Ratings don’t tell whole story, officials say
Mansfield City Schools get failing grades under a new state evaluation system that assigns districts letter grades for their performance in educating pupils.
Under the new protocol, announced Wednesday but scheduled to be phased in over several years beginning in the fall, eight school districts in Richland County — Clear Fork, Crestview, Lexington, Lucas, Madison, Ontario, Plymouth-Shiloh and Shelby — received grades of A.
The ninth, Mansfield, gets an F in projections from the state.
“People will look at the F and say we’re failing, but the numbers really show a lot more,” Mansfield Superintendent Dan Freund said. “We need to educate the public that it’s a more rigorous standard.
“It will take a lot of understanding and working with the public to show that it’s a multifaceted look at the schools, not just a final exam.”
While Mansfield receives an F for its four-year graduation rate under the report card system, Plymouth-Shiloh and Madison earn C’s, Shelby, Crestview and Lucas B’s, with Ontario, Clear Fork and Lexington garnering A’s.
The Ohio Department of Education’s previous system assigned labels to school districts; Mansfield earned “continuous improvement” for the 2011-12 school year.
The new grading protocol combines six categories — achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation rate, K-3 literacy and whether graduates are prepared for college or work — to arrive at several performance indicators.
Within those six categories, the new system also measures “value-added” performance, which looks at data from state tests over multiple years to track how certain groups of students improve over time. Mansfield received C grades there.
“The value-added numbers are what’s interesting to us,” Freund said. “Our kids take more time to hit the indicators. We have a lot of special-needs kids, economically disadvantaged, and now even limited-English students. They just need more time.”
The Ohio Department of Education sent out a memo explaining the new report cards.
“Just because a school may have a low achievement level in a given year does not mean that students are not learning,” the memo noted. “In fact, there may be a great deal of academic growth taking place moving students toward academic success.”
State Board of Education vice president Tom Gunlock weighed in Wednesday.
“We are not changing the report card to make school districts look bad or to beat up on them,” Gunlock said.
Still, Freund has mixed feelings about the report card system.
“It’s pretty complicated,” Freund said. “They said they wanted to simplify it, but I think it’s more complicated.”
While the new grades offer greater detail once they’re broken down, the districts’ performance indicator letter grades are in some cases less specific than in the previous labeling system.
During the 2011-12 school year, for instance, the Crestview and Plymouth-Shiloh districts received labels of excellent with distinction, Clear Fork, Lexington, Madison, Ontario and Shelby were labeled excellent and Lucas effective.
These eight school districts all receive the same A grade in performance indicators for the same school year under the new system.
House Bill 555
House Bill 555, signed by Gov. John Kasich in December, was responsible for changing the way Ohio grades its schools. About 60.5 percent of school districts receive A’s on their overall performance indicators for 2011-12, which measure proficiency on state tests. Mansfield is one of 6.4 percent of districts in the state to get an F.
“We don’t have our latest test scores back yet,” Freund said. “This is a projection based on last year’s tests, so we’ll have to see.”
In the 2011-12 school year Mansfield performed well on the 10th-grade Ohio graduation tests, with proficiency levels roughly equivalent to those in what the state calls “similar districts.” But Mansfield’s numbers fell off when it came to measuring achievement in the seventh and eighth grades in particular.
“The tests shift to more conceptual questions then, with extended response answers,” Freund said. “When they hit the seventh and eighth grades, students sometimes have a tough time with them, then by the 10th grade they’re more accomplished.
“We have to work toward an individualized approach with our kids and work to their strengths.”
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