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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?

for recognized that the schools are excellent, but removed the "excellent with distinction" tag the schools had earned previously, despite this year's higher performance.

What gives?

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.

mary August 23, 2011 at 01:53 PM
I agree with Mr. Regano. Maybe we as parents should be asked to lobby on Columbus on this matter. It really is no big deal to send an email and request that that we do this. And Solon parents are very good about suppporting the schools. I will do my own part this week.
Old timer August 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM
I empathize with Mr. Regano and all of the Solon teachers who work incredibly hard to ensure that, year after year, their students score at the top of the state. The residents in Solon continue to support the schools with their taxes. The kids are banging their heads against the ceiling on standardized tests. Yet, in the papers what everyone will see is that Solon has fallen in the rankings! This is what we get when politicians seize control of education and try to apply "business principles" to teaching and evaluation (as in Bush's No Child Left Behind, Obama's Race To The Top, and the soon to be unveiled Kasich Merit Pay Plan). Stay strong Solon Educators! Keep up the great work Solon students!
Chris Bryant August 24, 2011 at 10:02 PM
I could not agree more with what has been commented here. I see a few problems with the political ambitions for our State's public schools. Unfortunately, other districts in Ohio are not as fortunate as Solon and some of our geographical neighbors. Underperforming districts suffer from any or all of the following: transientness by staff and students, lack community support, allowed funding to drop or have lost sight of the high aspirations so many want.
Chris Bryant August 24, 2011 at 10:03 PM
I think the State had the best intentions in mind when they put these test and record keeping practices in place back in the 90s, allowing districts to shoot for their own aspirations. Now, too often, the results are used to evaluate districts, or establish ranks at all ends of the performance spectrum. Too often, the struggling districts fail to use these in evaluating readiness for the next grade for the students themselves. Frequently there is no ownership of the individual's performance. (Look up the "4th grade guarantee" that was never enforced by the State years ago.)
Chris Bryant August 24, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Solon is a special community that values education, appreciates the hard work and time it takes to create a successful student, and has families that want what is best for their kids and send them to school ready to learn. The district does not need to hear from the State where the floor is being established because we want the ceiling! Unfortunately, the state created proficiency tests are merely used for keeping score. Frankly, I do not need the distinction tag to know what an amazing district we have. (Especially when the "distinction" tag can be earned for growth that does not lead to acceptable accomplishment.) The excellence of our district includes staff, support, leadership, families, and students, without out the performance of any of those groups, the end result suffers! Keep up the great work families and students, good luck this coming year, both in the classrooms and in your extra curricular activities!

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