Ohio’s K-12 Report Card Under Attack as a Flawed Measurement Tool

The Ohio Department of Education publishes an annual Report Card to provide input on the performance of Ohio’s K-12 schools- traditional public and community schools.  Ohio’s K-12 Report Card consists of the following elements:

  • Achievement- number of students who passed and how they performed on the state tests;
  • Gap Closing- measures performance expectations for vulnerable student populations;
  • K-3 Literacy– measures reading performance of students by third grade;
  • Progress– measures student growth based on their past performances;
  • Graduation Rate– student percentage finishing high school in four or five years; and
  • Prepared for Success– measures preparation of Ohio students for future opportunities.

Recently, Ohio’s K-12 Report Card has come under intense fire as lacking credibility as a measurement tool.  Look at Worthington Schools as an example.  Worthington Schools serve a large portion of Central Ohio students in both Worthington and Columbus and has long been known as a leading suburban school district in the state.  Worthington, like most Ohio school districts took it on the chin with recent revisions to the state’s K-12 Report Card.  In fact, even though 98% of Worthington students passed Governor Kasich’s 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee the school district received a C for K-3 Literacy.

Worthington is not alone.  The Ohio Department of Education K-12 Report Card’s formulas resulted in 1,974 F grades by 521 school districts receiving at least one F.  The K-3 Literacy and Value-Added/Progress portions of the K-12 Report Card are tied to statewide averages, which guarantees that districts and schools receive D’s and F’s (roughly half of any group will always be “below average”).  The current ODE Report Card formula holds that under the Achievement Grade anything less than 80% passage is an F, and 80% of school districts got an F in 2017.  Many question the validity of a measure where 80% of the school districts get an F.  Formerly, a Performance Index score of 100 earned an “Excellent” rating (an A under the current grading system) but ODE has raised the formula number for PI to 108 to earn an A. In theory, 100% of students could pass the state accountability tests and the school still earns only a B on this measure.  ODE establishes the statewide average growth as a C, meaning that many schools must get Ds and Fs (half of any group will be below average).  Of greater concern is the fact that the Value Added Formula used to measure progress is hidden to public and not replicable by a school.  Questions have arisen from the Gap Closing grade as it measures growth of subgroups toward stated statewide goals (half of districts got an F) for ESSA.  Opponents of the current Report Card formula argue that gap closing should also look at school-specific gaps, to measure if schools are providing equal educational outcomes for all student subgroups and recognizing schools that provide equal outcomes regardless of the statewide goal. Finally, schools must “run the table” to get an A for their final grade which is virtually impossible given that different components reward different types of achievement.

Bad report card scores not only have challenge public relations impacts harming efforts to pass public school tax levies but also bring vouchers and charter schools to serve new traditional public school districts and can serve to close charter schools performing well with a struggling demographic base.  K-12 Report Card Reform is a topic whose time has come.