State Sens. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tina Maharath (D-Columbus) today cautioned the accuracy of the state’s school report cards, which were released Thursday, and called for the system’s overhaul.
“There are serious flaws in the way we calculate districts’ grades,” said Fedor, who serves as Ranking Member on the Senate Education Committee. “Report cards don’t reflect the quality of the education children receive nor the progress they make. The current measures are not meaningful for the purpose of assessing the district contribution to learning. They penalize large and high-poverty districts, which they threaten with state takeovers. The State recognizes the report card is flawed and depicts a false narrative for our communities and school districts. The legislature has the power to fix these mistakes, and we need to do that immediately.”
Ohio’s school report cards were first implemented in 2013 to show the progress, preparedness and academic achievement of students in each Ohio school district. They include six components:
- Achievement, which measures student proficiency on state tests;
- Progress, which measures student growth based on their past performances;
- Gap Closing, which measures performance expectations for vulnerable students;
- Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers, which measures reading performance of students by third grade;
- Graduation Rate, the percentage of students finishing high school in four or five years;
- Prepared for Success, which measures how students are prepared for future opportunities.
The lawmakers believe that the Progress grade, which represents 20 percent of a district’s total grade, is particularly unfair because the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) uses a formula to adjust for the district’s size that penalizes the grade of large school districts. Furthermore, it is calculated by comparing Ohio’s school districts to each other, which measures mostly socio-economic factors. This means that if a district makes progress, but not as much as the average school district in the state, their grade will be low – not giving credit for actual percentage growth.
“It is vitally important for our children that the legislature addresses deficiencies with the school district report card process,” said Maharath, who serves as a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Many of the components used to determine school success and improvement disproportionately affect larger school districts. Instead we should be considering each district’s unique circumstances, challenges and their individual rates of improvement.”
The Prepared for Success grade is also problematic, because it gives points to students who demonstrate they are ready for college or careers in only a few ways, as determined by ODE. This excludes students who choose paths such as apprenticeships or certain college credits.
“We need report cards that are accurate, authentic and useful so they can be used as a performance management tool in our communities and school districts to address areas of concern,” said Fedor. “Without that, we cannot give schools credit for their successes or help them overcome their struggles.”
State report cards determine whether a school is subject to state takeover. Three school districts were forced into state control through the Academic Distress Commission over the past four years. The recently passed state budget suspends state takeovers for a year. It also abolishes a bicameral, bipartisan education oversight committee, which was studying improvements to the report card. A new study commission is to begin studying the report card when the legislature reconvenes.
The lawmakers say they look forward to working with the commission, school districts, practitioners and community stakeholders to address the flawed components and to reform Ohio’s report card system.