School report cards: What changes should Ohio make?

A state panel of lawmakers and education officials released a report Monday cataloguing a wide range of recommended changes to Ohio’s school report card system.

Rather than settle on a few specific proposals that the panel agreed on, they presented the suggestions of nine different groups representing the business community, teacher unions, school administrators, charter schools, the state school board and others.

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The suggestions were often at odds — such as whether to keep the report card’s “prepared for success” measure or how to make changes to the performance index used to measure schools’ results on state tests.

“I look at this report as a conversation starter, not the end of the conversation,” said state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, who co-chaired the panel. “It will provide a strong foundation as we look to next steps for improving the state’s report card system.”

Several of the nine groups argued that the state’s “value-added” formula for measuring student growth needs changes, either in how many years of results go into the calculation, or in how the performance of certain student subgroups affects overall grades.

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At least four groups suggested getting rid of the “indicators met” grade, measuring whether a certain percentage of students scored proficient or better on state tests.

The panel included four Republican state legislators, including Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering. Also on the committee were two Democratic state legislators, state schools Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, and superintendents of three individual school districts, including Middletown schools chief Marlon Styles.

Ohio’s Department of Education has been issuing school report cards since 1998. The system was reformed in 2012 to use A-F letter grades rather than such designations as “effective” or “continuous improvement.”

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There has been significant recent debate about the value of the report card, partly because some research shows the state test results on which the report card is based have a significant correlation to community poverty and wealth. The current panel, which was created by last summer’s state budget bill, met three times between Nov. 6 and Dec. 4.

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