Report Cards Are In for East Ohio School Districts
By SHELLEY HANSON
For The Intelligencer
MARTINS FERRY — Eastern Ohio school districts received their latest round of grades from the Ohio Department of Education, which recently issued its annual Ohio Schools Report Card.
All local districts either received a C or D grade, but the schools’ leaders pointed out that students made improvements on various components and performance measures compared to past years. Performance measures that students were tested on include English language arts, math, science, English language arts I, English language arts II, Algebra I, Mathematics I, Mathematics II, biology, American government and American history.
Overall district grades were: Barnesville, C; Bellaire, D; Bridgeport, C; Buckeye Local, D; Harrison Hills, C; Martins Ferry, D; Shadyside, D; St. Clairsville, C; Switzerland of Ohio, D; and Union Local, D. In addition to an overall grade, the districts also received grades for six separate components: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers and Prepared for Success.
According to the ODE:
∫ “The Achievement component represents whether a student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall. A new indicator measures chronic absenteeism;”
∫ “The Progress component looks closely at growth that all students are making based on their past performances;”
∫ “The Gap Closing component shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for our most vulnerable students in English language arts, math, graduation and English language proficiency. Schools must close the achievement gaps that exist between groups of students that may be based on income, race, ethnicity or disability.” ODE notes the most vulnerable students are those who are poor, have disabilities, are English learners or are a minority;
∫ “The Graduation Rate component looks at the percent of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four or five years;”
∫ “The Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers component looks at how successful the school is at improving at-risk K-3 readers;” and
∫ “Whether training in a technical field or preparing for work or college, the Prepared for Success component looks at how well prepared Ohio’s students are for all future opportunities.”
St. Clairsville-Richland City School District Superintendent Walter Skaggs said his district received an overall grade of “C.” He said based on the latest testing, his district’s performance is improving.
“We looked at the overall test scores and we improved in 13 areas,” Skaggs said. “We also picked up eight additional indicators. … For example, during the last three years in the elementary school we increased our math scores by 10 percent each year. We also had a jump in the high school’s Algebra I scores, which increased 36 percent from last year.
When asked if there were any areas of concern, Skaggs replied, “We’re continuing to see growth in all areas and we’re continuing to make adjustments in the classroom. Improving, that’s our goal.”
He noted the overall performance index grade for the elementary school was a “B” and both the high school and middle school received a “C.” Skaggs said the last two years the testing format has been the same, which has helped.
Barnesville Exempted Village Schools received an overall grade of “C.”
“We are pleased with the overall letter grade of C, meaning we are meeting our students’ needs in most areas,” said Barnesville Superintendent Angie Hannahs.
She noted the district did have areas of improvement.
“We improved in gap closing, which shows how well we are meeting the performance expectations of our most vulnerable students in English language arts and math,” she said.
She noted, however, the district’s graduation rate dropped, along with its Prepared for Success component.
“We will look at this data to determine areas of focus in order to increase student achievement. … While the report card focuses primarily on state testing results, our staff is working hard each and every day to ensure our students are attaining the goals and objectives of a rigorous, well-rounded curriculum,” Hannahs said.
Bellaire Local School District Superintendent Darren Jenkins said while the district is not satisfied with its “D” letter grade, a closer look at the report card shows improvement. For example, on the component of Gap Closing, the district went up an entire letter grade — from a D to a C — compared to the previous report card.
Jenkins said his district has come a long way, considering it just exited fiscal emergency status in 2017.
“This district was in survival mode. … This was the first year that we were able to concentrate on instructional practices. We’re not satisfied with the overall score, but we can certainly see progress within our report card. We believe progress will continue in future years,” he said.
Students in more affluent areas of the state, he said, fair better on the report card.
“That’s why they do well on report cards. They have the lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged students,” Jenkins said of districts in other parts of the Buckeye State. “They don’t have better teachers than we do.”
Bridgeport Exempted Village School District Superintendent Zac Shutler said when people see a letter grade of “C,” they automatically think “average,” but that does not reflect what is happening at Bridgeport, he said.
“We believe we are doing extraordinary things here at Bridgeport for our students. We have worked with our educators to improve instruction and assessment,” Shutler said. “It’s important to know that this is one piece of the puzzle and does not measure everything. Not everything important can be measured and qualified.”
Shutler said the district improved it Gap Closing from a C to a B.
“This reflects how well our students who are most at risk are performing, which is crucial. The farther they fall behind, the more likely they are not going to graduate,” he said.
Shutler noted his district’s K-3 reading assessment dropped from an A to a C, but he believes this mostly was due to a new method of scoring for that component.
“We will see where we fell short and where we can grow and improve,” he said.
Martins Ferry City Schools Superintendent Jim Fogle said his district’s D grade does show a need for improvement, but he still does not believe the state’s testing tool reflects the level of learning at Martins Ferry.
“Most of the state is not performing at acceptable levels. I would look at the assessment, the tool,” he said. “I’m not a fan of the tool they use to test. It needs to be looked at. If 70 percent of districts were doing well in the state it might be legitimate.”
Though he does not like the assessment tool, Fogle is pleased that students’ marks are improving.
“I’m proud of how we improved this year,” he said, noting the district improved on 12 components and remained the same on two.
“I want our students to be as successful as possible. I truly believe our teachers do a great job in preparing them. Many of our graduates go on to four-year colleges … and technical programs. And many of them are quite successful, but according to our assessments they are not. We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing. I truly believe in our teachers and our system. I believe our students are continuously showing growth, whether academically or socially. They are doing a good job,” Fogle said.
Fogle noted the district is a member of the National Education Association and has a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy. Results from the academy show continuous growth and are supposed to be aligned with state standards, he said.
Shadyside Local Schools Superintendent John Haswell also believes the overall “D” grade on his district’s report card is not accurate.
“There are so many different things in this report card. We went up in some areas and down in some areas. It takes 31 pages to explain what is in this report card. Shadyside is a D. … That is not a true indicator of what happens in our district. … I don’t think the overall grade is a true reflection of what goes on in our district,” Haswell said. “I don’t give much credence to this.”
Haswell noted one area where the district dropped a letter grade was in Graduation. One student did not graduate last year and the district dropped an entire letter grade, he said.
In the Prepared for Success component, the district received an F. But Haswell said there was a mistake made because a box was not checked, accidentally leaving out a number of children.
Haswell said the district did see improvements in seventh and eighth grade math and in Algebra I.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, all students across the state showed improvements in English language arts, and almost all students showed improvement in math. In the entire state, 28 districts received an overall grade of A; 191 districts received an overall grade of B; 253 districts a C; 122 districts a D; and 14 districts an F.