ODE: 'Abbreviated' state report cards are 'a different tool' in 2020

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com

Lacking the usual testing data because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the annual state report cards released Sept. 15 by the Ohio Department of Education do not contain overall grades for school districts or buildings or ratings for given components or performance measures.

“They are abbreviated report cards this year,” said Chris Woolard, the ODE’s senior executive director for performance and impact. “It’s a different tool, there’s no doubt about that.”

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But parents and district officials still may gather some valuable information from the documents, especially regarding high schools, he said.

“You’re still getting information about graduation rates, the Prepared for Success indicators, which are college and career preparedness measures, and a lot of demographic and enrollment data,” he said.

The report cards do not include information about student performance on state tests, the academic growth of students during the school year and how well districts are addressing achievement gaps for students.

The provisions of House Bill 197, approved last March to provide emergency relief to Ohioans during the pandemic, included waiving state-testing requirements for students for the 2019-20 school year.

“There are no test results to use for the report card,” Woolard said.

The Prepared for Success data applies to students from the class of 2019 and thus were not affected by the pandemic, Woolard said.

The report card also provides some data from the Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers component, including the percentage of students in grades K-3 who were on track to meeting the expected level of reading skill for their grade level and the number of students meeting Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

No consideration was given to postponing this year’s state report cards, Woolard said.

It wasn’t even an option, he said.

“We’re mandated by the state and federal government to put out a state report card each year,” Woolard said. “So we’re going to produce a report card using whatever data we have available.”

It would take a change in policy at both the state and federal levels to postpone or eliminate the report cards, he said.

The reduced amount of data on this year’s report cards limits their use as a tool to measure a district or school’s performance, Woolard said.

In any year, but especially this year, parents and community members should use the state report card in conjunction with the assessments and data districts compile themselves as part of their individual continuous improvement plans, he said.

District leaders also have emphasized that point.

“The state report card is a tool, but not the tool to assess a school district and how well our students are doing,” said Grandview Heights Schools Superintendent Andy Culp. “Every year, not just this year, it is but one assessment we use.”

The state testing is a snapshot reflecting one day in time, Culp said.

“Obviously, you pay attention to each year’s results,” he said. “But it’s more valuable to look at the results over time to see if there are trends that are developing.”

As another example, South-Western City School District officials are rating the state report card as incomplete, said Brad Faust, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum.

“It’s not a tool that is valuable at all, really, to assess and measure how our students are doing,” he said. “If you look up one of our schools, say Harmon Elementary, what does it tell families but ‘not rated’ and ‘not rated?’

“It’s giving people very little information this year.”

But that’s understandable, given the waiving of state testing last school year, he said.

South-Western is using the results of the baseline assessments in reading and math for students in kindergarten through eighth grade the district administers three times each school year, Faust said.

The achievement tests are provided through i-Ready, the assessment-and-instruction program South-Western uses, he said.

“I-Ready is the curriculum we use for math,” Faust said. “We don’t use the language-arts curriculum, but we do use i-Ready’s assessments in that area.”

In a normal year, South-Western uses the results from those i-Ready assessments in conjunction with the testing results and other data on the state report card to help determine where improvements or changes in instruction might be needed, he said.

The state report cards and other data for all schools and districts, including community and other schools, are available at reportcard.education.ohio.gov. The Guide to 2020 Ohio School Report Cards explains available report-card metrics.

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