More than half of local school districts got at least one D or F on its report card in the state’s increasingly important “value-added” measures of student performance, a Dayton Daily News examination found.
Kettering was the only local district — and one of eight statewide — to get straight A’s in the four value-added categories that measure whether certain groups of students made a year’s worth of academic growth in a year’s time, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Beavercreek and Mason were among a small group in Ohio to earn 3 A’s and a B. The other 42 local school districts the Dayton Daily News looked at all got at least 1 grade of C or lower.
“We’re shining light on places where we haven’t before,” said Chris Woolard, director of accountability for the Ohio Department of Education. “People weren’t specifically being held accountable for this before, and now they are.”
This marks the second straight year that Kettering schools have ranked in the top 10 of Ohio’s 610 public school districts for value-added growth.
“It puts everybody on a level playing field,” Kettering Schools Superintendent James Schoenlein said of value-added measurement. “If you get a kid who’s four grade levels behind, or you get a kid who’s gifted, you have to take them both where they are, and you have to grow them.”
Value-added data is based on fourth- through eighth-graders’ performance on state math and reading tests. Districts get graded on how much growth was made by four groups of fourth- to eighth-graders — gifted students, students with disabilities, students whose test scores fall in the bottom 20 percent statewide, and all students district-wide.
According to state report cards released last week by the Ohio Department of Education, 21 of 45 local school districts got A’s in the district-wide measure of value-added, which has been a part of past years’ report cards. Eleven districts got F’s in that measure, ranging from frequent low-performers like Dayton and Trotwood-Madison schools, to others such as Bethel and Little Miami schools, which otherwise performed well on state exams.
But many districts struggled in the other three value-added categories, which are new this year. Only four districts each earned A’s for the performance of their students with disabilities or “lowest 20 percent” performers. Only eight districts earned A’s for the growth that their gifted students made. In all three of those categories, C’s were the most common grade. Trotwood was the only local district to receive F’s in all four value-added categories.
Woolard agreed with Schoenlein that value-added data is perhaps the most important measure the state uses, but he said school districts need to look beyond just the letter grades.
“There’s diagnostic data here to work with,” Woolard said. “These schools need to be digging in and understanding the data, to help them make instructional decisions.”
Kettering school officials have been doing that for more than three years, using a data warehouse program to track test results by student, by subject and by teacher over a period of years. In a January 2011 school board meeting, district officials showed how they could drill down to a single test question, see which teacher’s students answered it best, and then ask that teacher to share with colleagues how they taught the concept.
“Data is life and death. You’ve got to be on top of your data,” Schoenlein said, but he added that teachers and principals must know how to use it. “Targeted intervention is critical. You’ve got to get the help to the kids as they need it.”
School districts just received their value-added data a week ago, so solutions are a work in progress.
Brookville schools Superintendent Tim Hopkins said officials in his high-performing district are “kind of scratching our heads” about their “A” grade in overall value-added performance, but D’s in all three smaller subgroups — where a change in test scores by just a few students can make a big difference.
“Our gifted program was cut because of funding several years ago, so an immediate response might be, well, we got a D on gifted students because we don’t service those students,” Hopkins said. “But on the flip side, we service the daylights out of kids with disabilities, and we got a ‘D’ there.”
Hopkins said his staff planned to research the data over the next week.
“I sent an email to my staff and said we had a great report card, but we had these three warts, and we have to take a close look at the data and try to tweak our instruction to do better with those students,” he said. “And we’re not running from that.”
Value-added data will be an important part of Ohio’s new state-mandated teacher evaluation system, with measures of student growth making up half of the evaluation.
Randy Flora, director of education policy research for the Ohio Education Association, said the state teachers union believes value-added data has promise, in terms of helping teachers and principals adjust instructional strategies.
But he said it also has limits, pointing out that state value-added data only deals with math and reading, thus bypassing many teachers partially or completely. Flora also said educators need to get results closer to real-time, so they can act on the data more quickly.
“When analysis of data is done locally, within the school, and teachers and principals have the time to make sense of of the information and have good substantive exchanges, and make adjustments, that’s helpful. That’s the good use of data,” Flora said.”The bad use is labeling or ranking a school as a good school or bad school.”
SCHOOLS' VALUE-ADDED GRADES
Four of the nine grades that Ohio public school districts received on the 2012-13 report card were "value-added" grades, measuring whether 4th through 8th graders made one year’s worth of academic growth in math and reading in one year’s time. These are the four groups of students in each district that are graded on value-added metrics:
- Overall (measuring all 4th to 8th grade test takers)
- Lowest 20% (those students whose state test performance was in the bottom 20 percent statewide)
- Gifted students (as identified in math, reading or superior cognitive ability)
- Students with disabilities (all test takers who have an individualized education program)
The last column, included for context, is each district's performance index, reflecting its students' overall performance on state tests.
|District Name||Overall||Lowest 20%||Gifted||Disabilities||PI score|
Source: Ohio Department of Education