"Its preliminary, but we know it's official," said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
He was referring to a presentation made at the recent Austintown Board of Education meeting that was presented by representatives of the Mahoning County Education Service Center. The presentation focused on how Austintown School District has constantly met the state requirements for an excellent district.
"Our rating (this year) is excellent with distinction," Colaluca said. "This is the first time in the history of Austintown that we have achieved this rating."
Superintendent Vince Colaluca
He said in 2006 the district was in "improvement," but wasn't meeting all the state and federal requirements. Austintown was struggling in the areas of fifth-grade math and science.
"We put a lot of effort in those areas," Colaluca said. "We moved to an academic coaching model where teachers were helping other teachers achieve best practices."
He said it went beyond just the teachers. It included the entire staff from the cleaners to the bus drivers. When everyone is working together as a team, he said, it sets the tone for academic learning.
The state has 26 indicators that schools must meet to be considered excellent with distinction. Most of the requirements involve passing proficiency tests. They are given in third through eighth grade, and again in tenth and eleventh grades. The state standard is set at 75 percent of students passing the tests in their respective grade level.
For the 2011-12 school year, the lowest score was 75.5 percent in fifth-grade math to the highest rating of 96.6 percent of the 352 eleventh-graders in the category of writing.
Two other numbers affecting the rating are the attendance rate and graduation rate. For the 2011-12 school year, Austintown had an attendance rate of 94.6 percent and the graduation rate was 91.3 percent. The state average is 93 percent for attendance and 90 percent for graduation.
"Another piece of this is that we met the AYP (adequate yearly progress) that is under the federal No Child Left Behind Act," Colaluca said. "That includes 12 subgroups, including special education and ethnic groups such as African American and Hispanic. Being a large school district, that is amazing."
He said the rating is also an achievement considering another factor. Typically, school districts with a large number of students receiving free or reduced lunches, don't perform as well. In Austintown, half the students are on this program, yet they all performed well enough to exceed the standards.
Colaluca also said he learned that Austintown Local School District was the only district in the state in its category to achieve the designation.
"We are the only Ohio school district with over 4,500 that is excellent with distinction," he said. "Our students and teachers deserve praise for this achievement."