Piqua schools address state report cards


By Sam Wildow

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PIQUA — The Ohio Department of Education recently released state report cards, and while letter grades were left off this year, the reports still included data on the progress of local students.

Piqua City Schools received a 58.7%, or 70.5 points out of a possible 120, for its performance index. The performance index measures the test results of every student. There are seven levels on the index, and districts receive points for every student who takes a test.

Some obvious challenges to testing last year included the COVID-19 pandemic with a mix of students doing online. Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson noted how remote learners missed the personal, face-to-face interactions with teachers.

“There were definitely many challenges that our students faced last year as a result of the pandemic,” Thompson said. “Of course, remote-online learning is simply not the same as learning in person. That personal interaction with staff and their peers is vital to mastering content and being able to excel and use what is learned in ‘real-life’ situations.”

While the district remained open, it still faced challenges with absences due to illnesses and quarantine periods.

“Our staff, parents, and students worked really hard last year to keep school open and were successful in doing so all year long — not closing once due to COVID,” Thompson said. “Regardless, there were a number of interruptions with some sickness, required quarantines, and a significant amount of sub and teacher coverage daily in our classrooms.”

Thompson also noted some of the remote learners declined to take the state testing and other learners missed portions of the testing due to illness or quarantine periods.

The district still saw some growth, though, in terms of students making progress. Thompson said the district saw positive growth in 10 out of 13 assessments.

“In Algebra and ELA II (English language arts), we saw significant evidence that our students made more progress than expected; these assessments are required for graduation, so this is a positive indicator,” Thompson said. “This is a great tribute to the hard work our staff put forth during these difficult times. We still have much work ahead, but this growth is good news.”

Under the category of improving at-risk K-3 readers, the district received a 17%. According to the state, 84 students moved to being on track and 377 students started off track. The district also received 20 RIMP deductions. RIMP stands for Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan. Districts are required to create a RIMP for students not on track to be proficient in English language arts by the end of third grade. Approximately 47.6% of Piqua third graders scored proficient on the state English language arts test.

“At Risk K-3 does not indicate the level of progress and work that is happening with early readers,” Thompson said. “These students missed a large portion of their developmental years in reading due to the pandemic. Nearly 400 students started ‘off track’ this school year with our beginning assessments, which is a direct result of the pandemic school shutdowns and numerous interruptions with illnesses, quarantines, and to our daily instruction.”

Thompson said the graduation rate was also impacted by the pandemic, stating some of the district’s 18-year-old senior students became “disengaged from learning during the pandemic due to family needs, work, personal decisions, etc., and did not complete their course work.” Piqua’s four-year graduation rate was 89.5% and five-year graduation rate was 91%.

“For some of our students, two years have passed since they have been in a typical or ‘normal’ learning environment void of COVID complications,” Thompson said. He highlighted second grade students who have yet to have a school year not impacted by the pandemic.

“That means their kindergarten and first grade years that are critical were highly impacted by the pandemic,” Thompson said. “The last ‘normal’ school year a freshman at the high school had was their sixth grade year. There are important stages and processes that typically happen for students in junior high that are important for a strong transition to high school and much of this was impacted in negative ways due to the pandemic as well. Similar things could be said about all grades.”

Thompson said teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade are using standards-based grading to determine exact progress on state standards at each grade level.

“Those grades utilize a wide range of tools to help students grow their reading skills, as well as monitor overall growth,” Thompson said.

Teachers in seventh and through 12th grade also completed detailed curriculum maps based on revised state standards over the summer.

“These maps allow these teaching teams to work collaboratively when developing instruction,” Thompson said. “The district utilizes Ohio-approved vendors to assess student progress and uses that data to build instructional strategies throughout the school year and more frequently than an end of the year state test score that does not come until much later, so typically does not help with planning to assist students.

“The district has also utilized Federal ESSER funding to invest in our teachers for more of a long-term impact; the district has developed a Student Success Team group of teacher coaches that work with teachers across the district to strengthen literacy and math teaching strategies and skills.”

The district also held summer school sessions for intervention and credit recovery in all grades, and each school has intervention times built into their schedules this school year to help students make progress, Thompson said.

“The goals are straightforward; we need to have our achievement begin to match our great growth trends,” Thompson said. “We are working hard to re-engage students and build capacity for them to improve attendance, participation, interaction with peers and staff, and complete work at grade level. This will take time. We are focusing on literacy skills across the district to help close these gaps that ultimately affect learning in all content areas. Finally, we are focused on developing the health and wellness of the whole child. The district understands that learning happens when students feel safe, cared for, and valued.” Thompson said the district is providing social and emotional support for students in each of the buildings to meet those needs.

For more information on the district’s report card, visit reportcard.education.ohio.gov.

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