Dear Parents and Community Members,
The Bedford City School district released its Quality Profile in conjunction with the release of the 2015-2016 state report card. The state report card can be found on the home page of the district website at http://tinyurl.com/BCSDReportCard. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has created a guide to help parents understand the complexities of the report card and to interpret the ratings. That guide can be found on the ODE website at http://tinyurl.com/ODEGuide.
The purpose of this letter is to address the report card and to encourage you to review our Quality Profile, which can be found on the district’s website at http://tinyurl.com/BCSDQualityProfile. The Quality Profile includes additional accountability measures that better define a high quality education that are not included in the state’s report card. This comprehensive guide will help to inform you of all the great things that are happening in our district. Oftentimes, people look at our test results as the only indicator as to how well the district is faring, but we encourage you to take time to see what it truly means to be a “Bedford Bearcat.”
I want to emphasize that the administration and teachers of the Bedford City Schools believe in accountability. We pride ourselves in providing our students with nothing less than an outstanding education. We recognize that we have areas in which we need to improve and we are committed to continuous improvement.
There are many challenges associated with the report card that districts across the state are also experiencing. The validity and reliability of the tests have been questioned and the unfair representation that the tests depict of our district is concerning.
While we are in the fourth year of the “new” state report card system, there have been countless revisions that the legislators enacted, resulting in a ‘safe harbor’ provision for school districts spanning the school years from 2014-2017. This provision prevents report card scores, in most situations, from being used to evaluate students, teachers, buildings and districts. Yet, we still see letter grades associated with our schools and district and feel the effects of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The changes that led to the enactment of the ‘safe harbor’ provision have also led to a great deal of skepticism and uncertainty when it comes to the value and validity of the Ohio report card system. The following are examples of the changes:
• The assessments that the ODE used to report the information on the report card changed last year for most subjects for three out of the last four years (OAA/OGT to PARCC and AIR, then to AIR).
• The ODE continues to raise the bar as it relates to rigor on the state assessments and continues to provide us with “moving targets” for scores needed to pass the tests.
• The instability of value-added calculations has a history of being questioned. Educators are unable to figure out the methodology behind the value-added measure. In addition, four new subject areas were added to the calculation this past year.
• Our K-3 Literacy grade, while extremely disappointing, would suggest that our students are struggling to read. In reality, 97% of our third grade students passed the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee to move on to fourth grade. The other complicating factor for this measure is that there is inconsistency and lack of clarity from the ODE on what data we should use to identify “struggling readers.” Each district is expected to make local decisions about what constitutes an “at risk” student. This contributes to the misrepresentation of test scores across the state.
In addition, this was the first year our elementary students took the test online. Districts that chose to administer the test online received substantially lower ratings than those that chose to use paper and pencil. Districts were allowed to take paper and pencil tests if they did not feel equipped to administer the test online. However, we were strongly encouraged by the state to use the online method, as we were led to believe this would be a mandate in the near future.
Although our scores may not reflect the progress that we continue to make, we outperformed eight out the sixteen inner-ring districts as measured by the Performance Index. These districts are considered “similar districts” to Bedford in that they share unique educational challenges. Our graduation rate has increased every year since 2011. Our high school received an A in value-added in the first year that these ratings have been assigned to high schools! We ARE making progress and striving to provide the best opportunities for our students.
In closing, I want to assure you that we will continue to set high expectations for our students, as well as ourselves. We see the value of accountability in education and will continue to do everything we can to increase our achievement and to provide our students with real-world applications that will prepare them for success in college and/or careers. I would encourage you to also refer to our district’s three-year Strategic Plan, which will inform you of the goals and strategies we will use moving forward to help guide us on our path to success. The plan can be found on the home page of the district website at http://tinyurl.com/BCSDStrat-Plan.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 440-439-4777.
Andrea Celico, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools