By Jacob Myers
Other than the Ohio Department of Education, which provides a searchable database of report cards for all Ohio schools, there are few online resources for parents shopping for the best public charter school.
The NewsOutlet — a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University, the University of Akron and Cuyahoga Community College — sought advice from the state’s most notable school choice advocates on where parents can go when shopping for a public school alternative in Ohio’s urban centers.
The search, part of a multi-year project to gather information on Ohio’s tax-funded charter schools, which currently draw nearly $1 billion and more than 121,000 students from public school districts, led a student intern to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an educational think-tank that sponsors about a dozen charter schools in Ohio.
There, a report published in the fall after Ohio issued its new A-F report card attempts to shed light on the complicated field of education data, giving parents insight behind the numbers.
The report, Parsing Performance: Analysis of Ohio’s New School Report Cards, begins with an explanation of the new Ohio education grading system, which shifted last year to an A-F grading scale.
The report, supported by graphics, analyzes all Ohio schools.
The document also provides a “quick and dirty primer on how schools are doing in our urban areas,” said Aaron Churchill, the report’s author and an analyst at the Fordham Institute.
Apples-to-apples comparisons of urban school districts and charter schools can be complicated. Some charter schools perform better, but enroll fewer poor and minority students. Some charter schools report lower test scores than local school districts, which often contain individual buildings that vary in performance and may actual perform worse than the charter schools.
The report makes an attempt to cut through the confusion.
Tables list schools in Ohio’s eight major cities and include performance on state tests, each school’s ability to add growth to a student’s yearly scores.
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, the University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM radio, the Youngstown Vindicator, the Akron Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio in Akron.