The Westerville City School District continues to build upon its history of strong academic performance and remains financially stable, according to two of the several reports shared with the Westerville City School District (WCSD) Board of Education during its mid-year retreat on August 7, 2013.
Members of the district’s leadership team updated the Board on several significant academic and operational topics, including upcoming changes to the state report card, increasing state standards, forthcoming policy and/or operational updates, recent enrollment and staffing trends, the status of WCSD’s Facilities Master Plan, and the anticipated impact Ohio’s new biennial budget. Board members concluded their meeting with a hands-on activity that captured and incorporated their feedback into the proposed strategic planning process being developed by Superintendent John Kellogg, Ed.D.
STATE REPORT CARD CHANGES
The Ohio Department of Education over the next several years will be phasing in a new report card for schools and school districts. The phase-in begins with the 2012-2013 report card, which will be released this year in late August.
Aside from an updated graphic design, the most noticeable change to state report cards will be that schools and school districts no longer will be rated with the familiar “Excellent” or “Continuous Improvement” labels, but instead will receive letter grades on nine measures for the 2012-2013 school year. The number of measures used to calculate grades will increase to 18 by the 2015-16 school year.
The grades for these individual measures will be combined into six broad components (Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, K-3 Literacy, and Prepared for Success) which also will receive a grade. There will be no component or overall grades until 2015 so schools have time to adjust to the new system and focus their efforts on being successful in all areas that are being measured.
Another significant change will be the use of Annual Measurement Objectives (AMO) instead of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AMO will comprise the report card’s “Gap Closing” component, which provides a measurement of how well schools and districts are improving student performance in reading, math, and graduation rate among 10 student subgroups.
“AYP on prior report cards served as extra credit that could help a school or district improve their grades,” explained Kellogg. “Now, AMO is more like a graded class.”
Schools and districts will be assigned an overall grade on the report card for efforts to close achievement gaps in all groups. The reading and math AMO are based on Ohio’s current assessments, but it will be adjusted for more rigorous assessments coming in 2014-15.
Kellogg added that it will be important for district officials to help parents and community members understand that academic performance remains strong, but the measuring stick is different.
“In the past, report cards indicated if schools or districts met basic AYP requirements,” Kellogg said. “Now, schools and districts meeting basic AMO requirements will receive a grade of C.”
Director of Assessment and Alternative Education Dr. Machelle Kline said that gap closure data indicate that this is the area of greatest need. Preliminary statewide data show that 38 percent of school districts, 48 percent of traditional schools and 77 percent of charter schools will receive a D or an F grade for gap closure.
“We’ve shown in the past that we’re able to make great strides in areas requiring more focus,” Kline explained. “There’s no reason to believe that we won’t be able to improve student achievement in these AMO categories. We have several schools that are experiencing success in closing student achievement gaps, so we’ll be examining their past practices, identifying the effective strategies that were used and replicating those practices elsewhere to ensure success for all students.”
THIRD GRADE READING GUARANTEE
Executive Director of Elementary Education Dave Baker informed Board members that last school year, only 49 of the 1,088 third-grade students taking the Ohio Achievement Assessment did not meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee requirement.
Data from the district’s fall assessment of literacy skills allow district officials to identify students who, according to ODE standards, are considered “not on track” for reading on grade level by the end of the school year. Those students are provided intense remediation and intervention services necessary to improve their literacy skills.
Only five third-grade students were retained last year while 44 were permitted to advance to fourth grade. Those students will continue to receive intense reading remediation services as required by law.
“These numbers demonstrate that our intervention efforts are working,” said Executive Director of Elementary Education Dave Baker. “We’re making progress with kids.”
The next diagnostic test to identify students who are “not on track” will be completed by September 30 as required by law. Districts no longer will be permitted to advance students to grade four reading if they do not achieve the new benchmark score of 392. However, they will be allowed to advance to grade four in other subjects.
“For students who are not on track, we will sit with teachers and families to develop reading improvement and monitoring plans,” Baker explained. “We will provide intense remediation services where necessary to help these students improve and achieve.”
Recent legislative actions, including the approval of the state’s new biennial budget, will require school districts to make several policy updates and/or operational changes. Included among these updates are measures to ensure full compliance with Resident Educator Program requirements, state-approved learning standards, mandatory online student assessments, teacher and principal evaluation systems, EdChoice Scholarship Program opportunities, extracurricular opportunities available to students, and the total hours of instruction mandated to meet the state’s new definition of a school year.
