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Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 6:04 PM
Ohio schools will be graded Thursday on everything from graduation rates for students who left two years ago to how much their very youngest students improved in reading.
But local and state education leaders cautioned this week that even with a broad swath of data, the state report card grades are just one piece of measuring whether schools are doing a good job.
State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria cited valuable data on the report card, but he acknowledged some grades a school receives are not a result of what teachers and principals are doing.
“Any particular classroom is a unique collection of … students who come to the table with their own blessings and challenges,” he said. “It’s misleading to look at the report card and jump to the conclusion that, look, because a grade is low, there must be something wrong with the system.”
DeMaria believes the state tests that form the basis of much of the report card are valid measures, and that “the vast majority of students” do fine with online testing – two claims that some local educators disagree with.
Springfield City Schools Superintendent Bob Hill said most people don’t look deeply enough at the report card data, and end up judging a school or teacher, when those educators may be helping students overcome “tremendous challenges.”
“If the student populations are not similar – at least in the things that we know correlate with test scores, like percent of students in poverty, percent of students who are English language learners, percent of students with disabilities, and student mobility – then comparing report cards will always be extremely misleading,” Hill said.
The report cards that come out Thursday are largely based on state exams that students took in spring 2017. Schools and districts will not receive an overall letter grade on this year’s report card.
Instead, they will get six component grades measuring the following: overall test achievement, year-over-year test progress, kindergarten-to-third-grade literacy improvement, graduation rates, gap closing between certain demographic groups of students, and a “prepared for success” measure that tracks things like honors diplomas, college entrance test scores and industry credentials.
Lani Wildow, director of curriculum and instruction at Fairfield City Schools, acknowledged all those different angles on the data and said Fairfield pays particular attention to the year-over-year progress measures. But she said that’s still a limited tool.
“There is so much more to Fairfield than its report card,” Wildow said. “We have a tremendously successful music program and athletic program along with course offerings you do not see in every high school – Mandarin, Forensics, and Futuristic Literature to name a few. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where each and every child feels safe, valued and successful – something the state report card does not measure.”
Dayton Public School Superintendent Rhonda Corr said even though the state report card doesn’t paint a perfect picture of her district, DPS does carefully analyze the data all the way down to the individual teacher and student level.
“Our focus is a balance of the achievement and growth (measures),” Corr said. “We want our children performing at grade level and beyond, but we’re also looking for that growth because we know that many of our children are already behind.”
When at-risk students are behind, encouraging them to come to school – and actually being able to get them there – may be more important than a test score.
“You can’t test the love that a teacher has for a child based on a once-a-year state assessment,” Corr said. “Having adults who care for you when you walk in the building, making sure the quality of work going on in the classroom every day is engaging and consistent. Providing transportation … there’s no grade for bus arrival time.”
DeMaria encouraged families to look beyond the school district-level basics, at least to their individual school’s scores. He said he focuses on performance index (the most detailed measure of state test performance) as well as student progress scores, which show whether there was improvement from year to year.
“(Progress) tells that other part of the story,” DeMaria said. “If absolute performance isn’t particularly high, does the value-added score show that great things are happening nonetheless in terms of helping students?”
But Springfield’s Hill pointed out that so much of what goes on in schools is not reflected in the report card, which focuses heavily on English and math, with a little bit of science and social studies mixed in.
Hill said the benefits of Springfield’s elementary school music and fine arts program, computer science and robotics classes, five world languages, ROTC program, and counselors in every school are not reflected on the report card.
“Individual students’ experiences are determined by much more than how 80 percent of their classmates scored on a certain test,” Hill said. “Parents should look closely at the needs and aspirations of their own child, and view a school’s report card as just one of many, many factors to consider when evaluating a school.”
Oakwood scores higher on state tests than any school in the region, but Superintendent Kyle Ramey is not a fan of the report card and testing system. But he and DeMaria do agree on the best way to learn if a school is doing well.
Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:16 AM
— Wright State University is continuing to deal with financial problems as the school has so far overspent its budget for employee benefits by millions this year.
The university has spent $6 million on employee health benefits that were not planned for in its fiscal year 2018 budget, according to financial documents presented to the board of trustees in a meeting this morning. Trustees are expected to discuss the $6 million benefits overrun this morning.
The surprise expense isn’t great news for Wright State, which is aiming to increase reserves by $6 million by June 30.
Wright State trustees in June slashed more than $30.8 million from the school’s budget in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending.
