WESTFIELD TWP. — Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus updated board members Monday on what the district is doing to improve its statewide report card scores for next September.
The 2018 Ohio Department of Education report card showed Cloverleaf Schools received an overall grade of a D — the lowest in Medina County.
Public school districts are scored on a scale of A to F by the state agency.
During the Monday meeting, Kubilus thanked the district’s teachers and administrators, “who have really taken to heart improving our state report card this year.”
Kubilus initially spoke to board members in October, outlining several initiatives the district would undertake to improve for next year.
Focus on test questions
He said reviewing state test questions is one area of focus at each grade level.
“I can tell you that our teacher-based teams at the elementary school have met an average of six times at each grade level,” he said. “Additionally, in their meetings they reviewed every test question from the 2018 state test.”
Kubilus said teachers color-coded questions from the 2018 state assessment according to how well students performed on each question.
“They’re finding that our students struggled with higher depth of knowledge questions that required thinking or reasoning beyond the text,” he said.
Adjustments have been made to address the situation, with the district opting to restructure its elementary intervention enrichment time. Students are divided into homogeneous groupings according their performance levels, with smaller groups broken out based on those students who scored basic or limited on the tests. This allows the district to provide those students with more intensive interventions.
“The aspired result, of course, is that these intensive interventions that we have formulated for these specific students according to their specific progress level will yield better testing results,” Kubilus said.
Board President Jeff Schreiber asked if other students in the county struggled with higher depth questions, which goes beyond simply recalling learned information.
Kubilus said the district did not compare its students with those attending other schools.
“We did not have an ability to do an item analysis with other schools,” he said.
Assessing students before the test
Kubilus said the district’s diagnostic assessments did not appear to be well-aligned with the state assessment, and an effort is underway to see what diagnostic tools other districts use.
After analyzing four “exemplar” public school districts located near Cloverleaf, Kubilus said there was no general consensus regarding the preferred diagnostic instrument.
Kubilus said he would be making recommendations for updated diagnostic tests for the 2019-20 school year.
“I doubt I am going to have a recommendation of one diagnostic instrument for every grade level,” he said.
“It appears that different diagnostic instruments meet the needs of different grade levels uniquely.”
Kubilus said at the middle school level, student performance on state tests was not indicative of student performance on diagnostic testing.
“Students did not fully understand state test writing prompts and teachers may not have been focusing enough time on these higher level questions required by the state test,” he said.
Kubilus said the district worked with a middle school concept specialist, and determined the district’s diagnostic test questions were not as “rigorous” as questions seen on state tests.
Teacher planning period changes
Middle school educators are now meeting with their academic department an average of twice a week, something that didn’t happen before because of scheduling conflicts.
“As simple as that sounds, I think as a parent I just always assumed that happened, and the fact that it didn’t and we identified that as a step towards improvement is awesome,” board member Jane Rych said during the meeting.
Kubilus said the move will result in an impact on district testing this year, but it establishes a “unique culture that I think will be predicated, dedicated towards helping our students on state assessments.”
Tracking every high school student
At the high school, Kubilus addressed the graduation rate, something the district received an 87.8 percent on, or a C letter grade, according to the last state report card.
Kubilus said in order to improve the percentage of students graduating within four years, he decided to track data on each Cloverleaf student who enters the district as a freshman.
“We assess risk indicators on every student to determine if they are going to be at risk for dropping out,” he said.
“We work closely with them through our guidance department to mitigate any boundaries that there might be to graduation,” he added.
In addition, high school counselors met with every senior from the class of 2019, developing a graduation plan. Parents or guardians of students in danger of not graduating were asked to sign off on a graduation plan.
Kubilus said that as of April 15, there are an estimated 17 of 189 students in danger of not graduating on time this year.
Of those 17, Kubilus said it is believed 11 will still be able to graduate on time with additional work.
Understanding the report card
While the idea of a letter grade system is relatively simple, things are not always as they appear, Kubilus said.
Boiling the district’s grade down to just a few simple explanations is not easy because the state uses a complex system of standardized test scores, benchmarking metrics and averages to determine student proficiency in multiple subjects, student growth from year-to-year and how districts handle areas of progress and achievement.
When parents see the report — typically released each fall — they are seeing a set of letter grades that reflect the scores of the standardized tests administered the previous spring with some emphasize on how those scores compare to previous years.
Kubilus said previously that three years ago was when changes to state testing — namely Ohio leaving the multistate consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) —resulted in upheaval for many districts.
The subsequent assessments, developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), are a more rigorous form of testing that hit Cloverleaf harder than some other area districts, Kubilus said.
Kubilus said previously that no matter how it is calculated, a D letter grade is not acceptable, and is not what the community expects to see from Cloverleaf Schools.