Piqua BOE vexed by low test scores

PIQUA — Members of the Piqua City Schools board of education voiced their frustration over disappointingly low state test scores and posed numerous questions, some rhetorical, during a lengthy discussion about how to turn the situation around during a special meeting Monday evening.

“The teaching staff, the administrative staff and the superintendent are not satisfied with these results,” said PCS Superintendent Rick Hanes about the preliminary data released by the Ohio Department of Education late last week.

The complete state test results can be found at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Testing.

Hanes noted that because the results are preliminary, they do not include the performance of higher-achieving students in the district. For instance, he said, the results in junior high math showed students performed poorly, but “there were no advanced algebra or geometry students included in the results.”

The district report card that will be issued by the state in early 2016 will include those students, Hanes added.

“Like (with) many other districts, there are flaws in the data,” he said.

Board member Bob Luby stated that he felt “embarrassed” about the test scores and frustrated because he sees the good things the district is doing to foster success in its students.

“I would like to see more of these things translate (into higher scores),” he said. “All of us seem to work hard on doing the right thing, but for whatever reason, we’re coming up short.”

Luby used an analogy of a coach whose team practices diligently every night only to lose the big game every Friday night.

“In this case, we’re talking about academics,” he said. “I’d like to see us getting better results.”

Board member Frank Patrizio mused, “Do we have the right curriculum? Do we have the right teachers?” and said he noticed a “5-6 drop-off,” meaning that test scores seem to hit a downslope when some students enter fifth and sixth grades.

“I’m frustrated. These results are unacceptable. What are we not doing right? We are not getting through to 30 to 35 percent of our students. Something’s got to change.”

Curriculum director Dwayne Thompson said that while fifth grade science scores were “pretty good,” the drop-off Patrizio described is an “anomaly” and that he didn’t have a definitive answer as to its cause.

In a similar vein, board member Andy Hite asked, “Where’s the breakdown? Is it in the classroom? I’m with (Patrizio) … this is bad,” he said.

The board and administrators in the audience discussed suggestions including asking teachers what improvements are needed to boost student performance; Hanes informed them that teacher surveys are conducted periodically for this purpose.

Luby suggested talking to administrators of other districts of comparable socioeconomic makeup that are faring better than PCS.

“Can we learn from them?” he asked. “What are they doing to achieve some of the levels they’ve reached?”

Hanes pointed out several positive measures the district has taken to ensure that students are getting the tools they need to succeed. Among them, he listed the Eureka math program, early literacy grants, the Kids Read Now program, all-day kindergarten, staff and building reorganizations, the hiring of instructional aides, and expanding the gifted program.

Hanes said the district will continue endeavoring to “keep targeted” and make sure students are performing at grade level.

“There are lots of changes in the testing world, lots of changes in Piqua City Schools,” he said. “We will continue to grow our student achievement.

“We have work to do. We want to do better, we expect better, and we are going to do better.”

By Belinda M. Paschal


Reach Belinda M. Paschal at bpaschal@civitasmedia.com