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School report cards show mixed results for Valley schools

Published: 8/23/13 @ 12:09

By Denise Dick


The latest state school report cards are supposed to give parents, educators and the general public a clearer picture of how schools are doing, but some Mahoning Valley superintendents believe it makes it more difficult to understand.

“This represents a big change in the way we deter- mine how well our schools are educating our boys and girls,” Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday. “Our goal is to create transparency for our customers.”

Rather than the system of designations from “excellent with distinction” to “academic emergency,” the new system uses an A-F grading system.

But because the new system is being phased in, there’s no overall grade for schools or districts.

Ross said the old system concealed areas where schools were doing a poor job.

No district in the state earned all A’s and none received all F’s, the state superintendent said. The new system is intended to show schools and the public the strengths and weaknesses of each school and district.

In the Mahoning Valley, the results were mixed. Canfield, for example, racked up all A’s and B’s, while Poland got four A’s, a B, two C’s, a D and an F. Canfield was designated “excellent” last year, and Poland was “excellent with distinction.”

Those superintendents couldn’t be reached for comments.

The continual changes to the system and the targets schools and districts must hit present challenges, said Liberty schools Superintendent Stan Watson.

“This is a game where the rules weren’t defined at the start of the season,” he said. “It’s tremendously frustrating. The targets continue to move. You just get your focus narrowed and you get zeroed in where you think you need to be, and the target changes. It happens continuously. If it made it simpler for the average person to understand, that would be one thing; but I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that this is simpler.”

The state graded each district in nine components: performance indicators, performance index, overall value added, valued added for gifted, value added for students with disabilities, value added for the lowest 20 percent of students, four- and five-year graduation rates and annual measurable objectives.

Performance indicators measure the level of achievement for each student in a grade and subject.

Performance index measures the achievement of every student, not just whether they reach proficiency.

Four-year graduation rate includes those students who earn a diploma within four years of entering ninth grade for the first time.

Five-year graduation rate includes those students who graduate within five years of entering ninth grade for the first time.

Value added — all students measures whether or not a school or district met a year’s growth for all students.

Value added — gifted measures whether a year’s growth was met for students gifted in math, reading or superior cognitive ability.

Value added — students with disabilities measures whether a year’s growth has been met for students who have an Individual Education Plan and who take the Ohio Achievement Assessment.

Value added — lowest 20 percent of achievement measures whether a year’s growth has been met for students in the lowest 20 percent based on distribution of scores for the state.

Annual measurable objectives measure the academic performance in reading, math and graduation rates among specific racial and demographic subgroups ranging from minority students to those who are economically disadvantaged.

Liberty schools, designated “excellent” on last year’s report card, earned one A, four B’s, a C, a D and an F this year. The F was in annual measurable objectives.

Watson said the higher grades in the value added categories show that students are continuing to achieve a year’s growth. The district needs to focus more attention on the subgroups, he said.

Austintown, which received the highest rating of “excellent with distinction” on last year’s report card, saw four B’s, two D’s and three F’s.

“We didn’t change what we’re doing,” said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca. “The report cards changed. We still have great kids, and we’re still doing great things in our school system.”

The state not only raised the targets for racial and demographic subgroups, it also eliminated some of the provisions that had allowed the district to earn credit for improvement for some students, he said.

“The system is changing, and we’ll change along with it,” Colaluca said.

The district met 20 of 24 performance indicators.

“We’re very proud of that,” he said.

Youngstown, which was in “academic watch” last year, earned five F’s, two D’s and two C’s this year.

“We made some progress,” said Superintendent Connie Hathorn.

He said he’s not happy with the latest results and is still reviewing the data.

“The data gives us something to look at — and that’s a good thing,” Hathorn said.

The report cards were supposed to be available in interactive form on the Ohio Department of Education website, but the site crashed throughout the day — a problem that the department attributed to heavy traffic.

Some districts weren’t even able to access their data.

Boardman was designated “excellent” last year, and this year, the district earned an A, five B’s and three C’s.

“I think the intention of ODE is a good one,” said Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri. “They want parents to better understand how their schools are doing. The other designations were difficult for people to understand. Everyone understands A, B, C, D and F. It’s a step in the right direction in terms of understanding the data.”

He hopes the ODE provides a guide for parents to explain the new system. Lazzeri wasn’t able to access his own district’s data from the ODE website Thursday.

As the start of school draws near, each day that the district can examine the data to determine strengths and weaknesses and decide how to proceed matters, he said.


Posted by mnascar (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 6:39 a.m.

Can't expect the students to get good grades when the system itself gets 5 F's. Nice job. I'm very proud to say I am a product of the Youngstown School System! They must need more money and a new contract to improve their scores. We sure pay for non preformance. The system should be ashamed of itself. Teachers and administrators! Get less pay more! I'm sure everyone in the system will have an excuse. They are improving. Let's raise our property taxes to reward them.

Posted by lizhill2 (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 8:29 a.m.

What kind of measures are these, if the superintendents and principals don't even understand the grading system? Districts that were formerly excellent with distinction getting F's, in one year? Something is very wrong. I salute all the teachers who show up every day and try to meet these "goals" while working with actual live children in the classroom. Thank you ALL for your persistence.

Posted by HSG (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.

What "theotherside" wrote above is absolutely correct. These tests are meant to punish and embarrass the public schools. The insidious way these corporatists are going about tearing down public education is shameless. Wake up Ohio, indeed!

Posted by DwightK (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.

This is useless. If we can't understand what the school systems are being measured on, how can we trust the grades received?