On top of the benefits costs, WSU officials have also been trying to remediate more than $5.9 million lost through enrollment declines and unexpected scholarship and fellowship costs of more than $1.5 million.
Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:07 AM
— A Kentucky teacher was arrested Thursday on suspicion of snorting drugs in class, WLEX reported.
Students at Menifee County Elementary/Middle School in Frenchburg told officials they saw Cherish Rednour, 41, crush a pill with a credit card and make a line with the powder. They alleged that after snorting the pill, Rednour slumped over her desk and was having trouble staying awake.
Rednour was confronted by the principal and officials from the Menifee Sheriff''s Office about the allegations. WLEX reported. She was subjected to several field sobriety tests and was arrested shortly after.
Sheriff's officials said they found a white residue on her desk and a credit card with residue.
When a deputy searched Rednour at the Sheriff's Office, they found a tampon applicator in her bra that "resembled a very small, cut straw," according to arrest records.
Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:03 AM
— This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of a law making March Women’s History Month in the United States.
The observation, which was born out of a California school district’s celebration of women’s achievements, now is celebrated across the country, and includes parades, lectures, health screenings, art exhibits and other activities that highlight women’s contributions to society.
Here’s a look at the history of the movement, why it’s celebrated in March, this year’s theme and the National Women’s History Project honorees.
What is it?
Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.
When is it?
In the United States, it is celebrated each year in March.
March was chosen as the month to celebrate women’s history because the first observances of Women’s History Week revolved around International Women’s Day, which is March 8. International Women’s Day, which honors women’s achievements worldwide, was first celebrated on March 8, 1911. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day observances since 1975.
How did it start?
In 1978, a school district in Sonoma, California, decided to honor women’s achievements by participating in a Women’s History Week event. According to the National Women’s History Project, schools hosted essay contests, presentations by women were given at many of the schools in the district and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa, California.
The following year, a two-week conference examining women’s history was held at Sarah Lawrence College. Those participating in the conference learned about Sonoma County's Women's History Week celebration and decided to organize similar celebrations within their own schools and organizations.
During the following seven months, they lobbied for a declaration of Women’s History Week and in March 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women's History Week.
In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., co-sponsored a joint congressional resolution calling the week of March 7, 1982, Women’s History Week.
Schools across the country began to incorporate Women’s History Week into their curriculum and, eventually, the week grew into a monthlong observance.
Fourteen states had declared March Women’s History Month by 1986. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project asked Congress to establish March as Women’s History Month. On March 12, 1987, the celebration became official when legislation was passed to designate March as Woman’s History Month in the United States.
What is this year’s theme?
The 2018 National Women’s History Month theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”
The theme refers to remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after he objected to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reading a letter from civil rights leader Coretta Scott King that condemned then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. The Senate was debating Sessions nomination to become U.S. attorney general. McConnell objected to the reading of the letter on the grounds of “Rule XIX” which prohibits ascribing "to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” He called for a vote to silence Warren, which passed on party lines.
Who is being honored this year?
Here, from the National Women’s History Project, is a list of those being honored this year.
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
DAYTON — Dayton has called on neighboring communities to send a message to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to more urgently resolve concerns over the potential threat of contamination of a drinking water aquifer from tainted groundwater.
The city has urged city managers to join it in signing a letter asking the base’s commander to act quickly prior to groundwater contaminated with a byproduct of firefighting foam reaches seven city drinking water wells shut down as a precaution in April at Huffman Dam near the base boundary along the Mad River.
So far, some communities have said they will not sign the letter, at least one has endorsed Dayton’s efforts while others say they are studying the problem and weighing options.
Dayton and state officials have said drinking water is safe today.
The city has pursued communities backing while asking the Air Force to reimburse Dayton nearly $1 million for an environmental study and testing tied to concerns tainted groundwater at Wright-Patterson could reach the Huffman Dam well field.
“This was always about getting the attention above Wright-Patterson Air Force Base leadership where the decisions are made for resource allocation to address contamination,” City Manager Shelley Dickstein said in an interview. “Because there are hundreds of these (contamination sites) across the country, our primary goal was and continues to be the squeakiest wheel because of the proximity of the aquifer and well fields.”
The city reported it discovered polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the raw water intake of its Ottawa water treatment facility near the Mad River last November. The contamination level was less than 10 parts per trillion, below the Environmental Protection Agency health advisory threshold of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure in drinking water, city officials have said.
The substance has not been detected in treated water in the distribution system, city leaders have said.
