West Clermont receives ‘effective’ rating from department of education

The West Clermont Local School District has received a rating of “effective” from the Ohio Department of Education.

“We have had effective ratings from the state for the past several years,” said Superintendent Dr. Gary Brooks. “We keep juggling around which schools are excellent and which ones are effective. According to the state’s assessment, none of our schools this year are in continuous improvement, but we have moved everything up to at least effective, so that is a plus for us.”

Every fall, the state issues report cards to school districts based on the results of standardized tests given to students of all grades in the district.

The report card measures achievement in reading, math, writing, social studies, and science. It also measures student attendance and graduation rates.

West Clermont met 21 out of the 25 state’s performance indicators, which, across the state, is better than the average. The district only fell short in the indicators for its graduation rate, the 10th grade science test scores, and the 11th grade science test scores.

“We will be aggressively working on improving our high school’s science scores. Our graduation rate has slowly improved but is still slightly lower than the state’s requirements,” remarked Brooks in his office Aug. 21. “We have come to realize that passing graduation tests depends somewhat on students doing well at the freshmen level.”

According to Brooks, the 9th grade level seems to be the benchmark grade level that students need to be successful at in increasing the likelihood of graduating. That is an area that the district will be focusing on to increase its graduation rate.

“The place to start is in the elementary and middle school grades,” Brooks said. The big “wake-up” moment for most students is the ninth grade. We know that we have been quite successful in the past in emphasizing the importance of math and literacy programs through the elementary and middle school years (as evidenced in the consistent excellent ratings of the Clough Pike and Merwin Elementary schools). So we are pushing that model forward into early high school years. There is little doubt that getting students through their freshmen year dramatically improves their chances of graduating. We will be beginning extensive freshmen support programs this year to ensure their success.”

Based on the state’s assessment, the two areas that are of most concern to the West Clermont Board of Education and the district are reading and math.

“We know that through research across the country and through our own data that students fail or succeed based upon whether or not they can read well across any subject matter. We need to be more efficient in how we teach mathematics and numeracy (applying mathematics to problem solving in relevant ways). We will not be satisfied with any future rating below excellent and we are working toward that every day.”

Brooks is most proud of the fact that, in economic terms, the school district is pretty diverse yet still succeeds in educating its students.

“We do not have a lot of diversity in terms of race or ethnicity, or many of the other things that schools are challenged with. We have middle class, lower middle class, even poverty-ridden areas in the district. We have been able to have students across all of those economic strata move forward to at least an effective rating and moving toward an excellent one. We have taken a community that has been to some degree satisfied with the status quo up until several years ago and we are proud that we have pushed it forward to the next level. We are looking forward to moving it even further in the future.”

When asked if the state tests reflected the effectiveness of all students in the district (including the gifted, college-bound highest-achieving students) Brooks said that it was getting closer.

“The state tests measure the mean across the middle,” he said. “Now, through the No Child Left behind Act (which President Bush signed into law in 2001 and requires all students regardless of handicap or ability to take the same test), schools are being asked to drive changes in the Ohio achievement tests in order to categorize individual achievements into sub-categories. We are not there quite yet.”

The sub-categories would include ethnicity, giftedness, race, handicapped, non-handicapped, hearing impaired, visually impaired, and orthopedically impaired; these test score percentages would be reported separately. For example, gifted students are not desegregated separately in the report cards from the state.

Some groups would not even reach the subgroup status. An example of this would be a small group of special education students.

According to Brooks, these many and varied subgroups of students are weighted differently in terms of how a school district accrues points for the state report cards.

“The attempt through the No Child Left Behind Act is to use our scores to make sure that the students in all of our schools are achieving and improving, not just the average.”

A complete list of the state report card ratings of all 12 schools in the West Clermont district, with comparison data from previous years, can be found at www.ode.state.oh.us.