By Anna DeWine
BELLBROOK — After the Ohio Department of Education released their report card grades on Thursday, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools’ superintendent is echoing the response of many others across the state.
Superintendent Keith St. Pierre is disappointed in how his school district performed, noting that despite hard work, there is always room for improvement. But more-so, he’s disappointed in the way the state conducts these tests, and that they continue to release the scores as “reflective” measures of success.
“Our teachers are working harder, always providing new learning opportunities for kids. We have strong teaching, strict approaches, good programs. I believe our kids are more successful today than they’ve ever been,” St. Pierre said.
One standardized measure he looks at for proof are his students’ ACT composites, which are today at their highest.
In contrast to these “reliable” and “more reflective” national tests, St. Pierre calls the state tests “new,” “challenging,” and “difficult for kids.” They’re frustrating and anxiety-inducing, he says, for teachers and students alike.
“Their (students’) anxiety levels goes up — about being retained in third grade, about graduating — and then they might just barely miss the cut scores. I’m sad for them, and it’s heart-breaking for the teachers who are working hard for kids,” St. Pierre said.
School districts were graded this year in six areas: Achievement, Gap Closing, K-3 Literacy, Progress, Graduation Rate, and Prepared for Success.
The Achievement component represents student performance on state tests. It measures how many students passed the tests, and how well they performed. Overall, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District received a “B,” an 84 percent for the performance index and an 89.7 percent for indicators met.
In the Gap Closing area, the district received a “D” overall. This component compares performance within various socioeconomic factors to find achievement gaps between groups. It shows how well schools are meeting performance expectations for these students in English language arts, math and graduation. The district received a 64.8 percent for annual measurable objectives.
K-3 Literacy measures how readers in kindergarten through third grade are being helped. It looks at how successful schools are at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond. The district received a 35.2 percent in K-3 literacy improvement, marked as a “D.”
The district received only A’s and B’s in the last three categories.
Under Progress, the district earned an “A.” Progress measures growth of all students based on past performances. Grades were “A” for gifted, “A” for the lowest 20 percent in achievement, and “B” for students with disabilities.
The district also received an “A” for Graduation Rate. This component looks at how many students graduated in four years and how many students graduated in five years, 98 percent of students graduated in four years and 96.9 percent in five years. The district’s marks fall ahead of the state average, which is 83 percent for four years and 84.9 percent for five.
According to the report card, “Whether training in a technical field or preparing for work or college, the Prepared for Success component looks at how well prepared Ohio’s students are for all future opportunities.” The district received a “B” in this category.
While percentages and letter grades are clearly reported on the report card, the data obtained from these tests is “minimal,” and the measures are simply not valid, according to St. Pierre. With new tests and new cut scores, standards are automatically raised to a higher level each year.
“Comparably, we did well, from what I’ve seen. But does it look good? No,” St. Pierre said.