Dayton Daily News Takes Cheap Shot At Kettering Schools

The Dayton Daily News today weighed in on the big penalty given to Kettering Schools by Ohio’s Department of Education (ODE) in the latest State Report Card.  The spirit and substance of the DDN editorial is captured in its title, “Give Students Help, Not Just Complaints.”

The DDN got it wrong.  The newspaper doesn’t like the fact that Kettering Superintendent Jim Schoenlein called the state’s ranking system “unfair” and “bizarre.”  But it seems any fair observer would agree with Dr. Schoenlein.  (You can download a copy of the new ODE Report Card for Kettering Schools and read my article about it here.)

To imply, as DDN does, that Kettering Schools is more centered on complaining about Ohio’s system of school evaluation rather than on helping students is simply unfair.  It’s a cheap, unfounded, shot.

Kettering’s “Grade”  was knocked down four pegs — from “Excellence With Distinction” to “CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT” — not three pegs as DDN reported.  I think the words “unfair” and “bizarre” are appropriate.  Kettering got a huge penalty because the reading scores for Kettering students in two subgroups did not meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for three years.  By its headline — “Give Students Help — Not Just Complaints” — the DDN accuses Kettering Schools of not making a good effort to give students in these subgroups help.  The newspaper makes this accusation without showing any insight into what Kettering has actually been doing to help children in these two challenging subgroups.

The DDN says, “Certainly, Kettering needs to focus more attention on English learners and those in special education.”

Really?  This is a serious accusation.  But, how can DDN make such an accusation when it gives no evidence that it has any inkling of how much attention and effort is already being extended to these two subgroups?  The newspaper gives no evidence that it has any understanding of how Kettering responded to previous AYP deficiencies.  It gives no evidence that its criticism is based on such important facts as how much money Kettering spends in these two areas, how the money is spent, or what special efforts Kettering has attempted in these two areas over the last few years.  The DDN gives no evidence that it has any understanding or really any interest in how Kettering has or has not modified and improved its strategies with the children in these two subgroups.  The newspaper’s sole basis for slamming Kettering Schools is that these two subgroups got low scores.  Isn’t there a whole lot more to the story?  I intend on researching the whole question.

I’m disappointed that DDN has published an unfair and unjustified editorial accusing Kettering Schools of negligence in its efforts to help special education students and students who are learning English as a second language.  By not taking the time to research what Kettering Schools are actually doing, by taking a cheap shot, DDN in its editorial today does a disservice to the community of Kettering.

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2 Responses to Dayton Daily News Takes Cheap Shot At Kettering Schools

  1. Eric says:

    Kettering: “Our issue is with a bizarre ranking system”

    Lebanon: “We obviously recognize that we have a need to meet the academic needs of all of our students, and we also understand we have a subgroup of students where we need to do a better job”

    DDN called the Kettering Superintendent out for whining. Hardly a cheap shot. When talking to a reporter, a better comment would be, “for 90% of our students, this district is excellent with distinction. We’re equally committed to the remaining 10%.”

    Since missing AYP can have very severe consequences (required by federal law), it’s hard to argue the rating shouldn’t reflect that. If you want to give districts a letter grade, look at Performance Index.

    The DDN didn’t allege negligence. They called out a common and somewhat justified reaction of superintendents. My guess is this super was still stunned by the AYP smackdown, didn’t have a quote prepared for DDN, and vented a bit as he put his thoughts together. Booboos happen.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Eric, I see DDN’s accusation that Kettering Schools has been negligent in its education of two specific subgroups of students in its headline. The headline is addressed to Kettering Schools and says, “Give Students Help.” This headline and article — which gives the helpful advice, “Certainly, Kettering needs to focus more attention on English learners and those in special education” — communicates that it is the newspaper’s view that Kettering Schools have failed to give the students in these two specific subgroups the help that they need. If this is not an accusation of negligence, it is an accusation of incompetence.

    To accuse a school district either of incompetence or negligence is a serious accusation. The point of my post is that, if a newspaper is going to write an article scolding a school district for not helping students, it should make at least a little effort to research the matter. Where’s the evidence? Kettering failed to meet AYP in reading for the two subgroups — Students with disabilities, students with English as a second language — but it met AYP in mathematics with these groups and met AYP standards for attendance and graduation with these two groups. It sounds to me, just by looking at these scores, that Kettering is giving a lot of help to these two subgroups. And, if DDN would care to look at the total program that Kettering provides to children with disabilities and children whose English is a second language, I would bet it would find a well funded, well thought out program directed by competent and professional individuals, a program that gives a lot of help to a lot of students.

    So yes, the headline and story DDN put together about this matter, I feel, was a cheap shot. It was cheap, because, the newspaper made no investment into making the effort needed to find out the truth about the education and help that Kettering is providing these two subgroups of students. It takes effort to do real reporting — effort beyond sitting at your desk reading test scores.

    Of course Kettering Schools want to make AYP in all categories and with all subgroups of students. I have confidence that the school district has been making good efforts to do just that. I would like to know why Kettering didn’t meet AYP in these two categories, but I bet it wasn’t for lack of effort. I said, I intend on researching the question of exactly what has been happening with these two subgroups in Kettering Schools over the last few years. I imagine there is a whole story behind why these two groups in Kettering have not met AYP in reading and a whole story of why Northmont did meet AYP. Kettering’s population of children whose English is a second language may be very dissimilar to Northmont’s corresponding sub-group. But maybe not. I’m going to make the effort to do the research.

    The penalty given to Kettering was unreasonable. Dr Schoenline’s comment that Ohio’s school ranking system is “unfair” and “bizarre,” I feel, is appropriate. I imagine a lot of school leaders agree with Dr. Schoenline’s assessment.

    I want to further develop this article — A Great Question: How Can We Tell If a School Is Excellent? — that I wrote a couple of years ago.

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