Changes in Ohio School District Report Cards; Understanding Your District Scores

Well known rankings, such as “Excellent” or “Academic Emergency”, found on prior years’ school district report cards are now a thing of the past as The Ohio Department of Education has moved into grading Ohio schools in much the same way as students are graded.

Traditional letter grades of A-F are now being assigned to nine different areas in which schools’ achievement is measured. For now grades should only be interpreted as reflecting on the area in which they are given as overall district grades will not be given until 2015.

Following is a listing of the areas Ohio schools are currently being grade and a brief description of what each of these areas reflects.

Performance Index – the total percent of students passing state issued tests.

Performance Indicators – a measure of how well students are scoring on the state issued tests. For example, a school receives more credit for students who score as “accelerated” than for those whom score as “proficient”.

Value Added – a complex area of evaluation that considers how much progress students grades 4-8 have made over the course of one year. One year’s worth of development is equal to a grade of a C so any school receiving a higher letter grade than that can be considered to be advancing students at a more accelerated than expected rate. Value added is not calculated for students before grade 4 or after grade 8. At the high school level being able to equate yearly progress, when students from many grade levels can often be found in the same classroom, would be near impossibility. The overall value added grade can be seen at the top of the progress section of the report card and is a measure of how well the entire student population is advancing over the course of a year.

Value Added is also comprised of sub-scores that relate to sub-populations of the student body whole. The listed sub-scores include gifted students, students with disabilities, and the lowest 20% in achievement. These grades are listed separately on the report card but are also taken into account in the overall value added score.

The Gap Closing score is a measurement of how well a school district is doing in closing the achievement gap between differing subgroups. The intent is to ensure that all subgroups of students maintain and move towards the same achievement rate. The Gap Closing score is comprised of ten different subgroups and considers student differences such as race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, students with disabilities/exceptionalities, and ESL (English as a Second Language) learners.

There are certain things that parents and community members should keep in mind when viewing district report cards. Perhaps the most significant of these is that the days of “grade inflation” are disappearing when it comes to the grades assigned to a district. With the previous system, again known for rankings such as “Excellent” the majority of schools were able to claim what appeared to be very high scores. In comparison the new letter grade system presents itself in more of a traditional bell curve with the majority of schools performing in the C range in many areas. No school district in Ohio received straight A’s on their report card whereas many in years past were able to earn “Excellent with Distinction” types of rankings.

It should also be remembered, especially in areas such as ours, that overall enrollment can have a profound impact on the way a school scores. This is especially true when evaluating subgroups. In schools which may only have a handful of students in any particular subgroup, each student who does not meet the criteria deemed by the state as adequate in achievement can have a dramatic effect on the district grade. For example, if a school has only five students in a subgroup, one student failing to meet state criteria would drop the grade by 20% – the equivalent of two letter grades. In larger school districts, who may have 25 students in the same subgroup, that same one student would drop a school’s score by only 4% – less than one-half of a letter grade.

While this year’s school district report cards are perhaps a little jarring to anyone more accustomed to the old system, it should also be remembered that no one letter grade on the report card should be interpreted as an indicator of a school’s overall performance. The letter grades on this year’s cards are, instead, merely an indicator of how a school is performing in each separate area and is very similar to looking at a student grade card who is given one grade in Math, one grade in Science, and still another grade in English. Overall district grades will not be given until 2015.

For more information on the changes in the school district report cards or to view the individual building report cards which comprise the district grades, parents and community members are urged to visit the Ohio Department of Education website at www.education.ohio.gov.

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