Bexley News

Schools notebook

Letters on card can't tell the whole story

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A single letter, A through F.

That is how the Ohio Department of Education rates every school and district in the state in up to nine categories. Starting in 2015, the state adds six component grades to the overall grade.

Some of these are achievement measures, measuring students against a predetermined standard, and some are growth measures, measuring individual students against themselves.

Achievement relies heavily on where a student began -- what resources and life experiences he or she has at home -- and what the legislature deems "acceptable" performance. Growth measures acknowledge the fact that students learn at different rates and that, no matter where they start, they can learn.

The Bexley City School District has historically fared very well in whatever "accountability" system the state puts in place. We have high-quality teachers, students who are ready to learn and families who are heavily invested in their children's education.

Our enrollment is stable and our taxpayers supportive, even when they no longer have children in the system. In many respects, Bexley is the envy of districts all over the state and even nationwide.

Bexley Middle School's preliminary report card results for 2013-14 indicate we have earned our highest Performance Index ever: 107.6. This measure of achievement is based on how many students score at each level of performance -- limited, basic, proficient, accelerated, advanced.

Despite our record level of achievement and the strong work we have produced, Bexley Middle School's Performance Index will result in a B rating because we just missed the cutoff of 108 for an A.

Of course, when it comes to school, everyone wants an A grade and I am no different. Now, with the state's new letter grade system, instead of focusing our celebration on our students' high level of achievement and the fact that our score is the highest among similar schools, we are left feeling vaguely unsatisfied with a B.

Bexley Middle School's growth measures will again likely be impressive (final results are yet to be released), but students must show more than a year's worth of growth for a year spent in school in order for us to get an A or B grade. So, when we accomplish what we desire -- a year's worth of learning during that year spent in school -- we are rated as "average," with a grade of C.

These are just a couple of ways in which the state's new single-letter grade can be misleading.

A single-letter grade fails to show the nuances of the work that our teachers do with students and it misleads when we talk about individual students who have unique challenges. It can imply we are not paying attention to the needs of all students when that is not the case.

In general, concerning the state report card that will be released in September, I encourage parents and community members to dig in, ask questions of educators. Learn the facts and the perspectives that produce the single-letter grade.

Schools notebook is provided to ThisWeek Bexley News by the Bexley City School District. Jason Caudill is the assistant principal at Bexley Middle School.

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