Whitehall News

New state report card format

Whitehall's grade would drop from B to C

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Whitehall City Schools would not fare as well -- on paper at least -- under the state's new report card, according to preliminary data released this week.

The Ohio Department of Education released simulations of the new state report card last week, based on data already released for the 2011-12 school year.

Although the state stopped short of releasing an overall grade, Whitehall would have dropped one letter, from its current B to a C, if the scores were averaged together.

"Obviously, I'm not happy with some of (the grades) because we've been so excited about getting our effective rating," Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy said upon receiving the simulation last week.

She is encouraged by the overall "value added" score, which she called key. The district received an A in that area.

"To me, that's reflective of what we're really doing in this district because we've been growing our kids a year or more in order to get that letter grade," she said.

According to ODE data, teachers in Whitehall were responsible last year for helping students gain more than a year's worth of growth. The value-added measure rewards districts for helping students grow academically, even if they are not yet reaching state benchmarks. It was the main component in Whitehall's "effective" rating last year.

"So for me, while I'm disappointed with some of these other letter grades, I think the value-added piece is still the key for us," Dobbert-Meloy said. "If we can continue to grow our students a year or more every year, it will take care of these other areas."

Beginning in August, ODE will change the way it measures and rates the performance of schools and districts throughout the state.

The first and likely simplest change is the conversion to a straightforward letter-grade system. An A-F letter grade is very familiar to most adults, no matter how long they have been out of school, state officials say.

Aside from the new A-F rating, districts will receive grades in six broad categories. Those will include achievement (how well students are doing against national and state standards); gap closing (how well students in specific demographic groups are growing in reading and math); graduation rate (both four- and five-year); progress (how well students' abilities are growing academically); K-3 literacy (how well students in kindergarten through third grade are reading); and preparedness for success (how well students are prepared for either college or a career).

Each district will receive an overall grade for each school -- and one for the district -- based on the six categories.

When analyzing last year's state report card results and applying them to the new system, ODE gave Whitehall a D in the performance indicators category, a C in performance index, a D for its four-year graduation rate, an F for its five-year graduation rate, an A in value added of all students, an F in value added of gifted students, an A in value added of the lowest 20 percent in achievement, a B in value added of students with disabilities and an F in closing the achievement gap among student subcategories.

Although the district would receive the final F in gap closing under the new state report card, it met 34 of the 38 subcategories in a similar ranking last year.

Dobbert-Meloy also expressed concern over the poor graduation grades, in which the district had made considerable gains over the past few years.

The district's challenges, she said, continue to be its increasing English as a Second Language population and its high turnover rate -- about 33 percent in any given year, she said.

"We're starting over with a lot of our students during the school year," she said. "So that transiency piece is extremely important. And how we work at trying to get those students up to speed as quickly as possible is very important."

Dobbert-Meloy also pointed to a significant amount of "discord" among the letter grades.

"We're just going to have to work on it and figure out what strategies to put into place to improve the other areas," she said.

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