April 17, 2014

Elyria
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State report card: 9 county districts ranked as excellent or better

There are 14 school districts in Lorain County and nine are considered excellent or better as ranked by the Ohio Department of Education, which Wednesday released more data from this year’s state report cards.

Last year, just seven school districts reached the top of the academic ladder as defined by the state, and 10 years ago that number was just two districts. Over the years, public school districts have done a much better job of measuring up to state standards, and local officials attribute it to increased awareness of what is expected of them.

“We are elated with our excellent rating,” Clearview Superintendent Stanley Mounts said.

This is the first time the district has reached the top ranking.

“We started out several years ago in continuous improvement and each year we are getting better and better,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t have the financial backing of a lot of schools in the county, but I am blessed with a staff that believes in kids and aims to make sure everyone reaches their potential.”

It’s easy to say the increase in good districts is related to emphasizing test data in classrooms. But Mounts said teachers are teaching the state standards.

“The state Board of Education provides the state standards and benchmarks they want us to hit. We are just striving for toward those standards,” he said.

Although Elyria is still working up to the excellent level, Elyria Schools Director of Academic Services Ann Schloss said the gains the district is making are easily some of the best in years.

“If you look at our growth — our sustainable growth — you will see that each year we are meeting indicators,” she said. “We are meeting the needs of kids with sustainable growth. That is telling everyone that what Elyria is doing is working. Sustainable growth is very important.”

Statewide, the number of schools at the top has also increased over the years.

This year, more than half of the state’s districts are considered excellent or better, according to the preliminary data. This includes 138 districts ranked excellent with distinction and 249 ranked excellent.
Just two districts in the state — Cleveland and Lorain — were declared in academic emergency.

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said a new assessment and rating systems is in the works because the standards seem to be too easy to obtain.

“In essence, Ohio has become good at meeting a very low set of standards,” he said. “We want to certainly commend those districts doing well, but we want to also increase the standards in the state.”

When placed in state-by-state comparisons, Ohio students are somewhat in the middle of the pack depending on who is doing the grading.

The American Legislative Exchange Council ranks the state as the 21st best in the nation while the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kids Count Survey places Ohio as the 18th best state for educating kids.

It’s difficult to find a true apple-to-apples comparison because some states rank their schools and publish the results but others do not, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In an effort to achieve some sort of mechanism for comparison, the NCES does look at and link a number of studies.

Charlton said in the coming years such a comparison will be much easier as districts move to teaching the common core curriculum, which is a set of nationwide standards that provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. So far, 45 states have formally adopted common core state standards.

“As such, new assessment testing is coming in the next couple of years,” Charlton said. “The main thing will be it will be a little more stringent and will set a higher bar for students to reach. It’s in the works now so I can’t give an exact timetable but the goal with the assessment testing will be to more align with the curriculum.”

For the past two years, Elyria has strived to do better because its leaders know a more stringent grading system is on the horizon.

“We are working on best practices in teaching,” Schloss said. “We are working on meeting the needs of individual students through guided instruction. We are working on intervening as needed. We are digging into the content because we know the common core state standards are coming.”

When that time comes, Mounts said he anticipates declines in a lot of districts before advances. Most of the nine districts rated excellent in Lorain County now will likely not be rated as high once the changes are implemented.

“I have been around a long time so I know how these things go,” he said. “I remember in 1994 when the state first put out the ninth-grade proficiency test. There were a lot of schools in the state that did not do very well and it took the schools bucking down and learning what the state wanted. They raise the bar as they should and we will figure out a way to reach it.”

Lorain County schools

  • Amherst: excellent
  • Avon Lake: excellent with distinction
  • Avon: excellent
  • Clearview: excellent
  • Columbia: excellent with distinction
  • Elyria: continuous improvement
  • Firelands: excellent with distinction
  • Keystone: excellent with distinction
  • Lorain: academic emergency
  • Midview: effective
  • North Ridgeville: excellent
  • Oberlin: effective
  • Sheffield/Sheffield Lake: excellent
  • Wellington: effective

These are the rankings, in order, that school districts can achieve: excellent with distinction, excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch, academic emergency.

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