STEUBENVILLE - Mike McVey admits the past year has been tough for Steubenville City Schools, but said meeting 21 of the 24 performance standards established by the Ohio Department of Education validates the district's commitment to academics.
The Ohio Department of Education on Thursday released the 2013 Ohio School Report Cards, a new assessment of where education is headed in the Buckeye State. The report cards - given for each school and school district in the state - allow teachers, administrators, parents, students and taxpayers to see how each district measures up in the classroom.
The new grading scale eliminates the traditional "continuous improvement" and "excellent with distinction" labels schools once received.
McVey noted the turmoil the school district has faced over the past year - the Steubenville rape trial, allegations of a cover-up, and now the grand jury investigation - but said achieving a "B" grade by meeting 21 standards shows he has a dedicated staff.
"We strive to get better each day to meet the needs of our students," the superintendent said. "Are we happy with a 'B?' No, but it gives us a good starting point."
The only area district to achieve a higher score than Steubenville was the St. Clairsville-Richland City School District, which received an "A" grade for meeting 22 of the possible 24 standards.
The area's remaining school districts finished in the middle of the pack, for the most part. However, three districts did receive a "D" grade and two an "F."
Steubenville topped the local area when it came to four-year high school graduation rates, recording a 94.4 percent total compared to 94.2 percent for St. Clairsville.
Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said the 24 standards cover a range of subject areas across multiple grade levels. He said an example of meeting a standard would be if 75 percent of third grade students in a district can read at a proficient level. If those students do not meet such a level, that district missed that performance standard.
Other Eastern Ohio districts achieving "B" grades were Bellaire Local Schools and Barnesville Exempted Village Schools.
Barnesville Superintendent Randy Lucas said it will take schools some time to get used to the new grading system.
Districts receiving "C" grades were Shadyside Local, Edison Local, Indian Creek Local, Buckeye Local and Martins Ferry City. Shadyside met 19 standards with an 88.7 percent four-year graduation rate; Edison reached 18 standards with a 92.8 percent graduation clip; Indian Creek met 18 goals with an 83.1 percent graduation rate; Buckeye Local had 18 standards with an 89.8 percent graduation clip; and Martins Ferry reached 17 standards with an 82.5 percent graduation rate.
Districts recording "D" grades were Bridgeport Exempted Village, Toronto City and Union Local. Bridgeport reached 15 standards with a 93.3 percent four-year graduation rate; Toronto met 14 standards with a 90.9 percent graduation clip; and Union Local achieved 12 goals and an 89.1 percent graduation rate.
New Union Local Superintendent Doug Thoburn referred to the school grading system as "grossly unfair to teachers and to parents that deserve some measure of confidence."
"No, we are not satisfied with the grades, and we take exception to the image portrayed by these grades," he said in a statement. "Anyone with rational thinking can look at this process and see the lunacy involved."
He also said his district found errors on the report card. "We are working cooperatively with the Office of Assessments at the Ohio Department of Education and there will be a revised high school report card released as soon as those data errors are corrected," he said.
Thoburn then took aim at state lawmakers for the new assessment system. "The frustration in public education across Ohio is that we have had several different grading criteria over the past 20 years by which to measure schools. About the time a school district finds a way to show success, the state changes the rules and we begin all over again - the constantly moving target," he said.
"It would be nice if the lawmakers would spend as much time properly funding public education as they do trying to discredit it. Accountability and measurement are important and public schools should not be afraid or immune to that level of scrutiny, however proper funding and stability are equally important and both have been lacking from this state for many years - how do our elected leaders score on their report card?"
There were two districts receiving "F" grades - Harrison Hills City Schools and Switzerland of Ohio Schools. Harrison met 11 standards with a graduation rate of 88.4 percent, while Switzerland reached 10 standards with a graduation clip of 92.5 percent.
Harrison Superintendent Dana Snider said the district is "moving forward, putting everything in place, to improve the scores."
Switzerland of Ohio features three high schools that cover a 546-square mile area in Monroe County: Monroe Central, River and Beallsville high schools. In 1990, the district had about 3,500 students, but is now down to about 2,400.
Interim Superintendent Daniel Doyle, who took over for former Superintendent Larry Elliott earlier this month, declined to comment on the "F" grade. John Hall will become the new superintendent next week.