Earlier this week, the state released it's assessment of school performance overall. Now we have report cards on specific local school systems. It paints a mixed picture for Northeast Ohio. In counties like Lake and Lorain, schools met the majority of performance benchmarks. Some of Cuyahoga County's school districts are also showing improvement but many still struggle to come anywhere near state requirements. ideastream's Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports.
Most Cuyahoga County school districts fall into the top three categories of state rankings; "Excellent," "Effective" or "Continuous Improvement." Districts declared to be in "academic emergency" last year, like Cleveland and East Cleveland, have come up one notch to Academic Watch. In East Cleveland, there's been progress in scores on reading and mathematics scores are up around 17%. But in the Cleveland Municipal School District, there is very little to cheer about. Craig Cotner is Cleveland's new Chief Academic Officer.
Craig Cotner: It's extremely disappointing - we've dropped in reading at every grade level. I think that has to be the first focus.
At the third grade level, Cleveland students scored less than students in similar urban districts in other parts of the state - 51 in reading and 43 in math. The state requirement is 75. The scores are worse in eighth grade: 49 in reading and 31 in math. Not only that, the high school graduation rate in Cleveland stands at 52% while comparable school districts (those with similar economic and demographic profiles) were graduating 69% of their students. The state benchmark is 90%. Still, Cleveland did manage to move out of the "academic emergency" into the category "academic watch." That's despite the fact that the district still didn't meet a single state academic benchmark this year, when it met two last year. District officials, including Craig Cotner, are still trying to figure that out.
Craig Cotner: It doesn't seem to make sense logically that we could loose indicators from last year and yet move up in ranking from emergency to watch. But that's the way the state has constructed it's system.
Another aspect of the grading system is the way Ohio has tied it's rankings with the federal standards in the No Child Left Behind Act. If a school fails to meet this federal standard - regardless of how it did on meeting state standards - it could face a number of sanctions, including a state takeover of the district or a loss of funding. That threat is hanging over the Lakewood School District if it fails to meet the federal standards next year. Lakewood is meeting 20 out of 25 state academic indicators this year and continues to improve its performance index. David Estrop, the superintendent in Lakewood, explains.
David Estrop: We did improve in every way possible, in every way possible in terms of the performance of our students... because we have for the last several years have not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standard of No Child Left Behind, state law requires that we be downgraded.
On the east side of Cleveland, Euclid, too, is failing to meet federal standards, yet its made enough strides to move out of Academic Watch to Continuous Improvement. This means Euclid will no longer have to allow students to transfer to other schools. Each time a student leaves a system, they take state funding with them, because districts are granted money on a per-pupil basis. James McLoughlin, dean of the College of Education at Cleveland State University, says this improvement is great news for Euclid.
James McLoughlin: They will no longer have the significant loss of children and money that they've had in that past.
Over the six years Ohio's districts have been held this these testing standards, there's been steady improvement throughout most of the state and more transparency in the quality of education offered. So while these latest numbers may be painful for some schools and parents, they could potentially spur more aggressive efforts. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.