The Reynoldsburg school district has a lot to celebrate, despite the fact last month's report card results were on the dismal side, Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning told the school board last week.

The Reynoldsburg school district has a lot to celebrate, despite the fact last month's report card results were on the dismal side, Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning told the school board last week.

Thomas-Manning presented a mini State of the Schools address at the board's March 15 meeting that included financial information and remarks about the state report card.

District finances are "healthy and stable," she said.

"We have been very disciplined in the way we can stretch taxpayer dollars and it looks like we will spend less money this year than last year," she said. "So our financial forecast looks really good."

Total revenue was $68,692,952 at the end of fiscal year 2015, with expenditures of $61,563,028. With a carryover cash balance, minus encumbrances, the resulting fund balance at the end of the fiscal year was $16,577,118.

Scores on the state report card were another story, though.

Overall, the Reynoldsburg district received four D's, three F's and one C on the final report card information released last month, based on state tests administered during the 2014-15 school year.

The district did earn A's for its four-year and five-year graduation rates.

The three F's were in overall value-added progress, progress for gifted and the lowest 20 percent achieving students.

Bright spots

Thomas-Manning said three schools -- French Run, Taylor Road and Summit Road Elementary -- met all state indicators, earning A's. French Run, Rose Hill, Summit Road, Slate Ridge and eSTEM Academy earned all A's in overall progress.

Rose Hill Elementary was the only Reynoldsburg school that earned an A in progress for the lowest 20 percent of students and Taylor Road earned an A in progress for gifted students.

The Ohio Department of Education student progress grades could be misleading, though, according to assessment experts such as Jennifer Wene, chief academic officer for Worthington schools. That district is appealing the four F grades it received in student progress, especially since it received four A's in that category last year.

Officials want to see the calculations ODE used for that measure.

Wene said value-added progress no longer measures "a year's worth of growth for each student."

"People think value-added measures student growth, but that is not entirely true," she said.

"What it does is compare your students' performance level as a district from one year to the next. So it translates your level of performance into a normal curve equivalent on a scale of 1-99."

She said the measure actually "places" school districts, according to average progress achieved.

"It is a lot like a cross-country race, where everyone is single file," she said. "So in getting from point A to B, you get a time (progress score), so you place second or fifth, etc. You get a placement in that race. So your grade or score each year actually measures whether you maintained or lost your position in the pack."

In the past, the state measured an accumulation of three years of academic growth for districts.

"For a three-year average, you would not go from an A to an F in a given year, because it is accumulative," Wene said. "The state went to a two-year progress model."

Pencil vs. online

Recent research by several Ohio school districts shows that students who took the tests using paper and pencil achieved much better results than the students who took the tests online. Reynoldsburg and Worthington administered online state testing, but Worthington district leaders said they may ask for paper-an- pencil tests for the next round.

Reynoldsburg Board of Education President Joe Begeny said his district could do the same, if evidence holds that students do better with paper and pencil.

"We would be doing our children a disservice if we stayed with the online tests if we think they could do better with paper and pencil," he said.