New school report cards increase accountability

Ohio taxpayers soon will see A-F grades for the schools and school districts they help support, thanks to a new interactive website the Ohio Department of Education will launch with the release of the Ohio School Report Cards this month.

The newly redesigned Ohio School Report Cards grade every public school and district on up to nine measures of student academic growth and achievement for last school year.

The report cards usher Ohio schools into an era of greater accountability, also offering additional features that give parents and taxpayers a sharper picture of how their schools are preparing students for college, jobs and life. House Bill 555 authorized the more rigorous accountability system last fall.

Why the change? Ohio’s old system failed to provide a truly accurate account of how our schools are doing. In recent years, most Ohio schools and districts have received overall ratings of “Effective” or higher on their report cards. Yet roughly 40 percent of our graduates entering Ohio public colleges must take at least one remedial course before beginning college-level work.

We have a problem at the front end, too. In 2012, Ohio had 27,000 third-graders reading below grade level. In spite of these high district and school ratings, many Ohio students are not getting the education they need and deserve.

Ohio’s new school report cards are part of a multi-pronged strategy for turning things around. Ohio’s New Learning Standards in core subjects will engage our children in deeper subject knowledge and better equip them to apply it broadly. Our new Third Grade Reading Guarantee will help schools give all our students a strong foundation for learning early in their school careers.

The new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System raises our expectations for teaching quality. The school report cards will show us how well these solutions are being implemented in every school and district.

Here are additional new features of Ohio’s school report cards:

We are measuring school and district performance against a higher baseline standard: Every child must graduate from school prepared to succeed in college or a skilled job. That means every boy and girl must finish each grade ready to do the work required at the next level. No excuses.

We are evaluating schools and districts on more measures so they can identify and fix accidentally overlooked areas. An example: In a recent simulated report card, Reynoldsburg City Schools got an A on academic progress for students with disabilities, but wasn’t doing as well with gifted student education – another one of the nine measures. The district now is taking aggressive steps to fix that. Each year, we will grade schools on more measures. By August 2015 we will be grading school performance on up to 18 measures under six components.

We are using clearer language. Beginning with the August 2015 report card, each school and district also will get an overall, or final, letter grade. As of now, they have stopped receiving overall ratings such as “Effective,” or “Excellent with Distinction,” which mean different things to different people.

Ohio’s career-technical schools and districts also are getting A-F report cards this month, because we think Ohioans deserve a clearer look at how these important vocational preparation schools are doing. Go to to navigate to these reports.

Parents, make sure to look at your school report card – not just your district report card – to best understand how your child is being served. If you are concerned about a grade ask your principal what’s behind it. We all must work together to make sure that every child in every Ohio community receives the education they need to enjoy a bright future.

Editor’s note: A chart showing marks received by school districts in our area will be in The Advertiser-Tribune Friday.