Tri-Village News

District ratings drop under new state microscope

Grandview superintendent questions whether state's new methods will be any easier for parents to understand

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The Ohio Department of Education's release last week of the simulated letter grades school districts would have received if the state's new report-card system had been in place in 2011-12 shows the Grandview Heights City School District would have earned five A's and one B out of the nine categories.

In three categories, the district would have received C grades, but the seemingly simple use of letter grades may not make it any easier for parents to understand how well the district is serving students, Superintendent Ed O'Reilly said.

The question is whether the new system, which will be implemented over the next two years, "paints a better picture for our community of what's going on in the district," O'Reilly said.

"There are some complicated mathematics behind this and I'm not certain people will have a better understanding," he said.

In the simulation, Grandview would have received A's on performance indicators, its four-year and five-year graduation rates and the valued-added measures for all students and gifted students.

It would have received C's for value-added measures for lowest-performing students and students with disabilities.

The C grade represents a year's growth over a year's time for those subsets of students, or what is considered average, O'Reilly said.

He said he wonders if community members would look at that C grade in a negative light.

Also, a district with a higher performance index score -- such as Grandview, which earned a 107.3 score out of a possible 120 -- has a harder time showing more than a year's growth over a year's time among its students than a district with a smaller performance index score, O'Reilly said.

A district that has its performance index score grow from 98 to 100 may earn a higher value-added grade than a district that maintains a 110 performance index and therefore has students performing at a higher level, he said.

A similar situation existed in the previous report-card system, O'Reilly said.

Grandview would have received a B grade for its performance index score.

But earning 89.4 percent of the maximum 120 score earns the district only that B -- there are no B-plus grades, O'Reilly noted.

It would be better, he said, to forgo the letter grade in the value-added categories and simply state whether a year's growth was shown over one year.

"Now, do we create plans for lower-achievement students or create a plan for disabled students? Absolutely," O'Reilly said. "With the size of our district, we know our kids individually, and teachers can create an individualized plan for each student that best meets their needs."

Grandview also would have received a C grade for annual measurable objectives, which measure whether a district is closing the achievement gap between specific groups of students, such as black and white or those with and without disabilities.

"Our sample size is extremely small" as compared to most districts, creating a more-abrupt impact on the grade Grandview might receive in this component, O'Reilly said.

Despite some of his concerns, "we're always pleased to receive any data that can help us determine areas in which we need to improve," he said.

The new report card is being phased in; districts and schools will not begin to receive overall letter grades until 2015.

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