By Denise Dick
Ohio’s school districts improved their academic performance on the latest state report card, but the bar will be raised higher beginning next year.
The Ohio Department of Education released results of the 2010-11 school report cards Wednesday, showing how districts and schools across the state performed.
“Ohio students continue to make steady improvement in their progress,” Stan W. Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a telephone news conference.
The percentage of students scoring proficient on state tests increased on 21 of 26 indicators, with the strongest gains in third-grade math, eighth-grade math and 10th-grade writing, ODE reported. Overall, students met the state goal on 17 out of 26 indicators, one fewer than last year. The statewide average for all students’ test scores, known as the Performance Index, jumped 1.7 points to 95, the biggest gain since 2004-05.
For 2010-11, the number of districts ranked Excellent with Distinction or Excellent increased by 56 to 352. The number of schools in those same categories grew by 186 to 1,769.
“We want to build on the strong academic progress we are making as we move to a more rigorous set of standards that will better prepare Ohio graduates to be college or career ready,” Heffner said. “All Ohioans should be proud of the hard work our students, educators and parents and guardians have undertaken to improve performance.”
Next year, the state will change the way graduation rates are calculated.
The U.S. Department of Education required all states to adopt the new graduation rate formula.
“It allows apples-to-apples comparisons of graduate rates across all states,” Heffner said.
Instead of calculating the graduation rate based on an estimate of how many 12th- graders graduate, the new rate, effective on next year’s report card, will be based on how many students graduate in four years or less of entering high school.
Youngstown, which climbed from academic emergency to academic watch, on the 2010-11 report card, had a 67.8 percent graduation rate. The graduation rate posted on report cards are a year behind so that percentage is for the 2009-10 school year.
For similar districts, the rate is 82 percent and 84.3 percent for the state.
Even though the new formula isn’t in effect this year, the report card lists what it would be. For Youngstown, it’s 58 percent.
Last week, Youngstown Superintendent Connie Hathorn said that preparing students for high school is the reason the district established the P. Ross Berry Eighth and Ninth Grade Academy. The school formerly housed sixth- through eighth- graders.
Wilson and Volney Rogers, which also formerly housed sixth- through eighth-graders, both become sixth- and seventh-grade academies.
Last year, the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards in English language arts and mathematics, as well as the revisions to Ohio’s Academic Content Standards in science and social studies.
Those standards take effect in 2014-15, and new online assessments will be implemented. The recently passed state budget also includes language that calls for a new system to rank schools and districts for accountability and to help school leaders identify best practices.
“We’re implementing new core common standards and literally ratcheting up the degree of expectations,” Heffner said. “There will be higher expectations. We’re asking more of students and of the schools and actually expecting it.”
Ohio students must be ready for a global economy and have the opportunity to compete with the world’s best, he said.
Rather than a minimum competency system, the new standards focus on college and career readiness, the state superintendent said.