By Kevin Kelley
The Westlake High School mascot name of Demons originates from the days when the community was named Dover. The students and their athletic teams came to be known as “D-men,” and the name stuck when the city and high school changed their names.
However, “D-men” is not a nickname the district’s students deserve when it comes to the Ohio Department of Education’s recently released school district report cards, Superintendent Dan Keenan said.
The district met 24 of 24 indicators, meaning at least 75 percent of students passed state proficiency tests. On the performance index, the district achieved a score of 106.4 of a possible 120, to which the state assigned a letter grade of B. That’s down just slightly from last year’s score of 107.9 but above scores received in 2009 and 2010. Just under 92 percent of students scored at the proficient level on state tests, according to the report card.
Had the previous rankings been in effect, the Westlake district would have received an “Excellent With Distinction” designation based on this year’s results. The state is not giving districts an overall letter grade until 2015.
On the progress section of the report card, which seeks to measure how much academic progress a student makes in a school year, the district received an overall grade of A. However, the district received three Ds in the progress of each subgroup – gifted students, students with disabilities and those in the lowest 20 percent – that are measured by the state. The progress section of the report card only covers students in grades four through eight.
Student progress, previously referred to as “value-added,” is different from achievement, Keenan noted. The Westlake City Schools continue to score very highly in measurements of achievement, he added.
“A D, I think, doesn’t provide an accurate picture of what’s going on,” Keenan told West Life. Districts in which students achieve the predicted academic progress receive just a C letter grade, Keenen noted.
Many districts that are similar in demographics to Westlake saw its subgroups receive lower performance index scores but higher letter grades for progress, Keenan noted. For example, Rocky River’s gifted students received a 116.4 performance index score and an A grade for progress; Westlake’s gifted students received a 117 performance index score but a D for growth.
Keenan said measurements of student progress are legitimate and necessary. However, he does not believe the three D grades accurately measure how Westlake students are advancing academically.
“I think it’s unfair to anyone who reads it or is represented by it,” he said.
The superintendent said he is concerned the D grades will result in a knee-jerk reaction that changes the way students are taught. Keenan vowed not to let that happen in the Westlake district.
Keenan said he has expressed interest to Department of Education officials about serving on a committee to improve the state report card system. Ideally, Keenan said, the report cards should compare districts that are demographically similar.
The dispute over the letter grades aside, Keenan said he believed the student achievement measured in the state report card is similar to that recorded over the past five years.
The district’s parents and teachers will meet in the coming weeks to review the test results and academic trends for each student, Keenan said.