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Groups clash over bill to change Ohio school report cards

Jeremy Kelley, Journal-News |

House Bill 200 would remove the overall grade that each school and district has gotten in the past, and would go from six primary components down to five. The “Prepared for Success” component that includes numerous high school metrics would no longer be graded, while the remaining five measures — achievement, progress, graduation, gap closing and third-grade reading — would be tweaked.

Three prominent organizations that represent Ohio school boards, superintendents and school treasurers said they support the new bill.

Dave Axner, executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, called the bill an important step in making the state report card “a more fair, accurate reflection of the great work being done in Ohio’s schools.”

“Nothing about an overall school letter grade properly informs a parent or community about what is going on in their schools,” Ohio School Boards Association CEO Rick Lewis added.

The Fordham Institute, which has produced several reports and proposals on Ohio’s report card in the past decade, strongly disagrees.

“I think it’s a very flawed proposal, to the point of almost ridiculous,” said Aaron Churchill, the Ohio research director for Fordham. “The lack of an overall rating just doesn’t give families and communities a holistic sense of what’s happening in the schools. (That rating) is a bottom line, sort of like a student’s GPA. It rolls up their performance in a bunch of different subjects in a fairly user-friendly way.”

The Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, “welcomed” the introduction of HB 200, but President Scott DiMauro said OEA plans to work with legislators and others “to strengthen the bill.”

“OEA supports systematically overhauling the state’s report card system, eliminating the misleading A-F letter grades and reducing the emphasis on standardized test scores, while reorienting the focus to opportunities for success that schools are providing to students,” DiMauro said.

Ohio Excels, a prominent business/education coalition, thinks Ohio’s report card needs improvement and is confident change will happen this spring. But President Lisa Gray said her group has concerns about many elements of HB 200, pointing to third-grade reading and year-over-year progress measures, as well as the “expectations” terminology.

“We’re a little bit concerned that some of those labels may not be particularly meaningful to parents, so how can we make sure it is understood well?” Gray said.

House Bill 200 will have its first hearing late Tuesday afternoon before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.

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