School board ranks the district

Columbus City School district administration spent most of its Oct. 7 business session hashing out a gray area over numbers written in black and white.

Presented by Pete Maneff, executive director of curriculum and career education department, and Jill Dannemiller, director of the district’s federal and state programs, the Ends Policy 2 Monitoring Report gave the overall district’s progress, review of core subjects and graduation rate based on information largely gained by Ohio Achievement Test and Ohio Graduation Test scores.

The report states that the district’s students "continue to make overall gains in performance on the state assessments," using data comparison from the 2005-06 school year and the 2007-08 state local report card results.

Compared to the 2006-07 school year, the district gained 37.6 percent overall on the assessments. Other similar districts, including Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo, declined 22.7 percent on the assessments. The state overall also declined at a rate of 5.1 percent.

Data shows a steady increase on the performance index scale from 2001 until last year, with a gain of 18.9 percent over that time span.

"The performance index scores include all tested students and is an accurate gauge of the all-district progress," Maneff said. "Our local rating of Continuous Improvement (on the state report card) shows that more students are reaching a proficient level or higher on state assessments."

As shown on the 2007-08 district report card released in August, Columbus met six out of 30 state indicators, up one from the year before. State indicators met include 10th grade writing, reading and social studies, 11th grade writing and reading as well as attendance.

Since 2005-06, the district has also progressed according to the Federal Adequate Yearly Progress, which aligns with the No Child Left Behind Act and determines the school or district improvement status. Aside from meeting goals in graduation and attendance for all students, the district must also meet test participation, reading, and math goals for student groups in designated races and economic standings. Out of 42 FAYP measures, the district met 36. The district also met the state’s expectations of the measure of student growth.

The monitoring report broke down each core subject – reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science – showing the district’s progress on each subject since 2005-06. A graduation success rate also was included in the report, showing that since 2001-02, the district has increased its graduation rate.

After hearing the report, board member Stephanie Groce expressed concern that the data does not give a full picture of the district’s progress but rather focuses on comparison to outside districts. Groce requested the board to provide indicators that students were increasing proficiently from year to year compared to their peers.

"I am concerned over the reliance of reporting data comparing to the overall states’ districts rather than how our kids did the year before," Groce said. "With the report, the comparison (to similar districts in the state) is great for context, but the most meaningful part is how our students are doing."

Superintendent Gene Harris said the data does include indications of students’ performance from year-to-year. However, the district must adhere to state and federal mandates in terms of presenting and managing data.

"You will see comparisons year to year and in some areas, you can see more where there is more proficiency in some areas," Harris said. "We have the data to compare ourselves to ourselves. And obviously, we have plans for areas we aren’t wholly satisfied with but it is also how the state and feds present data, too. If there are other ways to present it to the board, we can do that also.

"We are making continuous improvement and that’s how I interpret the data," Harris continued.

Dr. Marvenia Bosley, deputy superintendent in academic achievement, told the board it is also important to look at the performance index.

"That indicates students are moving forward, across every group," Bosley said.

Board President Dr. Terry Boyd offer to clarify Groce’s request, which he believed to be an alteration of the reasonable interpretation of the report passed by the board in June 2007, to "include measurements comparing us to us," he said.

"That’s easier said than done," Boyd added. "There are other variables to contend with to compare apples to apples. It’s a challenge.

"What I believe Miss Groce is asking is if we can put more emphasis on how far we have grown in certain subjects."

The majority of the board approved the Ends Policy 2, with Groce voting against it.

"Can I say and defend we have made reasonable progress?" Groce said. "I want to be able to defend what I vote on. I can’t agree right now that we’re making reasonable progress on some subjects."

In other business, the district voted to lay off nine staff members, which would save the district roughly $684,000 including salary and benefits. Those teachers included one health teacher, one librarian and six physical education staff.

Staff cuts were made due to a drop in enrollment this fall, according to Harris. Usually, any cuts that have to be made are done before the end of the school year. Those staff members have been offered positions as substitute teachers and would be at the top of the list should they pick up another certification the district needs, Harris said.

The district had a transition meeting with the staff and members of the personnel department and teachers union were present.

The district employs about 3,000 full time teachers. Enrollment has steadily decreased by more than 9,000 students since the 2003-04 school year, to 52,894 students in 2007-08.

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