the Beacon Journal editorial board

Superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students knew the day was coming. Ohio shifted to new and more demanding Common Core education standards, all but guaranteeing lower marks on the annual state report cards for school districts.

On Thursday, the state Department of Education released the report cards for the school year ending last spring, and rather than 37 districts receiving A grades, the number tumbled to six. The largest share of districts received C grades. The previous year, it was those with Bs.

This is the broader trend to keep in mind, and the leading value that remains in this batch of report cards. The state must do a better job of educating its children — if they are going to compete and succeed in their adult lives.

This hardly is the first indication of such a need. If Ohio has deemed roughly 80 percent of its students “proficient” in the past, the new results put the share closer to 60 percent. Then, weigh the outcome of the National Assessment of Educational Performance, the highly regarded national measure of academic achievement. Its data show 40 percent or so of Ohio students performing at the level for college and career success.

The NAEP scores long have been sobering. For too long, state lawmakers and others have looked the other way. These latest report cards reflect, at last, movement toward a more honest evaluation of where the state stands and, logically, what must be done.

All of this isn’t to overlook the many problems with the report cards. The concerns start with the shifting test providers, the state abandoning one for another, thus making difficult year-to-year comparisons. Next is the long delay, due to problems with conducting and scoring the tests. The results ordinarily would have been released in August or September. Five months later, their value is limited. If virtually all students participated, enough opted-out to skew results in some districts.

David James, the Akron superintendent, makes a telling point about the report cards, or evaluating schools by proficiency tests: The complexity easily is missed. Even poor-performing schools have students who succeed.

Once they are executed well, providing steady and reliable data, the tests and district evaluations can be helpful. For instance, the results highlight the burden of poverty and the need to ensure adequate resources for learning in the classroom. The state education department would add value by providing deeper analyses of the what the data mean.

So, yes, the report cards are problematic. Yet the flaws should not distract from the purpose or progress. Ohio must raise the educational bar for its young people, giving them the necessary resources and opportunities to succeed. That includes delivering a test regimen that accounts effectively for how they are performing.