School report cards still reflect COVID-19’s many impacts, officials say

Ross district has highest performance index among county’s 10 public school systems.

The rippling impact of the pandemic continues to show in the latest Ohio report cards on public school districts, local school officials said Thursday.

Despite the many challenges and changes caused by COVID-19, some local districts such as Ross, Talawanda, Fairfield and Lakota touted gains in key student achievement measurements.

Adding to the variables are changes to the annual Ohio Department of Education (ODE) report cards, which have dropped the traditional rating letter grades of A to F in exchange for a rating of one to five stars, with five stars being the best.

ExploreSchool report cards out Thursday; change from letter grade to star system

This year, however, ODE officials said due to the continuing disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic — and its lingering impacts on learning since 2020 — no overall star ratings for districts or school buildings will done for this report on last school year.

Rather the 2021-2022 school year report cards will include five rated components and various report-only data, said ODE officials.

Regardless, the annual reports provide important information on local public schools, they said.

“The more we understand the needs of students through the Ohio School Report Card results and other data, the better we can personalize education, focus instruction and tailor enrichment programs to accelerate and enhance learning,” wrote Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens in a statement released Thursday.

“Ohio’s education community, together with families, is working to improve achievement for students. Our charge is clear, and the work ahead remains more urgent than ever as we continue an emphasis on literacy and mathematics acceleration while providing supports and interventions to help students overcome obstacles to learning.”

Using the report cards in comparing to recent years’ ratings is problematic due to the many changes and learning gaps caused by the pandemic, said some Butler County school officials.

In Butler County, Ross Schools continued its run as the district with the highest performance index (PI) among the county’s 10 public school systems with a 89.8 PI score followed by Monroe Schools at 87.4 and Lakota Schools at 85.2.

In Warren County, Mason Schools earned the second highest PI of 94.0 with Waynesville Schools earning the highest PI of 95.6.

Butler County’s two lowest performing districts during the 2021-2022 school year, as measured by the state report card’s performance index, were Middletown Schools at 55.3 and New Miami at 64.1.

Warren County’s two lowest PI scores belong to Carlisle Schools at 78.5 and Franklin Schools at 79.6.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Mike Holbrook said a key measurement — gap closing or the measure of reduction in educational achievement gaps for student subgroups — saw the 9,000-student city schools improve.

“This measure is significant due to the impact of COVID and learning loss over the past two years,” he said, adding Hamilton received a 4 out of 5-star rating in gap closing.

Lakota Schools, which is the largest in Butler County, saw a jump in its PI score but also cited the still-lingering impact of the pandemic on student achievement and learning gaps.

“While we are thrilled about the seven-point increase in the Performance Index, we also understand that we have work to do to continue addressing learning loss related to the pandemic,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the 17,200-student Lakota district.

Fuller said district officials were pleased to see improvement in its PI score for its gifted student program.

“We are also incredibly proud to have met the gifted performance index at all eight of our elementary schools for the first time. This is due to a shift in how the district provides gifted services, increasing the number of students served by more than 325%. This also resulted in 100% of students identified as gifted in reading and math at the elementary level receiving service.”

Officials at Warren County’s largest district, Mason Schools, said its scores overall — which are among the top in the county — still show the effects of parts or all of three consecutive school years impacted by many learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“We notice many areas have bounced back, but we are still not at pre-pandemic levels and while our students far out-perform the state average, it is interesting to see almost the same COVID ‘dip’ as the rest of the state,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for 10,200-student Mason Schools.

In many ways, students have been hit by the historic school disruptions in ways not measured by standardized state testing, she said.

“Our teachers report seeing a larger range of needs in their classrooms than at any time in their careers, which could be attributed in part to what all of us have gone through together over the last few years,” said Carson.

The pandemic in recent years, has changed almost everything in schools — including reasonable expectations under the shadow of COVID-19 — and the latest state report cards reflect that, said Robert Buskirk, superintendent of Monroe Schools.

“In regard to student achievement, the pandemic and the last few years of school have caused most school districts to ‘reset’ their trajectories as we all reflect on and reevaluate everything we do for our kids,” said Buskirk, who added the state’s report cards provide only one part of that process.

“As a district, we use various tools and assessments to measure student success; the state report card is just one piece of that equation.”

Ed Theroux, superintendent of Talawanda Schools echoed that stance, saying: “The data does not measure all of the characteristics needed to prepare a student for life.”

“However, the data is a data point. The data does provide some information to us as educators. We must use multiple data points to make instructional decisions (but) an over reliance on one measure, like state assessments, is problematic,” said Theroux.

DistrictAchievement
Rating
Performance
Index %
Progress
Rating
4-Year
Grad Rate
2021
BUTLER COUNTY
Ross489.8497.9
Monroe487.4396
Lakota485.2294.3
Talawanda480.4396.6
Madison379.5296
Fairfield376.7492.5
Edgewood373.7192.8
Hamilton370.5479.4
New Miami264.1386.4
Middletown255.3488
WARREN COUNTY
Waynesville595.6598.5
Mason594497.3
Springboro591.5598.6
Kings591.1395.9
Little Miami484.3397.7
Lebanon484.2295.1
Franklin379.6492.7
Carlisle378.5199.1