Big Walnut Local School District Director of Academic Achievement Jen Young presented a preliminary snapshot of the district’s Ohio Department Of Education 2014-15 State Report Card during last Thursday’s board of education meeting, without component and district letter grades.
“The data from the State Report Card that’s being released is predominantly derived from the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments that were given for the first time last year,” Young said. “Due to public outcry, the state of Ohio will not be using those assessments again.”
Young said the data was released nine months after students took the tests.
“Because of this extreme time lag, it makes it difficult for us to use the data in a meaningful way to guide instruction,” Young said. “Due to the changes in tests, it will be several years before the state gives us any data that we can compare over time.
“All states are looking at paper and pencil versus computer testing,” Young continued. “It seems there’s a 10-point difference. Ohio is looking at adjusting the scores. Every area school district but Olentangy took a 10-point hit — Delaware, Buckeye Valley, Westerville.”
Big Walnut increased its “gap closing” score from 56.4 percent, an F on the 2013-14 report card, to a C with a score of 77.8.
Gap closing, an assessment that first appeared on the state report card in 2013-14, clarifies delivery of services to subgroups. In addition to IEP and economically disadvantaged students subgroups, Big Walnut’s other subgroups are all students, white students, multiracial students, and Hispanic students.
The school district has a target for improvement, but the failure of any one subgroup to meet that target results in a failure to close the gap. Young said some school districts focus on the subgroups at the expense of other students, just to keep that score increasing.
“Gap closing is a measure of how well we close the gap between all students and students in our subgroups,” Young said. “But we are not targeting just those kids in subgroups. We target all of our students.”
Big Walnut also lands in the C range for K-3 literacy with a score of 49 percent.
Superintendent Angie Pollock said K-3 literacy from self-reported numbers is another gray area on the report card.
“There are a lot of components that make up that number that makes it seem like only 49 percent of our students are reading at grade level, but that’s not true,” Pollock said. “We do testing three times a year, and in most of our elementary buildings, 12 to 17 percent of students need intervention, and that’s typical.”
Young added that the district’s goal is to keep the number of students needing reading intervention below 15 percent.
“The results on the report card do not give us any cause for concern,” Young said. “Our results are in-line with those of our surrounding districts. The only exception is a district that used a paper-pencil format, rather than computerized testing.”
Young said that, following this year, all districts will be required to give computer-based assessments; that Big Walnut, in the interest of acclimating students to the online testing environment, opted to make the switch as soon as possible, rather than wait until forced to do so.
Young noted that Sen. Peggy Lehner, chairwoman of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, recently said that, with the move to online testing and changing assessment vendors, it is understood at the state level that scores would drop.
“It’s not to be taken as a sign that anything bad is happening in your school,” Lehner said. “Any data that was derived from the test last year, no one should really pay any attention to it.”
Young said Big Walnut is searching for a better way to inform community members about school district performance.
“We know that the state report card is flawed,” Young said. “Because of this, we are joining dozens of other Ohio school districts in creating our own quality profile to supplement the ODE (Ohio Department of Education) state report card and report on the things members of our community are interested in.”
Young said a committee of staff and community members have been meeting to determine what information and data is important to the Big Walnut community, and how to best report it. She said the committee’s goal is to publish the district’s first quality profile at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
Pollock added that a district quality profile would help alleviate some of the staff morale issues created by grades on a flawed state report card.
“These flawed measures are used in teacher of evaluations,” Pollock said. “We want more useful information for the community, with quality evaluations. We have a great teaching staff. We try to tell our teachers we value what they do. We try to send that message to them. We don’t sugarcoat it, but we want to give them data that tells them what they are doing.”
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.