The New Albany-Plain Local School District received the highest rating from the state on its 2008 report card.

The New Albany-Plain Local School District received the highest rating from the state on its 2008 report card.

The Ohio Department of Education added "excellent with distinction" to state ratings this year, and New Albany was one of 74 school districts that received the top rating for the 2008 state report cards.

According to ODE, a district earns an excellent-with-distinction rating after achieving an excellent rating and performing at the top "value-added" ratings for two years in a row.

"This all means over the last seven years, we reached the highest level on the state report card," Superintendent Steve Castle said.

Value-added is another addition to this year's report card. It measures the progress students make throughout the academic year. Although districts across the state were given value-added ratings last year, they were not put on report cards.

"Value-added states how much each year a child is growing academically," Castle said.

In value-added, districts get a minus for not making a year's worth of progress in a year of instruction, a check for making state-required progress or a plus for exceeding required progress.

New Albany-Plain Local has exceeded state-required growth for the past two years.

Castle said he was pleased with the addition of value-added to the state report card.

"There was a real concern with academic standards. The benchmark was set at the same place for every child in Ohio," he said. "We're OK with (state proficiency tests) as one form of measure, but there's a better way to measure students, especially students who have a hard time meeting state standards. ... It's a better look at how we're doing with students who never meet the (state-required) 75 percent."

Contrary to expectations, the district also celebrated meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) for 2007-08 after the state release report cards this week.

"We did meet AYP, and we're very happy with that," Castle said.

The district met AYP in 2005-06 but not in 2006-07. Castle said the district missed AYP last year because of the special-education subgroup.

This year, the group met "safe harbor" in reading, meaning state requirements were not met but enough progress was made from the previous year.

"Safe harbor is a provision in the No Child Left Behind measure, stating if a school district makes 10-percent growth in that area, it meets AYP," Castle said. "The group has to make adequate growth to meet safe harbor."

The special-education group also met "growth" on the math tests, meaning that although the group did not meet state requirements, it made enough progress under the value-added indicator.

The district also improved on performance-index (PI) scores. For 2006-07, the district earned 102.8, but the 2007-08 report card scored the district with 103.7 points.

Castle said PI scores show at what level students perform. Districts earn more points for students performing above the proficient level.

"It shows that we have more students performing at higher levels than ever before," he said.