Drop in Ohio report card performance was expected amid COVID-19, Butler County officials say

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Adjusting to COVID safety protocols, making up for lost time learning some of the challenges in last school year.

Report card data released Thursday for Ohio K-12 schools shows major declines in students’ spring 2021 test performance, as expected after 12 months of COVID-related disruption.

The statewide performance index, which had inched up from 84.1 to 84.7 over three years, plummeted to 72.5 for the 2020-21 year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

“While the available data from this year’s report card does not sufficiently tell the whole story, it does reveal the unfortunate reality that pandemic-related disruptions had the biggest impact on the state’s most vulnerable students,” said interim state superintendent Stephanie Siddens.

None of the 10 Butler County public school districts were immune to the COVID-impacted decline as all experienced a dip with regards to their performance index, a measure of achievement of a district’s students.

Lakota District’s dip in its performance index was the fifth-largest drop among Butler County districts.

“Coming back to school after a period of remote learning in the spring, adjusting to COVID safety protocols and making up for lost time in the classroom are just some of the challenges to normal learning pace our students and staff would adhere to during a typical year,” said Lakota spokesperson Betsy Fuller.

“Add on a disruption to learning due to positive COVID testing and quarantines for both students and staff, the 2020-21 school year was one like no other.”

The last school report card released covered data from the 2018-2019 school year. Ohio schools did not administer state tests as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as its accountability requirements, according to the ODE. The spring 2020 tests were canceled after the Ohio General Assembly passed emergency legislation canceling those state tests for the 2019-20 school year.

In the 2018-19 school year, that last report card data until Thursday’s release, Lakota’s Performance Index was 80.9%. On Thursday, the state reported it at 70.1%.

Fuller said this year, the district’s focus has been on meeting the academic needs of each student. They are using money it received from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and district data teams to address the learning loss due to the pandemic.

“This targeted instruction is based on data we gather from not only the state level, but at the school level,” Fuller said.

Middletown Schools had the second-largest performance index drop in Butler County (New Miami had the largest drop, going from 64.2% to 45.7%). In the 2018-19 school year, Middletown’s Performance Index was 57.8%. On Thursday, the state reported it at 42.5% ― the lowest percentage among Butler County’s public schools.

School spokesperson Elizabeth Beadle said the district will reserve comment until after school district leaders completed their review of the state report card data.

Fairfield City Schools performance index as the fourth-smallest drop among the districts (Ross Local, Hamilton City and Madison Local schools had smaller drops in the performance index). Fairfield’s 2018-2019 performance index was at 72.1%, and Thursday’s report card showed a 62.2% performance index score.

Mandy Aug, Fairfield City Schools director of Curriculum and Instruction, said the lower scores were expected, just as every other district anticipated similar results. But she anticipates Fairfield Schools will bounce back from the pandemic-related dip in results.

“The district remains committed to providing the best educational opportunities and outcomes for all students as we continue to navigate these challenging times,” Aug. said.

Overall, the statewide percentage of all students who tested proficient or better on state exams declined 7.6% in English (from 64.6 to 57.0), and declined 12.8% in math (from 61.0% to 48.2%) when compared to spring 2019 tests.

But economically disadvantaged students and Black students saw larger proficiency declines — 10% in English and 15% in math, compared to spring 2019.

Chronic absenteeism statistics were bad, as expected in a 2020-21 year when many schools bounced back and forth between online and in-person models, and students dealt with COVID cases and quarantines, and lack of normal routines.

Statewide, 24% of students were chronically absent in 2020-21, up from 16.7% in 2018-19, according to ODE. A student who misses 10% or more of the school year — roughly equivalent to two days a month — is considered chronically absent.

High school graduation rates, which are reported on a one-year lag, showed a positive note statewide. The Class of 2020 had a four-year graduation rate of 87.2%, up from 85.9% the year before.

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