Denise Smith Amos reports:
New state report cards for Ohio public schools and districts will make their debut this morning, state officials said yesterday.
But not everyone is happy about it.
Some school district officials have said they expect some unflattering grades, some that might not be merited.
And a few parents said they don’t trust any report card that is based mostly on state tests given once a year.
Jeffrey Jordan, father of a Mount Healthy 10th-grader, said report cards have painted an incomplete picture of how teachers at the junior/senior high school “show a huge interest in my son’s education.”
“I’ve seen a lot of progress in my son’s academics,” he said. “I’d give (the school) an A minus or a B.”
The new report cards “are absolutely not” accurate, says Mimi Webb, superintendent of St. Bernard-Elmwood Place schools. She said she anticipates some unflattering grades that she believes are undeserved.
“I have teachers who are working very, very hard with students, covering a high level of material,” Webb said. “They’re measuring things based on a kid taking one test for two hours. That’s a myopic … and unfair way to look at children.”
Schools got some preliminary grades earlier in the summer but will get the final grades, which include academic growth from year to year, in the new report cards.
The long-awaited new report cards assign grades for up to nine measures of academics, graduation and attendance patterns in the past year.
Most of the A-F grades will be based on how well students performed on state tests last spring. Some will measure the student scores – giving extra points for high achievers – while others will measure what percent of students passed the tests.
Still other grades will measure whether a year’s worth of growth occurred and others will add or subtract a grade based on how well student “subgroups” keep up with their peers.
And don’t expect these report cards to resemble prior report cards. For instance, the new report cards are all online rather than in print.
They also don’t bestow on districts and schools any of the usual state ratings labels – no more Excellent with Distinction or Academic Emergency.
The report card changes are ongoing. This year there will be up to nine letter grades; next year, there will be more. And there won’t be one overall grade for each school and district until 2015.
State officials warn that so much has changed that it might not be possible or fair to compare this year’s results with last year’s. For instance, many of the state’s goals for student passage rates were increased.
But parents say they still want to know if what was their Excellent district last year earns an A or an F this year.
“That would be bothersome,” said Teresa Kitzmann, a parent of twin boys attending Elmwood Place Elementary.
District officials say there is a much greater emphasis on student subgroups – the demographic and social categories that spotlight students with certain extra challenges, such as minority children, students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students just learning English – on the new report cards.
There’s even a new grade that includes how gifted students perform.
Critics of the new rankings say they’re stacked against the districts and schools that have many subgroups because they increase the chances a district can lose a grade or points on the report card.
Ohio Department of Education officials say they plan to release the grades on their website at 11 a.m. today after a 10 a.m. press briefing. Check Cincinnati.com throughout the day for updates.