Lead­ers: Fo­cus on big­ger pic­ture with re­lease of schools’ grades

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Writer By Jeremy P. Kel­ley

Ohio schools will be graded to­day on ev­ery­thing from grad­u­a­tion rates for stu­dents who left two years ago to how much their very youngest stu­dents im­proved in read­ing.

But lo­cal and state ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers cau­tioned this week that even with a broad swath of data, the state re­port card grades are just one piece of mea­sur­ing whether schools are do­ing a good job.

State Su­per­in­ten­dent Paolo De­Maria cited valu­able data on the re­port card, but he ac­knowl­edged some grades a school re­ceives are not a re­sult of what teach­ers and prin­ci­pals are do­ing.

“Any par­tic­u­lar class­room is a unique col­lec­tion of ... stu­dents who come to the ta­ble with their own bless­ings and chal­lenges,” he said. “It’s mis­lead­ing to look at the re­port card and jump to the con­clu­sion that, look, be­cause a grade is low, there must be some­thing wrong with the sys­tem.”

De­Maria be­lieves the state tests

that form the- ba­sis of much of the re­port card are valid mea­sures, and that “the vast ma­jor­ity of stu­dents” do fine with on­line test­ing – two claims that some lo­cal ed­u­ca­tors dis­agree with.

Spring­field City Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Bob Hill said most peo­ple don’t look deeply enough at the re­port card data, and end up judg­ing a school or teacher, when those ed­u­ca­tors may be help­ing stu­dents over­come “tremen­dous chal­lenges.”

“If the stu­dent pop­u­la­tions are not sim­i­lar – at least in the things that we know cor­re­late with test scores, like per­cent of stu­dents in poverty, per­cent of stu­dents who are English lan­guage learn­ers, per­cent of stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dent mo­bil­ity – then com­par­ing re­port cards will al­ways be ex­tremely mis­lead­ing,” Hill said.

The re­port cards that come out to­day are largely based on state ex­ams that stu­dents took in spring 2017. Schools and dis­tricts will not re­ceive an over­all let­ter grade on this year’s re­port card.

In­stead, they will get six com­po­nent grades mea­sur­ing the fol­low­ing: over­all test achieve­ment, yearover-year test progress, kinder­garten-to-third-grade lit­er­acy im­prove­ment, grad­u­a­tion rates, gap clos­ing be­tween cer­tain de­mo­graphic groups of stu­dents, and a “pre­pared for suc­cess” mea­sure that tracks things like hon­ors diplo­mas, col­lege en­trance test scores and in­dus­try cre­den­tials.

Lani Wil­dow, di­rec­tor of cur­ricu­lum and in­struc­tion at Fair­field City Schools, ac­knowl­edged all those dif­fer­ent an­gles on the data and said Fair­field pays par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the year-over-year progress mea­sures. But she said that’s still a lim­ited tool.

“There is so much more to Fair­field than its re­port card,” Wil­dow said. “We have a tremen­dously suc­cess­ful mu­sic pro­gram and ath­letic pro­gram along with course of­fer­ings you do not see in ev­ery high school – Man­darin, Foren­sics, and Fu­tur­is­tic Lit­er­a­ture to name a few. Our goal is to cre­ate an at­mos­phere where each and ev­ery child feels safe, val­ued and suc­cess­ful – some­thing the state re­port card does not mea­sure.”

Day­ton Pub­lic School Su­per­in­ten­dent Rhonda Corr said even though the state re­port card doesn’t paint a per­fect pic­ture of her district, DPS does care­fully an­a­lyze the data all the way down to the in­di­vid­ual teacher and stu­dent level.

“Our fo­cus is a bal­ance of the achieve­ment and growth (mea­sures),” Corr said. “We want our chil­dren per­form­ing at grade level and be­yond, but we’re also look­ing for that growth be­cause we know that many of our chil­dren are al­ready be­hind.”

When at-risk stu­dents are be­hind, en­cour­ag­ing them to come to school – and ac­tu­ally be­ing able to get them there – may be more im­por­tant than a test score.

“You can’t test the love that a teacher has for a child based on a once-a-year state as­sess­ment,” Corr said. “Hav­ing adults who care for you when you walk in the build­ing, mak­ing sure the qual­ity of work go­ing on in the class­room ev­ery day is en­gag­ing and con­sis­tent. Pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion ... there’s no grade for bus ar­rival time.”

De­Maria en­cour­aged fam­i­lies to look be­yond the school district-level ba­sics, at least to their in­di­vid­ual school’s scores. He said he fo­cuses on per­for­mance in­dex (the most de­tailed mea­sure of state test per­for­mance) as well as stu­dent progress scores, which show whether there was im­prove­ment from year to year.

“(Progress) tells that other part of the story,” De­Maria said. “If ab­so­lute per­for­mance isn’t par­tic­u­larly high, does the value-added score show that great things are hap­pen­ing none­the­less in terms of help­ing stu­dents?”

But Spring­field’s Hill pointed out that so much of what goes on in schools is not re­flected in the re­port card, which fo­cuses heav­ily on English and math, with a lit­tle bit of sci­ence and so­cial stud­ies mixed in.

Hill said the ben­e­fits of Spring­field’s com­puter sci­ence and ro­bot­ics classes, five world lan­guages, ROTC pro­gram, and coun­selors in ev­ery school are not re­flected on the re­port card.

“In­di­vid­ual stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ences are de­ter­mined by much more than how 80 per­cent of their class­mates scored on a cer­tain test,” Hill said. “Par­ents should look closely at the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of their own child, and view a school’s re­port card as just one of many, many fac­tors to con­sider when eval­u­at­ing a school.”

Oak­wood scores higher on state tests than any school in the re­gion, but Su­per­in­ten­dent Kyle Ramey is not a fan of the re­port card and test­ing sys­tem. But he and De­Maria do agree on the best way to learn if a school is do­ing well.

“If you want to know how things are in the class­room, you need to go visit,” Ramey said. “Talk to the teacher, talk to the prin­ci­pal, vol­un­teer to serve lunch or do some­thing. You can get a bet­ter pic­ture of how things are in the class­rooms and in the hall­ways and make a more in­formed de­ci­sion.”

‘We want our chil­dren per­form­ing at grade level and be­yond, but we’re also look­ing for that growth be­cause we know that many of our chil­dren are al­ready be­hind.’ Rhonda Corr Day­ton Pub­lic Schools su­per­in­ten­dent

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