Low-scoring schools decry state report

Middletown and Hamilton school leaders call the state measurement system “flawed”

Officials in three of Butler County’s larger school systems will continue to use programs designed to improve student performance, despite their criticism of the latest state report card.

Two members of the Middletown Board of Education shared a public letter Friday decrying the state report and urging residents "to look at this grade for what it is: only one piece of the evaluation of a school district."

But Middletown school board members Chris Urso and Michelle Novak complained the latest report provides an incomplete, year-old snap shot of a district in constant reform toward improvement. The resulting picture “stigmatizes” the school system in the eyes of some, they said.

“Unfortunately, so many people rely on the state report card system to make life choices about where to live and where to raise their children. While we don’t think that these are the state’s intended consequences, the report stigmatizes school districts,” wrote the two board members.

Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Destini Burns said “as a district, we recognize we have a lot of work to do.”

Burns cited a number of recent initiatives to raise Middletown’s academic performance, including new textbooks and learning software that “have been adopted replacing 15-year-old books or no books in some subject areas including science.”

And new “reading and math intervention software programs were implemented for all students this year,” said Burns.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr also has dismissed the latest round of state grades as the results of a flawed measurement system.

Orr has publicly described the state report card, which was delayed this school year from its usual August release, as a “misleading holy grail.”

“Schools are more than a report card, and I think we forget the human component,” said Orr.

Hamilton did earn an “A” ranking, which was among the best in the state in January, when the first part of the state report was released on kindergarten through third grade reading literacy.

Scott Kruger, president of the Hamilton Board of Education, said “we are making steady, marked improvements.”

Mike Holbrook, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said while “Hamilton City Schools are extremely proud of its “A” grade on the K - 3 literacy component, we also realize that improvements need to be made and are certainly using the released data to align resources and instruction to best meet these needs.

“As we move forward into the future, due to the various changes in test data over the past three years, we look forward to having consistent data from the state report card to assist in academic achievement,” said Holbrook.

In Fairfield Schools, Lani Wildow, director of curriculum and instruction, said the district’s earning of an “A” in three categories – indicators met, four-year graduation rate and gifted value added – “shows there is quality learning happening throughout the district.”

But Wildow echoed some other area school officials in saying another school year of adjustment time to recently changed state standards will help Fairfield’s ratings.

“There are also components where growth needs to occur, and with a change in the state’s testing requirements allowing for more instructional time, another year of working with new state standards, and more focus on using data to identify students’ strengths and needs, we expect improvement in the years to come,” said Wildow.

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