5 Valley school districts expect stagnant report cards



YOUNGSTOWN — Five of the six tri-county school districts that dropped in the ratings on the state annual report card a year ago expect to stay at those lower levels when the 2007-08 report cards come out Aug. 26.

Struthers, Wellsville, Warren, Springfield and West Branch all went down a notch in the state scoring, which looks at pupil academic performance, attendance, graduation rates and other factors.

Spokesmen for all five said preliminary indications from the Ohio Department of Education show their ratings wouldn’t change this year. Maplewood also dropped, but the schools superintendent couldn’t be reached for comment on this year’s results.

The report card offers five designations: excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.

A regional breakdown shows six Mahoning County school districts, five Trumbull County districts and one Columbiana County district were rated as excellent last year.

Five Mahoning districts, 15 Trumbull districts and six Columbiana districts were rated as effective. One Mahoning and four Columbiana districts were listed in continuous improvement and one Mahoning and one Trumbull district were rated in academic watch. No locals were in academic emergency.

Springfield, West Branch and Maplewood all dropped from excellent to effective on last year’s report cards.

Debra Mettee, Springfield superintendent, said a preliminary report from the state shows her district did better than last year and is very close to moving back to excellent, but will fall just short.

“We’re real pleased that we improved. We’re close,” she said.

Scott Weingart, West Branch superintendent, said the state has indicated that his district wound up just about exactly where it was last year.

The fifth-grade math and social studies achievement tests and the eighth-grade social studies test, all added to what became a list of 30 state academic standards to be met on last year’s report card, were responsible for West Branch’s ratings drop, he said, adding that those are still the trouble areas this year.

The district is adjusting its curriculum to deal with that, Weingart said.

Don Bailey, interim superintendent at Struthers, which went from effective to continuous improvement last year, said the district will remain in the lower category this year. Steps are being taken to deal with that as the district seeks to focus on trouble areas, he said.

“We made some real nice progress,” said Rich Bereschik, Wellsville superintendent. His district also went from effective to continuous improvement.

Wellsville was one of the few districts to score well in eighth-grade testing, he said, adding, “We’ll hone in on fifth-grade testing.”

A spokeswoman for the Warren City schools, which dropped from continuous improvement to academic watch last year, said no details were available yet, but the district has been told it will still be in the lower category.

Salem, which moved up from continuous improvement to effective last year, is expected to drop back to continuous improvement, said Superintendent Lou Ramunno.

The district has undergone some extensive retrenching with teacher and program cutbacks and that have hurt academically, he said.

The previous board was forced to focus on district finances, but the current board has been able to focus more on academics, Ramunno said, adding, “I look for a turnaround next spring.”

The Youngstown city schools remained in academic watch for the second consecutive year last year, and Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent, said that rating won’t change.

“It was a tough year,” Webb said, recounting the district’s struggle to deal with a budget deficit as well as the problems created by having to move pupils around because of a major school rebuilding program.

It’s still a transitional period, and Youngstown will have to deal with those issues for a couple of more years, she said.


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