Garrettsville – School districts throughout Ohio finally learned their scores for 2012-2013 according to the new state report cards last week. James A. Garfield School District — which has achieved Excellent with Distinction for two of the past three years — maintained high scores for 2012/13 by earning an overall A grade in Progress from the state. 

JAG Superintendent Ted Lysiak says the new measures place JAG again at a status equivalent to Excellent with Distinction. He and his educational team are in meetings this week to comb through the new data and see what short-term goals they can set forward to  improve educational outcomes even more for JAG students.

[pulledquote]We are shooting for an A by 2015. I have every confidence in our teachers and students to meet that goal.[/pulledquote]Unlike prior years, the revamped report cards assign A-F letter grades to schools and districts in nine different categories, which range from student performance on state tests to achievement gaps to graduation rates. Instead of ratings such as “excellent with distinction” and “continuous improvement,” schools and school districts ultimately will receive overall letter grades by the year 2015. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is still developing how the scores will be calculated.

Meanwhile, partial scores are available in specific categories, but no overall grade score for now. Lysiak likens this to getting exam scores on a student report card, but not an overall term grade — yet.

In terms of Progress, the district earned an A for students in math and reading, grades 4-8. It looks at how much each student learns in a year. Did the students get a year’s worth of growth? Or more? Or less? For gifted students, the district earned a B; for the students with the lowest achievement scores and for students with disabilities, the district earned Cs in Progress (a C indicates that students gain one year’s worth of progress within the school year).

In terms of Achievement, the JAG district earned a B with an 84.9% on the Performance Index and an A for 100% of Indicators Met. The Achievement grade combines two results for students who took the state tests. The first result answers the question, How many students passed the state test? (84.9%.) The second result answers the question, How well did students do on the state test? (100% of Indicators Met means that all JAG students taking the state exams met or exceeded the state’s threshold expectation of getting 75% of their answers correct on the Ohio Achievement Assessment for grades 3-8 or on the Ohio Graduation Test in high school.)

Gap Closing measures how well all students in the district are doing in reading, math, and graduation. It answers the question, Is every student succeeding, regardless of income, race, culture or disability? JAG earned a C here for 75% Annual Measurable Objectives.

Finally, JAG earned a B for its Graduation Rate, which answers the question, How many ninth graders graduate in four years or five years? JAG graduates 92.1% of its students in four years; 94.1% in five years.

Analysis of the released report cards confirms that income and poverty have a direct correlation to student performance throughout Ohio, according to a press release authored by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, and the Ohio School Boards Association. Among the 135 school districts above the state average income of $51,626, 91% scored an A in the letter grade of standards met category, while just 41% of the 474 districts below the state average income received an A.

Among the 360 districts with student poverty levels less than the state average, 74% earned an A, while only 20% of the 249 districts with poverty levels higher than the state average received an A.

Lysiak reports that the average income for a JAG household is $47,548; and 37% of the students body is eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. With these lower-income factors in mind, he says he is proud of JAG students for achieving so well in performance measures, year after year.

Overall, the bar has been raised by the state with this new grading system, Lysiak said. “We are shooting for an A by 2015. I have every confidence in our teachers and students to meet that goal.”

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Estelle R. Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Garrettsville with her family. She has written and taken photos for newspapers, magazines and e-zines for the past 25 years. She also enjoys working on public relations projects, including web content, newsletters, posters, brochures, press releases, and other creative endeavors. She enjoys writing compelling stories about her community as a contributing reporter for the Villager.