The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 18, 2012

School ratings look excellent

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

— Additional — but still preliminary — data from the Ohio Department of Education indicate the majority of Ashtabula County’s public school districts earned an excellent rating for the 2011-2012 year.

On Wednesday, the ODE released more spreadsheet information that normally appears on its district/school building “report cards.” The numbers remain tentative until the state auditor’s office completes an investigation into alleged data manipulation by some school districts to improve their scores.

Buckeye Local, the county’s only excellent district for the 2010-2011 year, retained that honor, according to the preliminary results. This time around, Buckeye has company. Geneva, Grand Valley and Pymatuning Valley all jumped a level to hit the excellent rating.

The remaining districts repeated their previous designation: Ashtabula (continuous improvement), Conneaut (effective) and Jefferson Area (effective).

ODE, in a statement on its website, cautioned people not to read too much into the figures until the report is completely finalized, but felt the public was entitled to more information.

“During the last few weeks, ODE has worked diligently to upload and verify remaining data for school improvement purposes,” according to the statement. “As we wait for additional information related to the investigation from the Auditor of State, ODE remains committed to sharing existing data so that students, parents, educators and the public can be informed about the progress of our schools.

“Schools and districts have had access to preliminary student achievement data on standardized assessments throughout the summer,” the web site states. “It is time to share this preliminary information with others, with the understanding that the data is not yet final.”

Most superintendents have said they will wait until the official report cards are released before making comment.

Superintendents received much of the preliminary data during the summer. The state auditor’s office has not indicated when the investigation will be completed.

The state judges districts, in part, on how many so-called indicators they meet during the course of a year. There are 26 indicators, and most of them gauge academic performance. In the first wave of preliminary data, people could only estimate the number of indicators their district met. A more definitive number is now available, based on Wednesday’s release (2010-2011 results are in parenthesis):

Ashtabula Area City Schools, 12-of-26 (13-of-26); Buckeye Local Schools, 23-of-26 (25-of-26); Conneaut Area City Schools, 21-26 (17-of-26); Geneva Area City Schools, 22-of-26 (25-of-26); Grand Valley Local Schools, 23-of-26 (21-of-26); Jefferson Area Local Schools, 23-of-26 (23-of-26); and Pymatuning Valley Local Schools, 22-of-26 (23-of-26) performance Report cards are based in part on how many of the 26 state-imposed indicators district meet over.

Attendance rates were also released Wednesday. All seven districts easily met the state’s 93 percent minimum requirement: Ashtabula (94.2 percent), Buckeye (95 percent), Conneaut (95.1 percent), Geneva (94.4 percent), Grand Valley (95.2 percent), Jefferson (94.5 percent) and Pymatuning Valley (94.3 percent).

Numbers also included enrollment figures for the previous school year. Two districts gained students over the year — Grand Valley added 25 students from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012, while Jefferson gained two extra pupils over the same period. The other districts lost students: Ashtabula (123), Buckeye (77), Conneaut (145), Geneva (68) and Pymatuning Valley (66), according to data.