Akron school board examines district’s poor performance grades in first phase of report card

By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal staff writer
Read full story on Ohio.com

Akron schools earned poor grades in graduation rates and K-3 literacy, board members learned at their Monday meeting.

In a presentation given by assistant superintendent Ellen McWilliams-Woods, the board examined the three grades currently available: graduation rate, K-3 literacy, and the prepared for success measure. Seventy-four percent of students in Akron Public Schools graduated in four years, earning a letter grade of F, while 83.8 percent of students graduated in five years, resulting in a letter grade of D.

The state is releasing the school district report card grades in two steps — a process that is usually done in one. Monday’s presentation was the first phase.

The four-year graduation rate dropped from 78.4 percent in the 2012-13 school year to 74 percent in 2013-14, mirroring a trend among all but one of the “Ohio 8” city school districts of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. Cleveland was the only district to show an improvement from year to year (64.4 percent to 65.9 percent). Locally, all but one district (Norton City) also saw a decrease in its graduation rate, prompting a board member to propose looking further into what Norton may be doing differently than the others.

McWilliams-Woods explained that a couple of factors affected the drop in graduation. The 2013-14 class was the first required to pass four years of math, resulting in an increase in students lacking credit from 112 in 2013 to 190 in 2014. An increase in English-as-a-second-language students falling short of completion in four years also contributed to the lower rate, which is by design when students are multiple grade levels behind, McWilliams-Woods said. Twenty-eight ESL students fell short in 2012 and 36 in 2014.

APS successfully decreased the number of 18-year-olds withdrawing, from 125 in 2012 to 76 in 2014. But not all finished in four years, instead staying in school for a fifth year or shifting to Akron Alternative Academy, which saw an increase (from 49 to 70) in nongrads during the same period.

“That’s OK,” McWilliams-Woods said. “As long as they’re graduating in five years or six years, we don’t care if they need to come in for one credit because they’re working. We’re going to keep working with them.”

The K-3 literacy grade, measured from the fall portion of the school year to the next fall, earned a letter grade of D, with 32.5 percent showing improvement.

The prepared for success measure went ungraded for a second year, due to the state’s switching tests three times in three years. APS instead focuses on local goals and how they stack up against fellow local districts, McWilliams-Woods said.

The second phase of report card grades are due in late February.

In other business, the board approved spending $87,819.90 on a combination of 268 Lenovo Chromebooks, 28 HP laptop computers and nine Chromebook carts for schools across the district. The board also approved spending $127,844.89 on testing, textbooks, tutoring, family services and a new truck for the building and grounds department.

A resolution to purchase and install a building heating boiler that is urgently needed at Barber CLC also was approved, for no more than $59,843.

Nick Shook can be reached at 330-996-3854 or nshook@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @thenickshook.

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