Tallmadge -- The Ohio Department of Education released its new state report cards Aug. 22 that evaluate school districts on an "A" to "F" letter grade scale.
Tallmadge City Schools received three A's, three B's, two C's and one F.
Schools, teachers and parents throughout the state were bracing for anticipated downgrades as the state prepared to release the report cards.
The revamped system ranking buildings and districts sets new, often tougher performance criteria and replaces such labels as "Excellent" and "Continuous Improvement" with more familiar letter grades.
The report cards that evaluate school districts for the 2012-13 school year feature letter grades in the first nine graded performance measures, said Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton. Districts and school buildings won't be given overall grades under the new system until August 2015.
"There's some things we're doing well, and there's some things that certainly we have some real opportunities to improve in and grow in," Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said after reviewing Tallmadge Schools' results.
The department gave the school district an "A" rating for three measures: four-year and five-year graduation rates and meeting student knowledge proficiency standards.
The school district earned a "B" rating for the performance index, the measure that looks at the achievement of every student, regardless of whether they're considered "proficient."
In value-added progress, the category that's based on data from multiple years of state tests, the school district earned an overall grade of "B" as well. However, when the tests are analyzed to determine how three groups of students are progressing, the department assigned a grade of "C" to "gifted" students, "B" to "disabled" students and "C" to the "Lowest 20," or the students who are performing in the lowest 20 percent of students.
The department gave the school district an "F" in annual measurable objectives, the category that looks at gaps between achievement of certain student groups, such as racial and demographic.
Charlton said officials anticipate many schools will see poorer grades initially in some areas as a result of the adjustment. The initial jolt is expected to subside as the system is fully phased in through 2015.
"The key for us in this whole, big picture is to look at individual students and the opportunities for them to grow -- all students," Ferguson said. "So this new report card and some of these calculations give us some more data and opportunities to look at different students in a different way and then create opportunities to help them succeed and raise that level of achievement for all students."
The new report card system started out on the wrong foot Aug. 22 when technical difficulties blocked people from accessing information about specific schools and districts throughout the day. The department had been scheduled to make the report cards available to the public on its website at 11 a.m., but at 8 p.m., the information still was missing.
Damon Asbury, director of the Ohio School Boards Association, said the absence of an overall ranking for school districts may serve to free parents and educators to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of their schools under the new system.
"In some respects not having an overall grade might help people look at the individual components more, to decide where it is we're succeeding and where it is we should be doing better," he said.
"A" to "F" report card legislation that Ohio passed last year required developing a letter scale for school districts, school buildings, community schools, STEM schools and college preparatory boarding schools. Performance criteria included elementary-grade literacy, student academic performance, graduation rates, college readiness and a host of other characteristics.
The letter grades replace the former five-tier rating system of categories: academic emergency, academic watch, continuous improvement, effective and excellent.
The extended rollout and delayed overall grades are intended to prevent schools from experiencing sudden drops in rankings as the state moves to a more rigorous evaluation system.
In an email this week to school administrators, State Superintendent Richard Ross said the state is discouraging comparisons with the old rating system.
"In our communications about these new report cards, we will be emphasizing that these nine measures cannot and should not be averaged into a single grade for a school or district, and that we will wait until 2015 to issue component and overall district and building grades, once we phase in the remaining measures," he wrote.
Asbury said report cards are changing as underlying educational goals in the state are getting tougher. Earning a score of proficient, for example, will require getting an 80 percent rather than 75 percent, he said.
Michele Prater, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association, said the state's largest teachers' union is remaining optimistic.
"While we anticipate that many schools will see poorer grades initially, we hope the new report cards are grounded in fair, reliable methodology based on valid, research-based indicators that are both informative and easily understood."
Dix Communications Capital Bureau Chief Mark Kovac and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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