Big Walnut schools
District earns mixed results on state report card
Last year, the Big Walnut Local School District got an overall "excellent with distinction" rating on the state report card, basically an A-plus.
This year, the state is using a revamped and more complicated rating process and the results on the report card are not as clear.
For one thing, no overall rating will be given to school districts until 2015 on a report card that reflects letter grades of A to F. Such ratings as "excellent with distinction" or "continuing improvement" are gone, Big Walnut officials explained to the school board on Sept. 9.
The new report cards were released by the Ohio Department of Education late last month.
What shows up on Big Walnut's report card in more than 100 categories are mostly A's and B's and C's, but also some D's and F's.
"The rules of the game have kind of changed in mid-stream," Superintendent Steve Mazzi said. "We have much to celebrate. Our students are achieving at high levels, as they have in the past. We know we need to grow in some of our subgroups."
It's the subgroups' part of the revamped report card that hit Big Walnut the hardest. For example, subgroup progress for gifted students at the intermediate school and the middle school both earned F's. District officials said it's not that the students aren't learning, but that they aren't where the state says they should be.
In overall building progress on academic achievement, the intermediate school, which just opened last year and doesn't have a track record, got an F, as did the middle school. State education officials would not give the intermediate school a pass on progress achieved, even though it's just begun its second year of operation.
Both Mazzi and Laura Wood, director of academic achievement for the district, are hopeful some changes will be made for next year as the ODE tweaks the revamped report card.
Wood said before the school board meeting that Big Walnut's report card this year is comparable to similar-sized districts in the state.
The subgroups also include such categories as students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. About 30 percent of the district's students fall into the various subgroups.
In areas where the state did rate all districts this year, Big Walnut got an A on its performance index and a B for meeting state indicators. Those two categories fall under the achievement area and reflect results of students who took state tests.
Another area called gap-closing showed Big Walnut received a C grade for how well students are doing in reading and math as well as the district's overall graduation rate.
In the progress area, which measures academic progress of students in grades four through eight in reading and math, the district got an overall A. However, three subgroups had lower scores, with gifted students at D, students with disabilities at C and students in the lowest 20 percent of achievement at C.
For the graduation rate, regarding how many ninth-graders graduated in either four years or five, the district got an A.
"I think a lot of people are going to have a hard time understanding what it means," board member Pamula Lillie said of the redesigned state report card.
In other business Sept. 9, Assistant Superintendent Angela Pollock reported the district has 3,168 students this year.
While that's only eight more than a year ago, Pollock noted that enrollment is up in kindergarten through grade five, particularly grades two through four.
Currently, the high school has 956 students, the middle school 460, the intermediate school has 503, Big Walnut Elementary has 460, General Rosecrans Elementary has 506 and Souders Elementary has 283.
The board also unanimously approved a 1.5-percent raise for Mazzi following an evaluation that was completed last month.
Mazzi was earning $113,000 a year and the raise is retroactive to Aug. 1. His total compensation, including health coverage, pension and a monthly car mileage stipend, is about $150,000 annually.
"Mr. Mazzi went through quite a rigorous evaluation," board President Allison Fagan said, adding that the board was "very pleased" with his performance.