Highland County school district superintendents said they are pleased with the progress reflected in recently released state school report cards, but all the superintendents — from Greenfield Exempted Village Schools, which received an overall D grade, to Fairfield Local School District, which netted a B — said their respective districts have room to improve.
This year’s state report cards, which for the first time assign each district and school an overall letter grade, judge education centers and districts on six main criteria: Achievement, which represents whether student performance on state tests met established thresholds and how well students performed on tests overall; Progress, which addresses growth that all students are making based on their past performances; Gap Closing, which shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the state’s most vulnerable students in English language arts, math, graduation and English language proficiency; Graduation Rate, which addresses the percentage of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four or five years; Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, which establishes how successful the school is at improving young readers; and Prepared for Success, which judges how well-prepared students are for future opportunities.
Hillsboro City Schools, the county’s largest district, received an overall C grade. The district won B grades in Gap Closing and Graduation Rate, but fell short on Prepared for Success, gaining an F. The district also got Cs in Achievement and K-3 reading, and a D in progress.
Superintendent Tim Davis said he’s optimistic.
“We’re very excited with the direction our district is moving,” he said. “The overall grade of a C is an improvement… We’re still not where we want to be with the indicators and getting 80 percent of our students to pass those state assessments, and that’s a work in progress.”
Davis said the district needs to improve on Progress by better serving gifted students, students with disabilities and students in the lowest 20 percent in achievement.
Davis also said the Prepared for Success category is “an area I’ve talked with our high school principal about and that’s something we’re going to focus on improving upon, getting our students college- and career-ready.”
Davis said overall “we know we are not where we need to be, but we are working very hard to improve education for our students. I’m happy we’re moving in the right direction and we want to continue taking those strides.”
Greenfield Exempted Village Schools received an overall D grade. The district got a C in Progress, D grades in Achievement, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate and K-3 reading improvement, and an F in Prepared for Success.
Superintendent Joe Wills said he’s pleased with individual school improvements shown in the report card, specifically how several of the schools in the district performed in Gap Closing.
Individually, Buckskin Elementary and Rainsboro Elementary went from an F to an A in Gap Closing, Greenfield Elementary went from F to B, and McClain High School went from F to C, he said.
“The Gap Closing areas were the ones that probably showed the most growth,” Wills said.
Wills also said three of the district’s five buildings increased their performance index.
The achievement is no small feat, Wills added, considering how the State of Ohio “has continued to add indicators over the years, and we continue to try to hit moving targets.”
As it has in the past, Fairfield High School performed the highest of all Highland County districts, winning an overall B grade. Fairfield received straight As in Progress, Gap Closing and Graduation Rate, a B in Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers and an F in Prepared for Success.
Interim Superintendent Tim Dettwiller said he feels the district is “close” to getting an A next year.
“‘Good’ is the enemy of ‘great,’” Detwiller said. “We’re a good school district and we want to be great. That’s our focus… We feel we’re relatively close to getting that A mark.”
Dettwiller said the Prepared for Success category is “very difficult in that it’s a three-year average, so it’s hard to change that overnight.”
But, he added, “every school in our region got an F” in Prepared for Success, which reflects how the state has “a lot more expectation on us.”
“We’re working to meet that,” he said.
Dettwiller said his administrative team will meet soon to compare data from each building and come up with a plan to move forward with improvements.
Lynchburg-Clay Local Schools received an overall C grade. The district netted Bs in Gap Closing and Graduation Rate, Cs in Achievement and Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, a D in Progress and an F in Prepared for Success.
Superintendent Brett Justice said the report card accurately reflects the state of the district, but he sees improvement from the past and more improvement in the future.
“That’s probably where we’re at,” he said. “We’re continuing to make improvements on the testing side of things, but then obviously there’s more than testing that goes into that calculation.”
Justice said the district’s graduation rate is expected to improve to an A next year, and he said individual buildings saw impressive improvement in test subjects.
“I think we’re making great strides,” he said. “Certain districts have a certain clientele that’s going to be more challenging, but the fact that we progressed so much in our testing data is a step in the right direction.”
Bright Local School District gained a C grade overall. The district earned an A in Graduation Rate, Bs in Progress and Gap Closing, a C in Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, a D in Achievement and an F in Prepared for Success.
Superintendent Ted Downing said he is pleased with the result.
“I’m very happy with what we got and where we’ve improved,” he said. “We’re closing the gap, we’re making progress. Is everything in the world perfect? No. But you’ve got to be happy with where we’ve come… But we can’t be complacent. It’s great that we’ve come far, but let’s not sit around.”
Downing said as a low-income school district, it’s difficult to meet the same indicators as other districts around the state, and he added that the report cards themselves are flawed in some ways.
“You have people who aren’t educators deciding what you need to know,” he said. “You’ve got legislators. They’re not educators… But I think they’re making some changes and it’s becoming more fair.”
For the full district report cards for individual schools and school districts, visit reportcard.education.ohio.gov.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.