Julie Carr Smyth

COLUMBUS: Ohio schools would get old-fashioned A through F grades under a new performance ranking system that cleared the state House on Thursday.

Representatives voted 58-27 to pass the voluminous ratings overhaul, sending it to the Senate. That chamber’s leader also has made the proposal a priority before the two-year session ends next month.

The bill would bestow A, B, C, D and F grades on school districts, school buildings, community schools, STEM schools and college-preparatory boarding schools based on 13 performance measures.

The grades would be phased in over four school years to replace the current five-tier system of excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch, and academic emergency. The process would begin with a “dashboard” of letter grades available to the public but no overall grade for districts this coming year.

Community schools serving mostly academically challenged students would see a different scale developed.

“It’s a good bill, it’s a comprehensive bill, it’s a bill that’s been a long time coming,” House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton told legislators. “Could it be better? Probably. Will it get better in the future? We hope so.”

Stebelton, a Republican, equated the lengthy process of hammering out the bill to sausage-making, saying lawmakers faced a Dec. 31 deadline for establishing the new ranking system in order to comply with conditions of a waiver the state received to the No Child Left Behind Act.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, said the bill introduces uncertainty yet again into Ohio classrooms in the absence of a school funding formula that would determine what money districts and schools will receive to carry out its requirements.

Rep. Matt Lundy, a fellow Democrat, blamed Gov. John Kasich for failing to establish the formula, despite promises to do so.

“Our children and our schools, in [this bill], are being set up for failure,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts that have to come together.”

Stebelton said the current system does a poor job of measuring school performance.

Grade rankings for schools and districts eventually will be determined on a host of criteria, including student performance on a national standardized college admission test selected by the Ohio Board of Education; graduation rates; percentage of students deemed “college-ready;” and participation and achievement by students in Advanced Placement.

The legislation also orders the state school board to set a method for measuring improvements in literacy rates between kindergarten and third grade, including possible use of measures for the new third-grade reading guarantee.

State Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, a proponent of the bill, said the current system is misleading or “confusing at best.”

“Everyone who went to school in the United States understands the A-through-F system,” she said.

She also said standards laid out in the bill raises the bar in terms of academic performance.