An advance look at Ohio’s new A-F report card system, slated to be rolled out in August, shows many school districts score poorly in areas such as closing achievement gaps between students — one of the new graded measures.
The Ohio Department of Education on Wednesday released a simulation of the new report card performance measures showing how school districts, individual schools and charter schools across the state would fare under nine graded areas.
The simulation is based on the recent 2011-12 report cards. Though no overall composite grades are given, the schools are graded in the nine categories which include performance indicators, graduation rates, value-added growth measures and closing achievement gaps.
State Superintendent Richard Ross told reporters during a webinar that “most schools will see lower grades than their past report card rankings have suggested” but he said Ohio must keep raising its goals and standards each year so students are prepared for careers and jobs after high school.
“Some people say it’s unfair to keep moving the performance target for schools,” he said. “We are going to keep improving for the sake of our children. This world is moving too fast to have a static goal.”
Overall grades won’t come until 2015 on the new A-F report cards, which will replace the previous six-tier system that rated schools from “Excellent with Distinction” down to “Academic Emergency.”
One category, listed as Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), shows as many as 38 percent of Ohio school districts get Ds or Fs in closing the achievement gaps between groups of students, such as African Americans and whites and disabled and non-disabled students. This situation is mirrored locally, with about 37 percent of area districts getting Ds or Fs in that category. A newspaper analysis of the simulation found 19 of 52 districts in Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Warren, Preble and Darke counties fall into those bottom two categories.
Ross said there are still two years before the new report cards include an overall composite grade for districts and schools, which means there is plenty of time to improve.
The new report cards will give letter grades on nine new and previously used measures that also include student achievement, graduation rates, K-3 literacy, student progress and if students are prepared for success after school.
About 60.5 percent of Ohio districts would receive an A rating for “performance indicators” using the new standards, according to information from the ODE. That compares to 63.4 percent that ranked Excellent or better that same year using the old criteria.
Locally,including Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Preble, Warren and Darke counties, 35 districts would receive an A rating for “performance indicators” using the new standards, compared to 33 districts that were ranked Excellent or better.
State leaders believe the new, more rigorous school rating system will be simpler for parents to understand than the old system but a local superintendent questioned that.
ODE spokesman John Charlton said most people will have an easier time understanding the new A-F system because they are similar to student report cards.
While Valley View Local Schools Superintendent Bill Kirby agrees with the idea of trying to simplify things, he voiced concerns with the new report card system because he thinks the categories are broad and can be challenging to interpret — even for educators.
“We as educators are digging through this information trying to figure out what does it mean and the general public doesn’t have that opportunity,” he said.
Charlton thinks it will actually give parents and others more information about how schools are performing.
“Because they are looking at so many measures and getting a grade in each of those measures, it allows not only parents and taxpayers but also superintendents and school officials to look and see exactly where their weaknesses are.”
Kirby, whose district was rated Excellent with Distinction, said the simulated grades did show them a weak spot in their program: value-added for gifted students.
“The concern was that in our ‘value-added gifted and talented’ over a three-year period we didn’t show the growth measure and ended up with a D in that area, while all others were As and Bs,” he said Thursday, adding school officials plan to dig into the information to see how they can improve.