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Ohio Issues School Report Cards, And It's Bad News For Charter Schools

photo of Paolo DeMaria

Ohio’s school report cards are out, and the state says its 1.7 million school kids are doing better academically across all subjects, and across different economic and racial groups. But there are mixed grades for Ohio’s public school districts, and mostly bad ones for charter schools.

The report cards assign letter grades to districts and charter schools for the previous school year in 16 categories based on data from tests, attendance, graduation and other information. Just under 4 percent of the state’s 608 traditional public school districts got A’s for how their students did on 26 state tests. More than 80 percent got F’s. State school superintendent Paolo DeMaria suggests checking other categories as well.

“’Indicators met’ really represents a very high bar, because you have to have consistently very high performance across a large number of the indicators. What I tell people to do is, look at the performance index. That’s a lot more granular, a lot more nuanced.”

Most districts got C’s in that performance index, which measures individual student achievement. But DeMaria says the statewide performance index is up two and a half points, the third largest increase the state has ever measured.

“What I take away from this report card is the momentum, right? We’ve set higher standards. We know it takes time for a system to calibrate to those higher standards. And the kind of direction and momentum that we’re seeing is exactly what we want to see. Many of those C’s next year will be B’s and we’ll keep making progress.”

A different story at charter schools
As for the state’s 276 charter schools – many of which were listed as “not rated” – more than 90 percent got F’s in indicators met. And for the student performance index, most got either D’s or F’s. Aaron Churchill is the Ohio research director at the Fordham Institute, a pro-charter school group. He cautions against making an apples-to-apples comparison between traditional public schools and charters.

“Charter schools and urban district schools – where most of the charters are located – do fare pretty poorly in terms of the proficiency based metrics that Ohio uses. A lot of those low grades is largely a reflection of the achievement gap, where lower income students tend to lag behind their more affluent peers.”

As for the public schools
And that’s the conclusion of the expert who runs the numbers for the traditional public schools.

“The data is as stark and as clear as can be – that the districts at the top whose kids do the best on these standardized tests are the districts with the lowest poverty.”

Howard Fleeter with the Ohio Education Policy Institute says the new report cards back up what he’s seen over the last 20 years.

“Two years of the new tests with several years of the old tests, several years of the tests before the old tests – we’re still seeing it’s the achievement gap between low-income students and high-income students is the most persistent problem that we’ve seen in public education.”

Prepared for Success
Another area of concern on the state report cards is the “Prepared for Success” grade, which measures how many students got good score on college entrance exams, earned honors diplomas or secured industry recognized credentials. All the charters that were rated in that category got D’s or F’s. And two thirds of traditional public school districts got those bottom two grades, which is a big increase from last year. The Department of Education says those numbers reflect a transition to higher standards.

But there was some good news with graduation. More than half of the public school districts got A’s, meaning at least 93 percent of their students got diplomas in four years. But the bad news is that Ohio’s eight biggest school districts are graduating fewer than 79 percent of their students, which earned all of them F’s in that category.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.