Local schools earn B’s, C’s on state report card

By Melanie Yingst and Cecilia Fox

MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County school districts earned B’s and C’s on the annual state report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education on Thursday.

The following school districts in Miami County received a B in the Overall designation: Miami East Local Schools, Newton Local School, and Tipp City Exempted Village.

The following Miami County schools received a C for their Overall designation: Bethel Local, Bradford Exempted Village, Covington Exempted Village, Milton-Union Exempted Village, Piqua City Schools, and Troy City Schools.

This year was the first state report card to designate an “Overall” letter grade between A and F school districts around the state. The Ohio Department of Education first began implementing the expanded grade card in 2013 from its previous “Excellent with Distinction” to “Academic Warning” scale in 2013.

In this story, reporters spoke to the superintendents of the Troy, Miami East, Milton-Union and Newton school districts for their reactions to their respective report cards. We will continue to report on the results in future interviews.

To view the entire state report card, visit the Ohio Department of Education website at https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/.

Troy City Schools: C

Troy City Schools earned the state average C on its report card. The district passed seven out of 24 state test indicators. The district passed third and fourth grade math, High School American US Government and US History, biology and end of the course improvement indicators.

The following schools earned a C as a building: Concord, Forest, Kyle and Troy Junior High. Cookson and Heywood earned D grades. Troy High School, Hook and Van Cleve earned B’s on the grade card.

Superintendent Chris Piper said he’ll be reviewing the district’s buildings and programs using the state report card data during his first year leading Troy City Schools.

“The report card offers important benchmark data that helps us understand how our students are performing,” Piper said. “We will analyze the data to find areas of strengths to build upon and areas of weakness to address. We will take a deep dive into the data to see how our district compares to others around us.”

Miami East Local Schools: B

Miami East Local Schools was the only district in the county to break 100 points in the performance index score.

Performance Index is a composite measure reflecting the level of achievement for each student on each state test. Miami East Junior High scored an overall A, Miami East Elementary scored an overall B and Miami East High School scored an overall B in 2017-18.

Miami East Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rappold said, “We are very pleased with our scores and the number of indicators met. We are pleased with the efforts the staff and students put in.”

Miami East met state indicators in 19 out of the 24 test areas, the most in the county. The district failed to meet the following indicators: gifted, high school geometry, seventh grade language arts and math, and fifth grade math.

Rappold commended the efforts of the district’s staff, noting the many hours of classes and conferences they attend to boost student achievement, especially in the areas of writing and math.

“There is no magic formula. It’s a lot of hard work including the district’s parents and kids,” Rappold said.

Rappold said the district uses report card data to establish goals for students and classroom work.

“As more (state report card data) comes out, we’ll start to delve into and identify some areas to work on,” he said.

Milton-Union Schools: C

Milton-Union schools earned an overall C grade, meeting 10 of 24 state standards. Superintendent Brad Ritchey called the state report cards an opportunity to “check-in.”

“Typically, we use these results as a curricular check to make sure we are on the right track or if we need to focus a bit more on particular standards or certain content,” he said.

He noted that the district experienced some reporting difficulties with K-3 Literacy, a component where the district received a D grade.

“We requested a watermark for this component. We believe our ability to intervene with our youngest children and strengthen literacy acquisition has not been reflected in this measure,” he said. The state’s website notes that the data is subject to change to to “local reporting error.”

Ritchey said the district made changes to try and provide a better testing environment and to improve the district’s readiness data.

“Also, we continue to investigate best practices in monitoring student growth within the school year. We understand there is still much to do, but we were pleased to see our efforts allowed us to close the achievement gap,” he said. The district earned an A in gap closing, which shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations in various subgroups, like economically disadvantaged students.

Ritchey said the district “can’t look back too long, because students and teachers need to concentrate on a new grade level, course, and mastery of different standards.”

He added that the district, along with Northridge and Bradford schools, received a Striving Readers grant, which the district has been using to offer professional development and new reading instructional strategies to teachers.

Newton Local Schools: B

Newton Local School also received a B for its Overall designation, with the elementary earning a B and the high school earning a C.

“The grade distribution across the state looks to be a perfect bell curve. This would indicate that the ODE wants few schools to receive A’s, few to receive F’s, but they want most to receive C’s. We are a district who received high grades in most areas. However, we have other grades that are not so good that directly contradict other grades we received,” Superintendent Pat McBride said.

McBride said the state report card data isn’t the only tool the district uses to shape its student learning.

“We use several means of data collection to make our yearly goals. We always look for areas in need of improvement as a whole, not just data on report cards,” he said. “Newton has and always will use programs that meet the academic and social needs of students. We do not adopt or use programs based upon any component of the Ohio report card.

“The report cards provide little useful information to drive instruction. Instruction is driven by standards and a highly trained faculty that uses their expertise and professionalism to provide quality instruction. The quality instruction that our teachers provide has little to do with bureaucrats in the state house, that know little about educating children, directing the Ohio Department of Education to mandate that all school districts administer these tests to students.”

The district passed 14 out of 24 state indicators. The district failed to meet the following indicators: gifted, high school geometry, high school English/Language Arts II, end of course improvement, biology, and both seventh and eighth grade English and math, and eighth grade science.

McBride said last year’s challenges with state testing began with taking the test itself.

“Obviously, the day the entire state testing system went down was a major hindrance to our testing schedule,” McBride said. The ODE’s state report card website also crashed for more than an hour on Thursday.

“With nine grades sharing two computer labs in a K-12 building, we rely on the state to be ready for testing as scheduled each day. Our district uses the entire testing window, so it did throw us off when we were unable to test for an entire day.”

McBride said the end-of-course indicator in geometry was a “major concern” for its math department.

“We did not feel that this test was a good measure for an end of course exam for the students taking geometry. That test seems to be invalid because it was so much more difficult than the previous year,” he said.

By Melanie Yingst and Cecilia Fox