The South-Western City School District received an overall grade of D on the state report card released Sept. 13 by the Ohio Department of Education.
The state report cards measure Ohio school districts on performance during the 2017-18 school year.
The overall district grades, ranging from A to F, are based on the subgrades districts received in six components on the report card: achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation rate, improving at-risk K-3 readers and prepared for success.
South-Western received an overall D grade in achievement and progress.
Achievement represents the number of students who passed the state tests at select grade levels and how well they performed on the exams, while progress measures the growth that all students are making based on their past performance.
The district received a B grade in gap closing, which measures how well students from various populations, including those of specific ethnicity, disability and economic background, perform, and the K-3 literacy category.
South-Western received a C grade in graduation rate and an F in prepared for success, which measures how well students are prepared for future opportunities.
"We experienced growth and academic gains in almost every area this school year as we have year after year," Superintendent Bill Wise said.
"Our primary focus is not the letter grades we receive on the state report card, but whether our kids are able to demonstrate increased growth and improvement and whether we're increasing the rigor of the courses our students take," Wise said. "We're seeing that occur in our district, but it's not always indicated by the grades we're assigned.
"Our main mission is preparing our students as well as we can for college or work after high school," he said.
South-Western achieved the highest graduation rate in its history last year, Wise said.
In the state report card format, an overall grade of C is earned with 2.215 points, he said. South-Western narrowly missed a C grade with 2.120 points.
"It says something about the standards set for the report card that 62 percent of districts in the state receive an overall grade of C or D," Wise said.
Under the achievement category, South-Western received a D grade for its performance-index score, which was 80.5 out of a possible 120.
The performance-index measures the test results of every student, not just those who score proficient or higher.
The district received an F for meeting the benchmark on only one of 24 indicators.
South-Western students are performing better on state tests, Wise said.
The size of the district and its diverse student body makes progress in that area move more slowly, he said.
"It's very clear that poverty, children with special needs and students who are learning the English language find it challenging to perform at the expected level," Wise said.
Addressing the non-academic barriers faced by students in those categories remains a focus for the district, he said.
"We're seeing improvement in our test scores, but it's an incremental thing. It can't happen overnight," Wise said. "That's especially true after the state raised the passage rate benchmark to 80 percent."
Sixty-three percent of South-Western students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, 17 percent are special education students and 14 percent are English as a Second Language learners, he said.
"We rank near the top in all of those categories," Wise said.