Despite continued academic success and national recognition, student achievement continues to be a top priority for the Bexley City School District.

Despite continued academic success and national recognition, student achievement continues to be a top priority for the Bexley City School District.

At the helm for more than a decade now, Superintendent Mike Johnson continues to focus on students' growth while finding new ways to pave the path to academic success.

As always, achievement will be a top focus in the upcoming year, and Johnson said a critical part of that focus is understanding the demands of the new state report card.

With that in mind, there will be a continued emphasis on the card's Performance Index score in the new year, Johnson said, with new goals set at each grade level.

The Performance Index provides an overall indication of how well students perform on the state report card in grades 3-8, and the Ohio Graduation Test in grade 10. To reach the achievement levels the district has enjoyed in the past, Bexley will have to raise its index score.

"Everyone needs to increase it by a percentage relative to where they are," he said last week.

In order to receive an A in this category, a district must score a 90 percent or higher on its Performance Index or reach a score of at least a 108 out of the 120 possible points.

Under the new calculations, Johnson said Bexley is close, with a score of 106.2 points, a B according to the state. Reaching the standard of 108 could take as little as a year, said Johnson, or could take as long as two.

Bexley school board President Carol Fey added that the state's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee also will be on everyone's radar, as the district directs special efforts to assisting those students who are struggling to meet the requirement.

On the other end of the spectrum, Johnson indicated that Bexley is taking a closer look at top performing students in the upcoming year, boosting programming for gifted and accelerated students.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, schools and districts are now being rewarded for having students on a Formal Acceleration Plan where the student passes over a grade and takes an assessment that is in a higher grade than the student's overall grade. An example might be a fifth-grader taking a sixth-grade math class and taking the sixth-grade math OAA. This process will increase the performance level of an accelerated student who scores proficient or higher by one performance level for the Performance Index calculation.

Developing and implementing new teacher evaluations also will be a top priority in the upcoming year, said Johnson. According to ODE, teachers are now required to be evaluated on multiple components including performance and student growth. Half of a teacher's rating will be based on teacher performance, the other half on student growth.

Some districts have already implemented the process while others, like Bexley, will implement it following teacher contract negotiations -- thus giving administrators more time to develop the process.

Bexley has already been approved to use a process currently in place in the district, one which was developed by the Charlotte Danielson Group. Johnson said they are now working with the state to align the systems.

Charlotte Danielson is an internationally-recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness, specializing in the design of teacher evaluation systems that, while ensuring teacher quality, also promote professional learning. Johnson said Bexley already uses her matrix, called The Framework for Teaching, to evaluate its teachers and said plans to "crosswalk" the system is vital to maintaining quality education in Bexley.

Johnson said the district's continued focus on the social and emotional development of students is another top priority, and Fey agreed.

A highlight in 2013 was the hiring of Kimberly Brazwell, the district's new student and community support specialist, who will further develop the district's work in the area of overcoming non-academic barriers to learning while strengthening the social and emotional environment of the student community.

Johnson said Brazwell is developing programs in a number of areas, but will take a hard look in particular at student drug and alcohol use intervention and prevention programs, along with support for parents, "so parents can be a part of the solution."

"Ideally, our entire community must be involved to help provide our students with the solid developmental foundation they need to become competent, caring adults," Fey added. "Our goal is to foster greater parent and community participation in the work and priorities of the district."

She said the board will again hold two community forums this year to help gather community input.

Continued financial stability also is a priority, as always, said Fey.

"Of course, the board's top priority is always to act as responsible stewards for the district's resources. We are very pleased to be in excellent financial standing, so that we will not need to put a levy on the ballot this spring. That's very good news," Fey said.

"We are taking some time over the next few months to review the entire budget and cash flow of the district. This will help to ensure that we continue to align district resources with programs focused on maximizing the success of all our students."

An increased effort to go paperless is also a top priority in the new year, Johnson indicated, along with increased personal device use in the classroom -- by both students and teachers.