|BW Excellent 6th Year Running
Delaware County seems to be the place to raise children in central Ohio. All four school districts in the county achieved an excellent rating or better on the Ohio Department of Education 2010-11 School Year Report Card.
Two county school districts, Delaware City and Olentangy, received the coveted Excellent with Distinction rating. The Big Walnut Local School District, for the sixth year in a row, achieved an Excellent rating.
District report cards show progress school districts have made based on four performance measures – State Indicators, Performance Index, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and Value-Added. The combination of the four measures is the basis for assigning state designations to school districts and individual buildings within each district. The six designations are: Excellent with Distinction, Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch, and Academic Emergency.
As individual school buildings, Big Walnut Elementary School and Hylen Souders Elementary were rated Excellent with Distinction, Big Walnut Middle School was rated Excellent, and Big Walnut High School and General Rosecrans Elementary were rated Effective.
The Big Walnut school district Performance Index was 102.3. Buckeye Valley had an Excellent rating with a 101.1 Performance Index, while Delaware City received an Excellent with Distinction with a Performance Index of only 100.3. Olentangy led the county on the Performance Index scale with 106.9.
As a school district, Big Walnut failed to meet its AYP indicators, along with Buckeye Valley. Delaware City and Olentangy met their AYP's.
The best news of all is that Big Walnut, at all grades levels surpassed state averages in areas tested – Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Writing. Add to that, Big Walnut’s 97.4 percent graduation rate, compared to 96.8 percent for similar school districts and a state graduation rate of 84.3 percent.
Buckeye Valley’s 95.8 percent graduation rate is similar to Big Walnuts, Delaware City graduated only 92.6 percent of its seniors last year, and Olentangy’s graduation rate was 99.5 percent.
“Of course, we’re shooting for Excellent with Distinction,” said Big Walnut’s Director of Academic Achievement Angie Pollock. “But we're really proud of our performance last year; our Performance Index as a district went up, and is even higher than some districts that received Excellent with Distinction.”
Asked about Big Walnut High School dropping from Excellent on the 2009-10 Report Card to Effective on the 2010-11 Report Card, Pollock said there is no Value Added measure at the high school level, subgroup targets are being raised at high schools statewide, causing many high schools to drop a rating notch; that many scores at Big Walnut High School are higher than they were on the 2009-10 report card, but the target for subgroups has been raised and will continue to be raised until 2014. She said the subgroup’s standards are actually higher than the standards for other students.
“When we look at the subgroups, they’re federal targets, in high school the subgroup targets are in the 80’s for everybody,” Pollock said. “In these subgroups we want to make sure the students are growing, but they have to score in the 80s. All AYP's in grades four through eight can be met through the growth factor. In high school we don't have that value-added measure, that's why we did not get the AYP to help boost the high school to Excellent.
“We’re getting a lot of high schools in Ohio that are suddenly not getting an Excellent rating, and that's becoming a statewide issue,” Pollock continued. “But the important thing for us, is we still want to make sure all of our students in those subgroups are growing – that’s what we’re working towards.”
District superintendent Steve Mazzi agreed with Pollock. He said when he attends statewide education conventions most administrators are talking about subgroup students and testing standards for subgroups.
“Even though school administrators talk about subgroups, because any subgroup’s impact on the state report card is significant, the importance of the growth factor is that all kids achieve,” Mazzi said. “It's important to remember what this school district was going through financially last year. We had reduced school days, reductions in arts and elective programming, increased class size, and yet our students were still able to achieve at high levels. That's the result of a very caring staff, of hard-working students and a supportive community.”
Mazzi said there was a lot of talk during last year’s levy campaign about the school district’s five year run as an Excellent school district.
“Considering what we went through, our sixth year as an Excellent school district says what we’re about,” Mazzi said. “We hope that folks understand we’re working towards high achievement for every one of our students. Yes, we're excited about six years in a row, but that doesn't happen by chance, and according to statistics it's not happening everywhere in the state.”
Mazzi and Pollock both noted changes ahead in how schools are going to be graded. New standards common between the states are coming down from the national level setting math and English language arts standards Big Walnut will have to adhere to; and science and social studies are transitioning into what is called Revised Ohio Academic Content Standards.
There’s also word that the Ohio Department of Education is going to add a graduation rate tracking requirement to local school districts. The district will be required to track students who leave the district and report if they graduate or fail to graduate elsewhere.
Pollock said if a former student fails to graduate after leaving the district, or if the district fails to track a former student, it would have a negative impact on the district’s graduation rate. Mazzi said that state requirement is another example of a mandate without the funding to support the added administrative costs.
“The Ohio Department of Education is always changing the rules in the middle of the game, but we’re responsible for doing all we can for our students,” Mazzi said. “But it does put a strain on our system; it puts a strain on all school systems in the state. Even people at the state level, at the Ohio Department of Education, understand that school districts are being burdened with unrealistic expectations, especially at the high school level.
“But the report card is out, we’re pleased with last year’s district performance,” Mazzi added. “But we also understand that there’s still much work to do.”
Lenny C. Lepola
The Sunbury News
newsguy at ee dot net