Leetonia schools get good marks for improvement

LEETONIA- The Leetonia school district has seen significant student performance growth over the past three years thanks to a strong teacher-based team concept.

The district ranked 47th of 832 school districts on the Value Added measurement of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE)’s local report card for the 2011-2012 school year, according to Schools Superintendent Rob Mehno at last week’s school board meeting.

Value Added measures fourth- through eighth-grade students’ performance growth from one year to the next. Only Minerva, Wellsville and West Branch ranked higher from the Columbiana County area. Although the rankings have been released for several years, this is the first time the rankings have been required by state law.

Leetonia has improved from 510th of 609 districts in 2008-2009, and the improvement is not by accident, according to Mehno.

Since 2009, the teaching staff has utilized a team-based team (TBT) concept that requires teachers to work together to evaluate student performance data and adjust instruction based on student needs.

“We’ve been consistently using the best methods to meet all the students needs,” Mehno explained. “We use a variety of student growth measures. [The improvement] is a reflection on our student growth implementation and teacher-based teams’ evaluation of the data.”

The student performance growth is measured at all grade levels, too, not just grades four through eight, said Elementary Principal Missy Brock, who oversees the program. Teachers conduct probes every week to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses and technology is used to differentiate instruction to ensure student growth from all students.

“We’re teaching the student at his or her level,” she said. “Some teachers have more than 10 groups in their class; it’s not easy for a teacher to split lessons, but the staff has really embraced [the concept].”

Mehno said that with the state focusing on teacher performance in the coming year- with an emphasis on student performance growth- Leetonia’s faculty is already a step ahead of the game.

“I see a true professional dialogue on student achievement around campus,” he said. “The process is more important than the final result. If you’re [instructing the students] the right way, you have nothing to worry about.”

Leetonia earned an Excellent rating on its 2011-2012 local report card, meeting 22 of 26 indicators and reaching a Performance Index of 96.7.

Kevin Howell can be reached at khowell@salemnews.net