State: Hard to gauge schools on limited report card data

Students are back in class at the Fairmont Career Tech Center in Kettering. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Students are back in class at the Fairmont Career Tech Center in Kettering. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The Ohio Department of Education released school report cards Tuesday but acknowledged that in this strange year they may not be much help in evaluating the good and the bad.

Because of canceled spring state tests, there was no data on year-over-year progress and no A-F letter grades.

Three things didn’t change, though.

ExploreSee last year's report card results for local schools here

— Oakwood ranked among the state’s top 10 districts in the “prepared for success” measure, which tries to assess high school graduates' college and career readiness (the Class of 2019 in this case).

— Dayton ranked second-last in the state in four-year graduation rate (72.2%) for the Class of 2019, while a collection of small rural districts (Newton, Twin Valley, Arcanum, Botkins, Minster) were among those with 100% graduation.

— And people continued to debate the value of the state report cards, as most schools' results — in Honors Diplomas, ACT scores, college completion — closely tracked the wealth and poverty of their communities.

“The fact that the state recognizes that any 2020 letter grades and rankings would be useless without spring testing data proves just how overly reliant the existing grade card system is on standardized tests,” said Scott Dimauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

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The state government’s Department of Education suggested residents and families look beyond the data to understand their schools.

“Given the limited data available on the report cards this year, it will be challenging to gauge how well a particular school or district is performing,” ODE officials said. “All the more reason individuals interested in understanding school performance should talk with parents, students, teachers and graduates for insight into what a school really means to students, families and the community.”

Graduation data

With letter grades and performance index and student progress missing, the most recognizable data point on the 2019-20 state report card is the graduation rate. Graduation data is reported on a one-year lag, so the “four-year graduation rate” statistics are for the high school Class of 2019.

Twenty-six small Ohio districts had 100% graduation rates. Among larger districts, Springboro (98.5%), Bellbrook (97.3%) and Troy (96.8%) were highest locally. After Dayton’s 72.2%, Mad River (81.3%) and Xenia (81.8%) were lowest locally.

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A few local districts saw their four-year graduation rates change significantly from the previous year. Northridge’s graduation rate rose more than 7% to 90.2%, while Bethel (95.9%) and Piqua (90.6%) also saw 5% increases.

Piqua Superintendent Dwayne Thompson credited his district’s Success Bound plan, which gets students from elementary school to high school thinking about college, military and career options.

“Once students explore these options, they also learn what will be needed to graduate and successfully transition into one of these pathways,” Thompson said. “It has brought a great deal of focus to the work our students and staff engage in.”

Piqua High School students look at the district's Success Bound Plan last school year. The plan lists needed courses and career exploration steps, and has countdown clocks to graduation by grade level.
Piqua High School students look at the district's Success Bound Plan last school year. The plan lists needed courses and career exploration steps, and has countdown clocks to graduation by grade level.

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

New Lebanon was the only school district where the graduation rate decreased more than 5% from the previous year, to 89.6%. Other districts dropping almost 5% were Kettering (90.7%) and Trotwood (85.9%).

ODE said the statewide four-year graduation rate increased again in 2019 (from 85.3% to 85.9%). While some huge, big-city districts have graduation rates around 80%, the median four-year graduation rate among Ohio’s 608 school districts was 94.3%. That’s within 1 percentage point of districts like Northmont, Beavercreek, Eaton and Valley View locally.

Prepared for success

The state’s complex “prepared for success” measure attempts to gauge college and career readiness based on ACT/SAT scores, Ohio Honors Diplomas, job industry credentials, College Credit Plus achievement and more. ODE said statewide scores improved again for the class of 2019.

Oakwood ranked sixth in Ohio in that category, behind other wealthy suburbs such as Ottawa Hills near Toledo and Indian Hill near Cincinnati. Oakwood ranked in the top 12 districts in Ohio when it came to ACT score data, honors diplomas, Advanced Placement test scores and percentage of students completing college degrees within six years.

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Springboro ranked in the top 5% of the state on this measure, along with small north Miami Valley districts Minster, Russia and Fort Loramie. Bellbrook cracked the top 10%.

Tiny Jefferson Twp. schools, listed with only 276 students from K-12, ranked last in the state on “prepared for success.” Trotwood and Northridge were also in the bottom 10 districts statewide.

Four-year graduation rate for Class of 2019, by school district

100.0% Newton

100.0% Twin Valley

98.5% Springboro

98.1% Carlisle

98.0% Cedar Cliff

97.3% Bellbrook

97.2% Oakwood

97.0% Bradford

96.9% Miami East

96.8% Troy

96.7% Waynesville

96.4% Vandalia-Butler

96.0% Centerville

95.9% Bethel

95.9% Tipp City

95.7% Lebanon

95.3% Greeneview

95.2% Northmont

94.9% Beavercreek

94.4% Eaton

94.2% Covington

94.1% Yellow Springs

94.0% Valley View

93.8% National Trail

93.8% Preble Shawnee

93.5% Milton-Union

93.1% Brookville

92.9% Miamisburg

91.6% Franklin

91.1% Tri-County North

91.0% Greenon

90.7% Kettering

90.6% Piqua

90.2% Northridge

89.7% Jefferson Twp.

89.6% New Lebanon

89.4% Huber Heights

89.3% Tecumseh

89.1% Fairborn

85.9% Trotwood-Madison

85.1% West Carrollton

81.8% Xenia

81.3% Mad River

72.2% Dayton

Source: Ohio Department of Education