Failing grades continue to plague Toledo Public Schools on the latest Ohio school report card. But Thursday’s data release also brought a couple of victories, including better graduation rates.
Many local districts had lower marks on the 2016 report cards, the Ohio Department of Education’s school performance measurement that includes standardized test scores from the 2015-2016 school year.
Toledo struggled in the achievement component — one of six broad categories for which the state assigned letter grades for the first time. TPS is one of 30 Ohio districts to get an F in achievement, which reflects how many students passed state tests and how well they performed.
Two other northwest Ohio districts, Sandusky and Lima, also received an F in achievement. Most districts that fail in that category are in urban areas.
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Ottawa Hills received an A in achievement. Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne received Bs, Maumee and Sylvania received Cs, and Northwood and Washington Local received Ds.
School and state officials urged a cautious approach to assessing this year’s report card. The 2015-2016 school year marked the third-straight year in which Ohio has used different tests. The report card also reflects more rigorous tests and higher benchmarks, officials said.
“That’s going to make it tougher because the standard keeps moving,” said TPS Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault.
Seventy-five percent of the new achievement grade is based on a district’s performance index score, a familiar data point for longtime report-card watchers for more than a decade. The performance index measures the level of achievement for each student on each state test.
The performance score of TPS, like many local districts, tumbled, although state superintendent Paolo DeMaria warned against making year-to-year comparisons because of testing changes.
Toledo held onto its D grade on the performance index, but its percentage score went from 58.9 percent on last year’s report card to 51.4 percent on the new one.
The new achievement score provides a baseline for the district, and Mr. Gault expects improvement with greater continuity in state testing.
Toledo did celebrate better graduation rates.
On the previous report card, TPS was the second-worst performer among the state’s more than 600 public school districts when 63.9 percent of its class of 2014 graduated within four years. That year, it was ahead of only Mansfield schools.
The four-year graduation rate improved to 70.3 percent for the class of 2015.
That inched the district into the seventh lowest spot statewide and placed Toledo ahead of Cleveland once again.
TPS Superintendent Romules Durant said the graduation gains are the fruit of programs and shifts made several years ago, including combining separate middle and elementary schools into buildings for kindergartners through eighth graders.
Clustering groups of high school freshmen and sophomores together also enhanced support systems for students, he said.
“We are expecting growth in the years to come,” he said.
In the six new graded areas, TPS received five Fs and one A — in the “progress” component, which measures growth of all students based on past performances. The measure is tied to how students perform on specific state tests in certain grades. All TPS students, from gifted students to those with disabilities, grew more than expected during a one-year time period.
“That’s kind of what you want to see, particularly [with] the population we serve,” Mr. Durant said.
Perrysburg Schools maintained a B grade on the performance-index score, the same as last year. That contributed to its overall B in achievement.
The district’s progress component score, which measures how students improve throughout the year, was the fourth-highest in Ohio.
“It’s a nice reward for our teachers who have put so much time and effort into preparing our students,” said Kadee Anstadt, Perrysburg’s executive director of teaching and learning.
Sylvania Schools received a C in achievement, with a performance index score that dropped from a B the past two years to a C on this report card.
“We make no excuses; this is our reality,” said Superintendent Scott Nelson. “But [the report card] doesn’t truly reflect what’s happening in our classrooms between students, teachers, and administrators every day. You can’t put a value on that.”
Sylvania’s four-year graduation rate is now at 94 percent, up from 92.3 a year ago.
Rossford Schools received a D in achievement. Its contributing-performance-index score dropped from a C to a D. The district received a B in 2014.
Washington Local Schools also received a D for an index score after getting a C in 2015 and a B in 2014. Its overall achievement grade is a D.
While four-year graduation rates improved from 84.7 percent for the class of 2014 to 87.3 for the class of 2015, the district still lags behind many that surround Toledo.
Washington Local officials would not comment on the report card results.
Northwood Schools dropped to a D on the performance-index score, a decrease from a C last year and a B two years ago. This year’s score contributed to its D achievement grade.
Eight receive A’s
Superintendent Greg Clark, like other area school leaders, pointed to the continually higher expectations.
Ottawa Hills continued its successful tradition by maintaining an A grade on the performance index, earning the second-highest score in the state behind Solon City Schools and helping it become one of eight districts in the state to get an A for its achievement score.
The other A-rated districts are, like Ottawa Hills, suburbs of larger Ohio cities. Cleveland suburban districts Beachwood City, Brecksville-Broadview Heights City, Rocky River City, and Solon City School Districts; Cincinnati suburban districts Indian Hill Exempted Village and Madeira City School Districts, and Dayton suburb Oakwood City School District all received A grades in achievement.
Kevin Miller, Ottawa Hills superintendent, said he is proud of his students, but he acknowledged the advantages the community provides his district.
“We do not have a poverty rate in our community,” Mr. Miller said. “They can focus on education.”
The new school data are released about seven months after the state released the bulk of the 2014-2015 report card, information that was delayed because of testing changes.
Many school districts’ grades fell on the 2015 report card, reflecting the state’s move to more rigorous exams.
Mr. DeMaria said people shouldn’t “jump to conclusions” when they see the new scores and grades.
He called the 2016 report card “fundamentally different” and added it shows — even more so than last year — the higher expectations.
“We shouldn’t let the report cards define us. We need to keep these grades in perspective,” he said.
More students need to score at a proficient level on state tests so districts can meet established thresholds. In third-grade math, for example, 73 percent of students need to achieve a proficient score for this report card, up from just 65 percent for the last report.
In a conference call Wednesday with reporters and district officials, Mr. DeMaria echoed the frustrations of many teachers and school leaders in recent years.
“We need to demand stability and stay the course. So many times I’ve heard people say, ‘When the tests keep changing it makes it hard on everyone,’ ” he said. “I totally agree.”
Staff writers Jay Skebba and Zack Lemon contributed to this report.
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