Communities react to Dayton plea
Kettering, Centerville, Miamisburg and Vandalia officials have said they will not support Dickstein’s request in a Feb. 7 letter she sent to city managers. Moraine also indicated it has not co-signed the document, and Riverside and Miami Twp. indicated no immediate plans to act on the letter.
City Council leaders in Brookville, a direct water customer of Dayton water, voted Tuesday to go on record supporting Dayton’s efforts, and will send a letter to water customers updating them about the water issue, according to City Manager Gary Burkholder.
Fairborn and Clayton city managers say they need more time to gather information.
“We certainly want to understand what we are signing on to before we agree to do that,” said Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson. The city indicated in a 2015 test it did not find polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in firefighting foam in its groundwater field north of Wright-Patterson’s main flight line.
Montgomery County Environmental Services purchases water from Dayton and distributes it to communities across the area, including the cities of Centerville, Clayton, Kettering, Moraine, Riverside and Trotwood and the townships of Butler, Harrison, Jefferson, Miami and Washington. It also sells the water wholesale to Greene County.
“From all the information I have received, I have every reason to believe our water is safe to use and drink,” Riverside City Manager Mark Carpenter said in a statement to the Dayton Daily News.
Fairborn and Miamisburg are among regional communities with their own well fields and water distribution systems. Vandalia receives most of its water from the Northern Area Water Authority, which draws water from wells in Tipp City, according to Vandalia city officials.
A Dayton official was expected to brief Clayton City Council members on the concerns March 1, according to City Manager Richard C. Rose. Clayton is a direct water customer of Dayton, along with Trotwood and Brookville.
In a statement, Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman said city administrators have talked about contamination issues with Dayton officials, but opted not to sign the letter “because we feel that given current information the matter would be best resolved by the two parties directly involved.”
Centerville City Manager Wayne Davis said in an email the suburb won’t co-sign the letter “since the issue was initially raised by the City of Dayton and is a matter between the City of Dayton and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
Pressure to act
The proposed letter to Wright-Patterson commander Col. Bradley McDonald said a “lack of action” to protect Huffman Dam drinking water wells was “unacceptable,” while the Air Force continues to conduct tests, rather than act.
“By doing so, you are jeopardizing the health of more than three million people who rely on clean, safe and untainted water when they turn on their faucets,” it said. “We are demanding that you take immediate steps to stop the flow of PFAS from the Base and into our water supply. We can no longer wait until you have more results before you act to protect our communities.”
Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover said in an email the base was not aware of the letter and was preparing to respond to Dayton’s demands to take action.
Jeff Hoagland, chief executive officer of the Dayton Development Coalition, said he was “surprised” Dayton sent the Feb. 7 letter to municipal leaders since city and base authorities have worked on the issue over two years.
The two sides met at DDC headquarters in downtown Dayton last August, he said.
“We walked out of there knowing the No. 1 topic was to properly address the water issues,” Hoagland said.
“The city asked us to come and see if we could listen to what was going on and see if there was anything we could do to make sure these issues were being taken care of at the highest levels,” he said.
Wright-Patterson has approached water contamination concerns “seriously,” Hoagland added.
Dayton leaders sent a suggested second letter to neighboring municipal leaders to tell customers the drinking water is safe, but also to inform water consumers about concerns for the potential of future contamination of the aquifer from polyfluroalkyl substances. The substances are found in consumer products from clothing to cookware, but were also used in industrial processes and in firefighting foam.
The U.S. EPA reported human epidemiology and animal testing studies indicate exposure to the contaminant suggest it may be responsible at certain levels for testicular and liver cancer; changes in cholesterol; low birth weight in newborns; liver tissue damage; and effects on the immune system and thyroid.
Both state and city leaders want Wright-Patterson to act faster to respond to the potential threat of reaching Huffman Dam. Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler has called the pace at which the Air Force was reacting to the situation “unacceptable.” The EPA director cited the base in recent weeks under a state public nuisance law to prevent water pollution and ordered Wright-Patterson to submit a work plan within 30 days to better track tainted groundwater and to prevent the plume reaching the Dayton well field, among expected actions.
In October 2016, Ohio EPA ordered Wright-Patterson to shut down two groundwater wells that supplied water to the base that exceeded EPA thresholds. A health advisory was issued at the time for pregnant women and breast-feeding infants, and the base provided bottled water to affected residents.
Pumping at the wells resumed after Wright-Patterson built a $2.7 million water treatment plant.
The groundwater contamination at the base was believed to have come from a discontinued formula found in a firefighting foam. The Air Force faces PFAS groundwater contamination woes at dozens of bases.