Educators learn what it will take to make the grade

LISBON – Changes made by the Ohio Department of Education have report cards for schools taking on a whole new look, according to a report provided to the Education Service Center board by director Judy Herron.

Instead of schools being ranked overall using terms like excellent with distinction, effective or academic watch, a new proposed report card system will show parents more areas where their schools are doing well or need to improve. It will also utilize letter grades similar to those students receive in the classroom.

For instance, parents will be able to see a letter grade for graduation rates, not just in four years, but also what percentage of students graduate in five years. The percentages needed to receive an A will be higher than in the past, when a school received a point for graduating 90 percent of students within four years. Now it will require 93 percent in four years to receive and A and 95 percent in five years.

Additionally, proficiency standards previously required 75 percent of students reaching academic achievement level in order for the school to get the point. Now 80 percent will be required to get a passing grade. By the current scale, those schools receiving 22 out of 24 possible points will receive an A on the new report card. Those receiving only 21 will receive a B.

Herron said raising the requirement from 75 percent to 80 percent will drop the scores in local schools by about 20 percent.

Other things being measured include progress, which will show whether students are improving by one year or more. Those schools with students gaining only one year of growth will receive a C grade. In order to receive an A, schools will have to show student improving by two years of growth.

Another measure will be gap closing, whether students in different groups such as gifted, disabled, racial or those facing socioeconomic issues are performing near or at the same level or how wide the difference is in areas such as reading, math and graduation rates.

Another part of the measurements will be the new K-3 literacy component, which measures reading improvements for students to make sure they are reading at a certain level before going onto the fourth grade.

Finally, measurements will be given to see how well students are prepared for success, including seeing whether students graduating are ready to move on to college or a career. Schools will be judged on how many students are taking college admission tests, offering dual enrollment programs for both high school and college credits and offering additional programs such as honors diplomas, available industrial credentials and advance placement classes.

In August, local schools will receive a new report card, measuring only nine new areas. By August 2015, the new report cards will include overall letter grades and measure 18 areas.

Herron pointed out there is a lot of testing already. This new program will eventually include year-end tests for 10 different high school classes to measure performance. However, she said there are also considerations being made for students working on performance based projects.

Another area of concern for Cheryl McGrath, director of special education, is the students on IEPs, programs which give students needing additional help and their parents goals for the upcoming year. McGrath said there is already a ton of pressure for these students and parents are concerned about the new requirements.

“The parents don’t understand why we are raising the bar,” McGrath said, noting many of these special needs students are in diapers and non-verbal. Their parents do not expect them to improve a grade level or two each year.

While the schools will have a few years before the entire program is up and running, it will take time for the schools to adjust to everything new being expected of them.

“It’s difficult for districts to keep up right now,” said Superintendent Anna Marie Vaughn of all the changes in education expectations in Ohio.