By Denise Dick
State report cards released for school districts today won’t look anything like report cards in previous years.
Gone are the “excellent with distinction” through “academic emergency” designations people had grown accustomed to seeing for their schools and districts, replaced by “A” through “F” letter grades.
Eventually, each school and district will get an overall letter grade, but that won’t happen until August 2015. The report cards to be released this morning by the Ohio Department of Education include letter grades for nine areas.
State and county education officials say there’s no easy way with the new system to compare a district’s performance in 2012 with 2013.
“It’s like starting over,” said Ron Iarussi, superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, said the new system doesn’t offer the public a way to look at the information and determine whether a particular district is performing better, worse or the same as the previous year.
“It’s all going to be up to the interpretation of whoever is explaining it to them to say whether or not they’re doing better,” said Schiavoni, who sits on the state Senate’s education committee.
Schiavoni said he understands the need to measure school and student performance but doesn’t agree with all of the ways it is being done.
“There are so many components to these report cards,” he said. “I understand a lot of the logic behind them, but at the end of the day, if people don’t understand it, what’s the point?”
The nine areas that will be graded are: performance indicators; performance index; four-year graduation rate; five-year graduation rate; value added — all students; value added — gifted; value added — students with disabilities; value added — lowest 20 percent of achievement; and annual measurable objectives.
Performance indicators measure the level of achievement for each student in a grade and subject.
Performance index measures the achievement of every student, not just whether they reach proficiency.
Four-year graduation rate includes those students who earn a diploma within four years of entering ninth grade for the first time.
Five-year graduation rate includes those students who graduate within five years of entering ninth grade for the first time.
Value added — all students measures whether or not a school or district met a year’s growth for all students.
Value added — gifted measures whether a year’s growth was met for students gifted in math, reading or superior cognitive ability.
Value added — students with disabilities measures whether a year’s growth has been met for students who have an Individual Education Plan and who take the Ohio Achievement Assessment.
Value added — lowest 20 percent of achievement measures whether a year’s growth has been met for students in the lowest 20 percent based on distribution of scores for the state.
Finally, annual measurable objectives measure the academic performance of specific racial and demographic groups.
Iarussi said the value added — gifted category is likely to include a lot of “C” grades for districts. That means they achieved a year’s growth and met the mark.
One idea in the change is to give schools and the public a better idea of the areas where they’re doing well versus those where they need more work, said Jim Herrholtz, deputy superintendent at the Mahoning County ESC.
“The report cards help drive improvement,” he said.
Herrholtz likened it to a student’s bringing home a report card with grades in several different subject areas. If the student earns an “A” in math but a “C” in language arts, the parent would know that the student needs help with language arts.