SWCS reviews value of state program

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At the Jan. 28 South-Western City School District Board of Education special meeting, district leaders assessed the value-added program.

This is a state program that tracks and measures student achievement. Prior to this program, the district and state would measure achievement by comparing two different classrooms of the same subject. For example, they would compare a fifth-grade reading class with how last year’s fifth-grade class did in that subject. The value-added program can track an individual child’s improvement, a classroom’s progress or an entire grade level in a school from year to year to see how much they’ve learned.

Roby Schottke, executive director of instructional support for the district, said previously students were ranked, by the state, as proficient.

"We are no longer satisfied that students are proficient," Schottke said. " We want to make sure they’re progressing."

He believes the value-added data tells the district and state whether the school is making a difference in how much children learn. It also helps teachers identify what’s working in the curriculum and where there is room for improvement.

This is the second year of the the value-added program. In November, the district received its first comprehensive set of value-added data from the 2006-07 Ohio achievement and graduation tests. The data showed that students going from the fourth grade to fifth grade had made good progress in reading but the district is falling behind from the seventh to eighth grade.

"We have put an emphasis on early education and obviously our efforts have paid off," said SWCS Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise. ""Now, we are dragging in later years, which is something we will need to address."

Wise explained that the drop in scores could reflect transition time. He said it is not uncommon for a student to fall behind as they change schools and adjust to their new environment.

There are no additional tests with the measurement. Value-added analysis uses the existing state tests. It is an additional tool to look at existing state test data. The ratings take into account whether or not more students are improving from one year to the next and whether groups of students are meeting federal goals in reading and math.

"It is important not to be too reactionary based on one-day data," said Wise. "It’s a good measure for the school and district as a whole but all students have good days and bad ones so the date may not be completely accurate."

The value-added assessment is for district and state use only.

Also at the meeting, Patrick Callaghan, executive director of elementary education, updated the board on the results of the third grade reading scores of the Ohio Achievement Test (OAT). He reported that 50 percent of 1,542 students tested scored at proficient or above. This is the third consecutive year that the fall OAT performance has seen a positive gain.

"The results are good but good isn’t good enough," said Callaghan.

He explained that the district will continue to focus on early intervention for challenged readers and aim to strengthen student performance as they enter third and fourth grade. He also said the reading intervention staff has been involved in an ongoing program audit, working closely with literacy leaders from The Ohio State University to accelerate literacy competence.

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