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.

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