Licking County News

Licking Heights anticipates highest grade on official state report card


Although official results haven't been released, Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner said the district learned it likely will be graded "Excellent with Distinction" on the Ohio Department of Education's state report card.

The ranking is the highest a school district can earn. Licking Heights was "Excellent" last year.

"The rating is still considered preliminary because (State Auditor David Yost) has not completed student-attendance verification," said Wagner, referencing the ongoing state investigation into allegations of tampering with student-attendance data against multiple Ohio districts, including Columbus City Schools.

Wagner said even with the rating, the district still has work to do.

"The school district still has not met Adequate Yearly Progress, nor did we meet all indicators, as there is some work to do," he said. "However, the preliminary rating is something to be celebrated and further highlights the wonderful progression that is occurring within the school district."

According to the ODE, Licking Heights met 25 of the 26 state indicators. The district fell short in fifth-grade mathematics, where 73.9 percent of students passed the state exam; the state requires 75 percent passage to meet the indicator.

Although AYP was not met this year, the district was above the benchmark for its Value-Added Rating, meaning that the district exceeded expected gains in the current year, Wagner said.

To earn "with distinction," which the ODE added to its ratings four years ago, districts must measure "above expected growth" in the Value-Added Rating.

"We got a boost because of the yearly progress we made," said board President Richard Wand. "We were really excited. This shows that we're on the right track."

Wand hopes the news positively affects the district's 8.9-mill levy request on the November ballot. If approved, the levy would generate $4.3 million per year and would cost property owners about $272 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Wagner previously said he is confident the 8.9-mill levy would keep the district in the black for at least four years and possibly five, if necessary.

Wand hopes the good news doesn't cause voters to believe the district does not need the levy.

"I can see some potential for complacency from voters," he said, adding that it would be "catastrophic" to the district if the levy doesn't pass.

"It would be very difficult to sustain the excellent rating in that scenario," he said.

Wand said the district still has a lot of work to do before it is performing at the level board members expect.

Wagner agreed.

"This does not minimize the financial needs of the district," he said.

Wagner said Licking Heights was able to achieve the rating at $8,700 per student per year while other districts that spend up to twice as much per student are unable to achieve an "Excellent with Distinction" rating.

"We've been raising the bar," he said.