Performance Index ranks city district next to last in Ohio

By Denise Dick


The city school district’s Performance Index score ranks it second from the bottom among Ohio’s 611 traditional public school districts, according to a preliminary list from the Ohio Department of Education.

2011 District Preliminary Rank

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The list ranks Youngstown No. 610. Warrensville Heights City Schools in Cuyahoga County ranked last at 611. Warren held the No. 605 spot.

But a list by a nonprofit education group puts Youngstown in the No. 404 spot, based on value-added, or students’ academic progress between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. That list, by Battelle for Kids, a Columbus-based organization, was released this week and published in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

It says that Youngstown students made a year’s worth of academic growth.

ODE will release a final list based on Performance Index scores in September, which is required as part of the biennium budget passed earlier this year.

Superintendent Connie Hathorn said he’s not satisfied with where the district ranks on the PI list but that plans are in place for improvement.

“We have more use of data, teachers are getting professional development to learn how to best use that data to improve student achievement,” Hathorn said.

Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release that educators, parents and communities can make informed decisions about improving schools when they have correct information.

“The ranking list is a powerful tool we can use to see how local schools stack up with similar communities around the state,” he said. “Next year, this list will be coupled with financial data to give the public a clear way to see who is delivering the most return on the community’s educational investment.”

The rankings are based on the school district’s Performance Index scores. PI scores combine individual students’ results on all tested subjects in grades 3-8 on Ohio’s Achievement Assessments and on the 10th-grade Ohio Graduation Test, according to ODE.

Of the districts in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties, Maplewood in Trumbull earned the highest rating of 39. Canfield, the highest in Mahoning, was second overall in the Mahoning Valley at No. 51.

“I think what it says is that our staff has done a great job of focusing on our data ...,” said Perry Nicholas, Maplewood superintendent.

The data allow teachers to provide individualized instruction geared to each student’s needs, he said.

“It’s a team approach,” Nicholas said.

Building-level teams meet to review student data, determine where students may need more instruction and plan accordingly.

“It’s complex,” he said. “It takes a lot of time and energy, and I applaud our staff for doing that.”

The Performance Index rating is the latest accolade for Maplewood. Two of its schools were designated Schools of Promise by ODE this year, and the elementary school earned a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

“It’s based on how our kids are doing getting ready to move on to the next level,” Nicholas said of the Blue Ribbon Award. “Only 17 schools in Ohio and 304 in the country were selected.”

The education department also designated Maplewood’s middle school as a 2011 National Title 1 Distinction School for its success in closing the achievement gap for students, the superintendent said.

Canfield Superintendent Dante Zambrini believes the list shows that district is doing what it’s supposed to do.

“Our teachers teach with rigor, our students study very hard and parents are supportive of students being challenged in classes with rigor and with homework,” he said.

District voters on Tuesday rejected a 4.9-mill operating levy, with 56 percent opposed. That no vote follows district cuts in staff, curriculum, transportation and other programs after voters twice rejected a higher 6.8-mill levy.

“We believe that we are doing what any high performing district ought to do,” Zambrini said. “We provide quality education and what parents expect and we have this dilemma. We’re faced with this challenge.”

The district must review operations to determine where to make cuts, but intervention programs that offer extra help to students struggling in an academic area, are expected to be one casualty.

The state lists Canfield’s per pupil expenditure at $8,905 although that’s not part of the ranking. That’s more than $2,500 less than the average of the top 51 districts.

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