November 21, 2014

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Lorain schools superintendent talks about statistics that will not be reflected in delayed state report card

LORAIN — When the delayed state report card results are released, the numbers won’t reflect how high poverty and transience hurt students’ ability to learn, according to Superintendent Tom Tucker.

“You either get them or you don’t,” Tucker said at Thursday’s school board meeting about report card indicators. “It’s a pass/fail.”

In the 2011-12 school year, 87 percent of incoming kindergartners didn’t meet state readiness standards and 81 percent didn’t meet standards in 2010-11. About 85 percent of Lorain Schools students live in poverty and many have little stability moving from home to home during the school year. Tucker, appointed superintendent last month, said the transient rate was between 30 percent and 40 percent when he was principal of the former Admiral King High School between 2004 and 2007.

Results have been delayed because of an investigation by the State Auditor’s Office into allegations that some school district officials around Ohio manipulated attendance records to improve scores. Tucker said limited results are expected to be released in a spreadsheet before Sept. 30 that won’t include attendance, performance indicators or overall district ratings.

Tucker said because of the strict numerical standards of the report card, districts with stagnant academics are sometimes rewarded while those that show slight improvement aren’t recognized. Tucker said Lorain Schools is developing “clear learning targets” for students to boost test scores and meet other new state requirements.

However, the nearly destitute school district is doing it with fewer teachers. About 98 of the 182 employees laid off in June to cut about $7.3 million of a $12 million projected deficit were teachers. Seventeen teachers have since been recalled because of retirements or to meet projected enrollment increases.

Board member Tony Dimacchia called the report card system “flawed” because poverty and transience aren’t factored into scoring. Dimacchia said it was critical to improving ratings to bring back full-day kindergarten, which was cut to save $737,000.

Tucker said the district’s graduation rate dropped from 80.7 percent last year to 64.8 percent this year because of a change in how the Ohio Department of Education measures rates. Summer school graduates are no longer counted, and ninth- graders who withdraw from the district and can’t be accounted for are considered dropouts. Under the old formula, Tucker said this year’s graduation rate would’ve been 79.6 percent.

In other business

  • Jeff Hawks, associate director of operations, said the cost for abatement and demolition of the former Lorain High School is about $1 million less than originally estimated. Board members unanimously approved paying Quality Environmental Services of Gladwin, Minn., $487,350 for abatement and Toledo-based Midwest Environmental Control Inc., $625,000 for demolition. Abatement is expected to begin at the end of the month and conclude in December followed by demolition. Hawks said he hopes the $73 million new high school at 2600 Ashland Ave. will open by August 2016.
  • Board members urged the public to attend the 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 board meeting at the former Southview High School at 2270 E. 42nd St. A presentation on the new high school including a “visual walkthrough” is planned.
  • Art Boehm, a district manager for Aramark, the school district’s private food service company, said 862,000 breakfasts were served to about 70 percent of students in the last school year, a 7 percent increase over 2010-11. He said 910,000 lunches were served to 74 percent of students, a 3 percent increase from 2010-11. Eighty-five percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced school meals. “For some of our students, it’s really the only full meals they get,” board member Jim Smith said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.