The annual state report cards on Ohio public schools showed some Butler and Warren County districts improving in academic measures while others regressed.
Grades and scores from the 2016-17 school year varied widely among 18 school systems in the two counties.
Among Butler County’s 10 school districts, Lakota Schools had the highest Performance Index (PI) of 82.7 percent.
The index is the most detailed measure of state test performance. Among Warren County schools, Mason Schools earned the top PI, according to the reports released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Education.
Despite the bright spots for some districts, school officials in Lakota, Hamilton, Fairfield and Mason reiterated an annual stance that the state report cards do not provide a comprehensive measurement of how well schools are performing.
Middletown had three Fs in the state measurement categories of “progress,” “gap closing” and “prepared for success” and a D in “achievement.”
But in the remaining two categories Middletown saw improvement with a B in “graduation rate” – up from a C from last year - and a C in “K-3 literacy,” up from a D.
Also registering three Fs were Hamilton in “progress,” “gap closing” and “prepared for success.” But the 10,000-student district showed a jump in “K-3 literacy,” going from an F to a C.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr, a longtime critic of the standardized student testing mandated by the ODE, said “for those that value the state report card, it is important to celebrate more what it doesn’t say than what it does.”
Orr — along with some other local superintendents — has sharply criticized the state report cards as misguidedly based on excessive student testing and providing only a glimpse at the achievement levels of school systems.
“What it (report card) doesn’t mention is that we improved in 18 out of 23 areas (measured by state testing),” Orr said.
Hamilton’s PI rating increased from 59.5 to 64 percent.
Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller echoed Orr, saying “the Ohio Department of Education continues to change and raise the bar they use to measure state testing results, although it has not been consistent with the state testing districts must administer.”
“For the 2014-15 report card, 75 percent proficient was the standard. Now it is 80 percent. By increasing the bar, the report card does not indicate the true growth of a district,” said Miller.
Mason Schools Spokeswoman Tracey Carson said “while the data from the state tests provides a measure of our students’ achievement, the report card grades are not as valuable to us because they combine data into formulas that make some pretty big assumptions which calls the validity and application of these grades into question.”
Billy Smith, superintendent of the 10,000-student Fairfield district, said “there is certainly some value in the report card data, and we will use that data to analyze what we do. However, the state report card is only one snapshot in time. The report card fails to recognize many of the accomplishments and successes that take place throughout the course of a school year.”
The annual state report cards are scheduled to also provide for the first time in 2018 a single, district-wide letter grade based on student testing during the current school year.
Overall, Ohio Schools Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said test scores for the 2016-17 school year were better, with proficiency levels higher than the year before on 15 of the 16 pre-high school tests.
“In a highly competitive, quickly changing, global economy where employers’ expectations are higher than ever, our students must be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will make them lifelong learners. With that in mind, there are many ways that parents and communities gauge the success and improvement of their schools and districts — the annual report card is one of them,” DeMaria said.
Staff writer Jeremy Kelley contributed to this story.