A group of Stark County school officials is asking legislators to stop Thursday’s release of state report cards because they do not accurately represent their districts’ performance.

“We agree that the data in this report card release is flawed and does not accurately reflect the achievement and growth of the students in the 22 local school districts we work with,” said Joe Chaddock, superintendent of the Stark County Educational Service Center, during a news conference on Tuesday.

Chaddock, a representative from Stark Education Partnership and other county and district officials gathered at the service center to chime warning bells that some previously high-performing districts had received lower and failing grades when preview data was released Monday by the Ohio Department of Education to each district through its private portal.

Dramatic shift

Data provided by the service center shows that district report card progress grades shifted dramatically from the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year. The 2013-14 records show 13 districts receiving A’s and four districts receiving F’s, while in 2014-15, only four districts received A’s and 12 received F’s.

Chaddock and the others also shared their view that the data is convoluted and invalid and questioned why the Ohio Department of Education would release assessments from math and reading standardized tests from a company that has been dropped by the state legislature amid concerns of its legitimacy.

“The General Assembly eliminated the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) after one year over concerns about the test validity, length and time to administer,” Chaddock said. “Additionally, public schools, teachers and students are held harmless through safe harbor this school year because of the validity of the test.”

The state has hired the American Institutes for Research, which tested Ohio’s students in Social Studies and Science last year, to give all state mandated tests going forward.

Measuring progress

Jackson Local Schools Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto said it is difficult, if not impossible, to make determinations on whether a student has improved, when the benchmarks keep changing.

“How can you measure a student’s progress from three different tests and tell whether they grew or not,” DiLoreto asked. “We need consistency.”

DiLoreto’s sentiments were echoed by superintendents from Alliance City, Fairless Local and Lake Local schools.

“These assessments are something we’re not going to pay attention to. The data is flawed and we are not going to use it,” said Jeff Wendorf, Lake Local Schools superintendent. “We are going to keep doing what we need to do for student success.”

Chaddock said that the districts represented by the service center have three goals — to prepare students for college, to prepare students for careers and to prepare students for the military.

Educators had braced for an expected drop in scores on this year’s report cards, which were aligned to the more rigorous Common Core state learning standards. Parents opting children out of taking tests also hurt school grades, further questioning the validity of the state’s accountability system. Now, they are hoping that when the grades are released, that parents and community members will understand that the results are flawed.

Negative perception

Thursday’s report card grades are expected to include achievement (which typically favors wealthier schools), learning gains (developed to control for poverty) and whether subsets of students based on race, poverty and other factors are catching up to higher-performing students.

A negative perception of districts could affect the ability to pass levies and secure grant money.

And a perception that Ohio schools are failing could affect the presidential campaign of Gov. John Kasich.

Whatever the impact, Teresa Purses, president of Stark Education Partnerships, said she hopes that people will remember that districts are more than report cards. She noted that each year, Stark County districts have improved their graduation rates, increased the number of students taking advanced placement courses and prepared more students for college and reduced remediation rates. She also noted that the district averages exceeded the state averages on the PARCC and AIR tests and the third-grade OAA reading test.

“Before we had the report card, we really trusted the information we received from the schools. We’re hoping we never lost that trust,” said Purses. “I hope we applaud the successes that our districts are having. I wish the state had made [last year’s] scores a pilot because our districts are more than a report card. When our students are college and career ready, you can’t measure that on a report card.”

Letter grade system

This year’s state report cards (from the 2014-15 school year) have shifted to a letter grade system and are behind schedule because the standardized state tests used to calculate, also in flux, took much longer to score and return.

Curriculum directors, superintendents and members of the state board of education are still grappling with how to measure student performance from one year to the next in a state of constant change.

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or cjenkins@thebeaconjournal.com. She can be followed at www.twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.