LIMA — Lima schools received an “F” grade overall on the 2017-18 Ohio school report cards released Thursday.
The district’s superintendent, Jill Ackerman, said she was disappointed with the grade but worries about people reading too much into it.
“I know when you look at it on the surface, what they see is an ‘F,’” Ackerman said. “The most important piece for me as a superintendent is to look at the overall, value-added progress. That’s a good snapshot that kids are making expected growth.”
That might be an expected reaction from a superintendent whose district just received a failing grade from the state. The superintendents in the three area districts that earned an “A” — Miller City-New Cleveland, Minster and Ottoville — had pretty much the same reaction to their good news.
“The school report card is just one measure of how a school district evaluates itself,” said Minster’s Brenda Boeke said. “We can’t put all our stock in one measure.”
Miller City-New Cleveland’s Kerry Johnson had a similar reaction to his district’s “A.” The three districts in the area with “A” overall grades were among 28 statewide to earn those, or 4.6 percent of Ohio’s districts.
“We’ve always felt very good about the work our staff, kids and parents do in this district,” Johnson said. “Getting an ‘A’ on the report card is the cherry on top, you could say. But regardless of the outcome today, we feel very good that we’re preparing our students for life.”
Wapakoneta Superintendent Aaron Rex, whose district earned a “C,” had the same reaction.
“It’s hard to believe so many schools getting low grades used to be considered the best schools in the state,” he said. “It’s not something we’ll spend huge amounts of time evaluating. We’ll celebrate some of the successes, though.”
The report cards, released Thursday morning by the Ohio Department of Education, are the first ones issued with an overall grade. The grades are based upon a formula weighing 20 percent for achievement, 20 percent for progress and 15 percent each for closing gaps, graduation rates, kindergarten through third-grade literacy and prepared for success measures.
Area districts earning a “B” overall included Bath, Bluffton, Columbus Grove, Continental, Jennings, Kalida, Leipsic, New Bremen, Ottawa-Glandorf, Shawnee and Spencerville. The “B” grade was achieved by 31.4 percent of the state’s public schools.
“I’m content that we received an overall letter grade of B and motivated to continue to improve,” Shawnee superintendent James D. Kanable said via email. “We will continue to give the children of our district our best efforts every day.”
Districts picking up a “C” overall included Allen East, Delphos, Elida, New Knoxville, Pandora-Gilboa, Perry, St. Marys, Wapakoneta and Waynesfield-Goshen. It was the largest category in the ratings, with 41.6 percent of Ohio schools getting a “C.”
“The two grades we focus most on is graduation rate (A) and progress (B),” Allen East superintendent Mel Rentschler said via email. “Our main focus is the get students successfully to graduation and to help students grow academically.”
No area districts earned “D” grades.
Ottoville’s Scott Mangas said a key for his district’s “A” is close-knit families. He noted Putnam County as a whole did well, with two schools receiving an “A,” six getting a “B” and one getting a “C.”
“It always comes back to the fact we have parents who care,” Mangas said. “When we send homework home, it’s getting done with parents there.”
The state organization was pleased with the general progress in this year’s report card, Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction, said in a press release.
“This year’s report cards show improvement in districts in every corner of the state, at all levels of wealth, large and small, urban, rural and everything in between,” DeMaria said. “Each of Ohio’s students can achieve, and the report cards provide us with reasons to celebrate.”
Just 14 of the state’s 608 public school districts, or 2.3 percent, earned “F” overall grades like Lima schools did. Most of them are larger, urban districts.
Ackerman noted several of the district’s schools did receive better marks. South Science-Technology Magnet, which received a B overall grade, had an “A” in the gap closing measure, which shows year-over-year progress among individual students. So, too, did Liberty Arts Magnet. West Middle School picked up a “B” in gap closing.
She was also proud of the B given to the district’s gifted program.
“With the superior cognitive kids, it’s just as important to grow those kids as to bring kids below level up to their grade level,” Ackerman said. “All kids have to grow, not just those who are below proficient.”
She also noted the second-year leadership at the high school — which had F’s across the board except progress, where it had a D — is already making strides. All of this is on top of the typical concerns of the district, including single-parent homes with food scarcity and occasional homelessness.
“We’re not going to stop doing the things we need to do for our kids and families,” Ackerman said.