What a difference the new Ohio school report cards make.
In compiling the new district reports, the Ohio Department of Education did not just replace numerical marks with letter grades. Much of the evaluation changed. As summarized by StateImpact Ohio:
Previously, Ohio gave public schools and districts one of six ratings: excellent with distinction; excellent; effective; continuous improvement; academic watch; and academic emergency.
Those ratings were based on: the percentage of students passing state tests; how well students score on state tests; a calculation showing how much progress students in grades 4-8 made in a particular school year; attendance rates high school graduation rates; and whether the school or district meets federal standards.
For the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, each school and district can receive up to nine separate A-F grades, one for each area graded.
Those areas include the percentage of students passing state tests; how well students score on state tests; a calculation showing how much progress students in grades 4-8 made in a particular school year; high school graduation rates; and how much progress students in certain subgroups make towards state goals for passing rates on reading and math tests and for graduation rates.
Over the next three years, schools are to be graded in additional areas. Therefore, schools will not get a single mark - sort of a grade-point average - that reflects their overall performance until the 2014-15 school year.
In short, the state didn't just move the cheese; it made the maze more complex.
Last fall, eight area schools achieved an "excellent" rating in preliminary 2011-12 district and school report cards.
This year, not one school district received all A's - in the entire state. Only one local district received a top grade in "annual measureable objectives," which replaced an assessment called "adequate yearly progress."
"The new report card system is not a 'gotcha'," said State Superintendent Richard Ross. "But what it does mean is that the school and district will have to work to meet new, higher expectations."
Thus, direct comparisons of this year's grades to previous ratings cannot be made. But, hopefully, the new marks will be useful to area administrators as they focus on strengths and weaknesses in the new school year.