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Published: Wednesday, 8/26/2009

Toledo Public Schools retains grade; 5 district schools get ratings of 'excellent'

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Superintendent John Foley says he is encouraged that Start High, above, got an A on its report card and the Toledo Public School district as a whole received a continuous improvement rating. Superintendent John Foley says he is encouraged that Start High, above, got an A on its report card and the Toledo Public School district as a whole received a continuous improvement rating.
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Start High School is the first traditional Toledo Public Schools high school to get an A on its report card.

Start Principal Elizabeth Wray said the school was "on cloud nine" about achieving the excellent rating on the Ohio Department of Education report card released yesterday for the 2008-2009 school year.

"I feel ecstatic," she said. "It's a momentous day at Start High School."

Ms. Wray said involving the students and getting them excited about doing well really helped them improve their grade from continuous improvement - a C grade - to the A.

A total of five TPS schools received the excellent rating - Start, Toledo Early College High School, Toledo Technology Academy, and Harvard and Elmhurst elementary schools.

"I think Start making excellent is a sign overall we are on an upswing," TPS Superintendent John Foley said.

As a district, TPS is rated continuous improvement for the second year.

It's on par with other urban districts in Ohio with Akron,

Canton, Cincinnati, and Columbus, also in continuous improvement.

Youngstown fell to academic emergency, the lowest rating, and is the only district in the state with that failing grade.

Mr. Foley said TPS is on its way to the goal set last year to become an effective district in three years.

The district had 38 schools with a C grade or higher, 31 schools experienced higher- than-expected growth, and 20 schools reached the federal adequate yearly progress standard.

"It means we're headed in the right direction," Mr. Foley said.

But the district has eight schools rated in academic emergency, the state's failing grade.

Two of those are small schools that were at Scott and Libbey high schools, but were closed at the end of last year when they downsized from three to two at each.

Toledo's other public school district, Washington Local, maintained its excellent rating from last year.

"My biggest fear is for the staff to think what we're doing now is normal," Superintendent Patrick Hickey said.

It's not normal for a district to move from continuous improvement to effective to excellent and stay there in a four-year time period, he said. It's the result of a lot of hard work focusing on teacher effectiveness.

Six elementary schools were rated excellent, and the district's Jefferson Junior High School was excellent with distinction.

"That shows that it's possible to get that excellent with distinction rating," he said.

"And I'm so happy it's with a secondary school because it shows all nine elementary schools feeding into it are doing their job."

Several suburban districts also are celebrating high grades.

Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, Sylvania, and Eastwood maintained their excellent with distinction ratings, the A-plus grade.

Anthony Wayne, Wauseon, and Bowling Green moved up to that highest ranking.

Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler said the combination of a great community, great teachers, and great kids helps them achieve high scores.

"While we're certainly happy to see the effort, we know there is room for improvement," he said.

The district won't rest until it's one of the best districts in Ohio and the country, Mr. Hosler said.

Norwalk schools in Huron County moved up two ratings from effective to excellent with distinction.

The district's new superintendent, Dennis Doughty, who started Aug. 1, said the previous leadership in the district did a phenomenal job.

"Really and truly what they did was make sure all instruction was aligned with the standards and gave the teachers the tools to make it happen," he said.

Maumee did the opposite. The district fell from excellent with distinction to effective for the 2008-09 school year.

"We are very disappointed after earning the excellent with distinction last year," Maumee Superintendent Greg Smith said. "Unfortunately we came up just short of the excellent rating."

The district had a performance index of 99.7, just short of the 100 needed for excellent, and it was one indicator away.

But four of the district's six buildings individually were excellent or higher, Mr. Smith said.

"We are using this tremendous disappointment to refocus our efforts," Mr. Smith said, saying officials will analyze the test scores to find ways to improve.

Statewide, more districts and schools are getting better grades on the report cards.

There are 116 districts with the highest excellent with distinction rating, which is an increase from the 74 last year when the category was created.

More than 85 percent of districts and nearly 72 percent of schools received an effective or higher rating.

"We continue to see student achievement at higher levels," Deborah Delisle, superintendent of public instruction, said.

"There are a few areas of some slip in performance, but overall the trends are positive."

Youngstown falling to academic emergency is one of those slips.

There also was a drop in the graduation rate for the 2007-08 school year to 84.6 percent. It was 86.9 percent in 2006-2007.

"Clearly this is an area of opportunity for the state," Ms. Delisle said. "I will look to districts to refocus and intensify their work in these areas dropouts impact the economy of the state, and worse, we lose on our promise to students."

The report card ratings are based primarily on how students did on the Ohio Achievement Tests administered in the spring.

The tests include reading and math in grades three through eight, science and social studies in grades five and eight, and writing in grades four and seven. It also includes the Ohio Graduation Tests, which are given to students in 10th grade and include reading, mathematics, writing, science, and social studies.

Read tomorrow's Blade for information on how Toledo-area charter schools fared on the 2008-09 report card.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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