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Published: Friday, 3/1/2013

Ohio schools get final report card

Preliminary results unchanged after data 'scrubbing' inquiry

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Long-awaited final state school report cards for the 2011-12 school year arrived Wednesday, but the most consequential information is still to come.

The report cards’ release followed a months-long delay prompted by a statewide investigation by the state auditor into whether districts improperly removed truant students from enrollment figures, artificially inflating attendance data and test scores.

RELATED DATABASE: Search 2011-12 report card by any of the 610 school districts

RELATED DATABASE: Search 2011-12 report card by any of the more than 3,300 individual schools

The education department had already released much of the 2011-12 school year data in the fall but couched it as preliminary, and the report cards issued Wednesday offer little new information. For instance, Toledo Public Schools already knew a measuring tool called value-added had caused the district’s rating to sink to academic watch after years in continuous improvement, because the district’s students showed below-expected growth for several years in a row.

Auditor Dave Yost’s report, released this month, named nine districts — including TPS — for improper data practices. The education department continues to investigate those districts, and placed watermarks on their report cards indicating ratings are subject to change.

School districts named in Mr. Yost’s report were issued letters in the past week by Michael Sawyers, acting state superintendent of public instruction, notifying them of the department’s investigation into the last two years’ data, and warning them that districts and employees found to have misreported data could be sanctioned.

“It is clear that this matter will not be fully resolved until sometime after the report cards are released,” the letter states. “Therefore, I am notifying you that the report cards of all of your district’s schools and the school district will be released with a watermark that indicates the respective ratings are under review by ODE and shall remain unofficial.”

Jerome Pecko, TPS superintendent, said his district didn’t “scrub” data on the 2011-12 report card, and said he feels confident in current reporting practices.

In addition, Mr. Pecko repeated a longstanding assertion by TPS officials that ODE had been told years prior by TPS staff about the district’s data reporting practices.

“[The education department] was, certainly from our perspective, not totally detached from what was going on in this district,” Mr. Pecko said. “There was plenty of communication.”

Mr. Pecko also said internal data suggest TPS might make significant gains this year on state tests.

The report cards include graduation rates, results from state tests, and a measure called value added, which tries to show students’ academic progress. Much of a school or district’s overall rating is based on its performance index, a weighted calculation of all students’ test scores.

Locally Anthony Wayne, Springfield, Sylvania, Swanton, and Perrysburg were rated excellent with distinction, which is the equivalent of an A+.

This year will be the last that the state uses its current rating system. Starting next school year, the state will move to an A through F system.

Along with the finalized report cards, the education department also released statewide rankings of schools and districts.

Ottawa Hills maintained its ninth place in the state on the performance index ranking, and is the top-rated district in the Toledo-metro area.

The top-ranked TPS school was the Toledo Early College High School. The school, which allows students to earn college credit while in high school, was ranked 66th in the state, though that was down from 17th the year before.

The value added rankings were a black eye for TPS. The district was ranked nearly last in the state under the metric.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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