Focusing on Student Achievement

I believe that when we focus on student achievement, the benefits are endless for everyone involved – from the student, to the parent, to future employers, and ultimately to our society in general.

Understanding test scores or student achievement as developed by the Ohio Department of Education standards is complicated.  Hopefully with the adoption the common core standards by this state and 47 others, this will be simplified.

Implementation of the common core standards means that our children will soon be graded against student achievement scores from a consortium of 22 other states. Given the data from our past Ohio Achievement Assessments, some believe, the initial results will be disappointing. That is why we should focus this year on increasing the effectiveness of our academic programs and the results of testing of all students.

The new standards of the coming common core standards are designed to raise the bar on educational assessments and remove the semantics now used to disguise actual student learning achievement levels. Our children will not be any more or less intelligent, but the new test will reveal the unvarnished truth regarding how well we, as a district, are doing in our appointed tasks.

Ohio’s once rigorous school evaluation system has, over time, succumbed to political correctness and become a rather meager standard. The lowering of standards for Performance Levels, as established by the Ohio Department of Education, is actually hurting your child’s future.

As an example below, let us look at the current structure of the Ohio Graduation Test.  This is the test that measures what each child has learned from kindergarten through the tenth  grade.  In order to graduate from a high school in Ohio, the student must pass this test.  If a parent looks at the raw data behind the words you will have a greater understanding of how well we have prepared our children for either college or a career after graduation.  In the future, testing will occur at all grades.  Currently there is no other state achievement test taken by a high school student past their sophomore year; thus we have no way of truly knowing how well we are addressing deficiencies at the high school level.

Look at the results of your child’s most recent assessment report. If your child is labeled Accelerated it means:

·      A Reading Scale Score of 429-447:  Your child answered 64%-78% of the answers correctly on the assessment     test.

·      A Math Scale Score of 425-443: Your child answered 61-75% of the answers correctly on the assessment test.

·      A Science Scale Score of 429-445: Your child answered 61%-72% of the answers correctly on the assessment test.

·      A Writing Scale Score of 430-475: Your child answered 72%-86% of the questions correctly on the assessment test.

·      A Social Study Scale Score of 429-447: Your child answered 66%-75% of the answers correctly on the assessment test.

But not all our students were rated “Accelerated.” Based on the data for our Springboro school district, approximately 30% of our 5,700 students achieved a grade level of only “Proficient” or less – that equates to a grade level of ‘D’ or less. The tests are designed to reflect what students are expected to know at their grade level.

I encourage everyone to accept the data for what it is – a tool designed to identify strengths and weaknesses. We have many strengths, but there are clearly some weaknesses, too. These scores, and the need for improvement, is not an assault on any educator’s performance, but should be a “wake-up call” for some serious reflection and, if necessary, reform.

If we as educators, parents or school board members accept these low standards, our children will not compete well with children from other states, or the world when they graduate from Springboro schools.  That’s why the State is working to change Ohio’s present standards and adopting the “common core.”

Superintendent Petrey’s building improvement plans for Springboro schools support the implementation of structures that will look at internal, national, and globally normed data as indicators and standards for measuring our student’s achievement. Mr. Petrey’s plans will form the basis for student improvement and district investment in both the near and long term.

Finding ways to methodically advance student achievement should always be everyone’s goal. Implementing academic reforms will, for example, reduce the present need for so many of our students needing to take college remediation courses. This, of course, will immediately translate into money saved for parents whose students attend Ohio’s colleges. And, in order to meet this challenge of higher academic quality, the current school Board of Education and District are, or already have plans to, invest heavily in technology, professional development for teachers, new textbooks, as well as new computers for every teacher, plus much more.

All this being said, there is a lot of work yet to be done to assure you (parents) that we will strive to do more than meet the minimum state requirements. The current Board of Education is dedicated to being advocates for every student striving to push the bar higher than other districts.

