LIMA — Lima area school district officials unanimously agree that Thursday’s release of the new state report cards should be taken with a grain of salt, or not even considered at all.
Among all schools in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties, 24 public school districts saw their performance index stay the same or drop from a year ago with the lone exception of New Bremen. In indicators met, 21 of the 24 school districts received a lower grade than last year and four received Fs.
New Bremen schools improved from a C in the measure to a B on the performance index, with Bluffton schools, Kalida schools, Miller City-New Cleveland schools, Minster schools, New Knoxville schools, Ottoville schools and Shawnee schools also receiving a B. Schools receiving a C included Allen East schools, Bath schools, Columbus Grove schools, Elida schools, Spencerville schools, Wapakoneta schools, Waynesfield-Goshen schools, Lima schools and Perry schools each earned a D for performance indexes.
However, virtually all administrators questioned the usefulness of the new report cards with many even the questioning the need for the numbers to be released.
“The data is useless,” said Delphos Superintendent Kevin Wolfe. “This round to me doesn’t even count. Components used for the grading system were in part from tests that the state has since scratched, and it just makes us look bad. It was silly putting it out.”
The state trial of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test also produced low marks when released last year. PARCC has since been scrapped after drawing fire from parents, politicians and school officials. Ohio used another new test this school year, the American Institutes for Research test. It is the third test used for student assessment in the state in three years.
Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman said the numbers will give a tainted view of what is going on in different districts that face different challenges.
“I think people will only look at it for a letter grade,” Ackerman said. “They need to understand that we go beyond that to each individual kid. Our goal is to make sure there is growth with every kid. We want people to come and look at the results with each individual kid.”
Bath Superintendent Dale Lewellen questioned the methods that are used to apply the scores. He said educators are not given information to evaluate how students are doing.
“I liken it to how things used to be,” Lewellen said. “Do you remember when you used to take tests, and at the end of the test there would would be one more extra credit question? The question usually needed a little more thought and analysis than the rest of the test. These are the kind of questions they are putting on these tests. We are not getting figures that show us where students are struggling. If we have results that show 80 percent of our students missed a certain question, we can evaluate that and figure out where the problem is. We need to know what the questions are and how they responded.”
How the numbers are figured also was in question by many of the superintendents. Lewellen said all 149 students in its third grade had met the grading requirement for reading but the school still received an F in K-3 Literacy Improvement. Ackerman said Lima schools received an F in the same category despite the district receiving outstanding grades in all of its schools with the exception of Lima North. Lewellen also said the school has gone from an A to an F to an A again this year in Overall Value Added.
“There is not that much of a discrepancy,” Lewellen said.
The Ohio Education Association also chimed in on the newly released numbers.
“This year’s report card are a continuation of years of misguided state policies that place entirely too much emphasis on standardized scores and not enough focus on what our schools are doing to provide high-quality learning opportunities,” OEA president Becky Higgins said.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015 has given states new flexibility in how they use test scores as part of a comprehensive system of accountability. The Northwest/West Central Ohio Public School Advocacy Network representing more than 40 area school districts is lobbying to have state testing requirements lowered to federal minimums so teachers can spend more time “teaching.”
Current federal requirements are for testing in math and reading in grades 3-8 and one high school test. The State of Ohio expands those requirements to include testing also in science and social studies in grades 5-8 as well as multiple end-of-course exams for high school. With the recent implementation of ESSA, the Ohio Department of Education is currently rehashing testing requirements in the state. The local group is one of several groups moving to have testing requirements placed at the federal minimum.
“Testing has become a moving target,” said St. Marys superintendent Howard Overman. “I don’t shoot a lot, but I think it would be hard to hit a moving target. We are concerned with how much time the testing takes students out of the classroom.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at [email protected]