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Ohio General Assembly revises school report cards
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

Dec. 25, 2012: School report cards issued annually in Ohio are about to change yet again, as the Ohio General Assembly sent the governor a bill that measures student achievement in public school districts and at charter schools with a new letter grade system.

Gov. John Kasich pushed for education reform earlier this year, so the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate finally concurred on a new academic performance rating system just before ending the legislative session for the year. The bill passed 56 to 31. There’s no word yet when the governor plans to sign it.

Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo)

Performance components on the report card will be graded using an A-to-F grading system beginning with the current school year, but no overall grades will be assigned to schools or districts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. All six components and an overall composite grade will be assigned beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.

Toledo Public Schools dropped from “continuous improvement” to “academic watch” status, the equivalent of a “D” under the new letter grading system. TPS officials blamed components of the district’s transformation plan for the drop, including the transition to K-8 elementary schools.

Local educators have complained the state’s academic performance measures have been in a state of flux during the past decade, stalling education reform efforts as teachers and administrators struggle to keep pace with the ever-changing expectations legislated from Columbus.

“In the state of Ohio, we’ve had a moving target of public education every two years, for every budget, the last six budgets,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), a former educator and union official with the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

Many House Democrats, including those from the Northwest Ohio delegation, opposed the extensive changes, calling them “incomplete” and requesting the education reform process slow down to include other, unaddressed issues.

“Educators want to get it right. School districts want to get it right. Parents want us to get it right. I can’t help but think there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done,” said Rep. Fedor. “I’m all for moving toward raising higher standards. Let us get there. Let us really transition appropriately. But this bill is incomplete. A lot of work needed to be done yet.”

“There’s always a lot of change going on in education, because we’re never satisfied that we’ve done all we can do,” countered Rep. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), a former history and government teacher. “I am confident that additional work, additional change, additional listening still needs to happen.”

Both sides of the aisle acknowledged there was a bipartisan spirit to the education reforms that passed. But leaders of both parties also noted more work will have to be done when the next session of the Ohio General Assembly convenes next month. While Rep. Fedor will remain in the House, Rep. Gardener will move to the Senate next term.

“If I thought these were the last changes to be made on some of these big ideas about the report card and these big ideas about helping children to learn to read in the early grades, I would not cast a yes vote if I thought we were done,” said Rep. Gardner. “There will be some Northwest Ohio educators very pleased that we took some additional steps.”

“We know what school districts are going to have problems with mobility rates, students coming and going,” said Rep. Fedor. “We need to address those specific issues to deal with those students in those schools to be successful. That’s what we’re missing here. We’re missing that, folks. We’re almost there—but it’s about getting the transition and the implementation correct.”

The new school report card system includes six categories with an emphasis on early literacy and college and career-preparedness:

·         Student achievement (which includes performance index and performance indicators similar to what exists on the current report card);

·         Student progress (which includes additional measures to the existing value-added composite measure);

·         Gap closing (which measures progress toward reducing achievement gaps by 50% over the next six years);

·         Graduation rate (which will be a separate component rather than combining it with other indicators);

·         K-3 literary progress (which will allow proper monitoring of the reading intervention provisions in Senate Bill 316); and

·         Preparedness for success (which measures to what extent high school graduates are prepared for success after high school)

“School districts are anxious because there is so much going on with common core, new assessments, new teacher evaluations, new report cards,” said Rep. Fedor. “All of this is going to take time and I guarantee it’s going to take money. I’m really here to be the clarion call for everyone to go back to your school districts during this time of our holiday break and listen. There’s a lot of angst. A lot of people want to do things right, but we need to do it right. We are the leaders who need to do it right.

Additionally, the legislation creates an alternative report card for dropout recovery schools that includes every student every year, and is more comprehensive than the report card for traditional high schools. When fully implemented during the 2014-15 school year, the provision will eliminate the current exemption from closure for poor performance.

The legislation also moves away from ranking community (charter) school sponsors based solely on school performance and creates a comprehensive evaluation and rating system designed to dramatically raise expectations for community school performance.

The legislation would eventually adopt the ACT or the SAT as a standardized college readiness assessment for high school graduates, replacing the current Ohio Graduation Test (OGT). That test has been criticized as largely “meaningless” to employers and higher education because it is set at or below a ninth-grade achievement level in both math and reading.

“I want us to be the first state in this nation to get it right. I don’t want to follow Florida. I don’t want to follow all those other states we say we need to champion better. They’ve got their own deal and we’ve got ours,” said Rep. Fedor.


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/25/12 20:14:14 -0800.




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