Some say there’s no need to change because our district achieved an “excellent with Distinction” rating for our most recent school year.  But we live in a world that is dynamic, a world of ever-evolving expectations and realities that require our constant attention.  What once was an acceptable level of achievement is now a relic of the past that will ill serve our children and our taxpayers in the future.

As parents, we all desire that our children be provided the best we can afford.  We constantly challenge our children with the hope that doing so will help prepare them for the world and better lives than we ourselves enjoy. We are also highly cognizant of the importance of true learning and greatly value education and the promise of what it may bring.

Everyone in the school community has more in common than they have differences.  Let us meld that commonality to push forth a better school system than we enjoy today.  We owe it to our children.  Let us come together to push for real achievement and higher standards that we currently demand.

Why consider a conversion school?

Why Consider A Conversion School?

The Springboro School Board is examining the opportunity of re-opening the Jonathan Wright building as a Conversion SchoolA Conversion School is Ohio’s term for a charter school sponsored by a public school. The Springboro School board and the Warren County Educational Service Center are the only entities that can sponsor a Conversion School in the Springboro School District.  A Conversion School is not a private school. Its existence and funding comes from the public school system.

So why do it? We have an excellent school system already.

Let’s answer that with some questions. Why do we allow Springboro HS students to attend the Warren County Career Center? Why do we suggest some kids attend the Warren County Alternative school? Why do Miamisburg and West Carrollton School Districts sponsor conversion schools?

The answer in each case is those schools offer either a different curriculum or a different environment than the traditional public school, and the parents believe the alternative is better for their child. So even in an excellent school district like Springboro, some students and parents are looking for alternatives. One size doesn’t fit all.

What might this school offer?  That’s a matter for an extended discussion with the community.  One possibility that intrigues me is to create a classical education program as some private schools offer.  Another idea might be to move away from traditional grade levels and promote children to the next level once they have mastered the skill or subject.  After all, kids don’t all learn and develop at the same pace. There are many other possibilities and considerations.

Would a Springboro conversion school drain resources and put our excellent system at risk? We simply can’t allow that to happen. The conversion school concept only works if 1) it is cost neutral, 2) it meets a need that can’t be better addressed by a change in the traditional school, and 3) it does no harm to our already outstanding schools.

Can it be done? At this point we don’t know. Initial indications are that it may be financially feasible, but many questions remain. Perhaps Springboro Schools will be able to offer another alternative for students and parents without increasing taxes. We need a thorough evaluation and that would be the purpose for establishing a committee and hiring a consultant if the board is inclined to do that. We won’t know until somebody looks at it, and I believe it is worth a look!

I’ve heard the rumors about shutting down half of the high school curriculum to fund the conversion school and allegations that a board member might financially benefit from a conversion school. These are nonsense. There is a big state and national debate around charter schools and school choice. However, the decision about this school is a local one and our focus needs to be on our schools, community, and our kids.  We can’t be afraid to investigate a change that could potentially benefit many students and parents.

Jim Rigano
Board of Education Member
Springboro Community City Schools

Welcome to the Educate Springboro Blog

Hello,

We’re glad you’re here. This blog is the place for authoritative information directly from Springboro School Board Members Jim Rigano and David Petroni.

This last year has been exasperating for both of us. We’ve been dealing with unfounded rumors and harassment since the day we took office. While some of it was expected and goes with the territory, our political opponents – inside and outside the school district – are using social media to spread half-truths and outright false information designed to make people question our motives and character, and with it our colleagues on the board and our schools. Speaking directly with the media on issues hasn’t helped either. They seem to be more interested in hype that will get attention instead of a balanced and factual report.

After a year of it, it’s time to put our message out to the community, in our own words. That’s the purpose of this blog. Here we can explain our philosophy, actions and thoughts, field your questions, and have an honest discussion.

We’re well aware that our detractors will be here also. That’s OK. We’ll take that opportunity to answer their criticisms – something we haven’t had an adequate opportunity to do in the past year.

Thanks for being here.

Jim Rigano
David Petroni