LORAIN — The road to academic recovery will be at least a three-year trip, but Lorain Schools is headed in the right direction, Superintendent Tom Tucker told Board of Education members at their Tuesday meeting.
Tucker, in an approximately 35-minute presentation, outlined the district’s 16-page academic recovery plan, which he said he and Academic Distress Commission members spent 40 to 45 hours writing. The plan was approved Sept. 11 by Richard Ross, Ohio superintendent of instruction. The plan was a response to the April state takeover of the district by the unelected commission after four straight years of low test scores.
The plan’s five priorities are improving the school climate and culture, improving pre-kindergarten through third-grade literacy, rigorous, relevant curriculum and instruction, improved student and staff attendance and financial support of academic achievement. The district needs to score a C or better on the performance index score and value-added progress categories of the annual state report card for two out of three school years to regain local control.
Ross also could disband the commission if he decides Lorain can perform well without it.
“We’ve got to be the most highly monitored, highly looked at school district around, but by God, we’re going to do it and make it happen,” Tucker said.
Short-term goals include increasing mathematics proficiency by 11 percentage points and reading proficiency by 10 percentage points on the annual Ohio Achievement Tests and increasing third-grade reading proficiency by 15 percentage points compared with 2011-12 school year results. Tucker said improved curriculum and data-driven decisions will increase scores.
“There should be no surprises when our kids take tests. None,” he said. “We should know beforehand where their weaknesses are.”
Other short-term goals include increasing elementary school attendance to 95 percent, middle school attendance to 94 percent, high school attendance to 92 percent and alternative school attendance to 85 percent. Overall attendance was nearly 92 percent in the last school year. Tucker said overall attendance was at 95 percent as of Sept. 25.
Tucker said school security guards are now going to the homes of truant students to question parents about why their children are missing school. The plan also calls for staff attendance, nearly 92 percent in the last school year to increase to 95 percent. Tucker said it was nearly 97 percent as of Sept. 25.
The plan also calls for improving staff hiring standards.
“What they don’t want us to do, which does happen is, oh, we need a warm body, let’s hire that person, or that’s so and so’s brother, let’s hire him,” Tucker said.
Tucker said a “culture of low expectations” in the school district, where 85 percent of students live in poverty and 87 percent of students entering kindergarten don’t meet minimum state standards, is being reduced.
“You can raise the expectations, but you’ve got to support the student,” he said.
Board members praised the efforts of Tucker, who took over in August 2012, and the unpaid commission members, who they said are providing fresh ideas and insight.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to accomplish the goals,” board member Tony Dimacchia said. “It’s going to get better.”