July 25, 2014

Elyria
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Schools’ grades from state drop, despite progress

ELYRIA — The state’s way of grading districts is complicated and often results in sticky situations where a district can make progress but still see its overall designation go down.

That is likely to be the case with Elyria Schools and Lorain Schools, school officials said Thursday.

On or about Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Education will release additional state report card information. Elyria Schools officials anticipate that data will reflect the district having an overall designation of “continuous improvement,” which is one below where the district was last year.

Full report card information has been delayed because of a department investigation into enrollment irregularities in some school districts that could affect rankings. Lorain is one of the school districts whose records are being scrutinized by the State Auditor’s Office, but state officials have not accused Lorain officials of manipulating data. The investigation centers on irregularities in Columbus Schools, Toledo Schools and a suburban district in Cincinnati.

Ann Schloss, Elyria’s academic services director, said even though the district has more individual schools rated as “excellent” or above than ever before and has met the most academic indicators of any previous year, its overall ranking will decrease.

“We didn’t meet AYP (adequate yearly progress),” she said Thursday while discussing the preliminary data. “Its one of the only lowlights on this year’s report cards, but because it’s the third year in a row we haven’t met AYP as a district, we have to go down one designation.”

Elyria did not meet AYP in reading or math for students with disabilities and did not meet AYP in math for students who are taking English as a second language.

Last year, the district did not meet AYP in reading or math for African-American students but has since increased test scores among that subgroup.

“This designation is so hard for me and some of our teachers because this is not a true picture of what we are doing,” Schloss said. “In Elyria, we have made huge gains and our growth over the last couple of years has been tremendous.”

Lorain Superintendent Tom Tucker concurred with Schloss that department rankings don’t always accurately reflect individual improvements by schools. Tucker said he needs to further analyze data he received Thursday to confirm whether Lorain was ranked in academic emergency or academic watch. He said he would have a determination next week.

“I need to really dig in and see where our weaknesses are,” he said.

Tucker, a longtime Lorain educator who returned to the district as superintendent in August after a four-year absence, said some of the data looks bad, but the district needs to move forward.

“But we have to have a plan to do that,” Tucker said.

AYP is a term that originated in the No Child Left Behind law. It is intended to ensure districts are helping subgroups of students — African Americans, Hispanics, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities, to name a few — move to proficiency in reading and math.

However, for districts like Elyria and Lorain that have large number of students that fall into these subgroups, they are measured on how well students do individually as well as collectively.

“These students that have the disabilities are expected to pass the same test, of course with some accommodations, as all the other students. That is not always as easy as it sounds,” Schloss said.

Schloss said the breakdown by buildings is very positive. They are:

n Prospect Elementary likely will be ranked as “excellent with distinction.”

n Crestwood, Ely, McKinley and Windsor elementary schools will be ranked as “excellent.”

n Northwood and Westwood middle schools as well as Elyria High School will be ranked as “effective.”

n Franklin Elementary, Oakwood Elementary and Eastern Heights Middle School will be ranked as “continuous improvement.”

“This is so much to be proud of, but there is still a lot to do,” Schloss said. “We are going to celebrate and focus. It’s important we sustain all of this progress and add more.”

Other districts are talking about their ratings, although the state has said it will not publish the local report cards until the investigation by the state auditor is complete.

Superintendents in Clearview and Columbia are reporting preliminary ratings of “excellent” and “excellent with distinction,” respectively.

Clearview’s Stanley Mounts said Clearview High School and Durling Middle School will likely be rated as “excellent” and Vincent Elementary School as “excellent with distinction.”

“Needless to say, we are all very proud of our students, teachers, and administrators,” he said.

Amherst also will be rated as “excellent,” according to Superintendent Steve Sayers.

Avon Superintendent Michael Laub said the district is expecting a designation of “excellent.”

“We met the value-added metric, but we did not exceed it as far getting that ‘with distinction’ piece with it,” he said.

Lorain Superintendent Tom Tucker has talked at length about the preliminary test scores in the district, but said he will not discuss the overall rating or other data until the report cards are released next week.

Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Superintendent Will Folger likewise declined to comment.

Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chronicle.com.