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State Rankings for Ohio Schools: 2011

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Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 5:09 PM

[Looking for the most current school performance data? Click here for our school report-card resources.]

The Ohio Department of Education released a draft ranking of every school and school district in Ohio, based on student scores on state standardized tests. The rankings include traditional public schools as well as charter schools, joint vocational school districts and STEM schools.

At Ohio's No. 1 school on the list -- Wells Academy in the Steubenville school district in eastern Ohio -- they aren't printing up the commemorative t-shirts just yet. Wells Academy is a 300-student K-4 school that got an "A" from the state on its most recent state report card. More than half of its students are from low-income families. Being at the top of this list is nice, Principal Joe Nocera told us this afternoon:

"But it's not what we're all about. We're trying to teach kids the best we can and have them prepared for the next level. That's our goal," he said.

The ranking is based on a school's performance index, which is a weighted average that looks at the whole range of student performance on state tests, from the percentage of students who fail those tests (or aren’t tested at all) to the percentage passing and beyond, to the students acing the tests.

That means that to calculate it, the Department of Education multiples the percentage of students at each level (failing, passing and so on) by a number: 1 for the percentage passing, more for students doing better and fractions for students scoring at lower levels.

The budget passed earlier this year requires the department to release the rankings. And starting next year, a school's rating will be included on its state report card. The department says the rankings "will provide parents and taxpayers a new way to evaluate how local schools are performing while allowing educators to compare their performance with peers."

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So does this ranking show us Ohio's best and worst school districts?

Even the Ohio Department of Education, which released the ranking, isn't saying that:

"We are putting the info out as required by law. The interpretation is up the reader," department spokesperson Patrick Gallaway said.

Joe Nocera, the principal of the school at the top of the rankings, isn't saying that everyone should up and move to Steubenville:

"It's hard to say you're the No. 1 school and everyone should go there. I think people should know that there's a lot of good things going on in a lot of schools."

District Rankings by Performance Index

Source: Ohio Department of Education.

School Rankings by Performance Index

Source: Ohio Department of Education.

As you look at these rankings, there are some cautions to keep in mind:

  • Because the current accountability system measures minimum competency, it is hard to differentiate among districts that are closely ranked.
  • This is one measure to rank schools as required in HB 153, the state budget bill. Obviously, there can be a number of ways that schools are measured. This was produced according to Ohio law and offered as a preview of how this system will be developed and eventually rolled out in September 2012. There are many schools that do not have a performance index at this time and the criteria behind that calculation is still in development.
  • And, while the state report cards that schools and school districts receive each year look at both state standardized tests scores and other measures, including graduation rates and how much students learn in a particular year, these rankings look at a single measure of school performance.