The Ohio Department of Education on Sept. 14 released its report cards for Ohio's 611 public school districts for the 2016-17 year, and many highly regarded districts, including Hilliard, had less-than-stellar marks.

The results were not a complete surprise because districts already had received preliminary results before the report cards were released publicly, said Stacie Raterman, a spokeswoman for the district.

As in past years, Hilliard Superintendent John Marschhausen said the report cards are but one barometer of measuring the quality of school districts in Ohio and reiterated the metrics change year to year.

Parents can view grades and information on each report-card component at education.ohio.gov/topics/data/report-card-resources.

"There is so much more to a child's learning and growth than what is measured on this report card," Marschhausen said.

State report cards, he said, provide "only a limited snapshot on a handful of indicators."

State report cards consider a variety of metrics and give grades on six components: achievement, gap closing, K-3 literacy, progress, graduation rate and prepared for success.

Hilliard earned an A in graduation rate. Its four-year graduation rate was 95.3 percent; its five-year graduation rate was 96.5 percent.

Both rates are slightly higher than those on last year's state report card when the four-year rate was 94.9 percent and the five-year was 95.3 percent.

Hilliard received a component grade of D for achievement, lower than the C received last year.

The achievement component represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well students performed on the tests, according to the ODE website.

"One of the things that we're seeing across the board is that achievement levels are up," said Chris Woolard, senior executive director at the ODE.

The district earned a C in K-3 literacy, an improvement from the D it was issued last year.

The K-3 literacy component looks at how successful a district is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in the third grade and beyond, according to the ODE website.

Hilliard received an F in gap closing – it was its only F on the state report card – the same mark received last year.

The gap-closing component shows how well a district is meeting performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English, math, language arts and graduation, according to the ODE website.

The component grade for progress was D, but the district received higher marks for progress within the lowest 20 percent in achievement and lower marks for those who are gifted or who have disabilities.

The progress component measures the growth that all students are making based on their past performances.

Finally, Hilliard earned a C on the prepared-for-success component, which judges how prepared students are for all future opportunities.

Woolard said the proper context is needed to understand the grades.

"We encourage parents and community members to talk to teachers and talk to principals," he said.

Leaders react

Marschhausen said district leaders would not respond with a knee-jerk reaction to the results.

"We will not 'teach to the test' for the purpose of simply improving our grades on the state report card," he said.

Molly Walker, the district's coordinator of assessments and instructional technology, said the report cards provide little "actionable" information, while reiterating that the district isn't "teaching to the test."

The results also are dissected at each building, she said.

Staff members "look at the strengths and the weaknesses" and discuss them with teachers, too, Walker said.

But the report cards are not specific about what a student got right or wrong, she said.

"We can look for trends," Walker said. "But other than that, (the report cards) are not very actionable at the classroom level. It's hard to do (anything) at the classroom level when the report cards are so 'big picture,' " Walker said.

Marschhausen said educators would "continue to prepare students for future success based on local measures and community expectations."

To make his point, Marschhausen lauded some achievements not considered in the limited scope of state report cards.

The district's third-grade reading passage rates increased 7.6 percent from 2016 and eighth-grade math passage rates increased 8.7 percent from 2016, he said.

The class of 2017 also accepted more than $20 million in scholarships and grants to attend more than 100 different colleges and universities, he said.

"We have great confidence Hilliard graduates are prepared for success in the world of tomorrow," Marschhausen said.

Woolard also said the report cards should not be the lone piece of evidence residents use to judge a district.

"We know there's a lot more to the story," he said.

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 or F's on their report cards.

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

Woolard said the ODE has not heard from many district officials yet this year. He said department officials "would be happy to sit down and talk" with district officials who do not understand their grades or disagree with them.

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.

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