The Pickerington Local School District made positive strides in several areas of the Ohio Department of Education's latest state report card.

The ODE released its state report card for the 2016-17 school year Thursday, Sept. 14, and Pickerington received better results than the previous year.

Overall, the district received an A, a B and four C's on the latest report card. That compares to the 2015-16 report card, which rendered an A, two C's, two D's and an F.

"In general, we believe we are making progress in key areas and, with some adjustments to the sails, will keep applying what has been showing results for the district," said Sharon Caccimelio, Pickerington's executive director of teaching and learning.

"We will continue assessing efforts that are showing results -- team teaching, enrichment and intervention, changes to our curriculum -- to see what can be applied in other areas to achieve similar results," Caccimelio said.

"We will continue hiring great teachers and ensuring they continue to develop as educators through ongoing professional development.

"In short, we are making progress, so we will not completely change direction. We may make some course corrections, but we do believe we are headed in the right direction."

PIckerington's largest improvement, according to the report card, came in gap closing, a measure of how well a school's disadvantaged groups are doing compared with the whole student body. It went from an F in 2015-16 to a B for 2016-17.

Caccimelio attributed the improvement to the district's analysis of the academic performance of its nine student groups and its provision of classroom intervention to students who have fallen behind their classmates.

"In general, we feel we have been doing a good job of that identification and intervention, and will continue working to improve those areas.

The district also saw improvements in progress, which seeks to show how much students have learned from one year to the next, and K-3 Literacy, a measure of how well schools are helping struggling readers in kindergarten, first and second grades.

In both of those areas, the district's grades improved from D's in 2015-16 to C's in 2016-17.

Caccimelio said the district has focused considerable efforts and resources on curriculum, teaching and intervention to boost its K-3 literacy scores, in part because she said that area has shown to be a key factor in predicting a student's academic success as he or she moves through middle and high school.

Pickerington also maintained C grades in prepared for success, which gauges how ready students are to enter college or a career based on SAT or ACT scores, honors diplomas and earned industry credentials, as well as Achievement, which is student performance and passage on state examinations.

The Columbus Dispatch reported no traditional school districts in central Ohio earned an A for performance index, a measure of how well students scored overall on state exams.

Further, the Dispatch reported the majority of central Ohio's districts earned F's on indicators met, which measures how many of their students scored as proficient or above on each of those tests.

In the achievement category, Pickerington received a C, 78.7 percent, on its performance index and an F on indicators met.

Additionally, the district kept its A grade in graduation rate, which measures how many students are getting diplomas within four to five years.

Caccimelio called the state report card's data "important" and said the district invests "untold hours evaluating that data to identify where we're making progress."

But she noted it's just one set of measurable the district uses, and she pointed to the district's implementation of its own STARS report to track student and teacher success.

STARS in an acronym for System To Achieve Results for Students, and it's a web-based application that provides for planning and management of professional development and technical assistance for Ohio educators, according to the ODE.

"We also look for areas for improvement, and adjust what and how we teach to affect change for our students," Caccimelio said. "We must keep that data in perspective.

"Many of the state's criteria are based on one test, taken on one day," she said. "While this is a useful assessment tool, we would never rely solely on these results to gauge our success."

ODE Senior Executive Director Chris Woolard, noted that statewide Achievement levels rose this year. He also encouraged people to put the report card in proper context.

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

"The whole point of the system is it's designed to be a system of continuous improvement."

Pickerington Superintendent Chris Briggs said the district values the report card to help identify areas in which local curriculum can be improved, but added the district continues to hone its methods for tracking individual student growth and success.

"We believe public schools should set high standards and that accountability is important," Briggs said.

"We also know we must never lose sight of the fact that Pickerington schools are far more than just numbers on the state's annual report card.

"Numbers don't tell the whole story: That a school district is people," Briggs said.

"Pickerington Schools are the 21st century learning environments we provide and the career paths we build for our children. We are the experiences that change kids' minds."

Columbus Dispatch reporters Bill Bush and Shannon Gilchrist and ThisWeek News staff writer Thomas Gallick contributed to this story.

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