Westlake Schools see room for improvement in state report card

On Sept. 15, the Ohio Department of Education released the 2015-2016 Ohio School Report Cards that for the first time gave school districts an overall A-F grade for six components – Achievement, Gap Closing, K-3 Literacy, Progress, Graduation Rate and Prepared for Success.

While the Westlake City Schools support high educational standards, quality measures and accountability to our local community, the state’s measurement system is not reflective of our expectations as a district.

Many high achieving school districts, including Westlake, are seeing much lower grades on this year’s report card than in years past. It’s important to know that the report card is just one snapshot into a school district and does not accurately represent the quality learning and teaching going on in our schools.

The district did improve in two components – Graduation Rate and Prepared for Success. And while most school districts across the state dropped in the Achievement Performance Index measure – how well students performed overall on state tests – Westlake earned a B, scoring in the top 15 percent of schools.

Westlake struggled in the Progress component, which looks at the growth all students are making based on their past performances. This year the Progress measures include data from state tests that were not measured on previous report cards. Westlake's F grade differs drastically from previous years for the district.
 
In 2014-15, the Westlake Schools earned an A in all Progress component subcategories – all students, gifted, students with a disability, and the lowest achieving 20%. In March 2016, Dover and Hilliard Elementary Schools, as well as the district, received the inaugural Momentum Award from the state Board of Education for exceeding student growth expectations. Lee Burneson Middle School received the Battelle for Kids SOAR 2015 Award for High Progress Schools in recognition of exceptional academic growth in multiple grades and subjects.
 
The administrative team and staff members will analyze the data to determine if the lower letter grade is an error in reporting or a change in student growth.

Westlake, like other school districts, has been working to adjust to an increase in the number of state tests given each year, higher cut scores, three different tests in three years, online testing issues and a lower than the required 95% participation rate on state tests.

The Westlake City School District feels these factors may combine to paint an inaccurate picture of school performance. The Westlake Schools provide rigorous academic programs. For example:

  • Westlake High School has four National Merit Semi-Finalists this year – more than any other school in the Southwestern Conference.
  • In recent years more than 35% of our high school seniors sit for AP exams in 21 different subjects.
  • 97% of our graduates go on to attend college.
  • Westlake students continue to score significantly higher than state averages on the ACT tests while increasing the numbers of students taking those tests.
  • Second language learning begins in first grade, with World Language choices offered at the intermediate, middle and high school levels.

While the district supports the idea of helping all students achieve, this report card is a misrepresentation of the learning and achievement taking place in our classrooms. There are many variables that go into testing and formulas for results. The district does not agree with all of the state’s methods, but the schools are analyzing the information and will reflect on ways to improve. The Westlake Schools are committed to Educating for Excellence and will use the information contained in the report card to celebrate our strengths and evaluate our weaknesses.

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Volume 8, Issue 18, Posted 9:46 AM, 09.20.2016