By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Cedar Cliff Local Schools Superintendent Chad Mason didn’t mince words after viewing his district’s state report cards.
“This particular report card reaches a new level of misinformation and half-truths,” he said. “To be quite clear, if one is a sports fan, particularly baseball, folks know about the ‘Steroid Era’ and the perceived black mark that will be an indelible legacy on that sport.
In my opinion, history will eventually show, in terms of Ohio educational policy and decision making, the ‘report card and standard-testing testing era’ of which Ohio is in the midst, will be one of the most educationally damaging and financially ill-managed eras of our time. The politicians and legislators should be ashamed of their role in perpetuating this on Ohio taxpayers and voters.”
Released last week by the Ohio Department of Education, the report cards have always been controversial in the eyes of educators, who would prefer to not have to teach to a test. But this year’s results are particularly troubling to administrators because in many cases grades went down and expectations went up as the state introduced yet another new test.
“The tests last year were hastily put together at the state level because of a late legislative decision to ban PARCC assessments,” Greeneview Local School District Superintendent Isaac Seevers said. “In return, we get tests that were billed as Ohio assessment but they were thrown together hap-hazardly, not vetted by Ohio educators, and the arbitrary cut scores were decided well before results came back in for Ohio students.”
In other words, neither superintendent cares much for the assessments or the manner in which they are administrated.
The tests grade districts in six areas: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, K-3 Literacy and Prepared for Success. While the department has given letter grades on most of the components’ individual measures for several years, new this year are letter grades on each of the six components.
The Achievement component represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall. The Progress component looks closely at the growth that all students are making based on their past performances. Are students gaining a year’s worth or growth? Are they gaining more or less? It includes the progress of all students, gifted students, the lowest 20 percent of students in Achievement and students with disabilities.
Gap Closing shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English, math, and graduation. The literacy component looks at how successful the school is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond. Graduation rate tracks the percentage of students who graduate in four and five years. Prepared for Success, a new component, looks at how well prepared students are for all future opportunities.
Cedarville received an F in Gap Closing, Cs in Achievement and Prepared for Success, a B on Progress, and an A in graduation rate. It was not rated in K-3 literacy because there were not enough students to evaluate. Under Achievement, Cedarville scored 79.7 percent on overall performance index and met 65.5 percent of the indicators. Last year the district met 90.9 percent of the indicators. In Gap Closing, the district met half of the objectives, down from 66.7 percent last year. The district did go from 3 Fs and a C in Progress to three As and a C. The graduation rate also increased.
“In spite of some of our scores, Cedar Cliff had one of the best local report cards in the area,” Mason said. “Our teachers and administrators work very diligently every day to ensure that quality education happens, but there seems to be no one responsible for making the local report card decisions and indicators who has any interest of sending that message out — it does not fit the narrative.”
Greeneview Received Ds in Achievement, Prepared for Success, and Progress, an F in Gap Closing and Literacy and a B in graduation rate. Under Achievement, the district scored 70.2 percent on performance index and met 34.5 percent of the indicators. Last year Greeneview met 91.2 percent of the indicators. After receiving an A and three Cs in the Progress subcategories last year, Greeneview had a C and three Fs this year. Under Gap Closing, the district met just 33.3 percent of the objectives, down from 85 percent last year. Literacy was not scored for Greeneview last year.
“As a district we did not fair as well on the reported measures as several others in the county, but our results are consistent with what we are seeing across the State of Ohio,” Seevers said. “We are not thrilled with the results but we are also refraining from over-reacting and throwing out the quality programming that we have in place. Our staff has done an excellent job educating our students and these results do not reflect the true education taking place in Greeneview Schools.”
Seevers added that the district has worked hard to pursue authentic learning opportunities that will engage students and meet their individual needs.
“We have resisted the urge to teach to the test because I firmly believe that if we seek to develop authentic learners then we will get test results, but if we seek to achieve only on high test results then we will rarely get authentic learning,” he said. “We will continue to pursue rich learning activities and will learn what we can from these assessment results. The results from assessments should be looked at as only one metric used to evaluate the success in our district. Unfortunately, the state government continues to push this as the only measure of success and we have to stand up and demonstrate the good things happening in our schools.”
Mason echoed those thoughts.
“Our school district is doing a great job educating our students and our community knows it — that means more to me than what anyone in Columbus has to say about our progress,” he said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.