Valley schools make the grade — on new state report cards

Canfield, South Range score high; Youngstown, Warren stay low

Staff photo / R Michael Semple Austintown Elementary School first-grade teacher Carli Cramer teaches reading to her class. Public schools got report cards Thursday from the Ohio Department of Education. Some educators from local districts said the impacts are lasting from the COVID-19 pandemic; however, there is significant growth in comparison to last year.

Public schools in the Mahoning Valley got their own report cards Thursday from the Ohio Department of Education, and test results show slight changes from last year’s scores.

Canfield, South Range and Lakeview continue to lead across Mahoning and Trumbull counties, while Youngstown and Warren continue to struggle, and despite some successes, both districts have room for improvement, according to the reports.

In 2021, the Ohio General Assembly amended Ohio’s accountability law, which created a new system for schools and districts to receive ratings overall, and star ratings for five components. The components eligible for five ratings are achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation and early literacy:

l 1 to 1 1/2 stars means the district needs significant support to meet state standards;

l 2 to 2 1/2 stars means the district needs support to meet state standards;

l 3 to 3 1/2 stars means the district meets state standards;

l 4 to 4 1/2 stars means the district exceeds state standards;

l 5 to 5 1/2 stars means the district significantly exceeds state standards.

In the category of early literacy, many local districts fell short in making improvements. But in the progress category, increases are seen compared with last school year.

Other metrics including college, career, workforce and military readiness and chronic absenteeism are included in the assessments but not rated.


Some educators from local districts said lasting impact from the COVID-19 pandemic linger; however, there is significant growth in comparison to last year. Some scores indicate the pandemic’s effects may be fading.

In its School and District Results report, the Ohio Department of Education suggests that data on the report card illustrates consistent growth while highlighting areas of continued focus.

“Achievement results are moving in the right direction,” said J. Christopher Woolard, interim superintendent of public instruction. “Nearly 90% of districts and 79% of schools earned overall ratings of three stars or more, meaning they met state standards.”

The state report adds: “Proficiency rates of all student subgroups have increased, yet achievement gaps still persist among various subgroups.” Also, “Chronic absenteeism rates have improved from 30.2% to 26.8%, but attendance remains a concern as student engagement is key to success in school and beyond.”

As with metrics such as the performance index, which measures all students’ performance on state assessments, the Department of Education said more than 85% of districts improved their performance index scores. Additionally, nearly 25% of districts made substantial performance index improvements of more than three points.

Some experts are certain the effects of the pandemic still challenge learners. Aaron Churchill, Ohio research director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, doubled down on the organization’s stance, stating, “This year’s iteration makes clear that the impacts of the pandemic on student learning are still being felt, especially for students form less advantageous backgrounds.”

Fordham Institute added that state test results from the 2022-2023 school year indicate a mixed picture of post-pandemic academic recovery.

“Ohio students on average have generally recovered in reading, but progress remains sluggish in mathematics with students significantly behind pre-pandemic levels,” the institute stated.

Churchill added: “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s just how crucial it is for students to be in the classroom.”

“Unfortunately, too many students are still missing valuable instructional time that can help them catch up. Parents, communities, schools need to work together to address chronic absenteeism. Getting back to a clear expectation that students are in school every day, five days a week, is the first step in combating this attendance crisis.”

Here is a sampling of local districts:


One of only four five-star schools in both counties, Canfield saw none of the district’s high ratings change. Overall students scored a 95.9% in performance index measures, which measures the results of every student. This calculation, as part of the achievement indicator, represents their scoring of 104.3 points out of a possible total of 108.8.

The district, however, still looks to keep making improvements — to get to almost perfect.

“It’s a great day to be a Cardinal,” Superintendent Joe Knoll said about the results. “A five-star district is an amazing accomplishment. We did not miss a day of in-person instruction, and for kids who didn’t feel comfortable, our great online programs also helped.”

Knoll also said the one-to-one technology initiative, making remote learning devices available for each student, kept students engaged.

