Although Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District received an overview A on the most recent state report card and was the third highest rated district in the state, local officials said last week that there is still some room for improvement.

During a special school board meeting on Sept. 25, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Becky Quinn and school psychologist Jen Bencko discussed data from the report card issued Sept. 12 by the Ohio Department of Education and goals for this academic year.

Going into the 2018-19 school year, Mrs. Quinn said that the district had some strategies for addressing issues that had come to their attention. Those strategies included formally accelerating students in fifth and eighth grade who were taking advanced courses so that they would be tested at the proper level with a weighted score, which positively affected the district’s performance index. The district also continued to offer gifted services in a cluster model for third- and fourth-grade students, according to Mrs. Quinn.

K-12 Math Instructional Coach Barb Cymanski added that the district moved to offering double blocks for math as an intervention for students who needed extra help in the subject area. A double block schedule means that students spent two days per week on either English language arts or math for twice as much time as they would normally. According to Ms. Cymanski, students at the high school were also offered additional time for algebra or geometry each week.

“Kids that were in algebra extensions last year, 79 percent of them grew one or more performance bands, and 16 percent of them grew two or more performance bands,” Ms. Cymanski said. “I would definitely say that the work we’re doing there is making a difference.”

“Based on both the math data and the ELA (English language arts) data we’re seeing some indicators that this model of intervention is really making a difference,” Mrs. Bencko added.

Though these previous interventions were successful, Mrs. Quinn and Mrs. Bencko walked through areas at the district that will need work in order to maintain the district’s success as seen in the recent report card. District officials have examined specific grade levels and content areas in which achievement was low, and are identifying steps to make improvements.

Administrators said they also plan to identify obstacles to math achievement in grades five and eight, which scored low in performance on the recent report card, partially because many students in those grades take advanced courses. The district plans to work with individual students to improve scores and maximize use of new programs and supports like the K-12 grades math coach, Mrs. Quinn said.

Ms. Cymanski emphasized the need to support the 30-40 percent of children who are taking their grade level math tests, especially through the double block methods that have been proven effective.

Board members expressed a desire to keep the district performing well through continued interventions, but only to the extent that it would be valuable for students.

In order to foster continued success, Mrs. Quinn and Mrs. Bencko presented the five academic goals for the 2019-20 school year. The district’s first goal is to review and refine the curriculum that the district is using, especially in English language arts and social studies for grades kindergarten through 12. The district will also be working on developing better math assessments for grades kindergarten through 12.

Another goal the district is working toward is reviewing and refining its grading practices for homework and test retakes. As discussed at a previous meeting, the district is continuing to develop its strategic plan known as Destination 2023, which will include evaluation of their mission and vision, creation of a profile of a graduate and development of action plans for implementation from 2020-2023, according to Mrs. Quinn and Mrs. Bencko.

The district also plans to look at developing a multi-tiered system of academic supports for students, as well as provide more emotional support. The district plans to examine self-paced learning options at the secondary level, the administrators said, and identify possible applications by June of 2020.

The board last week also discussed financial goals which are currently a work in progress. Treasurer and CFO Ashley Brudno is in her first year at the district, and has been making an effort to create a financial forecast.

“We don’t just look at the dollars contrary to popular belief,” said Mrs. Brudno of her position as treasurer. “We do understand that every decision that we make does impact the classroom.”

Several board members emphasized that it was not in the best interest of the district to decide on a cost reduction goal during the 2019-20 school year, but requested that Mrs. Brudno and Superintendent Robert Hunt create a list of items that might be considered for cuts.

Mrs. Brudno also said that she hopes to maintain the approximately 68 percent of funds that are channeled directly into classroom investments even if cuts are made.

“Obviously, we can’t eliminate operations,” Mrs. Brudno said. “It takes that too, but I think that trying to maintain where we’re at or maybe even improving upon that a little bit does achieve [cost reduction]. If we reduce costs, we’re not going to reduce them from the classroom, and maintaining that ratio makes it so that, we can’t remove things from the classroom.”

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