By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
COLUMBUS -- The state's latest school report cards show increased academic achievement for pupils statewide, but state officials say more work is needed, particularly in middle school mathematics.
"There's been improvement in achievement across the state," said Dr. Mitchell Chester, the Ohio Department of Education's associate superintendent for policy and accountability, in a teleconference Monday.
Results of the 2004 to 2005 report cards for individual districts and schools are to be released today.
This year, the state continues to phase out proficiency tests in favor of achievement tests designed to match the state's academic content standards.
Ratings include excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.
The designations are based on 23 performance indicators.
Areas where districts and schools must meet or exceed the 75 percent proficient mark: third-grade achievement tests, reading and mathematics; fourth-grade proficiency test, mathematics, citizenship and science; fourth-grade achievement tests, reading and writing; fifth-grade achievement test, reading; sixth-grade proficiency test, reading, writing, mathematics, citizenship and science; seventh-grade achievement test, mathematics; eighth-grade achievement tests, reading and mathematics; 10th-grade Ohio Graduation Tests, reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science; 90 percent state requirement in graduation rate; 93 percent state requirement in attendance rate.
Chester said the department is pleased with how Ohio compares with other states. It's moved from the middle of the pack to the top one-third or top one-fourth, he said.
"We think Ohioans have a lot to be proud of with their public education," Chester said.
The average of pupils' scores on all state tests has increased by more than 17 points over the past six years.
"Five out of six school districts improved on their performance index scores" over last year, Chester said.
Nearly 96 percent of school districts received ratings of excellent, effective or continuous improvement, and over the past three years, the number of districts in academic watch and academic emergency has decreased from 68 to 26, he said.
Results also show a narrowing of achievement gaps between black and white pupils, the state's two largest demographic groups, in some grade levels and subjects. The Ohio Graduation Test saw all groups of pupils achieving gains in reading and math from last year.
The gaps also are closing between low-income and nondisadvantaged and disabled and nondisabled pupils in every grade and subject, according to the scores.
But Chester said more work must be done to close the achievement gaps in middle grade mathematics and high school tests.
"The curriculum in mathematics in the middle school grades must be systematically realigned," he said.
The numbers also indicate that results for community schools were less than stellar.
Of 130 community schools that received ratings, five were determined excellent, the highest category; nine were effective; 24 were in continuous improvement; 15 in academic watch and 77 in academic emergency.
That compares with the 2003 to 2004 report card results where 112 community schools received ratings. One was rated excellent; five were effective; 42 continuous improvement; 17 in academic watch and 46 in academic emergency.