By Sue Botos
The school year may have just started, but the Rocky River school district has already received straight A’s on the Ohio Department of Education’s report card.
Achieving top academic ranking on the state’s list for the 11th consecutive year, including the list for “Excellent with Distinction,” the district notched the highest performance index in the region at 110.9, edging last year’s high scorer Solon (110.7). Statewide, only the Indian Hills district near Columbus fared better, posting a score of 111. A perfect score is 120.
Of the West Shore communities, River was the only district to receive the “Excellence with Distinction” recognition, with North Ridgeville and Avon in Lorain County the closest systems garnering the state’s highest honor. The designation is based heavily on the performance index, which measures student scores on standardized tests. New this year on the state report card is the “value-added category”, which measures whether students in grades four to eight exceeded, met or fell below expectations for the year in reading and math.
Only schools rating above expectations were recognized with the top honor. This was why Solon, and the Washington school district near Cincinnati, which tied Rocky River for second place in state performance index numbers, were given “Excellent”, or the second highest designation. According to information provided by the Ohio Department of Education, these two districts met, but did not exceed their expectations.
Although the “value added” category helped some schools climb to the lofty “Excellence with Distinction” perch from only “Excellent,” others such as Solon, despite a climb in test scores, fell short of the top designation by meeting rather than going above and beyond expectations.
Solon’s superintendent Joseph Regano stated in the media that a point is reached where a system can’t progress farther, and “tops out.” Rocky River Superintendent Michael Shoaf, however, feels there’s always room for progress.
“I still see areas of improvement although it does become more difficult to show growth with very high scores,” he stated in a recent interview. He said that these improvements included tutors at Kensington Intermediate School to help students in need of attention and the possible implementation of a similar program at the middle school. He added that retired veteran teachers are also being asked to help out with students and to act as mentors for newly hired teachers.
Asked if a perfect Performance Index score of 120 was possible, Shoaf said it would be a challenge. “It’s based on the students’ one time administration of a test,” he said, stating that may factors such as tiredness, illness, or just not being good with tests come into play. “The 120 is really going to be tough. But it’s great to stay in the top couple of districts,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Liz Anderson added that the Rocky River district is unique in that each grade is housed in one building rather than being split up, allowing for better communication among teachers of the same level. Performance index numbers among individual schools, while already high, reflected a climb from the previous year with Kensington posting a 110.5, the middle school 110.2, and the high school 112.4.
Anderson said that no one thing contributed to the districts outstanding performance. “It’s the hard work and collaboration of our teachers, staff and parents to prepare our students,” she stated.