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Suburban districts get top state ratings

10/25/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Akron schools continue gains

GREATER AKRON — The adage that good things come to those who wait was certainly true for local school districts.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) last week released to the public preliminary data that shows how school districts and schools fared on the state’s delayed education report cards for the 2011-12 school year. Release of the cards has been held off due to investigations into questionable attendance reporting by some districts.

According to the data released Oct. 17, all of the suburban Akron school districts in the West Side Leader’s coverage area — Copley-Fairlawn, Highland, Norton, Revere and Woodridge — earned overall top ratings of Excellent with Distinction. The Akron Public Schools (APS) district received the rating of Continuous Improvement, although schools in the district varied from ratings of Excellent with Distinction to Academic Emergency, with many positive gains reported.

The Excellent with Distinction rating is earned when a district or school has been designated Excellent and also exceeds Value-Added targets. The Value-Added measure reflects how much progress a district has made since the prior year.

Districts were also ranked on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is one of the cornerstones of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), according to the Ohio School Boards Association. Making AYP means increasing student achievement incrementally over a 12-year period with the goal of 100 percent proficiency. AYP is a measure of whether districts and each building in a district meet the proficiency goals on statewide assessments.

In Norton, Superintendent David Dunn said he was pleased about the district returning to Excellent with Distinction. The district received an Excellent rating a year ago after earning Excellent with Distinction the two years prior, he said.

“We’re very excited about that,” Dunn said. “We’re proud of what we do as a district. We have an outstanding staff that works very hard with our students to make sure we do absolutely the best we can.”

Woodridge was in a similar situation, according to Superintendent Walter Davis. The district was rated Excellent with Distinction two years ago, Excellent last year, and now is back at Excellent with Distinction.

“The data released by the Ohio Department of Education reflects, yet again, the dedication, determination, and hard work that the Woodridge Local School District is known for,” Davis said in a statement. “Earning an A+ is no easy task. Earning an A+ in the midst of financial strife in the district is a testimony to the focus of our staff and the hard work of our students and families.”

APS Superintendent David James said district officials were happy to see Akron’s results.

“When you take a deep dive into the data, we’re making steady progress,” James said.

James said the district was pleased to see King Elementary School move up for the first time to Excellent with Distinction, a rating that in the past had been achieved by Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Also, Resnik Community Learning Center (CLC) moved from Effective to Excellent, and Portage Path CLC moved up to Continuous Improvement.

The Norton, Woodridge and APS districts are on the ballot this fall with new levy requests. In Norton, Issue No. 66 is for a 1.9-mill levy, while Woodridge’s Issue No. 71 is a request for a 6.83-mill levy and APS’ Issue No. 61 is a request for a 7.9-mill levy.

Dunn said he hopes voters will recognize the strengths of the district when voting.

“We’ve been Excellent with Distinction three out of four years, so it’s not a surprise to our community,” Dunn said. “I would hope that our history of providing an outstanding education for our students will make a difference, but you never know. We have done an outstanding job and we don’t want to do anything that would cause us to start moving in the other direction.”

APS’ James said he hopes voters in the district will see that Akron is making great strides.

“When you look at some of our urban counterparts, they’ve gone backward and we are maintaining a positive momentum,” James said. “Among the eight urban districts, we’re in Continuous Improvement; Cleveland is in Academic Emergency; and Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown are in Academic Watch.”

Woodridge’s Davis said he thinks the district has done its part and he hopes voters will appreciate that.

“It is clear … that if we are forced to continue to reduce budgets, cutting staff and programming, we will not be able to sustain these high ratings,” Davis said. “That is why Issue No. 71 is so vitally important to the district. It really is about preserving the excellence we have become known for.”

Here’s a rundown of ratings for districts and schools in the West Side Leader coverage area:

Akron Public Schools: The district overall did not meet AYP but met Value Added Growth. The district was rated in Continuous Improvement, the rating it has received every year since the 2006-07 school year.

Ratings in the Buchtel Cluster were: Buchtel High School, Helen Arnold CLC and Crouse CLC, Continuous Improvement; Perkins Middle School, Schumacher CLC and Rankin Elementary School (now closed), Academic Watch.

James noted that since Perkins is now part of the new Buchtel CLC, there would be just one rating for all students in grades seven through 12 next year in that cluster.

Ratings in the Firestone Cluster were: King Elementary School, Excellent with Distinction; Firestone High School and Resnik CLC, Excellent; Litchfield Middle School, Portage Path CLC and Essex Elementary School (now closed), Continuous Improvement; Case Elementary School, Academic Watch.

The district’s magnet middle school programs at Miller South and the National Inventors Hall of Fame School … Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Learning were rated Excellent, as was Akron Early College High School.

The district’s alternative programs at Akron Alternative Academy and Akron Opportunity Center were rated Continuous Improvement, while the Bridges program was rated in Academic Watch.

Copley-Fairlawn City School District: The district did not meet AYP but was above Value Added Growth and achieved Excellent with Distinction.

Copley-Fairlawn Middle School and Fort Island Primary School were rated Excellent with Distinction; Copley High School and Arrowhead Primary School were rated Excellent; and Herberich Primary School was rated Effective.

Highland Local School District: The district met AYP, was above Value Added Growth and was rated Excellent with Distinction.

Highland Middle School was rated Excellent with Distinction; and Highland High School, Granger Elementary and Sharon Elementary were rated Excellent.

Norton City School District: The district met AYP, was above Value Added Growth and was rated Excellent with Distinction.

Norton Middle School and Cornerstone Primary School were rated Excellent with Distinction; and Grill Elementary, Norton Primary and Norton High School were rated Excellent.

Revere Local School District: The district met AYP, was above Value Added Growth and was rated Excellent with Distinction.

Bath Elementary School was rated Excellent with Distinction; and Revere High School, Revere Middle School and Hillcrest Elementary School were rated Excellent.

Woodridge Local School District: The district met AYP, was above Value Added Growth and was rated Excellent with Distinction.

Woodridge Middle School was rated Excellent with Distinction; Woodridge High School was rated Excellent; Woodridge Intermediate School was rated Effective; and Woodridge Primary School was not rated because it is a kindergarten through second grade building, and those grades are not part of state testing.

The ODE reported it would hold off on the publication of state report cards until the attendance investigation by the Ohio Auditor’s Office is completed. To see more data on local schools, go to education.ohio.gov.

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