Upper Arlington school officials were encouraged by gains the district made on the latest state report card, but maintain it's just one measuring stick for how well the district does in teaching students.
The Ohio Department of Education released state report cards for the 2016-17 school year Sept. 14. UA schools received largely the same marks as in the previous year.
Overall, the district received two A's, a B and two C's. For the second year in a row, the district wasn't rated for K-3 literacy.
The district's one drop, according to the report card, came in progress, which measures how much students have learned from one year to the next. In that area, the district went from a B in 2015-16 to a C for 2016-17.
The district received its two A's in graduation rate, which measures how many students get diplomas in four and five years; and in prepared for success, which gauges how ready students are for college or a career based on ACT and SAT scores, honors diplomas and earned industry credentials.
The district's B came in achievement, which is based on student performance and passage on state exams.
The district didn't receive a grade for K-3 literacy because in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, fewer than 5 percent of its kindergartners were considered "off track" on the state's third-grade reading standards.
"While we are encouraged by the state report card, as educators, we know our work is never done," Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. "Our teachers use this data, as well as many other important measures, to continually refine instruction."
For the past two school years, Imhoff has said the state report card is an important measure of performance, but has maintained that other measurables, such as the quality profile the district established during the 2014-15 school year, provide deeper insights into achievement and accountability.
"Our staff is also committed to accountability," he said. "That's why we worked with community members to create the quality profile, a more comprehensive look at the expectations Upper Arlington has for its schools and our progress toward meeting and exceeding those goals."
Looking more closely at the state report card, 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 majority of central Ohio's districts earned F's on "indicators met," which measures how many students scored as proficient or above on each of those tests.
Upper Arlington received a B on the performance index, with a score of 82.9 percent.
It received a C, 79.2 percent, on indicators met.
The district's lowest marks came within the progress indicator.
While UA received an A for the amount of growth its gifted students made in 2016-17, it received a C for growth among the lowest 20 percent of student performers and an F for growth among students with disabilities.
"As with all of the state report card data, we see this measure as one of many important data points we use to reflect upon our work with students," Keith Pomeroy, the district's chief academic officer, said. "We will continue to work to identify the needs of all students and how our staff can best support and challenge them every step of the way.
"We look forward to receiving the detailed data behind this indicator from the state next month," he said. "At that time, we will dig into that data along with the other measures we use to track student progress to continue to identify areas of both weakness and strength."
For the second consecutive year, Upper Arlington earned A's for graduation rate, with 97.5 percent of students graduating from high school in four years and 98.8 percent graduating in five years.
The district also received an A for how well it's preparing students for college and careers after high school.
"One of our priorities as a school district is to ensure that students are prepared for a successful life after receiving their diploma," Pomeroy said. "The prepared for success indicator is one data point that reaffirms that we are preparing our students well for post-secondary success.
"Other examples of this focus are shared in our quality profile, including the fact that our students' ACT composite score has increased each year for the past six years."
As for the district again earning a C in achievement and gap closing, Pomeroy said some grade stagnation reflects the changing standards the state has instituted in recent years.
"One factor that is affecting all Ohio districts is the fact that the state has increased the passage rate required to meet indicators to 80 percent," he said. "In the past, the passage rate required from some indicators was 65 or 70 percent.
"So even though districts may have seen an increase in passage rate in some areas, it may not directly translate to additional indicators met."
ODE senior executive director Chris Woolard said Ohio schools, generally, are trending upward.
"One of the things that we're seeing across the board is that achievement levels are up," Woolard said.
Woolard agreed with UA school officials who said the report cards should not be the only factor residents use to judge a district. He said they're designed to render "a system of continuous improvement."
More detailed information about UA schools' state report card, as well as all other districts in the state, can be found at education.ohio.gov/.
ThisWeek reporter Thomas Gallick and Columbus Dispatch reporters Bill Bush and Shannon Gilchrist contributed to this story.