Despite accomplishments, district drops in state ranking

The Kettering City School District performed better in 2008-09 than ever before, according to district officials. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the State Report Card, which gave Kettering a “Continuous Improvement” rating – a drop from its “Effective” rating the year before.

Superintendent Dr. James J. Schoenlein, among others, isn’t very happy about that, but he hopes that Kettering residents will recognize that the lesser rating is a result of a “quirk” in the ratings system and not a true measurement of the district’s performance.

“Despite how well students do on every other aspect of the State Report Card, if a district doesn’t make AYP, nothing else matters much,” Schoenlein said.

So what is AYP? It’s Adequate Yearly Progress, a requirement that the students of a district – taken as a whole, as well as students in certain subgroups – meet federal test targets. The four subgroups measured are students who are economically disadvantaged, belong to racial or ethnic minorities, have disabilities or have limited English proficiency.

Kettering Schools didn’t meet AYP for the second year in a row in two of its subgroups: the Limited English Proficiency students and students with disabilities. And this is where Schoenlein says the district fell victim to an unpopular penalty in the Report Card system. According to the state, a district that misses reaching AYP in two subgroups two years in a row can be rated no higher than “Continuous Improvement.”

“The state’s accountability system fails to recognize the good work teachers and students do and disproportionately penalizes all students for the performance of a few,” Schoenlein said.

The superintendent wants people to understand that the school district doesn’t think the two subgroups should be left out of the ranking. “Our argument isn’t that they shouldn’t be calculated in the ranking, but the system should give a clear picture of how all students did that year,” he said.

And, as it turns out, Kettering’s students did very well in 2008-09.

Many different aspects go into a State Report Card ranking. Kettering Schools received 29 out of the 30 possible markers, which are based mostly upon standardized testing. The district’s Performance Index score, which is based upon an average of all the students in the district who were tested, was 100.2 out of a possible 100. Both of these accomplishments qualified Kettering Schools to be ranked “Excellent.”

In addition, Kettering Schools received a “plus” Value added rating, which means the district had more than a year’s growth in learning for two consecutive years. This accomplishment pushes districts up another level on the State Report Card. In other words, Kettering was flirting with being rated “Excellent with Distinction,” the highest possible ranking.

With all that Kettering’s students and staff accomplished in 2008-09, it’s easy to see why Schoenlein is disappointed by the “Continuous Improvement” rating. He knows this rating could affect how residents vote in support of their schools. “We hope our voters understand that we were a victim to a quirk in the system,” he said.

Schoenlein has full confidence in his schools and explained that Kettering has many things to offer its students. “The Kettering School system has a full range of Advanced Placement offerings, fabulous facilities, tremendous Career Education and Special Education departments, fantastic music and art programs, and a menu of extracurricular activities that is second-to-none,” he said.

In response to the subgroups not meeting AYP, Schoenlein launched a campaign to raise scores of the subgroups this year. He asked for plans from all 12 of Kettering’s building principals. “We have got to get better because it affects the confidence people have in our schools,” he said.

Overall, Schoenlein thinks the rating doesn’t reflect how great of a place Kettering is to go to school. “The citizens of the Kettering community know their school system is light years better than ‘Continuous Improvement.’ ”