Pickett Academy raised its overall test scores in reading and math this year but only by a few percentage points.
It's a frustrating result for a staff that was completely replaced two years ago and given the task of raising standards and performance.
"We had growth in both reading and math at Pickett," said Jim Gault, interim chief academic officer for Toledo Public Schools. "But obviously, we still have a lot of work to do."
Overall, not much changed for the district this year, which was placed in the "continuous improvement" category based on its 2009-2010 state report card released Friday.
There were some improvements at individual schools, and the district's overall score, called a performance index, inched up slightly.
But nine schools - two more than last year - were given the lowest "academic emergency" tag, and the district failed to meet expectations in reading and math scores for two separate subgroups - black and disabled students.
"This wasn't our best year in the last four, but there weren't any drastic drops," said new Superintendent Jerome Pecko, who started Aug. 2. "There is some good evidence that things are continuing to improve in the district, but we have a long way to go."
Mr. Pecko said he would like to use federal "Race to the Top" grant money the state just won - TPS' share is $10.8 million - to focus on improving performance among blacks and disabled students.
The Ohio Department of Education released the 2009-2010 report cards for the more than 600 districts in the state Friday.
Scroll to the end of this story to search The Blade's database for your district's report card.
In northwest Ohio, Lake Local, Ottawa Hills, Springfield Local, and Wauseon schools received the highest designation, "excellent with distinction."
One notch below, in the "excellent" category, were Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, Anthony Wayne, Rossford, Washington Local, Bowling Green, Evergreen, and Eastwood Local schools.
Oregon, Findlay, Fremont, Genoa, Northwood, Swanton, and Woodmore were listed as "effective."
TPS has been in the same "continuous improvement" category the past several years.
In contrast, Cincinnati this year became the first urban Ohio school district to reach one notch above into the "effective" category.
The report listed 81 districts in the state with the top rating, 215 districts as excellent, 240 as effective, 64 as continuous improvement, nine as "academic watch," and one - Youngstown City Schools - as "academic emergency."
The annual assessments are based on end-of-grade test results and several other categories, such as whether a district and its students continue to improve year-to-year.
In addition to Pickett, Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy for Boys; Glenwood, Rosa Parks; and Spring elementary schools were listed as "academic emergency."
Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park; Leverette, and Robinson middle schools also were listed in the category, along with Allied Health Academy.
The only two TPS-run charter schools, Phoenix Academy and Polly Fox Academy community schools, also were in the lowest category.
On the brighter side, Birmingham School, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, moved up two spots from "continuous improvement" to "excellent."
Mr. Pecko said he planned to meet with the staffs of Birmingham and the seven other schools in the excellent category to see what has worked. There are 57 schools in the district.
Perrysburg and Sylvania were among the districts across the state suffering minor falls from grace - moving down one notch from "excellent with distinction" to "excellent."
Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler said the test numbers in his district are all pointing in the right direction, with more students scoring above proficiency and fewer in the lower categories.
But he said the state lowered the district's standing because students didn't improve significantly enough over its previous, already-high results.
There are more districts this year that have run into that wall and fallen from the top category, he said.
"We met the goal, we just didn't exceed it," he said. "But there are some areas we're concerned about. There are some buildings that have some grade levels where we need to beef things up. Overall, we're going to do the best we can."
Scott Blake, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said Perrysburg and other top- performing school districts scored well within the excellent category but needed significant improvement over the previous two years' results to qualify for the extra "with distinction" honor.
Lake Local, facing a challenging future since a June tornado destroyed the high school, received that highest honor this year for the first time. "It's the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of our employees and our students," Superintendent Jim Witt said.
He said he was confident that students would continue on their path of high achievement, and said the challenging circumstances wouldn't interfere with learning.
The state report cards are based on standardized reading and math tests for third through eighth grades and an added science test for fifth and eighth graders. Sophomores and juniors are tested in reading, math, science, social studies, and writing.
School districts are also judged on attendance and graduation rates and by how much students improve from year to year, called a value-added measure.
They are also judged by performance, called adequate yearly progress, of certain subgroups of students, such as minorities, disabled students, or those economically disadvantaged.
The factors are used to place each school district in a category.
Within each district, individual schools are also judged and placed into those categories.
School district officials and employees anxiously await the results each year because they can determine a principal's or teacher's future with a school or in a certain job.
They can foretell changes to programs and assignments as superintendents and principals constantly look for ways to improve scores to meet ever-toughening standards prescribed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
On the charter school front, 9 of 38 charter schools in Lucas County were deemed to be in "academic emergency."
The worst-performing charter schools, according to their performance index scores, were Achieve Career Preparatory Academy and Phoenix, the TPS-sponsored school that focuses on online education.
The top performers were the Toledo School for the Arts, Wildwood Environment Academy, and two specialized schools for students with autism.
The Maritime Academy of Toledo improved two notches to continuous improvement. It was one of 15 Lucas County charter schools in that category.
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Blade staff writer JC Reindl contributed to this report.
Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: