The Worthington school district is no longer just excellent. It is excellent with distinction.

The Worthington school district is no longer just excellent. It is excellent with distinction.

That highest rating on the state report card was announced Monday, just as teachers and students were getting ready to return to class on Wednesday.

"Congratulations are in order for everyone from the superintendent on down," school board president David Bressman said on Monday night.

He treated the school board and guests to an "A-plus" cake to celebrate the occasion.

This is the second year the district has been rated excellent, but the first time "with distinction" has been added.

"With distinction" indicates that the district exceeded expected gains ("value added" in report card language) for two years in a row.

"The distinction comes from growth, that is why I am proud of it. It recognizes the hard work of students and teachers," said Jennifer Wene, director of academic achievement and professional development.

The district met 29 of 30 indicators, which are based on results of tests given in third through eighth grades and in high school and on attendance rate and graduation rate.

Seventy-five percent of students at each grade level must pass each test. The only state standard not met last year was in eighth-grade social studies. On that test, 72.4 percent were graded as proficient.

The district attendance rating was 95.7 percent, surpassing the state standard 93 percent.

Graduation rate was 95.5 percent. The state standard is 90 percent.

The performance index score was 102.6. Excellent is defined as between 100 and 120.

The district met the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) criteria, which is the national standard imposed on districts. That means the district met standards in each subgroup recognized by the government.

Last year, the district missed AYP in the special education reading category. In previous years, it had missed the mark among students who speak foreign languages as well as special education students.

Wene attributes the improvements to the hard work of teachers, who continually refine their teaching skills and work hard to engage students in the classroom every day.

"Teachers are throwing themselves at learning new practices," she said.

At the district level, administrators are looking hard at research, recommending teaching practices that result in the most improvements.

Principals are also embracing their roles as instructional leaders and, as always, the district enjoys the support of parents and the community, Wene said.

The district's high scores are particularly impressive considering that the rate of poverty has grown in recent years. Two schools - Slate Hill and Colonial Hills - now have more than 40 percent of their student bodies that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Among building results on report cards, Liberty and Bluffsview elementaries earned the excellent with distinction rating.

Rated as excellent were Evening Street, Slate Hill, Wilson Hill, Worthington Estates, Granby and Worthington Hills elementary schools; McCord and Phoenix middle schools; and both high schools.

Rated effective were Brookside, Worthington Park and Colonial Hills elementary schools, and Worthingway, Kilbourne, and Perry middle schools.

cbrooks@thisweeknews.com