A week after the Ohio Department of Education released its state report cards, New Albany-Plain Local School District officials are trying to determine ways to improve student growth and academic achievement.

A week after the Ohio Department of Education released its state report cards, New Albany-Plain Local School District officials are trying to determine ways to improve student growth and academic achievement.

The district was rated "excellent," the second-highest rating awarded by the ODE; it had been rated "excellent with distinction" in the previous three years and had the highest possible rating for nine years in a row. The district met all 26 state performance indicators and achieved the highest performance index in its history at 106.6, according to Superintendent April Domine.

One of the state's measurements that dropped the district's ranking to "excellent" was the value-added rating, which measures the progress students made from the previous school year.

For value-added rating, the district's 2010-11 state report card showed:

Fourth- and fifth-graders tested above their expected growth level in reading, and fourth-graders tested above in math, as well.

Sixth- and seventh-graders met expected growth in reading but differed greatly in math: Sixth-graders were below expected growth in math, whereas seventh-graders were above the expected level of growth in math.

Eighth-graders were below expected growth in reading and math. Eighth-grade tests over the last three years in reading showed some improvement, with the percentage of those testing proficient increasing each year, from 89.7 percent in 2008-09, to 90.4 percent in 2009-10 and to 95.3 percent in 2010-11. In math, the eighth-graders' scores went down over the same three-year period, with 91.2 percent proficient in 2008-09, 90.3 percent proficient in 2009-10 and 89.4 percent proficient in 2010-11.

Domine said improving students' growth is handled in the same manner at all grade levels. Part of the district's reaction to the value-added measurements is to provide periodic testing to determine which students need further assistance. The next step is to increase intervention in the buildings by providing more educational opportunities in small groups for at-risk students and working one-on-one with specialists or volunteers.

"From time to time, the entire student body is periodically assessed to ensure we find all the students who need additional support," she said.

Increased intervention was implemented in the second and third grades last year as part of a math-intervention program. In March 2010, 2-3 principal Robin Ryan told the school board her staff had identified students who needed extra help in math and started a new intervention program to help them learn some of the basic math skills that many were missing.

Jenny Wielinski, the math support and literacy specialist for grades 2-5, said many of the students were lacking in underlying core skills, such as writing the numbers and saying the numbers out loud.

According to the state report card, third grade math scores improved, with 87.9 percent testing proficient in 2009-10 and 91.3 testing proficient in 2010-11.

Domine said once the district identifies students who need extra help, it can provide intervention through classroom teachers, specialists and classwork on small group and individual levels.

Both the K-1 building and grades 2 and 3 in the 2-5 elementary building were slated for school improvement, which means the district did not meet standards set for adequate yearly progress (AYP). AYP measures performances of different student subgroups, which include economically disadvantaged students; Asian or Pacific Islander; black, non-Hispanics; Hispanics; American Indians or Alaskan natives; multiracial students, students with disabilities, students with limited English skills and white, non-Hispanics.

This year, the third-grade students with disabilities did not meet the AYP proficiency levels required in both reading and math.

Domine said each student with a disability is required by federal law to be given an individualized education plan (IEP) that shows what level of proficiency the students should reach by a certain grade level. For example, a student can be slated to achieve proficiency in fourth grade by the time the student is in fifth grade, according to the student's IEP.

However, the state report card requires all students in fourth grade, including those with disabilities, to be proficient in their grade at the time of testing. Domine said the state does not take the IEP into consideration.

Because some of the students with disabilities who did not meet AYP were students in the primary elementary school within the last two years, both schools were designated for improvement.

"The district is focused on improving the academic achievement of students with disabilities," Domine said.

She said the district would continue to work with the IEPs and find ways to help the students continue to learn.

According to information from the state, a school enters continuous improvement after failing to meet AYP standards in two consecutive years. To have the school improvement designation removed, the district must meet AYP standards in two consecutive years.

Meanwhile, district officials said they were pleased with the high school's scores and performance index, which measures the performance of all students.

The high school performance index was 111.8. The highest possible score is 120.

The high school also celebrated 100-percent proficiency in writing by its juniors, and improvement in all subjects over last year's scores by sophomores and juniors.

All five buildings in the district were rated at least "excellent," with the fourth and fifth grades named "excellent with distinction." "Excellent" is the highest rating the high school can receive; it does not give state proficiency tests each year like the elementary and middle schools, thus there is no way to calculate the value-added measure, which is the measure for the "distinction" designation.

For complete results of the state report card for the district and individual buildings, visit www.ode.state.oh.us.