Note: This story concludes The Messenger’s weeklong series providing insight into the Ohio Department of Education’s report card data for each Athens County school district.
Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, Oct. 8 newspaper on Page A1.
STEWART — Supt. David Hanning is still in his first weeks leading the Federal Hocking Local School District.
But he knows a good direction when he sees it. The state sees positive growth happening in the rural district — young Lancers are reading better than they have before, and poorer students are achieving better at Federal Hocking than similar children elsewhere in Ohio.
Hanning, formerly the principal of Athens High School, is glad to inherit this momentum, but he shares the frustration of other area superintendents toward the state report card system. It forces educators to teach to the test. It focuses on an ever-changing set of data points largely out of a district’s control.
With each child comes a unique set of circumstances, challenges strengths and weaknesses. In Hanning’s mind, Federal Hocking does a fair job of balancing students’ academic needs with handling the additional challenges — from behavioral issues to at-home concerns.
The district offers a “summer food bus” that serves meals to Federal Hocking children to fill in the gap that comes with school being out of session. The high school partners with businesses throughout the region to provide Lancer students with internship opportunities.
Such efforts are not considered by the state in determining the report card rubric.
Hanning believes the report card provides “important information about alignment with state standards” that is worthy of inspection.
“However,” the superintendent added, “the focus on standardized testing does a disservice to our students ... the report card is not an accurate picture of the success of a district.”
There are 24 indicators that make up a district’s Achievement score. One is related to “chronic absenteeism,” a problem the state says Federal Hocking suffers from.
Each of the remaining 23 indicators reflect a state test, per grade level and subject: for instance, fourth grade language arts and high school algebra.
A district has to have 80 percent of its students pass a given state test to get an indicator check mark.
Federal Hocking went 0-for-23 on these indicators. The district came close in a few spots, with seven subjects earning between 70-79 percent of student proficiency.
Nelsonville-York and Trimble were two other area districts which did not attain a passing mark on any subject.
Federal Hocking earned a D in this component, as it did last year.
This component looks at how students fared on state tests compared to the year before.
As it did last year, Federal Hocking earned a D grade.
The overall student body made little-to-no improvement, the state found. Students with disabilities likewise made little progress, though students in the lowest 20 percent in achievement made a noticeable stride forward.
In this component, the state tracks how certain categories of students fare compared to Ohio’s average: minority students, those who are “economically disadvantaged” and those with disabilities.
Federal Hocking earned a B, a great jump from its D one year ago.
“I believe this improvement is due to the hard work of teachers and building leaders who assess student learning,” Hanning said, “and are deliberate in the intervention and learning supports that are provided to students.”
Those with disabilities perform in line with the state average, while minority students at Federal Hocking perform quite a bit better. Students who are “economically disadvantaged” record much better scores in the district than elsewhere in Ohio, the state reported.
Hanning said the district makes a deliberate effort to identify gaps and “put interventions in place” for individual students to succeed.
Of Lancer students that entered the fall of 2014 as freshmen, 92.4 percent graduated in 2018.
That is much better than the state average, giving Federal Hocking an A grade on this component.
The five-year graduation rate stands at 98 percent, easily the highest in all of Athens County.
Districts are supposed to monitor the reading ability of each student. The goal is for all students to be proficient in English language arts by the end of 3rd grade.
For those who are “not on track,” teachers create an individualized plan to get them back “on track.” This component judges a district’s ability to identify the struggling readers in their early years and guide them to read well by the third grade.
In a sample of 73 Lancers that started “off track,” 33 improved such that they were moved to “on track.”
That’s an OK ratio — high enough that Federal Hocking earned a C grade in this component, up from a D a year ago.
Hanning credited the hiring of reading specialists at Coolville and Amesville elementary schools for attaining this improved score.
Prepared for Success
There are a number of things a school district can do to help its students succeed after graduating high school.
The state believes Federal Hocking does very little in this regard.
As mentioned, FHHS features a robust internship program in which students gain “real-world experience” with area businesses. (The Messenger, as an example, has brought in Lancer students to learn newswriting, photography and design skills.) A few high school students were even involved in the recent installation of a large solar array atop their school’s roof.
These opportunities, unique to Federal Hocking Local Schools, are not considered in this component.
One bright spot is: three-fourths of students participate in the ACT/SAT tests.
Only a handful of Lancers earned an honors diploma or participated in Advanced Placement courses. Essentially no student graduated having already earned a “dual enrollment credit” in a program such as College Credit Plus.
Also of note: just 5 percent of students graduated with an “industry-recognized credential.” This is part of a countywide trend, though, with only Alexander having had a higher percentage (8) over the past two years.
Hanning said the district is “committed to improving everyday” and plans to meet with other school administrators to determine areas where Federal Hocking can grow.