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Yellow Springs School Board

Yellow Springs High School/McKinney Middle School as it appeared in late September last year. (Drone photo by Bryan Cady)

YS Schools receive state ratings

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YS Schools held its first “State of the Schools” address on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the Mills Lawn gym. Superintendent Terri Holden led the address, which included discussion of the district’s 2021–22 Ohio Department of Education Report Card, which was released last month.

The annual report card, using state testing and other diagnostic reports, measures school districts and individual schools on metrics including achievement, progress, early literacy, gap closing and graduation.

In recent years, before the pandemic prompted temporary modifications, the report cards represented findings via letter grades — A, B, C, D and F — for each metric category and with an overall letter grade for the district or school’s average performance.

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This year, however, the Ohio Department of Education, or ODE, announced that districts and schools will not receive overall ratings, and that findings in each metric will be represented via a rating of one to five stars.

Before beginning her presentation of the district report card results, Holden said that, since coming to the district in 2019, a “significant number” of people expressed to her that state report cards “are not measures that we pay much attention to.” However, she said, the district intends to continue to refer to report card results as data for tracking students’ readiness for graduation and beyond.

“This is not the driver of who we are — we are not a testing district,” she said. “However, this gives us real data about how our children are performing compared to others in the state. … I don’t want our students to be put in a position where they feel like they’re behind.”

In the category of achievement — which was measured by state testing in English language arts and math from third grade through high school and science and social studies in select grades — YS Schools averaged 81.4%, receiving a four-star rating that indicates exceeding state standards. In order to be classified as “proficient,” districts must average 80% across all grades.

The district’s highest average proficiencies across all tested subjects were social studies, English language arts and science. The lowest-scoring subject in achievement was math, which averaged 54% across grades three through eight and high school algebra and geometry.

Though it was not directly discussed in the presentation, the district received its lowest rating in the category of progress, for which it received two stars, indicating a shortfall in student growth expectations. According to the report card, district students made state-standard progress in English language arts and science, but found “significant evidence” that students made less progress than expected in math.

“The picture is a little dismal here,” Holden said. “Clearly, we have math work to do.”
She added, however, that the presentation did not include comparative data from previous years, and pointed out that 2021–22 was the district’s first school year held completely in person after holding both remote and hybrid classes due to the pandemic.

“We were just coming out of nearly two years of the pandemic — it’s just not a good comparison,” she said.

The district also received four stars in the category that looks at educational gaps between Black, Hispanic, multiracial and white students, students with economic disadvantages and students with disabilities. The state sets achievement goals in English language arts, math and graduation for each of the identified demographic groups, and according to the report card, the district exceeded each of the goals.

The district received three stars, which indicates meeting state standards, in early literacy. Report card findings are based partly on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, ODE’s program that aims to have students on-track with reading by third grade. While 75.6% of third-graders scored proficient or higher on state reading tests, 100% met the Third Grade Reading Guarantee requirements for promotion to fourth grade.

The district’s highest rating of five stars was in the category of graduation, indicating that 100% of students who enrolled as ninth-graders in fall 2017 graduated by summer 2021.

Holden also expressed concern over student attendance numbers for the 2021–22 school year, a metric she said “directly relates to achievement.” The report card cited the schools’ chronic absenteeism rate as 32.5%, compared to an annual goal of 22.1%.

The presentation included further data on school absences during the 2021–22 school year: At Mills Lawn, 109 students accounted for 411 absences, and 244 students were tardy 3,334 times. At McKinney Middle School and YS High School, 89 students accounted for 262.5 absences, and 194 students were tardy 1,451 times.

“This is unacceptable,” Holden said. “We cannot do our jobs if children are not in school.”

She added that vacations and other nonemergency trips are not recognized by the Ohio Revised Code as excused absences, though district superintendents are given the ability to grant some excused absences that fall outside of state regulations. In the past, she said, the district has granted as many as five days of excused absences for vacations, but that she has asked district principals to edit handbooks for the 2023–24 school year to disallow excusing these kinds of absences.

“Given where we are [academically], I think we’re just not in a position to do that,” Holden said.

Also included in the state report card were metrics for students identified as gifted, which can contribute points to the category for closing educational gaps. The schools did not receive points for providing services for gifted students: Though the schools do perform tests in second, third and fifth grades to identify gifted students, as required by law, programming for gifted students is not required. The district initiated a pilot gifted program in some grades during the 2021–22 school year; currently, however, the district does not offer programming to all of its gifted-identified students.

“Historically, Yellow Springs has never served [gifted students], so we are trying to change that,” Holden said.

The district did offer a short-lived gifted program in the 1990s, which later transitioned to the Interest Learning Education, or ILE, Program. ILE provided academic enrichment opportunities to all students and aimed to address the needs of those identified as gifted, though the state did not recognize ILE as gifted programming. ILE was ended in 2017.

Holden said the district is in the process of creating state-recognized gifted programming, but added that the process of certifying teachers for gifted education is lengthy, requiring 15 hours of professional development each year for four consecutive years.

“It just takes a while to get there … but I just want everyone to hear that we are in the middle of that process,” Holden said.”

To view the district’s state report card in full, with data breakdowns for the district and for individual schools, go to reportcard.education.ohio.gov and search “Yellow Springs.”

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