District Performance on State Report Card Declines from Recent Years


Grace Lougheed The Shakerite

My two children go to school every single day and they’re learning every single day,” said Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings. “We need to use [the state report card] as one of many things to make decisions nationwide, but its only one measure.”

Shaker earned Fs in eight categories, including closing the achievement gap, K-3 literacy, and progress for students whose academic performance is in the lowest 20 percent, on the Ohio Department of Education state report card.

The ODE released report cards for all Ohio public school districts Sept. 14.

Shaker earned a performance index of 87.77, a decline from 92.71 in 2014-2015 and 99.67 in 2013-2014. According to the Ohio Department of Education, this index is based on student performance on the Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests from third to tenth grade.

“We have to keep an in mind that the state report card is just one data point,” said Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. “We do have other points when we’re looking at our overall achievement.”

Specifically, Hutchings cited the high school’s graduation rate and initiatives such as the Innovative Center for Personal Learning and the new preschool started by the district. “All of these are things that we didn’t have prior to my arrival,” he added.

Shaker earned one A, for value added to gifted students’ academic experiences. The Ohio Department of Education states that this category measures “opportunities for and performance of gifted students.”

Yet, Hutchings stressed that the district is striving to identify and help low-achieving students, not just gifted students. The programs that he instituted “are going to contribute over time to narrowing the achievement gap,” he said. “For any change to occur, it does take time, and it requires us to have systems and practices in place that were able to remove some of these barriers.”

Hutchings referenced Shaker’s “district metrics,” which he said ensure that “students are performing on grade level, students are prepared for college, students are having early learning experiences prior to coming to school.”

“We need to focus on our district metrics and making sure we’re providing a quality learning environment for all of our students, so I don’t plan to spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out what the state does and what they plan to do.”

“My immediate reaction to the report card,” said SHTA President John Morris in an email interview, “is that it is far from representative of our students, staff, schools, and community. I agree with Dr. Hutchings editorial that students are more than just test scores and that the tests often penalize schools that seek to educate the most diverse populations (racially, socioeconomically, and ethnically).”

Solon, Beachwood and Rocky River ranked in the top 10 Ohio schools, according to the state report card, which ranks districts according to their performance index score. However, Solon Superintendent Joe Regano told cleveland.com that the report cards have serious flaws.

Hutchings also expressed his concerns about the way state report cards are tabulated. “I’m not going to completely say that it’s worthless, but I think that the state is unable to articulate how they come up with the formulas. They can’t answer that question, and it puts a lot of our superintendents across the state of Ohio at a disadvantage to answer that question to our community.”

The Ohio Department of Education provides some insight about how it calculates scores. For example, the change in a school district’s achievement gap over the past year is measured by “the academic performance of nine student groups against the performance of a 10th group, all students in Ohio. A grade is assigned after a review of the results of all 10 student groups in English language arts, math, and graduation rate and for efforts to close the achievement gaps. A district or school cannot receive an A if one of its groups is not reaching the annual goal for all students.”

“The grades represent the third succession of different standardized tests in as many years,” said Morris. “I believe they were designed to de-value public education in our state.”  

Director of Communications Scott Stephens also questioned the value of the state report card. “Look at the third grade literacy grade,” he said. Shaker earned an F in this category. “But, for Third Grade Guarantee, which measures literacy around the country, we got a 100 percent.”

Hutchings repeatedly stressed that community members not become alarmed over the results. “I think that our community is wise enough to know that if our schools were graded as an F, every student would go tell their parents that they want to go to a different school,” he said.

Hutchings said he would tell concerned community members to “look at the history of Shaker Heights over the past 50 years, and why are they making a judgement about three years when we’ve had this problem for so long. I would be Superman if I could close the achievement gap in three years.”

“I don’t think [the report card] is a reflection at all on my leadership, on our teachers, and I definitely don’t think it’s a reflection on our students,” he added.

Print Managing Editor Grace Lougheed contributed reporting.


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