Madison County’s four public school districts earned generally poor grades on state report cards issued Thursday, Sept. 15.
The single bright spot for all four was graduation rates. Madison-Plains Local, Jefferson Local and Jonathan Alder Local schools each scored an A in that area. London City Schools earned a B on four-year graduation rates, but an A for graduating students in five years.
Otherwise, scores were below average across the board — even at Alder where administrators are accustomed to excellent ratings.
On Monday, Superintendent Gary Chapman warned Alder board of education members during their meeting to expect significantly lower grades this year due to a change in state testing procedures and higher standards of measurement. Chapman said the Ohio Department of Education “raised the bar” in 2015-16 and will raise it again next year.
Alder earned Cs in testing achievement and preparing students for success after high school, based on ACT and SAT scores; Ds in K-3 literacy and “progress” or how much students learn year to year; and an F in how well district demographic groups — for example, gifted, poor, disabled and non-English speaking students — compare with all Ohio students.
The K-3 literacy standard measures reading improvement between third and fourth grade, not the number of students meeting the third-grade reading guarantee.
Jefferson Local scored Ds in achievement and progress and a C in preparing students for post-high school success. The district failed K-3 literacy and the demographic comparison standard.
Madison-Plains also earned Ds in achievement and progress, with an additional D in the post-high school success measure. The district also failed K-3 literacy and demographic comparisons with all Ohio students.
London’s score for post-graduation success was C. The district earned a D in achievement, but failed K-3 literacy, year-to-year progress and the demographic comparison measure.
In a letter posted on London schools’ website and distributed through social media, Superintendent Lou Kramer acknowledged the low scores, but said Ohio students have performed better in the last five years on measures like the ACT.
Like Chapman, Kramer blamed poor grades on a change in testing procedures — London’s were online — and problems with the state reporting system. He said comparing previous standardized tests like the Ohio Achievement Assessments with last year’s tests would be comparing “apples to oranges.”
Kramer said London is drafting a strategic plan for improvement, especially in mathematics, reading and language arts.
He noted Ohio public schools adapted well to shifting standards in the past.
“It will be our job to adapt this time,” Kramer added.
Tim Dettwiller, superintendent at Madison-Plains, is frustrated.
“We know we’ve made improvements. It’s frustrating when they change the rules every year,” he said.
Dettwiller is concerned for his staff.
“We made a big improvement last year. This confuses them,” he said.
Jefferson Local Superintendent William Mullett was unable to be immediately reached.
The Ohio School Boards Association also expressed concern about years of changing academic tests.
“We are concerned about 2016 being the third year in a row with different tests and varying standards,” the OSBA said in a press release. “Districts need adequate time to properly prepare for such transitions.”
The association also questioned how ODE arrives at a grade, noting measures are narrow.
“The report card tells only part of the story. To truly gauge progress, it’s important to take a holistic look at student and district achievement,” said OSBA President Eric K. Germann.
“The report card is just one component. Many other factors, including job, college and military placement, scholarships awarded, the arts and community service must be part of the overall picture of student success,” he stated.
Germann urged legislators and ODE administrators to review report card measures to ensure future grades are “fair, equitable and consistent and that reporting is clear and concise.”
More data can be found at http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
Jane Beathard is a contributing writer for The Advocate.