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Published: Wednesday, 10/17/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

TPS drops to academic watch on report card

News comes only weeks before vote on 4.9-mill levy

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Public Schools lost its continuous improvement ranking on Ohio school report cards and slipped into academic watch, a blow to the district just weeks before voters decide on a TPS permanent levy request.

The drop on the 2011-2012 report cards is the first time since the 2006-2007 school year that TPS was rated in academic watch, the equivalent of a D grade. Student performance stayed relatively stable across the district, with test scores high enough to place the district in the continuous improvement range, and early results projected the district would keep that rating.

But TPS failed for the third year in a row to meet expectations on value-added components, which measure how student performance grew from year to year. Schools and districts get bonuses on report cards for exceeding expectations, but also face rating sanctions if they continually miss the mark.

The report card news comes as TPS campaigns for a 4.9-mill, new-money levy on the Nov. 6 ballot, which would generate $13.3 million annually and would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $150.06 annually.

TPS officials say that without the levy, programming funded by grants that target its lowest-performing schools would be cut, class sizes may increase, and new plans, such as thematic high schools, would be scrapped.

Today, the Ohio Department of Education will publicly release school and district ratings, attendance rates, and performance index scores — a cumulative average of scores for all grades — after delaying the release of those elements while a statewide investigation into possible manipulation of attendance data continues.

TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko and Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault unveiled the district’s results Tuesday to The Blade.

The data, Education Department officials caution, are preliminary and subject to revision, although there are little that could alter the academic watch rating for TPS.

Mr. Pecko and Mr. Gault admitted disappointment in the rating drop, but said they weren't completely surprised. The district’s transformation plan — which last year eliminated middle schools and made elementary schools K-8 districtwide — caused significant disruptions for teachers, principals, and students. Nearly 100 administrators were in new positions, 300 teachers changed grade levels, and 3,500 students were in new buildings.

“There was going to be at best, stagnation,” Mr. Gault said for scores on this report card.

This year, he said, should be one of stability, with students and staff more accustomed to their new surroundings. District officials also pointed to evidence the transformation plan was having positive impacts, with improvements in seventh and eighth-grade test scores and better behavior in those middle-school grades.

Retention also improved, with October head counts showing 22,940 students in the district, only 375 fewer than last year, a smaller drop than in previous years and an improvement from early counts in September.

The district’s performance index score dropped from 83.1 to 81.8. This year was the first since 2006 that the district did not “scrub” data from habitually truant students, Mr. Pecko said. The practice, in which administrators retroactively withdrew, then re-enrolled, students who missed significant time without an excuse, has come under statewide scrutiny. State Auditor David Yost is leading an investigation into the practice.

The elimination of scrubbing likely wasn’t the cause of TPS’ drop to academic watch, since its performance index score stayed in the continuous improvement range.

The Ohio Education Department already released much of the data that goes into the ratings, so much of the ratings for TPS and its schools was expected. But the value-added component significantly affected some schools, as it did the district.

There were bright spots for TPS, however. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy for Boys, an all-boys magnet school that draws from the central city and whose student body is nearly all black and economically disadvantaged, was rated excellent, a meteoric rise for an academy that was nearly closed two years ago and was rated in academic emergency.

King’s female counterpart, Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls, moved up a spot to continuous improvement. Both schools draw students from high poverty areas in which population demographics correlate with academic struggles, making their progress especially notable.

“If we can take the characteristics of a[n] MLK [and implement it districtwide], that’s where we should go," Mr. Pecko said.

Scott High School moved up from academic emergency to academic watch. McTigue, Burroughs, and Grove Patterson also climbed one spot each.

TPS had five schools rated excellent, and four are magnet programs: King Academy, Grove Patterson Academy, Toledo Early College High School, and the Toledo Technology Academy.

Elmhurst Elementary was the only traditional TPS school that received the ranking.

But 10 schools were rated in academic emergency, up from eight last year. Nearly all are in the central city.

More schools dropped rankings in TPS than rose, with 15 schools losing at least one rating level.

Harvard and East Broadway elementaries both dropped two rankings total, with East Broadway falling to academic emergency, and Harvard to academic watch.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at:

nrosenkrans@theblade.com,

or 419-724-6086.



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