Graduation Test shows improvement

MARIETTA – Results of the 2014 Ohio Graduation Test are in, with some area schools showing significant leaps in passing rates when compared to last year’s test.

Though all schools in Washington County showed small changes in passing rates, often reflective of changes in enrollment, Frontier saw a dramatic 25 percent increase and Warren boasted a 10 percent in students that passed the series jump of five-subject exams required to receive a high school diploma.

Administrators and teachers cited hard work by staff and students and one-on-one attention to speak for the improvements, which in the end can affect state funding.

Frontier Superintendent Bruce Kidder said he was pleased with the improvement, and said it came as a reflection of hard work by both staff and students.

“The five core areas we really focused on reviewing more aggressively on the test, and we put more emphasis on short and extended answer questions, which encompass about 25 percent of your score,” Kidder said.

Because everything students do in core classes up until high school feeds into the OGT, Kidder said the district will continue to improve curriculum in all grades.

“With Common Core coming into effect, we’ve got to do some curriculum adjustments to make sure everyone is prepared for all the tests,” he said.

Only 51 percent of students who took the exam, which is administered in 10th grade, passed at Frontier High School in 2013.

“If you fall, somewhere down in the lower 10 percentile of scores, the state can start to become restrictive about how much title funding you can receive,” Kidder said.

This year, passing rates in writing, reading, science, math and social studies all improved, some by as much as 32 percent, bringing Frontier’s 2014 passing rate to 76.9 percent overall.

Kidder said the district receives less than $50,000 annually in Race to the Top grant money, but it uses the majority of it on professional development so teachers can better individualize instruction to help students improve test scores.

“And on testing days, our ninth graders take the practice test, and we incentivize it by letting juniors and seniors who have passed to stay home during the test,” Kidder said.

FHS math teacher Russ Morris said teachers spend a lot of extra time preparing students for the OGTs.

“It also reflects our school, because it means the administration is preparing us, we’re preparing the kids and I’m just tickled at how it came out,” he said. “This test is a big deal, because once they pass it, they can get themselves prepared for whatever the future holds, whether that be college or the career pool, they have that taken care of.”

Morris said for math, teachers compiled special reviews packets and aggressively targeted areas students needed to improve upon.

“It’s all content they’ve learned up until then, not just what they learned that year,” he said. “A lot of the time they know it, they just need to brush up on it.”

At Warren, Superintendent Kyle Newton said he was thrilled at the improvement, as 80.7 percent of the district’s 166 test-takers passed all five areas, up 10 percent from last year.

“I’ve spent a full year in this district, and I know Warren takes instruction personally,” Newton said. “It’s evident with third grade results and it’s evident with high school.”

Warren High School Principal Ben Cunningham said the improvement is just a result of teachers doing their jobs, allowing results to come easier.

“We have great teachers, great students and great parents, and collectively, they want to be the best,” he said.

Cunningham said teachers spend large amounts of time preparing curriculum and test preparation, but found that most of the time if teachers are teaching the material fully, students do not generally have too much of a problem.

Marietta City Schools saw a 1 percent improvement in passing rates from 66.4 to 67.4 percent, and Belpre, Fort Frye and Wolf Creek all saw decreases in passing rates, coupled with decreases in numbers from 2013 to 2014.