West Branch works to boost state ratings

BELOIT- The West Branch school district has maintained its high ratings on the Ohio Department of Education’s local report card, but is working to meet increasing standards, according to middle school Principal Roger Kitzmiller.

Kitzmiller last week told the school board that the district met 23 of 24 indicators and earned a performance index of 100.4 of 120, an A and B, respectively, on the preliminary results. Beginning this year districts are being assessed a grade letter (A, B, C, D, F) in categories instead of an overall ranking such as excellent or effective.

Of the indicators, the district only missed on fifth-grade math (69.5 percent, needed 75 percent). By building Damascus Elementary finished below in third-grade math (73.7 percent) and Knox in third-grade reading (72.7 percent), but when combined with the other school in each indicator, they met the district wide goal. Indicators will be increased to 80 percent beginning this year.

The district received no F’s on the report card, but at the building level, Damascus received an F for overall value added, which measures the growth of a student’s performance from the previous year. Additionally the GAP Closing annual measurable objectives- measuring performance of specific groups of students such as racial and demographic- showed an F for the middle school and Knox and a D for Damascus.

Kitzmiller explained that the value added standards are hard to meet when a district is already achieving at a high level- high performance is hard to grow upon, he said. But the staff is using differentiated instruction (individual lesson plans) to help everybody improve.

Overall the administration has instituted a district leadership team that has established goal and strategies to help the student performance remain at a high level and to improve on areas that need addressed such as value added.

To make sure the middle school reaches 80 percent for reading and math achievement and make a 2 percent gain annually, curriculum is being aligned to state’s learning standards and a district wide assessment structure to monitor progress of students is being developed and implemented, Kitzmiller said. Part of that monitoring includes data days assessment tracking for kindergarten through eighth grade that compares current test results to prior data. The data days are conducted about five times per year and help identify academic at-risk students, he said.

Teachers are also using differentiated lessons and increasing assessments and observations throughout the year to ensure 100 percent of all groups of students meet or exceed their annual measurable objectives in reading and math, Kitzmiller said.

“We want to keep focused on the main things that we do really well, keep focused on the things most important that the district needs to address,” he said.