Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Many schools' report cards improve

Cincinnati remains at lowest level

By Jennifer Mrozowski and Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Most Greater Cincinnati school districts improved their academic, attendance and graduation rates over last year, preliminary school district report cards released Monday by the state show.

Check area districts
        Six districts in the region were rated “effective” during the 1999-2000 school year, meaning they scored well on proficiency tests at grades 4, 6, 9, 10 and 12, and had exemplary attendance and graduation rates.

        Three districts — Cincinnati Public, New Miami Lo cal and Mount Healthy City — merited the lowest of the four rankings, “academic emergency.” Such a rating triggers a range of intervention actions, possibly including the involvement of state education officials.

        Five area districts improved their standing over last year. Four moved from academic emergency to “academic watch” ranking, and Lockland jumped from academic emergency to “continuous improvement,” one step below “effective.”

        Statewide, 28 districts were rated effective while 35 are in emergency status.

        Following a review process, final data will be re leased Jan. 26.

        “Hopefully, it's pretty solid and close to the final results, but there may be some small changes,” said LeeAnne Rogers, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education. Paper report cards will be mailed to parents in late February.

        Cincinnati Public Schools fared worse than last year's report cards, dropping from achieving six of 27 total performance standards to five.

        Superintendent Steven Adamowski said the district will contest its scores in two areas. The district's analysis found it meeting seven of the 27 rated performance indicators, including ratings of 12th-grade citizenship and 12th-grade reading tests.

        Last year, Cincinnati had the highest report card score out of the state's “big eight” urban districts. This year, Cincinnati's achievement of five standards is shared by Akron, Toledo and Canton. All big eight school districts are in academic emergency. Columbus and Youngstown scored a four; Cleveland and Dayton scored a three.

        Cincinnati is still showing improvements, spokeswoman Jan Leslie said.

        Cincinnati showed better results in 16 areas, including scores on the ninth-grade proficiency tests in reading and math, and 12th-grade writing, Ms. Leslie said. The district showed a decline in 12th-grade reading.

        “We would like to have seen more dramatic progress, but we are continuing to move forward,” Ms. Leslie said.

        She said the district hopes its emphasis on early literacy, plans for high school restructuring and a continued mandatory summer school for reading will make a difference in future report cards.

        Some districts are opposed to the rating and report card system, which was created in 1997 under Senate Bill 55. According to the legislation, districts that are not rated “effective” — meeting fewer than 26 of 27 performance standards — have to develop a continuous improvement plan. The plan is a guide showing how districts plan to achieve and measure substantial improvements in the their performance.

        Roger Hornsby, superintendent of Felicity-Franklin Local Schools in Clermont County, said he's glad his district improved from “emergency” to “watch” status this year, but he finds the report cards unfair to some districts.

        “We're the 13th-poorest school district in the state,” Mr. Hornsby said. “In Indian Hill (rated effective this year), those kids go to Paris in the summer. Our kids are lucky to go to Cincinnati. You are comparing those in an unfair way.”

        Other factors contribute to low scores that are not reflected in the report card, he said. For example, Felicity-Franklin has no school librarians for two of the district's schools.

        The school district report card could see changes.

        An education panel established by the governor recommends judging schools' performance based on their rate of improvement.

        Robert “Bud” Bierly, superintendent of New Miami Local Schools in Butler County, said he thinks the report card points out areas that need improvement. The district is in academic emergency status again this year, but improved from four to seven standards met.

        “It does give us a benchmark of where we are and where we need to go,” he said.

        The six area districts rated effective are: Mason City Schools in Warren County; and Wyoming, Sycamore, Indian Hill, Mariemont and Madeira in Hamilton County.

        Some others are happy with their improvement. Hamilton City Schools in Butler County jumped from academic emergency to academic watch, improving from eight to 12 standards achieved.

        “We only have two more to get into continuous improvement,” said Barbara Fuerbacher, administrative assistant for curriculum and instruction. “We're very pleased.”


The Ohio education department requires the following actions to its report-card accessment:

        • Districts ranked “effective” are excluded from a requirement to develop a Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP).

        • Districts ranked “continuous improvement” must develop and put into action a three-year CIP, meet minimum performance targets annually and reach the "effective' category within five years.

        • Districts on “academic watch” or “academic emergency “must develop and put into action a three-year CIP that analyzes reasons why the district failed to meet standards that weren't achieved; to specify strategies and resources that address problem(s). Districts rated “emergency” must move to a “watch” status within five years. Those in “watch” status must move to “continuous improvement” within three years.


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