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Grades drop for district on latest state report cards

Area superintendents describe them as 'seriously flawed'

by marsha mckenna senior editor Published: September 18, 2016 12:00 AM
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Last grading period, it was honor roll grades for the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools district on the state report card.

This time around, not so much.

In the Sept. 15 release of the 2015-16 state report cards by the Ohio Department of Education, the district received a total of one A (graduation), two Cs (Achievement and Prepared for Success) and three Fs (K-3 Literacy, Progress and Gap Closing).

Scores have dropped so much for local districts that 22 area superintendents released a joint statement Sept. 15, calling the 2015-16 report cards "seriously flawed."

Stow-Munroe Falls Superintendent Tom Bratten is among those in the Akron Area School Superintendents' Association criticizing the state report cards. The association represents member districts from across Summit, Portage and Medina counties.

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Bratten did not mince words about the state's scoring process.

"I will not now nor ever base the value of what we do every single day here at SMFCSD on some arbitrary results that some arbitrary people decided to pick arbitrarily while eschewing all of the actual important things we do on a daily basis," he said. "Even when we scored the highest in the county last year, I said that's great and honorable and gave honor where it was due, but it will never define who we are."

"The entire purpose of [the report card] is to help identify strengths and weaknesses of each district's educational program," the association said. "However, . . . this report card is seriously flawed and is not reflective of the quality of education being provided to our students."

"We believe the report card does not consistently measure the educational programs of our districts," said Walter Davis, president of the association and superintendent of the Woodridge Local Schools. "Our districts' teachers and staff work hard every day to provide our students an educational experience to prepare them for college and careers. The state's ever-changing report card does not reflect how local school districts are actually performing."

"To watch our same brilliant staff and brilliant students go from brilliant last year to apparent failures this year, with no major change in either process nor population, makes sense to no one. It just doesn't happen," Bratten stressed. "We have the same incredible students and amazing staff. What I do know is that both are doing the same incredible jobs."

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Looking at the grades

In the Achievement component, the grade represents the number of students passing state tests and how well they did on them.

Stow-Munroe Falls scored a 74.4 percent, or a C in performance index, dropping to an F with 41.9 percent in indicators met, netting a component grade of C. For 2014-15, the district's grade was a B (82.1 percent) with 98.6 points given out of a possible 120.

"The Achievement metric shares how well students perform on state tests. The state has expanded testing on federal requirements, adding nine additional tests in all content areas, and has changed test types three times in as many years," the statement said. "While teaching and learning standards have remained constant in our districts, the assessment requirements have repeatedly changed making it very difficult to make comparisons and improve instruction."

In the area of K-3 Literacy, the district received an F, at 5.2 percent. Last year, the district did not receive a grade in the K-3 Literacy Improvement category because less than 5 percent of kindergarten students were not on-track to meet the literacy requirements. The previous year, the district received a B, with a percentage of 75.4 percent.

The data released in March showed that for the 2014-15 school year, 99.3 percent of kindergartners were on-track for the state's grade level reading diagnostic. In first grade, it was 80.9 percent; second grade, 78.9 percent; and third grade was 86.7 percent.

According to the superintendents, "The K-3 Literacy Rate compares the results of a student's preliminary reading assessment to their proficiency on the Grade 3 test. This new test, however, now incorporates reading and writing. As such, this measure is flawed in that it calculates a rate based on a reading score to a reading and writing score. As a result of this flawed comparison, the calculated score does not reflect actual literacy attainment."

"To base our scores like K-3 Literacy on the struggling readers alone is awful. To constantly raise our bar when we reach a higher level in order to make it unattainable is wrong," said Bratten. "To calculate the same things but call them by different names and consider the situation fixed is incomprehensible."

Another part of the report card that frustrated the superintendents was the new Prepared for Success. Stow-Munroe Falls received a C in this component that looks at how well Ohio students are prepared for all future opportunities.

"The new Prepared for Success measure looks at students over a two-year period," read the statement. "In late June, the state made a change in how the data was to be reported; districts were not permitted to update data derived from the first year of the period. As a result, improvements made by districts that added additional college courses are not considered or included in the score."

In other components, the Stow-Munroe Falls district received:

an F in Progress, which grades the growth that all students are making based on past performances; last year, the district earned an A overall as well as in the specific breakdowns for gifted students and students with disabilities -- the latter improving from a D in 2013-14.

an A in Graduation rate, with 94.1 percent of students graduating in four years and 96.6 percent in five years, the same grade as last year.

an F in Gap Closing, which measures how schools are meeting the performance expectations for the "most vulnerable populations" of students in English language arts, math and graduation. The grade was based on the district meeting 34.7 percent of its Annual Measurable Objectives.

For the 2014-15 school year, the district received a grade of B at 84.3 percent -- compared to 2013-14's grade of D at 67.7 percent.

"We, as responsible school leaders, welcome accountability and transparency and recognize that Ohio's accountability system is in transition," stated the superintendents' association. "However, it is difficult to utilize a report card that is a constantly changing document, made up of flawed components. This report card does not consistently measure how local school districts are actually performing.

"It is important that as superintendents, we notify community members about these flaws so residents know the facts before they arrive at conclusions based upon faulty information. We want to assure our communities that our districts work hard each day to provide the best possible educational experience for our students."

And what's next for SMF schools?

Bratten is clear on that point.

"We do what we do every single day right now. We keep children safe, we nurture them, we teach them morals and values, we feed them, we counsel them, we educate them to the best of their and our ability, and we treat them as though they are our own.

"And when we decide it's not good enough for our own child, we know it's not good enough for anyone else's child either."

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-4178


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