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District Statistics

  • School District: Ashtabula Area City Schools (AACS)
  • Number of Schools: 10
  • Number of Students: 4,338
  • Grades: PreK-12
  • Population: Caucasian 72%; Hispanic 10%; African-American 9%; Multiracial 9%; Asian/Pacific Islander .5%; economically disadvantaged 63%; special education 20%; limited English proficient 4%
  • Assessment tool: Ohio Achievement Tests (OAT) and Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT)
  • School Structure: Urban

Ashtabula Area City Schools Improves Test Scores and Earns State and National Recognition for Student Achievement Gains

Ashtabula Area City Schools implements Scientific Learning Fast ForWord® software to help struggling readers and students with disabilities improve their reading proficiency and performance on the Ohio Achievement Tests (OAT) and Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). Over the last three years, the percentage of students passing the OAT and OGT has increased, and the district has earned state and national recognition for its improved achievement.

Challenges

  • Economically disadvantaged student population
  • Low state test scores
  • “Academic Watch” district designation

In Ohio, the designations for districts and schools are: Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch or Academic Emergency. In 2004-05 when its state test scores were released, Ashtabula Area City Schools (AACS) met only two of 23 state indicators for student performance. It was no surprise that the district received a designation of “Academic Watch.”

“We fell into corrective action and were in ‘District Improvement,’” said Assistant Superintendent Patrick Colucci. “This was not acceptable. We knew we needed to do something to improve.”

Prior to joining AACS, Colucci had used the Fast ForWord reading intervention software with positive results in another school district. AACS decided to pilot the software at Saybrook Elementary.

“We used the Fast ForWord program there with 14 or 16 students, most of whom had learning disabilities,” said Colucci. “Of those students, at least 12 passed the OAT. One young lady made a 62-point jump on proficiency and missed passing the test by only 2 points. Those results were eye opening. When our administrators saw the results, they said, ‘I want that in my building.’”

Solution

During 2006 and 2007, Ashtabula schools began adding the Fast ForWord software to their reading instruction. “Those schools that used the program with fidelity saw similar results to the pilot at Saybrook,” said Colucci. “As our administrators started to see the gains, they put more and more students on the program.”

Today, AACS implements the Fast ForWord software in all seven elementary schools, the junior high and the high school. At the elementary schools and high school, the Fast ForWord program is used primarily by students with learning disabilities and students who did not pass the OAT. At the junior high school, which has a site license, all students work on the software. Most students in the district work on a 30-minute protocol.

In each building, teachers and principals regularly review reports from the Fast ForWord software to monitor individual, classroom or school performance, and identify areas of need.

“We really value the Fast ForWord program and are putting as many students as we can on the program,” said Colucci. “According to the staff at each school, students who have worked with the software are reading at a higher level, and are able to focus and stay on task longer. Parents tell us the same thing. We’ve also seen students’ writing skills and math skills improve, which were unexpected benefits.”

Results

  • Improved OAT and OGT scores
  • “Effective” district designation
  • State and national recognition

Thanks to the hard work of students, teachers, parents and administrators, AACS has achieved significant gains since 2004-05.

In 2005-06, the district met nine of 25 state indicators and raised its designation to “Continuous Improvement.” In 2007-08, it met 16 of 30 state indicators and received a designation of  “Effective.”

District Designation
Year# of State Indicators MetDesignation
2004-052 of 23Academic Watch
2005-069 of 25Continuous Improvement
2006-0712 of 30Continuous Improvement
2007-0816 of 30Effective

During this time frame, the percentage of students performing at or above the proficient level on the OAT and OGT increased at nearly every grade level.

Ohio Achievement Tests (OAT) All Students
Percentage of Students At or Above the Proficient Level
GradeYearReading %
Grade 32004-0567.5
 2007-0875.7
Grade 42004-0569.0
 2007-0883.7
Grade 52004-0566.7
 2007-0866.3
Grade 62004-0556.8
 2007-0875.2
Grade 72004-05--
 2007-0869.5
Grade 82004-0567.1
 2007-0875.7
Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) All Students
Percentage of Students At or Above the Proficient Level
GradeYearReading %
Grade 102005-0678.3
 2007-0883.6
Grade 112005-0685.5
 2007-0890.0

The performance of students with disabilities improved as well. From 2004-05 to 2007-08, the percentage of students performing at or above the proficient level in reading jumped from 29.4 percent to 44.7 percent.

Students with Disabilities
Percentage of Students At or Above the Proficient Level
YearReading %
2004-0529.4
2007-0844.7

In addition, students with disabilities have shown such exceptional improvement that the method in which they learn will become a model to others in the state. In 2009, the Ohio Department of Education selected AACS as one of 30 districts to provide feedback to the state on its success. The State Support Team will then compile data from all the districts and share the information as a model for improvement for other Ohio districts.

In 2009, as a result of its consistent improvement in reading and mathematics among all student subgroups, AACS was also one of three Ohio school districts and 10 nationwide to be nominated and chosen to participate in a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The study will determine how districts are using federal funds provided by No Child Left Behind to improve student achievement.

“It is a tremendous honor and a privilege to be selected for this study. Our students and staff have worked very hard to make these gains,” said Colucci. “The Fast ForWord program is one of the programs that has been a big part of our success.”


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