By Kevin Kelley
When the annual state report cards for school districts were released a year ago, data in the Fairview Park City Schools evaluation revealed that the district had come agonizingly close to the long sought after excellent rating.
Four eighth-grade students missed passing the science portion of the state test on which the ratings are based by a single question. If two of those students had gotten the answer correct, the district would have achieved the excellent rating.
But district educators don’t have to deal with such shortcomings this year. For the first time ever, the Fairview Park City Schools have earned an excellent rating.
“It’s a pretty happy day here, that’s for sure,” Superintendent Brion Deitsch said at the district’s administrative offices the day the state report cards were officially announced.
The district met 23 out of 26 indicators, or proficiencies in subjects such as reading and math at specific grade levels. The only indicators the district did not meet were in reading, math and science at the fifth-grade level.
The district’s performance level was 101.4 on a scale of 120. That’s up from 99.4 last year. While the formula for determining a district’s final distinction is complex, a performance index score of at least 100 is required to get the excellent rating. The Performance Index looks at the performance of every student, not just those who score proficient or higher.
Deitsch said there’s no single factor or effort that put the district over the top.
“I don’t think you can point your finger at any one thing,” he said. Rather, he gave credit to “just a lot of hard work by the teachers and the administration.”
Like many inner-ring suburbs, Fairview Park has a very diverse student population, including many students for whom English is their second language, Deitsch noted. While that does not necessarily make achieving the excellent rating harder, Deitsch said, it can present its own set of challenges.
The state report card includes measurements of how specific demographic groups of students score.
Deitsch noted that 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.
“It tells me not only did we meet the expectations, we exceeded them,” Deitsch said.
Lewis F. Mayer Middle School met all indicators for the first time ever, Deitsch noted. Fairview High School received an excellent rating for the eighth year in a row, the superintendent pointed out. The high school’s performance index rose four points, which Deitsch described as “a huge jump.”
While some educators dislike the increased emphasis on standardized testing, Deitsch approves.
“It’s an imperfect science, but I believe that the community is entitled to a measure of how the schools are performing,” the superintendent said.