Struthers, Salem, Lisbon and Weathersfield were among local districts to show improvement.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city school district will take specific actions to improve test scores to lift it out of the lowest of five state categories measuring academic achievement, the superintendent says.
The school district slipped into academic emergency, according to state report cards released Tuesday.
The Ohio Department of Education released the reports , showing that Youngstown schools had dropped from academic watch, its score last year.
Of the 45 districts in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, six received a rating of excellent: Canfield, Lowellville, Poland, South Range, Western Reserve and Champion.
Twenty-three districts were ranked effective, and 14 had a rating of continuous improvement. Warren was in academic watch; Youngstown was rated in academic emergency.
This year, the state used the Ohio Graduation Test in calculating school districts' report cards.
"Every time that happens [the test changes], the district slips back," said Dr. Wendy Webb, Youngstown city schools superintendent.
It will be more difficult this year for districts to keep or improve their academic status because the state, under federal requirements, added five new goals and increased standards for meeting several others.
Webb believes the creation of better learning environments, and teaching for application, understanding and mastery, rather than teaching to the test, would help to raise the scores.
"The past administration did a very good job of instituting initiatives, but we're missing the glue to hold those initiatives together," she said.
Webb said she's met with superintendents of similar districts where scores have improved to learn how they did it.
She also points out that the news wasn't all negative. Last year's report cards showed all of the district's high schools in academic emergency. This year, Chaney moved to effective, The Rayen School is considered in continuous improvement and Woodrow Wilson moved to academic watch.
What the numbers mean
The ratings were based on 23 indicators. To receive an excellent rating, districts had to meet 22 to 23 indicators or 100 or above on the performance index. Effective districts met 18 to 21 indicators or scored between 90 and 99.9 on the performance index. In addition to the number of indicators and performance index scores that must be met, these two ratings also are based on districts meeting an adequate yearly progress standard. AYP sets annual goals that must be met by a certain percentage of students in 10 groups, such as race. To meet AYP, those goals must be achieved in each of those student groups.
Continuous improvement means districts met 11 to 17 indicators or scored 80 to 89.9 on the PI or they made AYP. Districts in academic watch met eight to 11 indicators or scored between 70 and 79.9 and missed AYP and districts in academic emergency met seven or fewer indicators, scored below 70 and missed AYP.
The performance index measures achievement of all pupils on all subject areas of the tests.
How other districts fared
While Youngstown may have lost some ground, the Struthers school district moved from continuous improvement last year to effective this year.
"It's absolutely great news," said Superintendent Dr. Sandra DiBacco-Tusinac. "There's been a lot of collaboration aligning the curriculum to the standards. Our teachers and administrators have worked very hard."
In Trumbull County, Weathersfield schools also saw an improvement, moving from continuous improvement last year to effective in the latest ratings.
"We're very excited and happy," said Superintendent Michael Hanshaw.
He credited the district's continuous improvement team, composed of staff, board members, administrators and parents, for their work.
New action plans were developed for each school building and because of the passage to two levies last year, the district was able to buy new science text books for this year.
In Columbiana County, Columbiana city schools dropped from an excellent to an effective rating.
But Salem and Lisbon schools both saw increases in their districts' scores. Both moved from continuous improvement to effective.
Lisbon Superintendent Donald Thompson said the state's change in allowing the performance index to be calculated in the score helped improve the rating.
The district also focused on areas determined as weaknesses to achieve improvements.
The district still must work to improve math scores, where test scores were the lowest across the board in all grades.
Dr. Joe Shivers, who was in charge of testing for Salem schools last year, said the district followed the direction of its school board.
"Last year, the board was very clear," Shivers said. "At a meeting in August, they said that they wanted to get the districts scores up. They said, 'We want to achieve effective status.'"
Pupils were administered multiple-choice tests to get them acclimated to the format of the state tests.
"It's a testament to the teachers and to the kids because they're the ones who did the work," Shivers said.