Bethel-Tate Local Schools rated ‘excellent’

Employees and students of the Bethel-Tate school system now have an official reason to feel totally excellent after the district was named Clermont County’s second to be rated excellent by the Ohio State Department of Education.

The school received the rating after meeting nearly every indicator on a state checklist used to rate schools.

“The district is rated excellent, while two of our schools are rated excellent and the other effective,” said Bethel-Tate Superintendent Jim Smith. “You have to have perfect scores across the board to have all schools excellent, and we did miss one. We have 24 of 25 indicators.”

Minus the seventh grade math test, the district scored well on the other 24 indicators, including tests for subjects in various grade levels such as math, science and reading. Factors such as high school graduation rates are also measured, as is attendance. Smith said that the district has been teetering on the edge of excellence for some time, and finally managed to rally the scores for the envied rating.

“The last couple of years, we were high effective, so we knew we were primed to move up, and it did happen,” said Smith. “The key thing is that we are teaching the state standards. We pace them so we know where we should be at that time of the year. We work hard analyzing data on test results and we have worked hard on determining where we are. By and large, the kids have been successful on these tests, and a good percentage of them were well over the 57 percent pass requirement – typically in the 80 or 90 percent range. We had a lot of cushion on those scores and we’re happy about that.”

Currently, Milford is the only other Clermont County school district to earn the designation as excellent. Smith said that, overall, his district has performed well over the years in most areas. Falling one point shy, he suspects, may be due to an abnormally hard test instead of a problem with the students.

“The two most troublesome tests in the state were fifth grade math and seventh grade math,” said Smith. “We think it was more of an issue of a difficult test. Now, we’re focusing on what we didn’t teach successfully to see if we can focus next year and pick that point up. Math hasn’t been a weak point for us.”

The district, which Smith says is very pleased with the excellent rating, has been working to cover state standards that are used to compose the test. Typically, improving the way grade level specific lessons are taught has been the path to success for Bethel-Tate, which has historically done well overall, but missed points on subjects in certain grade levels.

“There’s no room for error when you’re excellent, you have to be hitting them all,” Smith said. “I won’t say we don’t have weaknesses, but we did a really good job on those tests. We’ve worked through grade level issues to strengthen things. The state standards have been around for a few years, so we’ve been teaching them. We just keep doing that so we’re to the point where we’re doing well. That’s the formula, and you pretty much have to do that.”

Over the years, Smith said that each subject has been examined after the test results are released. Data from that is then used to fine-tune the lessons on that subject to bring kids to where they need to be for the next test.

“We’ve been strong in about all of the subjects,” said Smith. “We’ve just had problems on grade level. I think, if you look at test scores, we’ve strengthened math considerably across the board. We’ve improved reading dramatically, especially in in the lower levels. Writing has always been strong, but that’s typical of most districts. We’ve also beefed up our science instruction.”

Bethel-Tate scored very well in the county, placing first in the sophomore level in reading, math and writing, and second in the county in science and social studies.