EDS NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles on local school district’s 2015-2016 Ohio Department of Education report cards.
GREENVILLE — The Ohio School Report Cards have been released for all of the Buckeye State’s public school districts.
However, an ongoing theme for years has been displeasure — not only from the students required to take the tests, naturally, but also by administrators and teachers, who feel the testing is unnecessary and detracts from valuable classroom time.
Further, many educators across the state contend the “grades” issued as a result of the tests are not necessarily indicative of their performance in preparing students for graduation, jobs and higher education.
This holds true for Superintendent Doug Fries and Assistant Superintendent Laura Bemus of Greenville City Schools, the largest school district in Darke County.
The Daily Advocate questioned the two on Greenville City Schools’ Report Card results, with their responses shown.
Based on state testing, reading seems to be an area of concern, especially in the 3rd through 8th grade levels, but in grade 11 testing, the district’s students exceed the average for both similar districts and the state average. In fact, there appears to be a downward trend for all these grades from 2014. What accounts for such a “leap” from the grade 8 to grade 11 students? And how does the district plan to address the low reading scores among the pre-high school students?
“The high school has been a consistent test over the last three years with the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). Grades 3-8 have changed tests three times over the last three years; Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA), then Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the American Institute for Research (AIR) tests. The state tests are only one measure that we use to inform us about student progress and achievement.
“We have used MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing in grades K-8 in math and language arts for several years and have started MAP testing grades 9 and 10 this year to give us more information. We use MAP data to identify areas for intervention. In grades K-3 we have implemented 1:1 technology with eSpark that individualizes instruction for students based on their learning needs. We have also incorporated new ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum from Pearson, and curriculum maps that align to the state standards.”
Mathematics appears to be a strength in all grade levels tested with the exception of the 3rd graders tested. Is this an aberration? If not, will that class be given additional math instruction?
“This is the first year of a new test. With the new test, we were given no test information to prepare. It’s important that we continue to use MAP data to determine areas of need since that has been consistent data for our district. We spend a substantial part of our day on ELA and Math and will continue to support students with interventions in those areas.”
As opposed to the 2014-2015 test results, the 2015-2016 results showed the district passing the “gifted student” threshold and given a “C” (versus an “F” last time around). Is there something to account for this? Are some classes more gifted than others from year to year or is it a matter of maximizing potential?
“Gifted is a new measurement based on students identified and students served. The district makes every effort to serve gifted students and identify gifted students through annual screening of students.”
Greenville’s 4th and 6th grade social studies students averaged less than similar districts as well as the state average. Science testing for 5th and 7th grade students, however, exceeded most averages. Will the district place added emphasis on social studies as a result?
“We teach the standards in all areas and will continue to do so. We will provide support to meet the needs of all students, including intervention for students that need additional help and enrichment for students excelling grade-level expectations.”
Last year, Superintendent Fries was quoted as saying the 2014-2015 testing was a “transitional year” and even some state leaders said the public should “ignore” that year’s results. Does the same hold true for this past year’s testing, and if so, why?
“The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) continues to indicate that the State Report Card is still in transition. For the third year in a row, a new assessment was given going from the OAA to PARCC to AIR and end-of-course exams. Furthermore, this year there are new grade levels and subjects tested. As ODE has indicated, it is hard to compare the test from previous years. Likewise, the test was again given with an option to take online or paper [and] pencil. We again choose to give online while the tests are in safe harbor for the students, teachers and district to allow everyone to get the full experience of the direction state testing is going.
“Also, some of the grades in areas of achievement, graduation rate and growth were determined differently this year with varying percentages weighing in the final grade determination. The test continues to be in transition, making the data not reliable. Moreover, state testing has increased with additional grade levels and new subjects being tested. This is evident by the increased number indicators on the district report card. It’s our opinion that until you have given the same tests, the same way, to all students in the state, you are not out of transition and you cannot truly compare the scores (from year to year and also from district to district).”
Overall, how does the Greenville City Schools administration view the 2015-2016 results? Is it a fair assessment of Greenville students and teachers? If it isn’t, in your opinion, what would you tell parents, the public, in regards to how these results should be viewed?
“When we receive our data, we always reflect on results as we examine the positives and areas for growth/improvement. One of our most positive results is the improvement of Greenville High School’s four-year graduation rate over time. The four-year graduation rate is 93.4 percent and that is up from 84.6 percent in 2011-2012.
“Ultimately, this is the most important measure and goal for our district, to make sure that students are graduating and prepared for college and/or careers.
“Also, we met the Value-Added performance measure overall and in all subgroups (gifted, students with disabilities, and the lowest 20 percent performing students). The value-added measure has improved from a ‘F’ in 2015 to a ‘C’ in 2016 for Greenville City Schools. This measure is used for teacher evaluations and is determined by students meeting expected growth over the past year of instruction. Three of the last four years Greenville has met or exceeded expected growth value. This is positive for the district.
“We expect our Local Report Card to improve in all areas due to initiatives that support learning. We have implemented MAP testing in grades K-11 in English Language Arts and Math to measure student achievement and growth. These results give teachers information to help individualize student learning based on needs. We have also implemented 1:1 technology in grades K-2 with eSpark providing learning quests and apps, again based on MAP test results and individual student learning needs. We plan to move the 1:1 technology initiative through third grade this year and on toward high school to continue to prepare our students for college and careers.
“It is important to remember that there is more to a child’s learning than what is measured on the state report card. The report card is one — but not the only — measure of teacher, school and district performance. As a district, we are always working to improve and better meet the needs of our students. Again we are pleased with our final graduation rate which is the ultimate and most important goal, continuing to rise. Likewise, we only had two students in the district who did not meet the third grade guarantee requirements this year.”
Fries and Bemus also pointed out the performance of Greenville’s Career Technology students.
“We also received our Career Tech report card, which draws little attention. However out of the eight components graded, the district received 5 A’s, 2 B’s and 1 D. The components are:
Technical Skill Achievement — B
Technical Skill Component — B
Prepared for Success — D
Four Year Graduation — A
Five Year Graduation — A
Graduation Component — A
Post Program Placement — A
Post Program Component — A
“This demonstrates that our high school students in career tech programs are doing an excellent job.
“We are excited to move into our new facility which boosts 21st Century capabilities and extended learning opportunities with updated and outstanding technology features. Our staff continues to incorporate the demands of increased rigor on the state tests to extend student thinking. The staff is spending more time looking at student data to adjust instruction to meet student needs.”
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