A number of factors contributed to the overall D grade on Reynoldsburg City Schools' state report card, but Superintendent Melvin Brown said officials "do not feel it is a comprehensive view of our district."
"It is our hope that stakeholders instead focus on what our district is doing to address the challenges our students face, as well as celebrate the significant accomplishments we have achieved," he wrote to parents in a letter posted on the district website Sept. 13, the day the Ohio Department of Education released report cards for the 2017-18 school year.
Reynoldsburg received an overall D grade, calculated from an A in graduation rates, a D in achievement, a D in K-3 literacy, a B in gap-closing and F grades in progress and prepared for success.
A composite letter grade is new this year, along with two new indicators -- end-of-course improvement, expected to be at least 25 percent, and chronic absenteeism, expected to be less than 13.6 percent.
The district's end-of-course improvement score was 33.5 percent, but chronic absenteeism was 18 percent.
Other indicators were individual tests at each grade level in English, math, history and science, where students were expected to achieve at least 80 percent.
The district met only two of 24 achievement indicators -- high school government and end-of-course progress.
Scores were close in high school American history at 79.7 percent, however, and topped 70 percent on third-grade math, fifth-grade science, high school biology and English I and II tests.
Additionally, 96.1 percent of district third-graders met the state's third-grade reading guarantee, where students must pass the state reading test before going on to fourth grade.
The B in gap-closing was a big improvement over last year's F grade. Gap-closing measures how well students from different races, economic backgrounds, ethnicities and disabilities performed on the tests.
Other factors in play for Reynoldsburg's scores may be the district's diverse student population, which includes 56 percent economically disadvantaged students and 38.5 percent students with disabilities, according to statistics on the report card.
"Those can be huge factors," Brown said. "There is a direct correlation between school achievement and poverty, so test scores are going to be lower.
"However, our goal is to create a situation at school where students are better engaged, even if they have these issues," he said.
He said chronic absenteeism is something parents could help with.
"We want to get 100 percent on attendance," he said. "We also want to create conditions in schools and classrooms so that kids get excited about school."
Engaging parents is another goal, Brown said.
"We know we can work harder on how we engage parents," he said. "Helping with homework is a piece of it, but a small piece, since if kids need help with homework, they didn't learn what they needed to in class."
In a post on his Facebook page about the report-card results, school board President Joe Begeny wrote, "It's not that simple."
"Every day, our staff gives above and beyond, and while it may not always show, we are there, day and night, week after week, making a difference, finding all the different ways to reach all of our students and what they bring to our district," he wrote. "Meet with us, ask us questions, let's work together so we can be the district our children deserve."
Brown said his administrative team will look closely at the grades.
"We will discuss what we can do to improve them, but I won't let us be defined by those grades, either," he said. "There are many crucial things that go into a child's education."
His team is working on a five-year strategic plan that includes goals and action steps toward higher student achievement.
Additionally, a new "freshman experience" begins next year.
Incoming ninth-graders will be assigned to the Livingston Avenue campus, where they will be taught study skills and core subjects, then go on to high school academies as sophomores.
"I'm curious to see how the high school achievement numbers look at the end of the first year of the freshman experience," Brown said.
Brown reminded parents in the letter that most district elementary schools had improved on one or more measures compared to last year's report card.
He also said the class of 2018 consisted of 535 graduates who earned more than $8.9 million in scholarships and more than 4,100 college credits.
"We consider the education and development of the whole child as priorities in our work," he said. "We refuse to have our students reduced to being defined by a test score."