State of the Schools (continued)
My last column discussed the State of Barberton Schools in regards to facilities and finances. This week the focus is on academics; last year’s accomplishments and future challenges.
As a Race to the Top Grant award recipient, Barberton Schools received almost $1 million to be used over four years (2011-2015). These funds were used to prepare our teachers and administrators for the newly adopted Common Core Standards, new online standardized tests for students, and the new evaluation systems for teachers and principals (OTES and OPES).
Basically, the new standards stress critical thinking, problem solving, close reading of text for better reading comprehension and expanded writing. This is nothing new, but the level of expected performance has been raised. There are rumors that the new standards mandate specific texts to be used by teachers across the state. This is not true. Our teachers still have the flexibility to use books that they feel are appropriate for their students.
While I agree that the new standards will be a good thing for the students in Ohio and 45 other states that have adopted them, I don’t think Ohio schools are ready for the new tests that will come in 2015. Two years is not enough time to fully implement the new level of rigor that are expected with the new tests. Teachers need more time to perfect their lessons and students need additional years with the more rigorous expectations. When New York State tried giving the tests early, they saw just a 30% passage rate for students—a huge drop for them. Some of our students will participate in a pilot of the new tests this spring, but the results will not count and we will not get the students’ scores.
The State of Ohio also has a new report card, and we received some scores last August. I am very proud to report that we received an A in Progress. Which means, on average, students are growing academically over and above one year’s expected growth. On the down side, however, our students with learning disabilities are showing one year’s worth of growth, but this is not enough to close the gap between them and typical students in our schools. The schools are working to help these students with more interventions during the school day, after school and in the summer in order to close this gap as much as possible.
Barberton High School is showing gains in several areas. The Performance Index, which is the rating given to schools based on the Ohio Graduation Test scores, went from 92 out of 120 points in 2007 to 98 points in 2013. Failed high school classes have decreased by 56%, suspensions have decreased by 47%, and the high school graduation rate has gone from 74% in 2007 to 86% in 2012. The State has not released the 2013 graduation rate yet, but we anticipate it will be even higher.
I will continue my report on the State of the Schools in coming columns. The topics will be athletics and extra-curricular activities as well as collaboration with families and the community.