KENT: After working hard to earn their "Excellent with Distinction" rating from the state, Kent City Schools will have to relinquish that title in short order.
The Ohio Department of Educationreleased its official 2011-12 state report cards for school districts last month and at the next school board meeting, Stanton Middle School principal Anthony Horton presented the board with commemorative sticky notes to mark the occasion.
The district’s tope rating was the last under the current format by the Department of Education.
For the current school year and the 2013-14 year, district across the state won't have ratings at all as the transition from the current system to a new one based on an A-to-F scale takes place. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, district will be graded on that A-to-F scale for several components that will comprise their overall grade, as mandated by the state legislature in December.
Tom Gunlock, chairman of the state school board committee redesigning the report cards, explained in a press release that the new system is part of a bigger effort to upgrade standards and make Ohio more competitive with other states.
"Ohio's minimal competency system must continue to reform for Ohio's students to be competitive with their peers," Gunlock said in the department's press release.
With new, more difficult tests going into place for students in 2015 as part of a 22-state consortium using standards known as "Common Core," the new ratings system will seek to better prepare students and teachers for those tests by helping district's better understand their performance against a six-component rubric.
As the Kent board discussed during its March meeting, the new standards will contain a "value added" measure that evaluates a district not by how many students reach a specific, predetermined standard, but by how much progress each student makes relative to their level of performance or aptitude from one measuring period to the next.
This is designed in part to prevent districts from hiding underperforming students by using those who score better to balance out their overall rating.
The Department of Education delayed plans to implement the new system so districts will have more time to adjust.
The six components that will eventuallymake up that overall grade – student achievement, student academic growth, graduation rate, "annual measurable objectives" for the federalNo Child Left Behind standards, literacy from kindergarten through third grade, and a college and career-readiness component called Preparation for Success, will be monitored for the two-year transition period, but in the fall of 2013 and fall of 2014, report cards will only show grades for certain elements of those components.
Included among those components will be overall student growth and growth for disabled students, an area Kent Superintendent Dr. Joseph Giancola pointed to as one where the district excels.
"Without a doubt, the diversity of community, and our programs, which are tailored for the students, and especially for students with disabilities and their needs as well, is something that students from outside the district come here for," Giancola added.
Giancola also made it clear that along with its push to improve student safety and its efforts to pass a new 8.9-mill operating levy, the district is focused on getting a better grasp on the new state report card system.
"We are seeking to upgrade our facilities and also, to understand the new state report card because the evaluation is changing and we have to learn and keep up with that," Giancola said.
Starting in 2014, grades for elements of the K-3 literacy and Preparation for Success components will be added to the evaluation. Districts will be able to see from those elements in place at the time where they need to improve before the new system is fully in place beginning with the 2014-15 year.