A New Grading System for Ohio’s Schools?

Holidays sometimes allow for a little more time reading.  One opinion piece I read in the NY Times last week was titled:  “Grading is Degrading.”  The author of the opinion piece is Michael Brick who was a former NY Times reporter who spent a year in an Austin, Texas school and recently published his experiences in the book “Saving the School:  The True Story of a Principal, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids, and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform.”

I’ve not read this book so I can’t comment on it.  But the title of the opinion piece caught my eye as Ohio debates new legislation on grading schools.

Ohio HB 555 proposes a new school report-card system.  In this bill Ohio schools would not get an overall grade on their performance for the next two school years, but would instead get a single grade in each of seven areas.

Beginning in the 2014-15 year, schools would get overall grades under a new school report-card system. The new system would make it tougher for schools to receive top grades, while students will also be taking new, tougher Common Core standardized tests.  (The double-whammy for schools!)

Under the proposed system, measures that don’t currently “count” towards state grades would count for a school’s overall grade. Those measures could include how much progress high school students make in a given year, and college enrollment rates.

The new system would also switch from current labels such as “Continuous Improvement” and “Excellent” to an A-F letter grade system.

Based on my understanding of the bill there are the seven measures that would be included on the new 2012-13 report cards:

  • Annual measurable objectives: This is the “new” Adequate Yearly Progress, which measures progress towards meeting the federal, No Child Left Behind standards.
  • Performance index: The performance index is a weighted average of standardized test performance. Ninety-two or higher would be an “A.” The state board would determine the benchmarks for other levels.  (Last year, about 90% of school districts met that proposed “A” benchmark.)
  • Performance on the Ohio Graduation Tests: A passing rate of 92 percent or higher would be an “A.” The state board would determine the benchmarks for other levels.
  • Graduation rates: This would be based on an average of the percentage of students graduating within four years and five years of starting high school. The average would include both four-year and five-year graduation rates for the past three years. In this area, a graduation rate of 90 percent or higher would be an “A.” The state board would determine the benchmarks for other levels.
  • Value-added: This would look at how much students learn in a given year.
  • Participation rates: This would look at how many students actually take state tests.
  • College enrollment and readiness: This would look at how many students enroll in college and are ready to take college-level courses without remediation.

For better or for worse schools have been receiving grades for over a decade in Ohio.  Some argue that if schools grade students, then the public should be able to grade schools.  Others believe that the grading of schools takes away from the educational experience for kids, and puts a greater focus on testing, and thus, a lesser focus on creativty, collabortation and other important next generation skills.  Honestly I’m not certain that one group is more right than another.  The debate goes on…

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