The Westerville school district has dropped to the "continuous improvement" category on the latest round of state report cards.

The Westerville school district has dropped to the "continuous improvement" category on the latest round of state report cards.

The Ohio Department of Education won't release the 2007-08 report cards for Ohio school districts until mid-August but districts get an advance copy of their grades prior to the public release.

Westerville City Schools missed five of the 30 indicators on the 2007-08 report card and should have remained in the "effective" category. However, Superintendent Dan Good said the district did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the third year in a row, so it was placed in "continuous improvement" instead.

There is some good news expected when the report cards are released, said Diane Conley, Westerville's chief of academic affairs.

It appears that the Performance Index will increase this year over last year, an indication that more students are scoring at the advanced and accelerated levels and/or fewer are scoring at the limited or basic levels.

Becky Carter, Westerville's director of accountability and testing, said attendance and graduation rates are up as well.

AYP is a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind law that requires all student subgroups to be at or above annual goals or to improve over the year before in reading, math, attendance and graduation rates.

The subgroups tracked by Ohio's report card system are broken into several categories: African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, multi-racial, white, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient and students with disabilities.

If a district fails to meet the AYP goals set by the state of Ohio in any of these subgroups in reading, math, attendance or graduation rates, then the entire district is considered to have not met AYP.

The same thing happened to Hilliard and Worthington last year, and will affect Dublin this year. All three should have earned "excellent" ratings on their report cards but instead dropped to "continuous improvement" because of their failure to meet AYP

"We are not satisfied where we are," Conley said.

She said district officials are working through the data to have it ready to review with principals and other district leaders at an administrative retreat.

Carter said the district missed meeting AYP goals in reading and math with three subgroups at varying grade levels: African-American, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged. The district also missed meeting math goals at the third-grade level in the limited English proficient subgroup, but did meet the goals in reading, which students in this subgroup missed last year, Carter said.

Over the summer, Good, Conley and Carter have looked at the testing data to see if there are specific areas in which students in these subgroups are having problems, Carter said. They also plan to look at other factors in a child's life outside of school, such as their eating habits or after-school care, to see how those might affect their ability to learn.

"Children are schooled in school but they are also schooled outside of school," Conley said.

"These tests are culturally rich," Good said, but if a particular culture doesn't touch on the subjects being tested, a student is at a disadvantage.

For example, Conley said, a student might know the words to the song about Johnny Appleseed but not understand the cultural experience behind the song. If a test uses Johnny Appleseed in a question, those students are lost, she said.

It could also be a language problem, Conley said, citing an example of a first-grade Hispanic boy who was addressing a Mother's Day card. His teacher asked him to write "To Mom" but the child responded that he had only one mom, not two.

As for the state indicators, the Westerville district missed the same four indicators as last year: fifth-grade math and social studies, and eighth-grade science and social studies. This year, it also missed fifth-grade science.

Carter said the good news is that eighth-grade social studies scores are up 10 percent over last year, and fifth-grade scores as a whole are also up over last year.

After receiving last year's report card, Conley said she and other curriculum staff looked at the social studies coursework and found it was not as aligned with the state standards as they thought.

To "fill in the holes" they introduced the interactive "History Alive" curriculum into grades three, four and five. They also plan to purchase licenses for online programs in science and social studies for students in grades three through 12 that can be accessed from home, she said. Those programs will incorporate educational lessons with some fun activities.

And they will look at the schools where classes did meet the indicators or AYP to see if teachers there are doing anything differently in the classroom that led to those successes, she said.