STAFFING AND ENROLLMENT
Executive Director of Human Resources and Employee Relations Curt Jackowski provided Board members with an update on the number of certificated employees the district expects to have on staff this year as compared to the number of students.
This coming school year, district officials project an enrollment of 14,705 students and 980 certificated staff. Jackowski noted that just four years ago the district had fewer students (14,634) and more certificated staff (1,012). He said that the district was able to maintain this lower staffing level despite the need to increase staff by 20 Full Time Equivalent teaching positions to meet state academic requirements, increased middle school course offerings, and special education needs.
FACILITIES MASTER PLAN
Though overall district enrollment is trending lower than originally projected, there are still several schools that are slightly over capacity, according to Executive Director of Facilities and Operations Jeff LeRose.
District Enrollment at the end of the 2011-12 school year was 15,020 students. At the end of the 2012-13 school year, enrollment stood at 14,534 students. While preliminary figures indicate that 14,576 students have enrolled to date for the 2013-14 school year, a slight increase from last year, those figures remain below the 15,325 students as projected in the most recent enrollment forecast.
Regarding individual building capacities, assuming 25 students per classroom, there are five district elementary schools and three middle schools that are over capacity. At the elementary level, the greatest overage at a single building is 34 students, while at the middle school level the greatest overage at any one school is 49 students.
“These figures are based upon how schools are using their spaces, so there typically are slight adjustments to capacity from year to year,” LeRose explained. “While some schools may show more seats available than students, their ability to house all of those students is impacted by the number enrolled at each grade level.”
LeRose also informed the Board that summer capital improvement projects are on track to be finished before the start of the school year. The district has finished the fourth year of its five-year capital improvement plan and will complete the final year’s project schedule, as well as begin developing the next five-year plan, within the coming months.
“When our community originally approved the Permanent Improvement Levy in 2009, the decision was made to follow a conservative financing approach that resulted in the deferral of approximately $9 million in identified capital needs,” LeRose explained. “I’m pleased to report that due to aggressive bid procedures, rigorous construction management and enforcing our documents, we’ve been able to make up approximately $6 million in deferred projects.”
LeRose concluded his report by sharing that the district’s energy conservation program last year achieved $1.8 million in cost avoidance as compared to projected energy use, which is its highest cost avoidance to date since beginning the program in November 2006. He also discussed the possible disposition of three district-owned properties, two of which are houses adjacent to the Transportation Compound and the third of which is a storage annex located in Uptown Westerville.
District officials continue to sort through the details of House Bill 59 (HB59), Ohio’s new biennial budget, to determine its impact on district academics and operations. Treasurer Bart Griffith informed the Board that state funding for WCSD, should the revenue come in as projected, will help keep the district on solid financial ground through at least Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.
Griffith explained to the Board that while HB59 contains additional revenue for the district, with the numerous cuts the state had made to school revenues over the years, WCSD is just now back up to a state funding level comparable to 2005.
“Operational changes and cost-cutting measures implemented over the past several years by district officials have contributed significantly to our ability to stretch the 2012 emergency operating levy at least two years beyond original projections,” Griffith said. “As we near 2017, we will have to consider replacing that five-year emergency levy or lose $17 million in revenue.”
The district’s next Five-Year Financial Forecast, which by law the Board of Education is required to approve by the end of October, will reflect the expected financial impact of HB59.
Board members were informed that the last organized effort to craft a strategic plan with a structured process to gather community input was during the development of Vision 2010. The content of Vision 2010 was adapted to reflect additional community input gathered through subsequent outreach efforts, and the results were incorporated into the Board of Education’s five identified goals.
Kellogg presented Board members with a draft framework for a strategic planning process and engaged them in an activity to gather their feedback and edits to the proposed process. The draft process includes gathering stakeholder feedback on six dimensions, the first five of which are the Board’s current goals. The added dimension addresses students’ development and well being.
Strategic planning participants will be asked a series of questions for each dimension. Their responses will result in a clear definition and meaning for each dimension. Kellogg explained that this phase of the process will require the identification of specific knowledge bases to ensure that informed input is collected.
“The ultimate goal,” Kellogg explained, “is to develop specific metrics that we can use to determine if we are making progress toward achieving these dimensions and goals.”
Kellogg’s goal is to have the district’s new strategic plan approved by the Board prior to the end of the calendar year.