Board zooms in on new state report card data
Olentangy Local School District officials are using this fall's school board meetings to break down the sections of the revamped state report card.
Letter grades now are assigned in various categories, replacing such designations as "excellent" and "continuous improvement."
The Ohio Department of Education is not yet giving overall letter grades to districts -- that will occur in 2015 -- but it is assigning grades in many other categories.
How individual schools fared under the new report card was the topic of discussion during the Olentangy board's Sept. 26 meeting. In an earlier meeting in September, the district's performance was discussed. In October, school officials will talk about graduation rates and will present the district's annual report on academic progress.
"Some people say we test our kids too much, but we can't opt out" of the state report card, said Jack Fette, Olentangy's director of curriculum and instruction.
Twenty-two of the district's 23 schools received overall grades of A on the report card, which measures student performance based on state reading and math tests. Arrowhead Elementary School received a C.
Student subgroups included in the new report card earned grades ranging from A to F. The subgroups include gifted students, students who score in the lowest 20 percent of achievement and students with disabilities.
Though eight schools -- the three high schools were not included in this section of the report card -- scored overall A's for their subgroups, all but one of the rest earned B's and C's. Berkshire Middle School received an F.
Fette and Mark Raiff, executive director of academics, told the board steps are being taken to help schools improve.
Residents Robert Ruhlman and Karl Salmon questioned the performance of district schools.
Ruhlman said he has reviewed data from the report card and concluded the school his children attend -- Glen Oak Elementary School -- isn't performing any better than it had in 2009, when it was next to last among all elementary and middle schools in the district
"What's wrong? How can we be in the same spot?" Ruhlman asked.
He noted that Scioto Ridge Elementary School had improved and suggested that perhaps demographics, such as the number of economically disadvantaged students in a school, have played a role.
"What happened at Scioto Ridge that can't be duplicated elsewhere?" he asked.
Salmon added, "I looked over the report (card), and I'm concerned. It's troublesome when I look and see the scores ... So far, I haven't heard a plan to improve."
Raiff said, "We know there is work to be done, that intervention is to be done. Our goal is still all A's"
School board member Julie Wagner Feasel said the new report card has presented challenges to all school districts.
"These state report cards are more rigorous than in the past," she said.
School officials emphasized the district continues to provide an excellent education for all of its students.
Also during the Sept. 26 meeting, Tonya Riedel and Laura Detweiler, who are supervisors for preschool, gave the board an update on the program.
This school year, about 400 children ages 3-5 are taking part in the program in classrooms at seven of the district's elementary schools.
Some go to school 2.5 hours a day four days a week. Other students with greater needs are provided services for five hours a day four days a week.
Last year, the program had 397 students, including 257 children with special needs. Those who have special needs are not charged tuition. Tuition for the other students ranges from $150 to $180 a week, depending on how long they are in the classroom.
A staff of 78 full-time and part-time employees provides services to the students. That includes 24 teachers and 28 teaching assistants.
Officials said most of the staff members work part time.
The program has grown over the past 10 years.
"We strive to always be on the cutting edge," Riedel said.
Superintendent Wade Lucas told the board the district's five-year financial forecast would be presented in October by recently hired treasurer Brian Kern.
"It looks very favorable. ... We've reduced (through cost-savings) over $30 million over the past five years," Lucas said.
Some of that cost-cutting was needed because of reductions in state aid. The district expects to have a positive general fund balance through 2017, he said.