By Kevin Kelley
Westlake City Schools Superintendent Dan Keenan got a call Aug. 25 from a parent who was not at all happy. He had just read in The Plain Dealer that Westlake was ranked 20th among Northeast Ohio districts based on the annual state report cards based largely on student testing and feared that meant the city’s schools were in decline.
The parent, Keenan said, was unhappy that Westlake was not best in everything.
The Westlake City Schools again earned an excellent rating and met all 26 indicators, or proficiencies in subjects such as reading and math at specific grade levels. The district scored 107.2 on the performance index, which looks at the performance of every student, not just those who score proficient or higher. That figure, based on a scale to 120, is the district’s highest ever and an increase from 106.2 a year ago.
The district also met the state’s annual yearly progress measure, a federally required component that measures achievement of each student subgroup, including racial and ethnic components; and the value added measure, which shows whether students meet the expected one year of growth for students in grades 3-8 in reading and math.
However, the district did not exceed the value added progress, the expected year’s growth determined by the previous year’s achievement. To meet that, a district must be in the top 2.5 percent of a subgroup of similar districts to get that measure, which would have given Westlake an excellent with distinction rating.
The last time the district received the excellent with distinction rating was two years ago. Westlake has received either an excellent or excellent with distinction rating for the past 13 years.
Keenan compared not getting the excellent with distinction rating to baseball star Derek Jeter getting a higher batting average this year but hitting a couple fewer home runs than last year.
Although difficult marginal improvements are necessary for a high scoring district such as Westlake to get the top ranking, Keenan said the district strives for that.
“Our goal is to always improve more than any other schools have improved,” Keenan told West Life.
Keenan warned that it will be difficult for Westlake to earn the excellent with distinction next year; to do so would require a significant improvement over the record-high performance index score of 107.2, he said.
The superintendent said he and other administrators will use data from the state tests and other data, such as Advanced Placement and college admission test scores, to improve student performance.
One area Keenan has identified for improvement is the fifth grade, where Westlake’s proficiency levels were below that of similar districts in science and math. Keenan noted the fifth grade is the first time all the district’s students are together in the same building at Parkside Intermediate School. The school works hard at making that transition easier, Keenan said, but needs to strike a balance between working on the transition and education.
“We can do better than 77 percent (proficiency level in math) there,” Keenan said.
Keenan said he was glad the angry parent called because it gave him an opportunity to explain the district’s situation. He said he told the father that the district works on its continuous improvement plan and will use the testing data to make improvements. He noted the district has numerous achievements to be proud of, including 14 finalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition, the most in the state.