only “F” in the region – as both DPS and the state said some of the district’s test data was incorrectly reported.

DPS officials said the errors, which Dayton blamed on a software company, were unlikely to change the overall grade of “F” meaning DPS would be subject to state takeover if it doesn’t improve during the current school year.

FULL REPORT CARD: View results for area districts

“We’ve been expecting that our score would be an ‘F’ since we got the preliminary results,” Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said. “We’ve already started processes and put things in place to make sure that it’s not an ‘F’ next year, and I think that we’re on the right track.”

The biggest change in this year’s state report card was the addition of an overall grade for each school and district.

Four local school districts were among the 28 statewide to earn an “A” on the overall grade — Oakwood, Springboro, Waynesville and Bellbrook — putting them in the top 5 percent of the Ohio Department of Education’s grading system.

Statewide results

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria was upbeat about Ohio schools’ results in the state report card, pointing to increases in test scores and graduation rates. Statewide proficiency rates rose by just a hair in math and more significantly in English, with proficiency rates increasing on 14 total state exams and decreasing on nine.

But after significant improvements last year, when the statewide performance index rose by more than 2 points, this year’s increase was only a tenth of a point. Ohio Department of Education documents called the increase still noteworthy, because two elementary school social studies tests — which students had traditionally scored high on — came out of the calculation this year as the tests were eliminated.

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“You see the map in the statewide report card that shows all the parts of the state where the performance index is going up. It’s incredible how it reaches every corner of the state,” DeMaria said. “That excites me, and it’s the same thing I set as our goal for next year. I want to keep pushing the system to support continuous improvement across the board, because I know people are capable of it and I know we can get there.”

The statewide graduation rate, which is reported on a one-year lag, continued its slow march upward. The four-year graduation rate (measuring the Class of 2017) rose from 83.6 percent to 84.1 percent.

Trotwood’s relief

Trotwood needed to avoid an “F” on the report card’s new overall grade to avoid takeover, and improvements in test scores and gap closing helped the district earn an overall “D.”

“We’re excited, and we know that we have a strategic plan in place now that’s going to allow us to make even greater gains,” interim superintendent Tyrone Olverson said.

School board President Denise Moore said Trotwood will become an “A” district, but Olverson acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do.

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Trotwood still received multiple F’s, including in the primary achievement and student growth categories. But after finishing last of Ohio’s 608 school districts last year in test performance index, Trotwood jumped over four districts this year, with the index rising from 45.9 to 49.5, the largest increase in the region.

Trotwood’s best grade was a “B” in gap closing, which reports whether each subgroup of students (by race, economics, disability, etc.) narrowed achievement gaps when compared with the student body as a whole. That grade was an “F” last year.

Olverson and Moore both thanked families, school staff and community members for buying into the turnaround efforts the district has started this year.

“First and foremost, we have changed the culture here in Trotwood. We have raised the expectations and the standards,” Moore said.

Local highlights

Half of the 10 largest school districts in the area earned B’s on the overall grade – Beavercreek, Centerville, Kettering, Northmont and Miamisburg. Among other large districts, Troy and Lebanon got “C” grades overall, while Huber Heights, Xenia and Fairborn received D’s.

For the second year in a row, Oakwood City Schools ranked No. 1 of Ohio’s 608 school districts in the “prepared for success” measure on the state report card.

Prepared for success aims to measure how well prepared students are for a variety of post-high school opportunities. It takes into account scores on ACT/SAT college entrance exams, earning industry job credentials or high school honors diplomas, earning college credits while in high schools and other pathways.

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Oakwood also ranked No. 1 in the state by having 77.5 percent of tested students qualify as “remediation-free” on the ACT or SAT.

The report card data released Thursday showed Dayton Public Schools ranked last in the state in performance index, the most complete measure of state test performance. But the reporting error makes it unclear whether DPS will stay there. Last year, DPS ranked second-last in performance index, ahead of only Trotwood.

Oakwood was again near the top in performance index, ranking seventh in Ohio. Tiny Marion Local schools near Grand Lake St. Marys ranked fifth, and Waynesville, which had a very strong overall report card, was in the top 5 percent in Ohio.

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Year-over-year student progress is one of the report card areas the Ohio Department of Education calls most important. Miami East, Eaton and Brookville schools all scored in the top 5 percent of the state in that category. Other districts earning A’s in that category included Beavercreek, Centerville, Miamisburg and Northmont.

On the other end of the spectrum, eight local districts got F’s in student progress with Trotwood and Mad River ranking among the bottom 5 percent in the state.

In graduation rate, small Miami County districts Newton and Covington were among the 33 Ohio school districts that posted a 100 percent graduation rate for the class of 2017. Waynesville, Yellow Springs and Lebanon were just behind them at 98 percent. Dayton (69.5 percent) and Jefferson Twp. (77.1) were the lowest locally, with Dayton ranking fifth-lowest in the state.

Criticism of report card

Many researchers have argued Ohio’s testing and report card systems do a poor job of measuring actual school quality, saying test results have a near straight-line correlation with community poverty instead.

Both the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Education Association (the state’s largest teachers union) pointed to that link Thursday.

“OEA urges the General Assembly to pass proposed report card reforms contained in House Bill 591,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “These reforms would end arbitrary letter grades that are biased against low-income districts and replace them with other indicators that are easy to understand and are based on the needs of parents and students.”

JULY STORY: Legislation to change report card stalls out

OSBA cited school funding researcher Howard Fleeter’s statement, pointing to disparities for low-wealth districts since Ohio’s school funding model was ruled unconstitutional 20 years ago.

DeMaria said he believes the report card is an “honest reflection of the academic activities happening in a school or district,” but he agreed it does not give the whole picture, encouraging residents to visit their local schools, talk to students, and read schools’ own profile documents to get information beyond the scores.

“If you look school by school and do a scatter plot, you can find schools with a high level of students who are economically disadvantaged doing really well,” DeMaria said. “My mission is to keep pushing the system to break those correlations because I believe that poor children can learn to the levels of other students.”

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