How Butler County schools used data to help younger students with their reading

Literacy rates for Butler County’s youngest public school students are improving, according the Ohio Department of Education report cards released this week.

ExploreMORE: Results vary widely for Butler County schools says state report card

All of the county’s 10 school districts earned higher letter grades for their overall kindergarten-through-third grade literacy, based on student testing during the 2016-2017 school year compared to the previous year’s results.

ExploreMORE: Check the state report card results for your local district

Lakota Schools saw the biggest jump, going from a previous annual K-3 literacy rate grade of F to B.

Others saw incremental increases of only one step, such as Middletown Schools, which improved from a D to a C.

And all Butler County schools also showed improvement in the “performance index” measurement, which is the most detailed of the grading standards applied to Ohio school systems.

Reading at early grades is an essential gateway skill to further learning in all other academic subjects and has long been a focus of state testing, officials have said.

The jump in Lakota Schools K-3 literacy rate came due to a number of major changes after the district earned a failing grade from the state two years ago, said Lakota district officials.

“By using the data from the state’s assessment, paired with other progress monitoring tools we use, we were able to refine our approach to individual student intervention,” said Betsy Fuller, a spokesperson for Lakota.

“A K-3 literacy task force was created, made up of teachers and administrators, to review the data from the 2015-16 report card. As a result of their efforts, 2016-17 saw year-long professional development that focused on reading, including the implementation of the reading workshop model in early grades,” Fuller said.

Middletown schools’ improvement in K-3 literacy was smaller – from D to C – but in a district that has consistently been one of the lowest performing in the region for years, such progress is noteworthy.

ExploreMORE: Schools say look beyond state report card for bigger picture

“We are excited about our improvements under this component (K-3 Literacy),” said Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr.

“Using data to drive instruction in our classrooms and providing clearly aligned professional development opportunities for our teachers is one of the main ways we have experienced this growth.

“One way we are reaching students is through a balanced literacy approach where reading and writing are taught, in short, focused mini-lessons from the teacher, followed by small-group interaction and independent literacy stations.”

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr is among a handful of local school leaders who have consistently criticized mandated state testing as providing an incomplete picture of his and other school districts’ progress from year to year.

Hamilton Schools raised its K-3 literacy grade from F to C in the latest state reports.

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