September 2, 2008

Wayne, Holmes Make Grade on Report Card

By Linda Hall

From Staff Reports

WOOSTER -- Like districts from across the state, many in Wayne and Holmes counties continued to improve, as shown by data for the 2007-08 school year, released Monday by the Ohio Department of Education.

Most of the districts in the two counties landed in the "effective" category, several in "excellent" and two in a designation new to this year's report card: Excellent with distinction. The new designation is awarded to excellent districts or schools which show above-expected progress from year to year as part of the new value-added measure.

Only one district in the two-county area was relegated to continuous improvement, and none to academic watch or academic emergency.

Districts earn designations, ranging from excellent to academic emergency, through a combination of measurements.

There are state indicators that measure proficiency goals on grade-level achievement tests, graduation rate and testing and attendance. A performance index measures five levels of achievement - - advanced, accelerated, proficient, basic and limited. Also taken into consideration is a value-added component that measures student progress from one year to the next vs. simple proficiency at one point in time. Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is used to evaluate for overall performance and performance of student subgroups, such as multi-racial, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.

It is possible for districts to achieve the same amount of state indicators, yet be identified with different designations based upon the combination of measures being evaluated. For example, Wooster City Schools met 28 indicators and was designated effective. East Holmes Local Schools met 27 state indicators and is excellent with distinction.

Excellent with distinction: Dalton, East Holmes

Dalton Superintendent Scott Beatty said he is "very pleased with our results. One would first look at (our designation) and say, how could you do any better?"

But, there is always room for improvement, he said. For Dalton, a graduation rate of 96 percent could be increased, and the district's special education subgroup, although not large enough to impact AYP, can be improved. The district already demonstrated dramatic improvement in eighth-grade social studies.

Likewise, Superintendent Joe Wengerd said the East Holmes district will continue striving for greater achievement, concentrating in the area of special education.

Excellent: Chippewa, North Central, Northwestern

Chippewa's scores were either the highest or second highest in Wayne County on the Ohio Graduation Tests in writing, science and social studies, Superintendent Doug Shamp said; and in reading and math, they were the second highest in the county.

However, even though the district improved in all areas, it didn't make the grade in eighth-grade social studies, which Shamp said has been a difficult area across the state.

Considering the cuts in staff, Shamp said he's proud of the district's performance, meeting AYP for the first time in three years in all categories and subgroups, except for special education reading -- a category the district missed by just one student.

For the sixth year in a row, the North Central School District received an excellent rating.

Superintendent Larry Acker gives a lot of credit for the district's performance to a continuous improvement plan that was implemented during the 1989-1990 school year.

Of note on this year's report card were the achievement scores of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. While 75 percent is a standard benchmark for proficiency, he said 95.3 percent of sixth graders were proficient, as were 95.1 percent of seventh graders and 95.9 percent of eighth graders.

In addition, only three school districts in the state outscored the North Central district in the math achievement test at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels.

Northwestern Superintendent Jeffrey Layton said a lot of the credit for high performance should go to the math department. "We are doing a phenomenal job in math."

"You are always going to find something you need to work on," Layton said, adding, "We have to work on social studies in our middle school, calling eighth-grade social studies "our Achilles heel."

"We try to make the kids have ownership of their scores, and let them know that they are responsible in part for their learning and their futures, and I think we have done a good job getting that across," Layton said.

Effective: Green, Rittman, Southeast, Triway, West Holmes, Wooster

"We had some good results in some areas and some areas we have to look at to improve," Green Superintendent Larry Brown said, describing 10th-grade results as "outstanding."

However, "We've got some areas in fifth-grade and eighth-grade we're going to need to address," Brown said.

Staff and administrators will meet early in September to analyze the data and begin to plan ways to improve, Brown said, such as assessing and adapting fourth-grade lessons in order to improve fifth-grade scores, Brown said. The same will be true for seventh- and eighth-grade lessons.

Rittman's Superintendent Jon Ritchie said he is not pleased the district lost three indicators, receiving a 20 out of 30 standards. But, the district maintained its "effective" designation.

"We've done things like reduce class size in the elementary school, and we think that will have a positive impact on our test scores in the future," he said.

The Southeast district met AYP this year, something it had not accomplished last year. Overall, Superintendent Michael Shreffler is pleased with the district's performance.

"But (the scores) give us some room to improve, most notably, in fifth- and eighth-grade social studies," he said. "Those have been low across the state, so that tells us something about the reliability of the test, but that doesn't mean we won't work on it."

"We met 25 out of 30 indicators," said Triway Superintendent Dave Rice, the same amount as last year.

"We met the AYP," Rice said, except for one subgroup, special needs. We have bounced back and forth between math and reading in that subgroup," he said. "This year we met value-added."

West Holmes met all of the categories under adequate yearly progress.

"Even though the new value-added measure adds an additional layer of complexity to Ohio's accountability process, it provides a sharper lens for identifying schools where students are making progress," Superintendent Kris Perone said.

"Prior to value-added, the accountability system measured the percentage of students that reached proficiency, not how much progress was made since to the prior year."

Overall, "The district's report card shows that student performance is improved over last year and reflects the district's academic focus," Perone said.

Wooster schools improved from 27 out of 30 indicators to 28 out of 30, Superintendent Michael Tefs said, noting, if the district continues to improve "at the same rate we have," he anticipates earning all 30 state indicators by 2010.

Fifth-grade social studies scores improved by 10 percent -- "one of our strategic priorities," Tefs said. By taking advantage of multiple ways allowed by the state to achieve AYP, "We met (it) in every single subgroup for reading and math," Tefs said.

Continuous improvement: Orrville

Despite a rating that on the surface appears low, "We feel like our teachers and students are working hard in our effort to improve our report card score," said Ritchie, who fills the role of superintendent for Orrville and Rittman.

"The 25 out of 30 is something we are going to continue to work at and build upon," he said. "We clearly have to focus more of our energies on our students with special needs and students who are economically disadvantaged."

Referring to the multiple-measure scoring system, Ritchie said, "the 25 out of 30 alone would make us an effective district; we just need to make sure that students in all of the categories are improving at the same rate."

Reporters Linda Hall, Adam Burroughs, Katy Ganz, Rachel Jackson, Christy Johnson, Chris Leonard, Nick Sabo and Bryan Schaaf contributed to this report.

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