Licking County News

Local districts earn top report card grades


The Licking Heights and Southwest Licking school districts aren't taking their "Excellent with Distinction" ratings for granted.

Officials from both districts agree plenty of work remains to be done despite earning the highest ratings issued by the Ohio Department of Education.

The official state report card results were delayed more than six months while state Auditor Dave Yost investigated allegations of tampering with student-attendance data against several districts, including Columbus City Schools. Preliminary results were released in September and were certified Feb. 27 for all districts except the nine where the state auditor found evidence that employees had manipulated data.

Licking Heights met 25 of the 26 state indicators on its report card.

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 the state's "adequate yearly progress" measure was not met this year, the district was above the benchmark for its "value-added" rating, meaning the district exceeded expected gains in the current year. The value-added rating calculates how much progress students in grades 4-8 make in math and reading during a school year.

The district had a performance-index score of 98.6. The performance index is a weighted average that includes all tested subjects in grades 3-8 and grade 10, with the greatest weight given to advanced scores.

"I think the state's final report card speaks to all the hard work our district has done," Licking Heights school board member Nicole Roth said. "Even in this financial time, when the board and administration are doing their due diligence and having to cut the budget time and again, our students, staff and administrators are working harder than ever to succeed while spending less.

"Just imagine the possibilities for the school district if we were fully funded. Regardless of the financial situation, I believe that our teachers are extremely dedicated to the Licking Heights students and want them to achieve greatness."

Board member Brian Bagley said maintaining the rating likely would hinge on the fate of the district's 8.92-mill, 10-year emergency levy on the May 7 primary ballot. An identical levy request failed in November.

"We are extremely proud of the rating we received," Bagley said. "Maintaining this level will be difficult at best should the levy fail in May.

"Should the levy pass, there are several things we can do academically into the future. New programs and additional teachers could help us reach levels this district has never experienced."

Southwest Licking also met 25 of the 26 state indicators on its report card.

The district fell short in the required four-year graduation rate at 88.1 percent. The state requires a 90-percent graduation rate.

The district also performed well in the value-added measure, scored a 101.2 on the performance index and met AYP.

"This is a snapshot of what was happening," Superintendent Robert Jennell said. "We have to continue to get our teachers professional development. If you just stop, things will pass you by."

Jennell said in addition to the fine job that staff is doing, he'd like the curriculum to include "blended learning," or preparing students for the business world by using different methods of instruction.

"It's a variety approach to learning," he said. "It's not that we're not doing a great job; this is in addition."

A blended-learning curriculum would include online learning in addition to traditional personal instruction.

Jennell said it's important for students to know how business is conducted all over the world and what they can expect to experience after graduation.

Jennell said he wants to be sure the district doesn't lose students over the availability of blended-learning classes

"Students will go to the schools with open enrollments who have these things," he said.