Posted by AtownParent (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.

I am not sure what the problem is with understanding these grades and if you are in the schools, then you know exactly what these things are reporting. Austintown has a good 4-yr and 5yr graduation rate, and they meet the performance indicators, but from year to year there is not a lot of improvement in ability of kids. So basically, a gifted kid doesn't grow his scores, the lowest 20% remain in the lowest 20% and the average kid stays average. Sounds about right with what I have seen.

Posted by southsidedave (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.

Some brainiac who gets paid an obscene amount of money no doubt devised this useless 'grading" system...ha ha ha

Posted by republicanRick (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.

gdog's views deserve an F. This loser's constant bashing of anything new or different from the past shows an inability to change with the times.

HEY gdog, the old steel mills are not coming back.

Posted by fd6636 (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.

another republicjerk ploy to discredit public schools, and "sway" thinking to privates and charters. How can a school system be scored as excellent with distinction, and next year have "f"s? All Bull sh$t!!!

Posted by oakmont (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 8:17 p.m.

Great my son will get bumped out of his honors classes again this year!!!! They need him and others like him to bring up the kids from open enrollment!!! Austintown schools have just sunk since we started that crap. Im so glad I only have a few more years left with this drowning school!!! Its not the teachers fault . My son had a class last year that was so out of control that he learned nothing the whole year!! My other two children had a great high school career at Fitch. We can thank Vince and the school board for just flushing Fitch down the toilet!!!! The report card shows it!!!!!!

Posted by handymandave (anonymous) on August 23, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.

Real nice job Youngstown Schools. If my kid had come home with a report card with the grades on it you received, I would have wondered if he ran out of the back of the school after I dropped him off in front the whole grading period

Posted by Education_Voter (anonymous) on August 24, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

The number one concern of Youngstown educators should be developing character and discipline. Where is that on the report card?

Posted by Education_Voter (anonymous) on August 24, 2013 at 11:46 a.m.

I'm sorry -- the number one concern of ALL EDUCATORS should be citizenship.
Now-a-days with the "market-based" education ideas of former Gov. Taft and current Gov. Kasich, schools are more interested in placating various spoiled kids and lenient parents in order to keep their "customers". Remember when we had "students" instead?

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.

Telling comment from Oakmont- "My son had a class last year that was so out of control he learned nothing the whole year."

That was something that would not have happened when I attended Fitch (in the 60's). There was genuine respect- sometimes fear- of our teachers then- chronic troublemakers didn't stand a chance in those days- they were kicked out for the good of the students who wanted to learn- and that's they way it should be now. Nowadays teachers are too imbued by notions of "political correctness" and are too afraid of injuring their students "delicate" psyches by establishing rules- and expecting obedience- that the entire class suffers; and of course "corporal punishment"- absolutely forbidden- if a teacher tried paddling a student nowadays, they would probably get fired and most likely be sued by one of the "concerned" parents (even though that paddling might have greater educational value than most of the watered down left-wing rubbish they teach nowadays).

What happened to our Schools? Ask the Union that runs them- the NEA with their warped values. What happened to Our Country? Ask the Liberal-criminal Conspiracy- with their warped values- running it.

Posted by taxme (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 7:30 a.m.

gdog you are wrong. It was Voinavich in bed with the Cleveland Catholic Church that started this voucher crap in hopes to increase the enrollment in the private schools. Now every republican has jumped on this band wagon for votes in hopes to ruin good public schools. Poland, Canfield, and Boardman keep bucking it though. They are above all private schools in our area no matter what some people say! They are the most prepared for college without having to privately tudor their students like a lot of private school parents have to.

Posted by Education_Voter (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 9:22 a.m.

Actually, taxme...Why were the voucher students at Youngstown Christian and the parochial schools left out of this article?

Denise Dick knows where to get the stats, although they are buried in the Ohio Department of Education.

Granted, there is no supervision that I know of when these tests are administered in those schools. So who knows how much help the staff gives students. Still, I'll bet their scores are equivalent or lower than public school scores.
They now receive more and more tax payer funding and they should be included in this story.

Posted by Education_Voter (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 9:26 a.m.

Kurtw --
As SOS explained, teachers are told exactly how much and what kind of discipline can be employed in school. This is under control of administrators and parents.

If you think about it, shouldn't the child have good manners from home anyway?

As for the comment by the parent, only one class was "out of control", and that is not my experience with Austintown Schools in general. I have spent quite a bit of time in AMS and the 4th-5th grade school and in both, discipline is expected.

Posted by taxme (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.

You know why she left them out Educator and so do I!

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on August 25, 2013 at 8:53 p.m.

Well, all right, my thinking is a "work in progress"- I have an idea and give it to the world and, sometimes, it rises like a butterfly and sometimes it gets stomped into the mud.

Maybe, I have it wrong about the NEA- maybe its the local school Boards that are to blame and I have to start attacking them.

Back to the drawing board...

Posted by Education_Voter (anonymous) on August 26, 2013 at 9:45 a.m.

True enough, theotherside. So many citizens throw out the title "NEA" like they are some big bugaboo that controls teachers and children.

Someone must have created this image of an organization that is peripheral to the lives of 90 percent of teachers out there. U.S. education varies from state to state since it is a state function.
The NEA has a nice, but small office in D.C. where they function as a way for different state organizations to connect.
The Ohio Education Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association each have more employees than the NEA.
And all of them are concerned with working conditions of members, and defining academic objectives called "standards" rather than subjects like theories of discipline. That kind of thing is developed in college coursework and school district training.