The latest results on the state Report card don’t accurately reflect the excellence in student learning that’s occurring in the Johnstown-Monroe schools, according to Superintendent Dale Dickson.
The district scored an A in progress, a B in graduation rates, a C in achievement, gap closing and K-3 literacy and a D in prepared for success.
“The state report card continues to be disappointing in that it does not accurately or effectively represent the quality of learning that is taking place in Ohio’s public schools,” Dickson said. “There is little relevancy or reliability in a state report card that constantly changes the methods and content criteria analyzed while comparing results from assessments that change every year (such as OGT, PARCC and now AIR assessments in the past three years).”
In the J-M schools, Dickson said, high expectations are set for students and staff.
He said the district strives to provide the best in learning opportunities for students.
“I am very proud of our students’, teachers’ and administrators’ efforts and do not believe the state report card accurately or effectively represents a true picture of the excellence in student learning that is taking place in our schools,” Dickson said.
Chris Woolard, a senior executive director at the Ohio Department of Education, 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.
He 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.
Dickson said Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction, said the grades the state is seeing reflect a system in “transition.”
“That indeed is a big part of the problem,” Dickson said. “The testing and reporting of student performance in this state are in constant ‘transition.’
“Changing the tests and test publishers, raising the cut-off scores (after the tests were administered), adding tests, taking away tests, changing test schedules, not reporting data on time, etc., are aspects of an accountability system that is perfectly designed to make Ohio’s public schools look like they are failing when, in fact, they are doing quite well,” he said.
More than 90 percent of Ohio districts received a D or an F in indicators met on the report card, including J-M, he said.
By meeting only nine of 24 indicators, Johnstown received an F on indicators that are part of the overall achievement score.
In order to meet an indicator, the state increased the expected proficiency level from 75 to 80 percent.
“There is always room for improvement in the way we instruct students, and we are always striving to provide the best educational opportunities for our children,” Dickson said. “Our 2016 state report-card scores do not look so bad in comparison to other schools in our region and throughout the state; however, this means nothing when the assessment and reporting system itself are so flawed.”
He said the district would analyze the details of the data reported and look for any trends that might be useful in J-M’s efforts to improve instruction.
“However, if the state of Ohio continues to tinker and change the system from year to year, this report card will be nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Dickson 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.