Complaints about school report cards, testing grow louder

By Darrell Wacker -

Brad Neavin

Brad Neavin

File photo

VANDALIA — Vandalia-Butler Schools have joined critics from around the state that say the new state report card is confusing and relies on faulty testing data.

“As anticipated, the report card is confusing and serves no useful purpose in gauging our practices or for guiding our future approaches to educating our students,” said Superintendent Bradley Neavin.

While the state will not assign an overall letter grade until 2018, in the “achievement” category Vandalia-Butler received a C in Performance Index (79.6%) and a B in Indicators Met (87.9%).

Neavin said that it is difficult to comment on the indicators because the district hasn’t received detailed student performance data from tests taken last school year.

He also noted that on the state report card, Vandalia-Butler received a D on K-3 literacy Improvement with only a 46%, yet the district was one of just five in Montgomery County that saw every student pass the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

“How can we possibly have 100% passage on the third grade reading guarantee yet have the performance on the indicators we have?” he asked.

In the Progress section, the district received a D in the overall score in a measurement of whether a student received a year’s worth of growth. On the other hand, the district received an A in graduation rate with 95.5% of students graduating – tops in Montgomery County. The district is also among the leaders in Montgomery County for the percentage of its students graduating college within six years of graduation.

Testing called into question

Neavin said the test, and its format, played a roll in the report card scores.

“We had a new test for the third year in a row and the testing instruments this year was a completely new format for how students take the test with the implementation of the online assessments,” he said.

That played a significant role in test outcomes according to Michael Molnar, the director of educational services at the Amherst school district in Loraine County.

Molnar has collected data from 609 school districts around the state and found that in most cases, schools that tested on paper received an A in overall value-added scores, but districts that tested online-only received an F most of the time. Vandalia-Butler fared a little better and scored a D.

In fact, 85% of districts that tested on paper received an A, but just 17% of those testing online scored the same.

“The disconnects between the assessment models are ludicrous,” said Neavin.

Brandon Hartley, Director of Curriculum said it’s hard to say for certain why that is since no one gets to see the test.

“It’s not that students couldn’t handle the online test, but the test may have been different online,” he said. “We just aren’t certain because we can’t see the test.”

The Ohio Department of Education disputes that idea, however, and told the Associated Press that “some test questions favored students taking paper tests, others favored those taking exams online,” said testing director Jim Wright.

State Board of Education member A.J. Wagner, who represents District 3 that includes Montgomery County, said the tests should not be used.

“The tests, and therefore the grades, violate standards of fairness,” said Wagner. “I urge students, parents, and communities to ignore then. These report cards are just not inaccurate, they are harmful to our children, our schools, and our communities.”

Many parents may be doing just that. A recently released survey by Fallon Research found that 39% of Ohioans believe that the state report cards don’t accurately reflect the quality of education provided by their public school district.

Neavin said that the state accountability model doesn’t reflect accurately what happens in Vandalia-Butler and that he and his staff will continue to “do what’s right for kids.”

“We were a high performing district long before the state’s accountability came into place because we know locally what is right for our kids,” he said.

Brad Neavin Neavin File photo

By Darrell Wacker

Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter

Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter