State leaders offer Dayton schools 15 areas for improvement

Ohio Department of Education officials gave Dayton Public Schools 15 recommendations designed to help prevent state takeover of the district, including better accountability for administrators and principals.

Dayton faces state oversight in a year if it receives another “F” on the state report card. On Tuesday night, a team of ODE officials delivered an hour-long district review to DPS leaders based on a weeklong evaluation visit May 7-11.

» READ THE FULL REPORT: What the ODE told Dayton Public Schools

Marva Kay Jones, ODE’s new senior executive director of continuous improvement, said the state is working to prevent more districts from going into Academic Distress.

“We work very closely with the state support team every month,” Jones said. “What are we doing differently for those districts that are in great need? You’re one of those districts in great need.”

The state’s 89-page report identified 10 strengths and 16 challenges at DPS.

Three of the strengths dealt with the district’s use of teacher leaders to support better instruction and staff training. Three others mentioned collaboration with business and college stakeholders, which has grown under Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, and collaboration with the state support team that tries to help the district.

Lolli told the Dayton Daily News some of the recommendations state officials made were already being started in May when the district review team visited.

“I’m suggesting to you that we are already ahead of the game because we already had considered those things that they suggested in their plan,” Lolli said.

As an example, she said: “We have a new curriculum team. We had five people in curriculum for a district with (1,000-plus) teachers. Now we have a curriculum team of 12 people, so they are able to do the work that wasn’t able to get done before.”

The state recommended Dayton get its administrators and principals to improve the monitoring of school improvement plans.

Among the state’s other recommendations, it said DPS should:

— take steps to ensure professional development for principals and teachers that aligns to district and state plans and standards;

— work with state consultants on technical assistance to use data to shape instructional practices, and

— develop a system to better identify and intervene in the academic, behavior and health needs of students.

Lolli and Clairie Huff-Franklin, ODE’s director of Academic Distress Commissions, both said some of those are already underway.

“We now have more of a concerted effort at aligning ODE resources to give support,” Huff-Franklin said. “When it comes to the actual recommendations, we’ll be expecting the district to have the report inform the improvement plan they already have. We’ll do a crosswalk of what’s already in their plan, what’s similar to many things we already have, and what might be outliers that need to be incorporated.”

In district reviews like Dayton had in May, a team of ODE officials and education consultants spends a week in the district, interviewing administrators, front-line educators, students, parents and community members. They observe dozens of classrooms and review documents from audit reports and labor contracts to staff training plans and teacher surveys.

Some of the strengths listed in the state report also came up in the challenges. The state listed as a strength that DPS created a data dashboard of student information, but then turned around in the challenges section and said the district doesn’t actually use student performance data to modify its teaching.

Another strength was DPS building leadership teams “having the opportunity” to collaborate with state support staff on attendance data, but the challenges said DPS “does not effectively and consistently support student attendance.”

The state said DPS does not “ensure the consistent delivery of evidence-based (teaching),” does not consistently implement plans for special education students, does not follow board-approved purchasing procedures and “does not have processes in place to recruit, select of assign highly qualified staff.”

As part of the Ohio Improvement Process, as a struggling district, Dayton has been working with state support staff for years and will continue to do so monthly this school year. If Dayton gets another overall “F” on the state report card next September, an Academic Distress Commission will lead the district, with a majority of the group appointed by the state superintendent.

Marianne Mottley, who leads ODE’s state report card effort, said there were some strengths in DPS’ 2017-18 report card, as far as identifying young struggling readers effectively and helping certain groups close academic gaps.

But she cited several high school measures, which are reported on a one-year lag, as weaknesses. Graduation rate was down, very few students scored high on college entrance exams or Advanced Placement exams, and only 2 percent earned high-level job credentials.

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