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Upper Arlington schools

Calendar changes likely because of state tests

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Changes to school calendars that are being driven by state tests will start showing up for Upper Arlington students next year.

Upper Arlington Board of Education members approved a new school calendar for the 2014-15 school year at their Aug. 12 meeting. Spring break is scheduled earlier, but the start date for resuming classes in the fall -- Aug. 20 -- remains the same as this year.

That may change in the future, however.

Greensview Elementary School Principal Jason Wulf, calendar committee chairman, said other Ohio districts are moving to an earlier start.

"Many school districts are adjusting the start of school to Aug. 12, 13 or 14, which the calendar committee discussed as an option for us for the future," he said.

That earlier start means school would end before Memorial Day in most cases.

Superintendent Paul Imhoff said state tests are the main reason for the earlier starts to school.

"The state tests are taking on more significance and becoming more of a driver for school calendars," he said. "Getting an earlier start gives teachers more instruction time for students before these important tests."

Imhoff said he hopes to get input from "a wide group of parents" on a multiple-year calendar for the school district.

"We want to get staff and parent input and would start with a group of three school calendars," he said. "I'd like to start working on this in January. Working on a school calendar is always a tough job, because you will get many different opinions. We have a changing landscape with these calendars and it's very important to get feedback from our community."

Spring break is earlier in the new calendar -- it begins March 20 and runs through March 27.

Spring break this year will be March 28 through April 4.

The last day for students on the 2014 calendar will be June 4, the same as this year.

The state report card is also "changing landscape," according to the district's chief academic officer, Emilie Greenwald. This year's state report card for Ohio school districts is expected to be released by the end of August.

Greenwald said the new report card will give districts separate A-F letter grades on six components: graduation rate, achievement, progress, gap closing, K-3 literacy and prepared for success.

She said 24 state indicators will be measured by the components and the passing rate for those indicators is bumping up from 75 percent to 80 percent. The indicators are based on state tests for each grade level and include math, reading, science and social studies achievement, along with graduation rates and attendance.

She said a "gap closing" grade will replace AYP (adequate yearly progress) for groups such as students with disabilities and ethnic groups.

"They look at where districts were in 2011 and determine if they are closing the achievement gap with these student groups, or achieving a passing rate of at least half that did not pass in 2011," she said. "So if 18 percent of your student groups did not pass the state benchmarks, then 9 percent should pass if you are closing the gap."

Greenwald said the new K-3 literacy component has not been fully defined by the state, but eventually will be based on tests given to students in those grades at the beginning of a school year.

She said the progress component will include the value-added measure, which determines if a student has made one year's academic growth in one year's time.

Imhoff called the report card "a moving target."

"We understand that the state report card is important," he said, "but we also know it will continue to change. We need to make sure this is only a part of how we determine the quality of our school district."

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