Columbus report cards mostly unchanged

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For a second year in a row, the Columbus City School District has maintained a “C” on the state’s district report card for 2007-08.

According to data released by the state the week of Aug. 25, the district kept its “continuous improvement” rating from the prior year.

Each year, the Ohio Department of Education rates district performance statewide through state test results from grades three to 11, and state indicators.

Columbus schools met state standards on only five tests, all of which were at high school levels. However, the district’s performance-index score, which is defined by the ODE as an indication on how students did on tests, continued to climb from an 80.5 from 2006-07 to 81.7. Those results helped the district maintain its “continuous improvement” rating, coming a long way from its “academic watch” rating in 2005-06.

District officials indicated several initiatives that preserved the district’s standing. Superintendent Gene Harris attributed the Literacy Across Columbus Elementary Schools program’s presence in the district as a success.

“Last year, we filled the gaps with Storytown Harcourt Brace materials, including alignment of K-5 to academic content and in-depth, ongoing monthly training on Saturdays and after school,” Harris said about the program.

Scores in third and fourth grade math remained constant, according to Harris, and grades four and five math scores increased by 4.6 percent. She contributed that increase largely to the implementation of math/science specialists at those grades.

“Since this is a relatively new program,” she said, “we will continue to monitor the fidelity of its implementation and provide ongoing training of the math/science specialists.”

Harris and district officials are pleased with the 13 percent increase in fifth-grade social studies, the increases at grades 3 and 10, and the 75.5 percent state standard results in tenth grade social studies, which is an 11-point gain from the previous year.

“This is a result of our work in comprehensive realignment of social studies curriculum and quarterly assessments,” Harris said. “We have provided quarterly professional development that was provided for all teachers on Saturdays and after school.”

Science test scores increased slightly in grades 5, 8, 10, 11, again, attributed to changes in professional development.

“All teaching was realigned and refocused,” Harris said. And professional development programs after school, at Winter Proficiency Institutes and on Saturdays, were aligned to Ohio Content Standards.”

Improved reading and writing scores were noted in grades 6 and 7, also due to professional development redesigns, Harris said.

According to the report card, the district met the state attendance rate standard of 94.1 percent, and has, in fact, exceeded the 93 percent attendance rate for the fifth consecutive year, Harris said.

“We do believe, as evidenced in the test results, the Curriculum Review Team’s review of the pacing guides, curriculum, and professional development has begun to pay off for Columbus City Schools,” she said of the attendance results.

However, with a rate of only 70.6 percent, the district did not meet the state standard graduation rate.

“Science has become the gatekeeper for graduation,” said Harris. “In June, there were 305 seniors who still needed to pass the science portion of the Ohio Graduation Test. We anticipate many of those seniors will graduate in August.”

School board member Gary L. Baker II, a Westside resident, is pleased with the outcome and said the district will continue to strive for the best for students. Maintaining the “continuous improvement rating,” Baker said, is a “meaningful achievement for the district.”

“The report card shows that the district has continued to make progress,” he said. “The board and administration have been good stewards of the resources entrusted to them. And, despite significant obstacles, teaching and learning continue to improve in the district.

“The district is on track in pursuit of its mission: Each student is highly educated, prepared for leadership and service, and empowered for success as a citizen in a global economy,” he said.

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