School board looking forward

COLUMBIANA- Taking the latest version of the state report card into consideration, the Columbiana Board of Education and administrators are focusing on how to get the district to the next level.

The state released the new reports Aug. 22, featuring letter grade ratings A through F for nine of the 18 categories districts are scored on. The old system used labels such as “excellent,” “effective” and “continuous improvement” to determine overall performance.

All categories will feature a letter grade rating in 2015 and the change is a result of the state’s effort to incorporate more rigorous academic standards, which include changing the way students are taught and tested.

The new report cards are designed to more clearly compare districts, but a lower grade doesn’t necessarily mean students received a poorer education than the year before.

Superintendent Don Mook and building principals went over areas the district could improve upon.

Mook said the district’s fifth-grade math performance dropped significantly and attributed the decrease to testing, not instruction.

He and middle school building Principal David Buzzard are focusing on what can be done to make sure the scores improve in the future, he said.

Overall math scores dropped as well resulting in the district not meeting the state indicator. Reading scores for fifth and sixth grade also experienced a dip, with sixth-graders earning a B average and fifth grade a C. Seventh-graders earned a failing grade, he said.

He also said Buzzard and his staff are going to “hone in” on individual students to stretch the lower and top performing students.

“We were very strong on making sure all of our kids were able to pass the test, but getting them to grow over the year is really going to be a focus for us,” Mook said.

Buzzard said the middle school is also preparing students for computerized testing. He believes they will meet district goals this year.

“Sometimes I’m confident, sometimes I’m not. I’m very confident about this year,” he said.

Elementary Principal Kim Sharshan said her teachers will also focus on academically growing students from one grade level to the next to meet new standards.

“The most important thing is what is happening in between there?” she said.

The school is also preparing for the new Ohio third-grade reading guarantee. Students who do not pass the guarantee cannot advance to fourth grade.

“I’m very confident in not only her ability but her staff’s ability to make sure her kids are on target,” Mook said.

He is also confident the district can meet or at least do well with regards to graduation rate changes, which are that special needs students continuing their education to age 23 now count against graduation rate.

He said the district can stand to earn a B in this area as long as students’ needs are being met.

He then praised the district for being the only one in Columbiana County to earn a 103.3 percent on the performance index. The district earns points for each student’s level of achievement.

“That’s a pretty significant rating for us to know where we are bringing our kids. We have not dropped below the 100 mark since I’ve been here,” he said.

The district was also the only one to receive an A grade for annual measurable objectives. The objectives measure academic performance of specific groups of students, such as race and demographics, and that performance is compared against all Ohio students.

“You can see that other districts are really struggling in that area. We have done a nice job,” Mook said.