LISBON - For the second year, six school districts in the county have earned an excellent rating from the Ohio Department of Education.
The preliminary report cards released by the state this week showed Columbiana, Leetonia, Lisbon, Southern Local, United and Wellsville ranked highest out of the 11 districts during the 2011-12 school year.
An excellent rating is the equivalent of an "A" under the state department's report card system for measuring the performance of school districts.
Of the six, three districts increased their performance over last year. Leetonia earned the distinction this year by meeting all 26 state indicators and a performance index of 96.7 percent. The year before the district was rated effective and only met 16 state indicators.
Southern Local also pulled away from an effective rating and Wellsville from continuous improvement, meeting all 26 indicators and achieving a performance index of more than 90 percent.
State indicators are based on state assessments, graduation rates and attendance. To earn an indicator at least 75 percent of students must meet or exceed the proficient level. The performance index gives a district points based on all students' achievement regardless of proficiency. Districts are also rated based on adequate yearly progress and the value-added measure, which adds bonus points based on student long-term progress.
The excellent ratings weren't much of a change over last year for Columbiana and Lisbon schools districts, although Columbiana did fail to meet one state indicator this year.
Superintendent Don Mook said a change in the graduation rate formula is what kept the district from earning the indicator.
He explained that under the formula, a special education student who extends their schooling over four years counts against the graduation rate. One student in the district opted to extend their schooling, which resulted in the district meeting only 25 of the 26 indicators.
Mook said that while the student "certainly has that right," in the long run the formula "actually hurts districts."
He hopes the state will reconsider the formula next year.
Aside from the change the district's rating was nearly the same as last year.
"We've been very consistent. I think for the most part our students have been very successful, and our teachers," he said.
The district is now focusing on preparing students for changes in the common core curriculum standards, he added.
Lisbon Superintendent Don Thompson also credited students, staff and parents for the district's excellent rating.
The district was rated excellent last year as well, although at that time it only met 20 of the state indicators.
"We are very pleased. We have been on a path of improvement for the past few years - The amount of indicators we got was the highest and the performance index is the highest it's ever been," he said.
The district also exceeded the value-added measure which adds bonus points based on student long-term progress.
"All credit goes out to the staff and students of our district because they are the ones that do all the work," he said.
East Palestine Superintendent George Fisk said the district is looking at every aspect of its education program to improve over the coming year.
It was the only district in the county rated continuous improvement, the equivalent of a "C" grade.
Fisk took the helm of the district earlier this year, and since his hiring a whole new administrative team has been put in place.
"Since our new administrative team came on board we have been looking at test scores," he said.
He added the team is not looking for "quick fixes" but a way to sustain excellence over the years.
Specifically, math skills among students at the middle school need to be addressed, he said.
Other districts whose ratings declined over the last year were Beaver Local, Crestview and Salem, which each slipped from excellent to effective.
Unlike those in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, none of the districts rated excellent with distinction or academic watch, which are the highest and lowest ratings respectively.
The report card data is typically released in late August but was put on hold as a result of an investigation into false attendance records submitted from districts across the state. A final report card will not be issued until the investigation is complete, the ODE said in a press release this week.
The ODE did not provide information for the Buckeye Online School for Success, a K-12 public online school in East Liverpool.