State tests earn failing grades

No teacher in his or her right mind would spend months preparing students to take a specific test, then give them an entirely different examination. It is a recipe for failure.

But Ohio public education officials have done something much like that on a statewide scale.

State “report card” evaluations of the more than 600 public school districts in Ohio have been released. Many of them were very, very bad. D and F grades were common on critical evaluations such as student achievement and “gap closing,” the state’s term for ensuring all students, whatever their backgrounds, do well in school.

To a great extent, evaluations of schools and school districts rely on how well students do on the state’s standardized test. But in a way, it is anything but standardized.

During the past three years, the state has changed the standardized test three times. That has made it difficult to prepare students. So has the transition from on-paper to digital testing.

What is particularly disturbing about the process is that it tends to provide cover for schools and school districts that are not doing good jobs of educating children. Some, perhaps many, deserve D and F grades.

But when 526 of the state’s 608 school districts receive F’s in gap closing, it leads some taxpayers to wonder whether the grades reflect flaws in teaching – or in how it is evaluated.

Many schools, not just in Ohio but everywhere, need to be improved. Students, along with dedicated teachers and administrators, are suffering from dysfunctional education systems. But continually moving the target at which they must aim only makes the problem worse.