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EDUCATION Ohio scores above average on report card



Published: Fri, January 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



State officials are pleased 'but not satisfied.'

No one can accuse Ohio educators of not knowing their ABCs -- or of being happy with a C+.

The state got one of each on a state-by-state report card released this week by Education Week magazine.

Ohio got an A in standards and accountability, a B in improving teacher quality and a C in school climate. The C+ came in the funding difference between richer and poorer districts. All the grades were at or above the national average.

The state ranked in the top three nationally in accountability and in the top 10 in improving teacher quality, the magazine said.

Nationally, states averaged a C+ in the four categories, the same as in the magazine's 2003 survey.

Ohio Department of Education officials were "pleased but not satisfied" with the grades, said J.C. Benton, assistant director of public affairs.

Credit

He credited the state's higher-than-average grades to cooperation among the governor, the General Assembly and Superintendent for Public Instruction Susan Tave Zelman.

"It's a tribute to the vision of Dr. Zelman and the road she put Ohio schools on after becoming superintendent," Benton said. "We're obviously very happy to be in the top echelon of schools nationally."

Officials were surprised that while Education Week called the state's adoption of anti-bullying policies a positive sign in the school climate category, the magazine overlooked the setting of teacher standard requirements approved at the same time.

"Basically Ohio students and teachers each have standards they are expected to meet," Benton said.

The report looked at how states are responding to the trend of linking school funding to pupils' scores on standardized tests. The trend follows the federal No Child Left Behind Act requirement that public school pupils reach those reading and mathematics targets by 2013-14.

State legislatures and courts have moved from seeking equity among school districts statewide to striving to demand what are described as a sound or an adequate education as measured against standards.

Funding nationally on K-12 education totals about $500 billion annually.

In surveying the states and the District of Columbia, the No. 1 financing issue was reduced funding or uncertainty over future budgets.

Categories

The categories examined by the magazine and what each means:

UStandards and Accountability: Ohio has clear and specific standards in English, mathematics and science for elementary, middle and high schools. It also has standards-based exams in core subjects -- English, math, science and social studies/history -- in every grade group.

U Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Ohio requires its high school and middle school teachers to pass subject-matter tests before they enter classrooms but does not mandate teachers to pass basic-skills or subject-specific exams. The state holds colleges accountable for how they prepare teachers. Their students must have passing rates of 80 percent or higher on the subject-matter-licensing tests for teachers.

U School Climate: Data from a national survey put the state's school safety, pupil engagement and parental involvement at about the national average. While the state's charter school law is moderately strong, school report cards fail to include class size, school safety and parental involvement.

U Equity: Ohio has a positive wealth-neutrality score, which means that, on average, wealthy districts have more revenue for education than property-poor ones do. The state ranks 19th of the 50 states on this indicator.

Ohio spent above the national average on education in the 2001-02 school year, at $8,165 per pupil, or 14th nationally.




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