Pickerington regains excellent state status

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The Ohio Department of Education awarded the Pickerington Local School District an "Excellent" rating on its state report card.

Last year the district had fallen to "Continuous Improvement" – the rating equivalent of a C.

"Very few districts rebound in such as short period of time, in fact I couldn’t find any," Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia said. "Hats off to the teachers."

ODE awards ratings based on test scores from the state proficiency exam.  The state will not release the official results until this week.

On last year’s report card, Pickerington earned 100 out of 120 possible performance index points based on attendance, graduation rates and more than 75 percent of the students passing sections of the proficiency exams.

A score of 100 would have placed the district at the "Excellent" level, however Pickerington did not meet the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirement.

AYP measures the proficiency scores of sub-groups as part of the No Child Left Behind program enacted by President George W. Bush.

The goal of AYP, as mandated by federal guidelines, is to set standards ensuring all students will be 100 percent proficient in math and reading by the 2013-14 school year. When the program began in 2001, the federal government projected what scores each sub-group must achieve each year to meet the 100 percent proficiency goal. If one sub-group does meet their target, a school (or district) does not meet AYP.

AYP applies only to math and reading. If a school or district sub-group does not meet AYP for three consecutive years, regardless how high their overall test scores, it cannot receive higher than a "Continuous Improvement" designation.

Conversely, if a school or district meets the AYP requirements, regardless how low its overall test scores, they cannot receive lower than a "Continuous Improvement" designation.

Sub-groups are based on factors including race, economic status, limited English ability and students with disabilities. If a school has fewer than 30 students who, for example are American Indian, they would not constitute a sub-group for that school’s evaluation. However, if throughout the system there were 30 American Indian students, they would constitute a sub-group for the district.

Disabled students must number 45 to qualify as a sub-group. Students in the disabilities sub-group vary in ability. For example, some students may be very high achievers but are receiving speech services. Some students may not be able to participate in taking the proficiency exams and are eligible for alternate assessment.

Since the state restored Pickerington’s rate to "Excellent," the district must have achieved AYP.

Mantia said that although the rating is good news she cautions against celebrating until every student in the district passes the proficiency exam.

"If not 100 percent of the students pass the test, then I am not happy," Mantia said.

To help reach that goal, the district received a 21st Century Learning Grant in the amount of $850,000 over five years with $200,000 available this autumn.

The district applied for the grant last February to provide after-school lessons at the two junior highs for "bubble students" – children in need of academic support but who do not qualify for intervention services. The students would include those who have trouble with reading or math as well as those who qualify for the free lunch program.

Two or three times a week, the children will receive tutoring, homework help and would participate in hands-on learning activities. The grant also covers transportation home and a healthy snack.

Community support from organizations including the YMCA will help support the program.

The district is already looking at ways to sustain the program after the five years ends, Campbell said.

Other news

• The investigation into Pickerington North cheerleading coach Carla Fultz would be concluded within the next couple weeks, Mantia said.

At the July school board meeting, former cheerleaders and their families had asked for disciplinary action be taken against Fultz for what they perceived as abuse and unfair treatment.

Fultz also teaches chemistry, advises the National Honor Society, and serves as president of the Pickerington teachers’ union.

• The district is looking at creating a committee tasked with upgrading the facilities of Pickerington High School Central.

Board member Lee Gray said the committee is seeking input and additional members from the community. The committee will look at Pickerington High School North and other district schools for ideas to improve Central. Anyone interested in helping with the Central facilities committee is asked to contact Gray via e-mail at: leegray@msn.com.

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