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Ohio School's Report Cards Are In

Updated: Friday, August 23 2013, 10:01 AM EDT

Ohio’s new school report card system is now in effect, and it could make your local school or school district look less successful than it really is.

That’s because the assessment standards have been changed, making it tougher to get a higher rating. Those ratings are based on things like standardized test scores, graduation rates, and year-to-year improvement.

Under the old system, in place for a decade, Ohio school districts and individual schools were rated in six categories, from “Excellent with Distinction” at the top, to “Academic Emergency” at the bottom.

Now, there are simply five letter grades, A through F.

However, until 2015, the report cards will only rate nine different categories per district or school. There will not be one, single letter grade for a district or school until 2015.

Mary Ronan, Superintendent of the 33,000-student Cincinnati public school system, says “For many schools and districts throughout the state, in our view the state report card will show a significant performance drop from prior years.”

For example, Sands Montessori would have been rated Excellent with Distinction under the old system. Now Sands has, as Ronan explained, an ‘f’ and a ‘b’ and a ‘b’ and an ‘a’ and a ‘c’ and an ‘f’ and a ‘c’.

However, the new system can mask long-term improvement in an alphabet soup of report card grades.

For example, Cincinnati Public Schools increased the number of third graders reading at “proficiency” level since 2008, to 75.9%.

The statewide standard is 75%. Critics also say the new system perpetuates a double standard which existed under the old system.

Ohio spends hundreds of millions of tax dollars on vouchers, which some parents can use to send their children to private or parochial schools. But while public schools receive state report cards, private and parochial schools which receive state voucher aid are not rated.

“It’s a game of divide and conquer,” says Cincinnati School Board member Catherine Ingram. “If you don’t measure what’s going on with our children in the other schools, then you’ve done them a disservice by sending them somewhere else.”

Superintendent Ronan says she supports the tougher standards, but it may take a few years to adjust to a new set of assessments. Under the old report card system, Cincinnati was most recently rated in “Continuous Improvement,” basically the equivalent of a “C”. Under the new system, the Cincinnati school system has a two ‘c’’s, one ‘d’, and six ‘f’’s.

It’s the same children, but a different and tougher way of evaluating their performance. As one educator put it, “an 80 used to be a ‘b’”. Now it’s a ‘c’.”  

Ohio School's Report Cards Are In

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