At first glance, Reynoldsburg's state report-card grades look pretty dismal, with only one A in graduation rates, three D's, a C and an F.

Superintendent Melvin Brown said a bad grade on a report card component should not be used to represent the entire school district.

"Everyone's data is different, based upon the students they serve," he said. "We just got this data, so we need some time to break it apart. But we will use the report card to give us information to make plans and instructional decisions.

"It is not a picture, however, of everything we do and have to do for our kids," he said.

District officials say the D in achievement, the first of six graded components, reflects the state's "moving target" for achievement standards, since the score needed to be considered proficient was increased from 75 percent last year to 80 percent this year.

Reynoldsburg schools earned that passing percentage on only two of 27 state indicators -- in fourth-grade social studies and fifth-grade math. Scores were close, however, in third-grade math, at 78.1 percent and in high school government at 75.9 percent.

The district earned D's in progress, which measures how well students perform on state tests from year to year, and in prepared for success, which measures the percentage of students who earned a remediation-free score on all parts of the ACT or SAT, or earned an honors diploma or industry credential.

The district scored an F in gap closing, which measures how well it is meeting performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English, math, language arts and graduation, according to the ODE website.

Brown said teachers are continually trying to find more ways to improve K-3 literacy, for which the district received a C.

"We emphasize K-3 to get kids across the finish line," he said. "The problem is we have kids coming to us with different levels of readiness for school. If every kid was at the same point when they entered kindergarten, we could probably bring them all forward together.

"We have to meet kids where they are right now -- that is our obligation," he said.

The district's one A measures four- and five-year graduate rates. According to the report card, 92.4 percent of students graduated in four years and 96.3 percent graduated in five years.

"Progress doesn't happen overnight," Brown wrote in a letter to parents a few days before the Ohio Department of Education released report cards Sept. 14.

"It will take time, energy and intentional effort to eliminate any achievement gaps," he wrote. "Additionally, we consider the education and the development of the whole child as priorities in our work ... We view each student individually and work to ensure they enter the world well-rounded and experienced.

"We refuse to have our students reduced to a test score."

Chris Woolard, senior executive director at the Ohio Department of Education, said the proper context is needed to understand the grades.

"We encourage parents to talk to teachers and to principals," he said. "We know there's a lot more to the story."

He 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.

Woolard said students could be achieving a lot in districts that have D's and F's on their report cards.

"It does not mean that your school district is failing," he said.

The state will debut an overall letter grade for each district on next year's report cards, he said.

ThisWeek staff writer Thomas Gallick contributed to this story.