The Ohio Department of Education released a bare-bones state report card today. Thanks to the accusations of data manipulation being levelled at school districts (we'll see how well founded those accusations are in the end), the main data points have not been released yet.
However, value-added scores have been.
Value-added measurements are an attempt to quantify how much academic growth a school adds to a child's education. If you meet expectations, then your kids have grown at the rate we would expect. If you score above that, then they grew faster. Below means they grew slower.
I have expressed concern with using test scores to determine so much of a school district's report card, but value-added measurements hold better promise. And, while it is difficult to figure out how these measures are calculated (Ohio's VAM formula is exempt from scrutiny because it is a proprietary algorithm), VAM is generally a better gauge of success.
However, I should say that using VAM at the classroom level is extremely problematic because it fluctuates wildly from year to year. But on a building and district level, VAM is generally a better calculus, in my book, than other proficiency calculations.
The news on VAM is good for Ohio's traditional public school buildings. Of the 2367 school buildings that received value-added measurements last school year, nearly 82 percent met or exceeded expectations. About 30 percent exceeded the measurement, while about 18 percent scored below the value-added measure.
What is interesting is that the VAM scores tend to be more fair to traditionally challenged districts.
For instance, the Big 8 Urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) had 73 percent of their buildings meet or exceed expectations. Given the rhetoric surrounding urban education in Ohio, one would think they would be doing worse than having 3 out of 4 buildings meet or exceed growth expectations.
Again, proficiency scores are so inexorably tied with demographics that one can predict a school's proficiency scores by knowing the demographics. This dependence on proficiency scores is why the Big 8 likely will be rated poorly on the full report card, even though nearly 3 out of 4 of their buildings are meeting or exceeding student growth expectations.
VAM also shows that three of Olentangy's buildings and one of Hudson's buildings failed to achieve acceptable growth. Olentangy and Hudson are among the most traditionally revered districts while Ohio's Big 8 districts are the constant subject of attack from many who do not like public education.
What VAM shows is that improvement should happen everywhere. Wealthy districts can't skate nearly as easily with VAM. This is not to say VAM is perfect or accounts for all the challenges to growth that demographically challenged districts face.
But it is appreciably better at measuring the true success of a school and district.
How about Charter Schools, you ask?
They scored worse an traditional school districts overall. Of the 224 Charter Schools that received VAM scores, 78 percent scored at or above expectations, while 21 percent scored below. About 25 percent of Charter Schools scored above expectations.
While proponents may say the only fair comparison is with the Big 8 (which did worse overall than Charters on VAM), remember that all school districts in Ohio lost children and money to Charter Schools last year. Charter School proponents can't accept money and kids from every school district and then ask to not be compared with every school district on performance measures.
And as for those Big 8 districts, children educated in non-Charter Schools in the Big 8 districts receive more than 11 percent less state revenue, on average, thanks to the Charter School funding system. In Cincinnati and Columbus, kids lose more than 25 percent of their per pupil state revenue thanks to Ohio's Charter School funding system.
Think that might explain some of Big 8 schools' test score struggles?
Overall, every child in Ohio that does not attend a Charter School will receive an average of 6.5 percent less state revenue because of how much money Charter Schools remove from the system. That's a detriment to every Ohio child, not just those in the Big 8.
Charter School proponents have always contended they could educate kids cheaper and better than traditional schools. The preliminary data released by the Ohio Department of Education today indicate that while they remove $771 million from traditional schools last year (the exact amount the Ohio Lottery contributed to education, by the way, in a record year), leaving every Ohio child not in a Charter School with 6.5 percent less state revenue, they are generally getting worse results. And they cost the state about twice as much per pupil.
We'll have to see how the full-blown report card data turn out, but at least preliminarily, it looks as if Ohio's traditional public schools are doing a pretty good job educating children. And it looks like they are doing a better job overall than Charter Schools.