Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I guess Ohio's A-F Report Cards weren't that great after all

When Ohio switched to a new A-F report card system in the 2012-2013 school year, much was made of how wonderful it was.

Here's what the Ohio Department of Education said about them, veritably gushing over the Education Commission of the States' awarding the system its highest marks:
"We released the new A-F report cards with the idea that they would be easier to understand, and provide more information to both parents and educators,” ODE spokesman John Charlton said. “This report kind of validates our efforts so far, as we continue to work on this report card. The real winners are the students in Ohio. They’re going to benefit from the information in that report card, whether it’s their parents using the data, educators using it, or whether the students are looking at it themselves.”
Folks from the education reform community claimed it created a more understandable system (because, apparently, parents couldn't decipher the words "excellent with distinction", "excellent", "effective", "academic watch" and "academic emergency"). Here's how the Fordham Institute described the new report cards:
"The Buckeye State’s new A-F report card is a wonderful opportunity for parents to gain a better appreciation of how their child’s school is doing, and to take action if necessary."
But I was concerned because the new A-F system was even more reliant on test scores than the previous system. And test scores are nearly perfectly correlated with poverty rates, not educational excellence. Here's what I said after the first batch of report cards came out:
"The new Report Card is based largely on standardized tests, which are tremendously influenced by demographics. Under this new system, a building and district's ratings are even more dependent upon their demographics than the prior system, which was pretty well dependent upon demographics as well."
So imagine my surprise when a new House Bill 591 appears and does away with Ohio's much-lauded A-F report card in favor of one less influenced by test scores. I should be excited, right? Not so fast. See, here's the thing.

It would keep the A-F report card for consequential actions -- the very things that make these A-F grades so high stakes, problematic and consequential for schools, districts, parents and kids.

What's "consequential" mean? Oh, whether a district is low performing enough that a charter school can come in. Or kids qualify for private school vouchers. Or whether a charter school closes. These -- and other things -- will all still be determined by a district or school's rating on the hated A-F report card.

And the bill eliminates several transparency reports about how schools spend money and how they educate kids. One of the things Ohio does better than nearly every other state is produce meaningful and copious data points.

Other than that, though ...

Look, I appreciate the effort to undo this misguided report card. As sponsor Mike Duffy, R-Columbus, put it, "nobody likes the current Ohio school district report card."

So why won't he just do a simple bill to get rid of the current system, replace it with a more rational system and go from there? Why would he let this system he admits everyone hates continue holding its dangerous grip on students and schools?

Again, these problems were all pretty predictable from the time the A-F report card was implemented. Yet folks couldn't stop fawning over the brilliance of turning five "grade" levels into the familiar A-F scale from the less familiar Excellent with Distinction, Excellent, Effective, Academic Watch and Academic Emergency system.

Now everyone hates it.

I'm not one to say, "I told you so."

But, well ... you know.

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