No Distinction? Solon Schools Explain Ranking Drop Despite Improvement
Solon School District received an 'excellent' ranking this year, but not the 'excellent with distinction' rank it earned last year, despite posting a better score. How come?
The latest state report card for Solon City Schools recognized that the schools are excellent, but removed the "excellent with distinction" tag the schools had earned previously, despite this year's higher performance.
Essentially, the reason is that Solon students are already performing at a very high level and there's little room for improvement.
The excellence "downgrade" comes down to two different ways the state measures student progress in Ohio's more than 600 school districts.
One way is with the Performance Index Score, which measures "the acheivement of all students over time," according to Solon school officials.
That score – built by results from standardized tests – measures a school's effectiveness by taking a snapshot of students' ability at one point in time.
Solon's performance score improved year over year, going from 110.5 in 2009-10 to 110.7 in 2010-11.
So how do you figure out how much a student has improved from one year to the next? To do this, the state has a "Value Added" metric to measure progress.
Superintendent Joe Regano said the reason Solon lost the distinction tag is that, basically, Solon's students didn't improve because based on the state standards there's not much room for growth.
"With our students achieving at such high levels, that bonus rating becomes more difficult to earn each year," Regano said, later adding: "Our students in some areas come close to topping out, so it becomes more difficult to make those large jumps in achievement year after year."
Solon isn't alone. The top four school districts in the state last year all improved their scores this year, but none of them got the "distinction" badge of honor.
In fact, some schools that missed some of the 26 basic performance goals received an "excellence with distinction" tag. Solon has hit 26 out of 26 for 12 years in a row.
Regano said this is part of the state rewarding school districts that have more room to improve. While he says that's extremely important, it should not trump proof of academic excellence.
“We applaud the efforts of those districts and the progress they are making in meeting the needs of their students," Regano said. "But at the same time, this tag is akin to awarding medals in a race based on which runners improved their times the most, not on the order in which they cross the finish line."
Regano and other Solon school officials have unsuccessfully lobbied state legislators to change the system so high-performing districts don't lose the "with distinction" tag.
Officials say they will continue to make their case in Columbus.