Aurora — The local school district, which was rated “excellent with distinction” in the 2011-12 school year, received A’s in seven categories in the new-format 2012-13 state report cards released Aug. 22.
The new ranking system, which assigns grades from A to F in the nine categories, has replaced the old system which ranked districts from “excellent with distinction” to “academic emergency.”
Aurora was one of only a handful of districts which achieved seven A’s, and Superintendent Russ Bennett said district officials are “very pleased.”
Aurora received A’s in performance indicators, performance index, overall value added, gifted students value-added, disabled students value-added, four-year graduation rate and five-year graduation rate.
Bennett is especially elated by Aurora’s performance index of 109.1, which is the district’s best since the state developed its annual rating system and the 14th best statewide this year.
“I consider that a very important category,” he said. “And we’ve been improving in that category just about every year.”
A high performance index means the district has a large number of students who achieve at an advanced or accelerated level, not just at a “proficient” level. The higher each student’s level, the more points the district receives toward its index.
Three districts in Northeast Ohio were higher than Aurora in P.I. — Rocky River (third), Solon (fifth) and Hudson (13th), while Cuyahoga Heights was tied with Aurora. Madeira, a suburban district near Cincinnati, was No. 1. Aurora and those others were among districts meeting 24 of 24 standards.
Aurora received a C in the “lowest 20 value-added” category. Data from state tests over multiple years are examined through a series of calculations to produce value-added designations. Additionally, the tests determine progress of the specific groups of students.
Bennett said he was not concerned about that grade, noting it signifies the district is meeting the standard.
“To get an A, we’d have to perform two levels above the standard,” he explained. “With our gifted students already performing in the high 90th percentile, it’s very difficult to do that. Although some people might look at a C as being a low grade, we’ve still met the target.”
AURORA received a B in annual measurable objectives, which focus on specific racial and demographic groups of students. Each group is compared against the collective performance of all students in Ohio, and that determines if there are gaps in academic achievement between groups.
Bennett reported very few districts statewide received an A in that category. In summary, he said local officials believe the district still has room to grow, “but we’re doing very well.”
“This report card gives us an opportunity to make huge strides for the boys and girls of Ohio. We can celebrate our successes and work together hand-in-hand with our communities to improve the areas where we have struggled,” said State Superintendent Dr. Richard A. Ross.
Under the old system, more than six out of 10 Ohio school districts were rated “excellent” or “excellent with distinction,” the highest labels possible. Yet the Ohio Board of Regents reports that 40 percent of Ohio graduates who enter an Ohio public college must take one or more remedial courses before they can do college work.
Many young students also are struggling to read. In 2012, Ohio had 27,000 third-graders who could not read third-grade material.
In addition to using easier to understand letter grades, the new report card system provides parents, taxpayers, school administrators and teachers with a more comprehensive look at the performance of schools and districts.
“It was time for a clearer way of rating school performance that will help schools and families see what we still have to do to give our students the education they deserve,” Ross said.
The new report cards are using standards for grading that are more rigorous. Some people might be surprised to see a lower grade than they’d expect for certain schools or school districts. Additional measures will be added to the report card over the next two years. The report cards also will offer other features that give taxpayers a sharper picture of how their schools are educating students.
“The goal of Ohio’s public education system is that every child in every Ohio community gets the education needed to be a successful adult — no exceptions,” added Ross.
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