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Published: Saturday, 4/27/2002

Report says TPS lags in improving proficiency scores

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Proficiency-test scores for students in Toledo Public Schools are not improving as well as those in many other urban districts, according to a report released yesterday.

A study by the New Ohio Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization with offices in Toledo and Columbus, examined progress on the five-subject test given to fourth, sixth, and ninth graders.

“It should be a wake-up call in some ways to say, `What is it that schools are doing that we're not doing?,'” said Andrew Benson, spokesman for the institute.

The Ohio Department of Education uses proficiency-test results to assign rankings to the districts. Toledo Public Schools is in the lowest performance category - academic emergency - meeting five of the 27 indicators.

Leaders in urban school districts have criticized the state's evaluation methods, asserting that they do not show improvement within the categories.

“Urban schools are progressing, but you don't see that in the normal reporting out of scores on the report card,” Mr. Benson said. “The report cards really show how far school districts have to go to reach a standard instead of being a progress report which shows you how far they've come.”

The state report card shows whether a passing percentage has been met on each part of the exam: writing, reading, mathematics, citizenship, and science.

“If the pass rate is 70 percent and you get 69 percent, you get no credit,” Dr. Eugene Sanders, Toledo superintendent, said.

The New Ohio Institute study examined urban districts' performances on the proficiency tests over the last two years and evaluated improvements.

“We'd really like to see the state include a progress measure on the report they issue. That's the one everyone gets in their hands at home. That's the one schools are judged by,” Mr. Benson said.

J.C. Benton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the state is soliciting feedback about report cards and how to improve them.

“Progress as a future indicator is being taken very seriously by the state board of education,” he said. “We recognize the need to include more than just proficiency-test scores.”

By state law, the soonest the improvements could be noted in the reports would be 2005, with data from the 2004 tests, Mr. Benton said.

Toledo Public Schools was Ohio's lowest-rated urban school district in progress since 2000, meeting 32 percent of the institute's progress standards.

“Our district is using the school improvement model for plans by [the] building and by [the] learning community. We're focusing on professional development, smaller class size, and we are trying to put our students in the most ideal situations to become more effective,” Dr. Sanders said.



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