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McGUFFEY — Last week the Ohio Department of Education released the results of the achievement tests for grades 3-8. The results for Upper Scioto Valley was not good by anyone’s standards and followed a disappointing showing on the Ohio Graduation Test from earlier in the year.
Superintendent Dennis Recker was not in charge of leading the district when the students were preparing for the test, but he is charged now with addressing the academic issues while resolving USV’s financial problems.
“To say the scores were less than desirable would be an understatement,” said Recker. “At this point, I am on the outside looking in and what I see is a community of good people.”
Obviously, said Recker, a change is needed. He is determined to turn the school around over the next two years he has committed to leading USV.
“Things have been in disarray here for the last couple of years,” he said.
Since the test scores were released, said Recker, he has met with many of the teachers.
“They put their hearts and souls into their work,” said Recker. “It’s safe to say most of them are crushed … But we will get better.”
Normally, said Recker, the education world would take a step back and develop a long-term strategy plan.
“We don’t have time for that,” said Recker. “We need to roll up our sleeves and take a look at what is being done well and what things are not being done. We need to find the gaps in the curriculum and plug them.”
Recker’s background is in curriculum, he said. He was brought to the district by the board to improve student performance. Soon after he arrived, Recker had the elementary students taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. He is using the results of that test to compare to the Ohio Achievement Assessment test results to determine where the curriculum needs improving.
An individual student’s results on the Iowa test will show a weakness in a very specific area of instruction, noted Recker. If most of the other students show a lack of knowledge in that same area, there is a need to change how that concept is being taught, he said.
The Iowa results, he continued, give the staff a better understanding of where the students are performing and where they need to be.
“Now we can start taking a look at where the holes are in our instructions,” said Recker. “We will use the OAA as a cross-reference and match up the data points to see where we are.”
Once the staff has determined the areas they need to beef up, he said, the community will be asked to do their part in turning the test scores around.
“My goal is to have more parental involvement,” he said. “Like it or not, the parents have got skin in this.”
In many cases, said Recker, the parents want to help their students with school work, but don’t have the background to help with concepts they don’t understand. The expectations for students have increased drastically in recent years, Recker noted.
“Most people don’t have the background to help their kids,” he said. “The subject matter is beyond them.”
Recker is planning to bring more parents into the classrooms where they can learn the concepts along with the students. The volunteers would need to go through a background check and fingerprinting process before they would be allowed to participate. Recker hopes to secure a grant and get sponsors to offset the cost of that step in the program.
“We will establish a parent network,” he continued. “Then we will see what we can do to make our school better by making ourselves better.”
By involving the parents in the changes at USV, said Recker, the community itself will improve. Once students are proficient, then the district needs to take the next step toward excellence.
He is committed to moving USV in that direction in the two years he is superintendent, said Recker.
“We will see the results of where we are one year from now,” he said. “We are going to hit this and hit it hard. We can’t just wish it, we’ve got to work it. Then we will see where we are in another year and I will have done my job here.
“Why can’t we move up to a new level where other schools are chasing?” he asked. “We can become a school of choice, not a school to be mocked. This will take a tremendous amount of work from our teachers and community. If they don’t buy into it, we are up the proverbial creek and I will not let that happen.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer