Strengths and weaknesses of the Oberlin Schools were laid bare Saturday in a five-hour board of education meeting.
Educators delved into trends in student enrollment, curriculum, and how to handle Langston Middle School being placed under academic watch by state officials.
The Oberlin Schools serve 981 students in four buildings right now. At 89 strong, eighth-graders are the largest class.
The district has 78 students open-enrolled in and 97 open-enrolled out.
Superintendent David Hall said he wants to find out why students are leaving the district. He proposed sending surveys to parents to learn what made them decide to have their children schooled outside of Oberlin.
The majority of Oberlin’s students who open-enroll out go to Firelands or Keystone schools. Elyria, Firelands, and Lorain schools are where Oberlin gets the most open-enrolled students.
Thirty-three high school students attended non-public schools last year with 17 going to Lake Ridge Academy and 12 to Elyria Catholic.
The district had 69 students enroll in a private school last year. Treasurer Angela Dotson said 10 of those students were seniors.
Prospect teacher Robin Diedrick said sometimes students attend private schools due to family tradition, choosing to graduate from the same school as their parents.
CURRICULUM AND TEST SCORES
Despite the numerous complaints about the PARCC tests last spring, Oberlin students did well.
Curriculum director Ann Glass said PARCC tests will not be offered this year and will be replaced by AIR, which area educators tell us are much like the Ohio Achievement Assessments.
Oberlin students are above the state requirements in every test and grade level except fourth, fifth, and seventh grade math.
Younger kids barely missed the mark with the PARCC math test — fourth grade missed it by 0.76 percent and fifth grade by 1.87 percent. However, seventh-graders fell 9.37 percent under the state benchmark.
Even the numbers, though, are the subject of dispute.
“It’s raw test data and still needs to be cleaned up,” Glass said. “The numbers could move because it’s raw data.”
Glass and other educators have already found missing information and are fixing it.
Oberlin High School principal William Baylis said the district is so small that it allows adminstrators to catch the state’s mistakes and fix them.
One hundred percent of Oberlin students passed middle school algebra I and middle and high school geometry exams.
Glass said if Oberlin would have had more students opt out of the PARCC test last year then the district would have had worse scores. The Firelands Schools, for example, had many parents pull their children from testing and will see unreliable numbers because of it.
Students did not do as well on the AIR high school history and government tests and fifth and eighth grade science tests.
One score that surprised Glass was middle and high school students scoring a 73.8 percent in physical science. “I would not have expected this high of score,” she said.
Students will only have one test window this year instead of two separate testing periods that were offered last year. Districts can start testing students on AIR after April 6.
Areas that Glass believes the district needs to focus on are how students with disabilities will be challenged by the new tests, the manner in which low socio-economic students continue to be at-risk, general math courses in seventh and eighth grade as well as algebra I in high school, fifth grade science, fourth and fifth grade math, and American history and government.
LMS PUT ON “WATCH” STATUS
Oberlin’s middle school has been placed on a “watch” status by the state for not meeting the required growth for language arts and math over a two-year period.
“This is a situation I inherited,” said second-year principal Chris Frank, adding that data that led to Langston’s “academic watch” status came from 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.
Frank said the students who seem to struggle to meet the state requirements are students with disabilities and minorities.
“It came down to eight kids at the most,” he said. “What we’re doing at Langston is to make sure we don’t fall into this again. Going into this year we had no idea we were going into a watch status.”
Since August, Frank has added more instruction time to the school day this year to help students better understand the material they are being taught.
Each student has core academic classes four days a week and will have each of those classes for a fifth time during ninth period on a rotating basis, Frank said.
The teachers are able to adjust their lesson plans for ninth period to meet the students’ learning levels.
OHS GRADUATES ATTENDING COLLEGE
Sixty-six percent of Oberlin High School seniors enroll in college after graduation.
Katie Hayes, Oberlin College access coordinator, works with school counselors and students to find the best path for them to follow after leaving OHS.
The district had 61 students from the Class of 2014 enroll in college after leaving OHS.
That number fluctuates each year, Hayes said.
“We don’t even have 100 students in our classes so we see big swings in our data,” she said, referring to information provided by the National Student Clearinghouse. “It’s just a handful of students making this swing.”
OHS staff assisted 46 students with filing federal college aid forms. Between 2014 and 2015, Oberlin students nearly doubled the dollar amount of outside scholarships awarded to them.
“The financial aid in our country is very dire,” she said. “It’s very difficult, so (Lorain County Community College) is a good option for our students. The top school are students enroll in is LCCC, then second is Oberlin College.”
Seventy-seven percent of OHS students who attend college their first year return for a second year. Hayes said that is 10 percent above the national average.
“We have five professionals for 80 students to help them figure out what they’ll do after graduation,” Hayes said. “We try not to shove college at them. We listen to what they want to do with their life and try to meet them where they’re at.”
Hayes has found one of the biggest issues students have after graduation is not having reliable transportation to get to their college classes.
THIRD GRADE READING
Nearly half of Oberlin’s third-graders are at risk of not meeting the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee this year, said Eastwood Elementary principal Susan Alig.
Students in kindergarten through third grade were tested earlier this year to see whether they are on track to meet the state required reading level.
Ninety-seven out of 284 of those students this year are at risk of not hitting the mark and have been put on the Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan programs.
Each child’s spelling, reading level, and rate of reading is tracked from kindergarten through third grade.
“The state diagnostic test always under-identified kids,” Alig said. “It was way too easy and was out of line with the OAA.”
If a student fails the OAA and was never on the RIMP, then the district will lose points on the state report card, Alig said.
A student cannot get out of RIMP until the following school year.
“The more time they read and the more words they read the higher their fluency will be,” Alig said. “Our goal is to try to embed as much reading time as we can during the school day because we can’t always count on it being done at home. We want to make them love reading.”
Last year, 46 students between kindergarten and third grade were identified as not on track at the start of the school year and only four students did not pass the OAA at the end of the school year, Alig said.
Those four students took the test again over the summer and three of them passed.
Alig said the students placed on RIMP do not even know they are on it because the parents are the ones signing a paper saying their student is in the program. The students receive additional reading time and instruction during the school day.
Liz Rogel, Oberlin director of pupil services, has seen a rise in proficiency on state tests among students with disabilities since 2012.
She saw nearly five percent more students proficient in reading in 2012-2013 school year and that improved by 10 percent the following year.
Students with special needs had roughly a 20 percent increase in math proficiency from 2011-2012 school year to last year.
Rogel said all of these scores reflect students in third through 10th grade.
The district has roughly 140 students with disabilities in kindergarten through 12th grade.
One area Rogel has been focused on enhancing over the past three years is having the students interacting and in classrooms with their peers. “We’re getting our special education students more in the general setting,” she said.
She has increased the students’ interaction with their peers by nearly 25 percent last year from the 2011-2012 school year.
Rogel also encourages students to participate in extracurricular activities. Ones in which students have taken interest are football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, and art club.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Superintendent David Hall talks about where the Oberlin Schools stand with enrollment and how he wants to find ways to keep students in the district.