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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

3 Shaker Heights Schools Appear On Ohio's Underperforming Schools List

 Elementary schools Onaway and Woodbury joined Mercer on the state's list of underperforming schools, making students there eligible for vouchers if their parents want to send them elsewhere. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
photo of shaker schools display case

Every year, Ohio’s Department of Education releases a list of underperforming schools. Parents at those schools can request vouchers to send their kids elsewhere.

This year’s list had a few surprises.

Three elementary schools in Shaker Heights made the list, after only one was included last year. An elementary school in Lakewood also appeared for the first time.

According to Shaker Heights City School District spokesman Scott Stephens, an appearance on the EdChoice list hasn’t led to an exodus at Mercer Elementary, the school that also appeared on the list last year.

“Only five families availed themselves of a voucher to go elsewhere and three of those were kindergarteners who had never stepped foot in one of our schools,” Stephens said.

This year, Shaker elementary schools Onaway and Woodbury joined Mercer on the list. District officials were shocked and are exploring fixes to suggest to the state, Stephens said.

Two of the schools marked as underperforming, Onaway and Mercer, still received overall B grades on their most recent state report cards.

“This kind of underscores our concern – the state’s method of measuring a school’s performance simply does not reflect a school’s true quality,” Stephens said. “It’s not what happens when you go in the door. Our parents know that. Our teachers know that. And we just kind of wish the state would know that.”

Ohio uses criteria from the state report cards to decide if a school should be deemed underperforming. The criteria are complicated, but a school has to receive a D or F grade in at least one of several possible categories of evaluation or fall in the lowest 10 percent of Ohio schools for two out of the last three recent performance rankings.

The EdChoice program began in Ohio in 2006. According to the national non-profit of the same name that promotes school vouchers, the program’s enrollment has grown from about 3,000 students in 2007 to 22,600 in 2018.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.