Canfield scored 42 out of 51 possible points for annual performance goals, categorized under gap closing. With a 99% participation rate, the district met or surpassed its graduation rate goal (89.1%) by about 8 percentage points (97.8%). Canfield also faces a low chronic absentee rate, at 14%.

“Our all-new science of reading and structured literacy programs helped close those gaps for K-4 ,” Knoll said.


“Four stars is good,” said Boardman Superintendent Tim Saxton, “but I prefer great.” The district went up in one category, early literacy, and down in another, progress. The improving K-3 literacy measurement for the district sits at 61.9%, but 99.6% of third graders were promoted to fourth grade.

Saxton believes the district can only grow because, “we have become more data-rich in the last two to three years,” he said. “We have outstanding teachers, and the progress comes from their value-added data. Teachers will take up their sleeves, and make the right adjustments.”

Saxton also believes that the science of reading programs in the district’s second- and third- grade classrooms made a difference.

In the areas that aren’t showing growth, we have to dig a little deeper,” Saxton said. “We are consistent, and our teachers are data-driven to make sure our youngest students are at or beyond their reading level.”

“There are a lot of things each district does. And there are often other measures to show how districts are doing. We each have our own unique challenges — schools should compare to themselves. We will continue to be the best Boardman we can be.”


“The gap closing component increased for Youngstown City School District due to its chronic absenteeism improvement,” said Gregory Kibler, director of district data.

English learner improvement and meeting seven of eight subgroup goals added to the district’s math progress, he said.

“Chronic absenteeism was a districtwide focus last year,” Kibler said. “We worked hard to increase awareness of the impact attendance has on academics. Our English learner program increased contact time for direct language instruction, while also working to address needs within the core classrooms. We were also able to increase the staff across the district for support of English learners.

“Finally, our math improvement shows that we are growing our scholars from where they come in. Our math achievement isn’t where we want it to be, but the growth is a good sign we are moving in the right direction.”

Kibler said the district found the root causes of chronic absenteeism are different for each student and often required different approaches. “We have come down from 70% to 59.3% and will continue to work on decreasing this number — like we have this past year.”

The district feels that consistency will benefit each school the most. “The more consistent we can be with the instructional and intervention processes we have in place, the more effective we will get with them,” Kibler said.

The improving K-3 literacy is one of three areas that compose the early literacy component. The fall-to-fall diagnostic measure aims to show progress made for those diagnosed as off-track the previous fall, and how they perform the following fall. “Across K-3, we have moved 21.3% to on-track,” Kibler said. “We want 100% but sometimes it takes more than one year to move a scholar to on-track. … The focus will be to hone in on the specific literacy skills scholars need more practice with, and concentrate on those.”

Math growth is a positive for the district, but far from where it wants to be. The district plans to increase the time amount of math instruction in some areas, and focus on better aligning math intervention in others.


Weathersfield schools in Mineral Ridge took hits in every category except for achievement

Last year, the Rams earned five stars in all categories, except for achievement where they earned a four. This year its early literacy scored three points, graduation three, progress four, and gap closing, another four.

“With all of the rigorous testing, we have to remind ourselves that especially with gap closing, the bar is always raised, once you get to a peak performance,” Superintendent Damon Dohar said. “Our bar is so high, and the expectation is there. I wouldn’t blame it on the pandemic. It set us back, but it also set everyone else back.”

Promotions to fourth grade made it to 100%, but improving K-3 literacy only reached 45.8%. Dohar said the state graded early literacy differently, along with other subjects. For other subjects, the superintendent said, the cut scores (taking in to account the difficulty of the items on the test) were lowered, making gap closing tougher. “Kids who don’t meet a score may be special needs. If they’re still passing, why count it against them?” Dohar said.

“And our graduation rate slipped because some kids just never came back from COVID,” Dohar noted. “We just lost kids. Some went on to work trades, jobs, or waited to get their GED, and they end up making more money than us. But we are looking to recognize more at-risk kids earlier in their tenure.”


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