The Delaware City School District has maintained its "Excellent with Distinction" rating on this year's state report card, according to preliminary results released last week by the Ohio Department of Education.
Over the past 10 years, Delaware has gone from "Academic Watch" -- the second-lowest rating -- to the highest-possible rating.
Superintendent Paul Craft said only 138 of Ohio's 611 school districts received the top rating. He said that shows the district is one the city of Delaware deserves and can be proud of.
"I couldn't be happier with this rating," he said. "We took a huge jump and maintained it, year after year, and will continue to move ahead on the same path we've been on."
All four of Delaware County's school districts earned the state's top rating. Craft said that means any child living in the county is getting the "same great education."
He said all four county districts are spending 10 percent less per student than the state average, which shows the county has something special if it can perform well above the state average while spending less money.
Personnel makes up 80 percent of the cost to educate children, Craft said, and he believes staff has the greatest impact on how the district performs on the state report cards.
"It's not just the staff, but how the staff does business," he said. "When we are faced with a challenge, we find ways to use the staff we have to deal with it. I have never seen a group of staff work harder for group of kids than this staff."
The report card also offers individual building reports and shows how students are doing in certain subject areas. This will help the district to narrow down areas to improve on in the coming year, Craft said.
He said the report card is another indicator to prove to skeptics that the district is not manipulating its data, as some Ohio districts have been accused of. This shows in how the numbers have remained consistent, he said.
"Our data has remained consistent through all of this. We aren't playing games and none of our staff would even think to do that," he said.
Craft said the staff rarely talks about how it will work to have a better report card. He said the most important conversations staffers have are how they can get students reading, how they can increase the vigor of their curriculum, and how they can help students perform better in general.
"We're worried about helping kids and the report card will take care of itself," he said.
Graduation rates remained within 5 percent of last year's report, despite changes in how the graduation rates are calculated. There is a new federal system to calculate graduation rates, as opposed to the previous state-by-state systems, Craft said.
Delaware has a 90 percent graduation rate, up from 85 percent two years ago. Craft said even though the state average is 85 percent, the percentage in Delaware is not high enough.
"I won't be satisfied until that percentage is higher," he said. "We continue to ask ourselves what we can do for each kid, by name, to keep them moving forward."
About 2 percent to 3 percent of students who are counted against the district's graduation rate are special-needs students who are required by law to remain in the school until they are 21 or until they've received the education they need, Craft said.
"These students are not ready to move on yet and so we keep them in our schools because it's the right thing to do, but then they are counted against our graduation rating," he said.
Craft said dropouts and students pursuing GEDs also are included in the percentage of non-graduates on the report card.
"We are still reaching our arms around these kids to offer support and options that work for them," he said.
Craft said he is proud and excited about the report card and believes he will continue to tell others that Delaware students are growing more than the average student in Ohio.
"What we have done to achieve this rating is still one of those stories that we should be bragging about every chance we get," he said.