An early look at Ohio's new school report cards highlights some weaknesses that weren't evident before: Many schools earn low grades in closing achievement gaps among students, helping their lowest-performing kids and making sure gifted and special-needs students improve. The Ohio Department of Education made a simulation of the new report-card measures public yesterday, a what-if scenario based on last school year's data.
An early look at Ohio's new school report cards highlights some weaknesses that weren't evident before: Many schools earn low grades in closing achievement gaps among students, helping their lowest-performing kids and making sure gifted and special-needs students improve.
The Ohio Department of Education made a simulation of the new report-card measures public yesterday, a what-if scenario based on last school year's data. Some of the measures have been part of the report cards for years; some, such as measuring success with low-performing students, are new. Starting this fall, performance in all of the measures will be assigned letter grades to make them easier to understand.
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Some educators say it's unfair for the state to change how it measures school quality every few years. But state Superintendent Richard Ross said yesterday that if Ohio's education system is to improve, the state must keep aiming higher.
"Our children can't wait for change," he said on a call with reporters. "My message to superintendents, school board members and communities is this: Look closely and examine carefully the data. Come up with a plan for improvement, and begin taking action now."
Unlike the current report cards, there's not yet an overall grade. The department won't publish overall grades until 2015, instead issuing several grades in broad measures, including test-score performance, graduation rates and year-to-year improvement.
Nine graded areas were previewed yesterday. More, including some that measure college readiness and reading skills for younger students, will be added over time.
Grades released yesterday for individual public schools bring into focus how few excel at closing gaps between groups of students - black and white, disabled and non-disabled, for example. The new measure shows that nearly 43 percent of central Ohio schools would get a D or F grade in gap closing. Statewide, about 48 percent would. Among charter schools, 77 percent would earn a D or F in the achievement-gap measure. That excludes dropout-recovery schools.
Another new measurement illustrates how few schools are doing enough to help their lowest-performing students catch up: Only 12 percent of traditional public schools are, based on last year's work. The outlook for low-performing students in charter schools is only slightly better; about 22 percent of the state's charters are moving quickly enough to help them.
"This grade needs to be an A if children are ever going to catch up," said Tom Gunlock, vice president of the State Board of Education.
Other new measures show whether schools and districts are making enough gains with gifted and special-needs students. The simulation shows that children with special needs aren't getting a year's worth of learning in 20 percent of the state's traditional public schools, although 14 percent of schools are offering special-needs kids well more than a year's worth. Central Ohio schools are doing slightly better than the state overall with special-needs children.
Twenty-six percent of charter schools (excluding dropout-recovery schools) aren't covering enough ground with special-needs children. Overall, schools have similar struggles ensuring gifted children are making gains.
Some school districts with top overall ratings under the current report cards falter in some areas under the previewed ones. For example, Granville in Licking County has an "excellent" or A rating overall on last year's report card. But under the new one, the district would have received an F for its progress with gifted children. (It would get four A's, two B's and two C's on other measures.)
Hilliard, an A-plus district on the current report card, would still get all A's and B's under the new one - except in closing achievement gaps. There, it would have a D.
Columbus City Schools would earn two A's, one for working with its lowest-achieving students and another for gains with special-needs children. The other seven grades are D's or F's. The district's current overall grade is a C.