“Confusing,” “controversial” and “disappointing” are just a few of the descriptors Olentangy officials employed after reviewing the district's 2017 report card from the Ohio Department of Education.
For the second consecutive year, the district received an F in the category that measures student progress. Olentangy also received F’s in subcategories measuring progress among the overall student population, gifted students, students with disabilities and low-performing students.
The district received all A’s in those same subcategories in 2014-15.
Jack Fette, the district’s chief academic officer, said the district previously asked the ODE for an explanation of how and why its progress grades tanked last year but did not receive an adequate explanation.
Fette said aspects of the report-card system are “highly confusing and controversial” and advised residents not to use it for accurate summaries of school districts.
“Don’t rely on the report card to evaluate how the (district) is meeting your child’s needs,” he said. “Rely on your teachers.”
Olentangy was far from the only well-regarded central Ohio district to see poor marks for progress. Dublin, Grandview Heights, Hilliard and Westerville all received D’s in that category.
A guide to the report cards on the ODE’s website states that low grades in the progress category do not necessarily indicate bad news for parents and students.
“Just because a school may have a low achievement level in a given year does not mean that students are not learning,” it states. “In fact, there may be a great deal of academic growth taking place, moving students toward academic success.”
Chris Woolard, a senior executive director at the ODE, said the grades need to be viewed in the proper context. He said a district getting an F in a category is not analogous to a student getting an F in a subject.
“It does not mean that your school district is failing,” he said.
Woolard said the report cards are “designed to be aspirational.”
“The whole point of the system is it's designed to be a system of continuous improvement,” he said.
Olentangy received an A for its graduation rate and B’s in categories that measure how well the district closes gaps for vulnerable students, prepares students for success and how well students do on state tests. The district received a C for K-3 literacy.
Fette said the metrics district officials review internally – from ACT scores to postgraduation data – rank Olentangy among the premier school systems in the state. He said he’s afraid residents might get an inaccurate picture of the district by looking at the report card.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s also just confusing,” he said.
Woolard said ODE staff members would be “happy to sit down and talk with” administrators who have questions about their district’s grades.
He said he agrees that the report card should not be used as the lone way to judge a district.
“We encourage parents and community members to talk to teachers and talk to principals,” he said.
Fette said Olentangy officials would continue to work to understand and improve on the district's grades.
“Certainly, I’m not happy with this,” he said. “We want to be a straight-A district, and we see ourselves as a straight-A district.”