Officials from the Ohio Department of Education on Wednesday unveiled a simulation of how public school buildings and charter schools would fare under a new A-F report card system that is to be implemented in phases over the next three years. The simulation, which does not include a third of Ohio’s 338 charter schools, gives many schools poor ratings in some categories.
State education officials had expected public and charter school standings to slump under the revamped grading system, which eliminates such factors as attendance and expands on others, among them the rugged yearly academic progress.
In fact, some schools receive very low marks for some of the new measures.
The goal is to simplify the report cards. The most basic grade — performance indicators — is a snapshot of current academic scores, but there will be additional grades that will force parents and educators to weigh a variety of factors in fully evaluating a school. An overall rating will not be calculated until 2015.
The simulation, which applies grades of A-F to 2011-12 school year data, shows that 60.5 percent of Ohio school districts would receive an A rating for performance indicators using the new standards, compared with 63.4 percent that ranked excellent or better that same year using the old criteria.
“It’s imperative that we have the courage to be honest with ourselves about where we stand,” said Dick Ross, the newly appointed ODE superintendent and a former education expert for Gov. John Kasich.
Under the new report card system, 9.1 percent of charter schools would receive an A, a slight increase from the 8.6 percent that received an excellent or better mark last year. However, some poorly performing charter schools were excluded, and the Beacon Journal has requested an explanation for that issue.
Ross and Tom Gunlock, vice president of the State Board of Education, said in an online conference with reporters that individual school buildings should be compared with one another and that charter schools should not be compared with entire school districts.
Gunlock used a PowerPoint presentation to compare individual buildings in Ohio’s eight largest urban districts with charter schools.
“Sure, a district may look very good, but once you look at the individual buildings you realize that each school has some work to do,” Gunlock said.
However, his comparison excluded 125 charter schools that performed lower than most on state tests. That’s more than a third of all charter schools in operation last year. Eighty-seven of the omitted schools cater to students in dropout recovery programs, although those same students, who tend to score poorly, were included in the public school scores. The public schools were not omitted.
ODE spokesman John Charlton said that some excluded charter schools may have been K-2 buildings that are not required to administer state tests. Others may have been a school with a single grade and fewer than 10 students, so to protect the identity of individual students, scores were not released. Others omitted may have closed midyear.
Among the 125 charter schools that were not used in the simulation, none received an excellent or better ranking last year, and more than two in five were not rated when ODE released the 2011-12 report cards a month ago.
Charlton stressed that the simulation is not indicative of the annual report cards that will be made public in August. It also does not change the rankings that schools have already received for the 2011-12 school year. It’s merely a simulation, he said.
The simulation, officials said, should allow for transparency that would help the public become more critical of individual buildings as they become comfortable with the A-F grading scale, “like the one we use for students,” Ross said.
“Our children can’t wait for change. They need it now. These simulated report cards are a call to action,” said Ross, who addressed criticism that the state is continually moving the goal posts on measuring academic success.
“The world is moving too fast to have a static goal,” he said.
The new grading system would be phased in over the next three years, starting in August with a report card that highlights four performance areas: student achievement; closing the achievement gap for low-performing, disabled or English language learners; value-added indicators that show yearly progress; and graduation rates.
The report cards, while still relying heavily on performance, would eventually measure early childhood literacy throughout the school year in response to the third-grade reading guarantee. It would also measure career and college readiness — a push led by the national Common Core curriculum implementation in the fall.
Additional measures would be added to the system each year until 2016, when a value-added component for high schools would complete the 18 prospective measurements.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.