With the release of the annual state report cards only five months away, districts are beginning to prepare parents and community members for a major change in reporting.
Beginning in August, the Ohio Department of Education is changing the way it measures and rates the performance of schools and districts throughout the state.
The first -- and perhaps simplest change -- is the conversion to a straightforward letter grading system. An A-F letter grade is familiar to most adults, state officials have said. The new system would award A-F grades rather than designations currently being used, like "Excellent" or "Continuous Improvement," but also would make it more difficult to get an A.
The changes become a bit more complicated.
Incoming Whitehall Superintendent Brian Hamler said it would be up to his staff to educate the public on the new report card, which might result in a dip in Whitehall's rating despite a lack of any educational changes.
Outgoing Whitehall Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy briefed school board members on the change last month. Aside from the new A-F rating, she said, districts will receive grades in six broad categories. They are: achievement (how well students are doing against national and state standards); gap closing (how well students in specific demographic groups are growing in reading and math); graduation rate (both four- and five-year); progress (how well students' abilities are growing academically); K-3 literacy (how well students in kindergarten through third grade are reading); and preparedness for success (how well students are prepared for either college or a career).
Each district will receive an overall grade for each school and one for the district, based on the six categories.
In addition, by 2014, 80 percent of students tested must score proficient or higher on that test to meet the proficiency indicator. Currently, to meet a test indicator for grades 3-8 and 10, only 75 percent of students tested must score proficient or higher.
Hamler said he thinks many districts, including Whitehall, would see a dip in their state report card score but that it would not reflect a dip in student academic learning.
The dip, he said, probably would be the result of the system itself.
Grades in most categories will begin appearing on report cards in August. In other words, this year's report card will be a mix of the old and the new.
An overall grade for each category -- and the school/district itself -- will not appear on state report cards until August 2015.
New information also will appear on the new state report cards. The report cards will include information like how many students earn college credits in high school, how many graduate with honors, how many receive credentials that prepare them to directly enter the workforce, and whether students were ready for college or careers.
Those items are for information, according to the Ohio Department of Education, and will not be assigned letter grades.