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Barb and Lee Irons were so pleased to see Springfield Local Schools finally recognized as excellent by the state that they got out the plywood and paint.
The Holland couple, both retired Springfield teachers, have a six-by-four foot sign in their yard congratulating the district for achieving something they already knew was true. A spotlight keeps the sign visible after dark.
"We were just so proud of what the schools have done and we know how hard the teachers have worked," Mrs. Irons said. "We wanted to let everyone know what's going on over there."
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Springfield Superintendent Kathryn Hott said she and her staff still are celebrating the excellent rating the district received on the state report card for 2008-09. Back when the state Department of Education began ranking school districts in 1999, Springfield was placed on "academic watch."
"We're thrilled," Mrs. Hott said of the latest state report card that was released recently. "We have been within shooting distance [of excellent] for several years. We are making strides, and the bar also goes up."
Over the last decade, Springfield worked its way up to effective, dipped to continuous improvement for 2002-03, returned to effective, and has struggled since then to reach the next level. Ratings are based largely on how students perform on the Ohio Achievement Tests given each spring as well as on attendance and graduation rates.
Mrs. Hott commended her staff - from teachers to bus drivers - for the impact they've had on students. Specifically, she said, the district has managed to identify each student's strengths and weaknesses and work with them in the areas that need extra push, she said.
Teachers worked with students during lunch breaks and in after-school homework sessions.
"We really drilled it down to individual students and tracked each individual student's progress," she said, adding: "We'll continue to do that. We'll continue to look at where we can add more rigor and enrichment, where we can continue to challenge them."
Mrs. Hott said she was particularly encouraged by the overall number of students who scored in the accelereated and advanced range. Districtwide, 83 percent of Springfield students scored at or above proficient, accelerated, or advanced. At the high school, 88 percent of the students reached those levels.
While Perrysburg schools maintained the state's highest rating - excellent with distinction - Anthony Wayne and Bowling Green attained that rating for the first time in the latest state report card.
Maumee City Schools dipped from excellent with distinction to effective, while Otsego also dropped a notch from excellent to effective.
Otsego Superintendent Jim Garber said it was disappointing news for the rural Wood County district, especially when he considers that the district achieved one more standard than the year before when it was rated excellent.
"We improved from 26 out of 30 criteria to meeting 27 out of 30," he said. "But when you look at the value-added score, because we didn't across the board make the neccessary improvements, our score actually dropped."