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New ratings tougher on schools

Springfield superintendent says new system an improvement.

An advance look at Ohio’s new A-F report card system, slated to be rolled out in August, shows many school districts score poorly in areas such as closing achievement gaps between students.

One new category, Annual Measurable Objectives, shows as many as 38 percent of Ohio school districts get Ds or Fs in closing the achievement gaps between groups of students, such as blacks and whites and disabled and non-disabled students.

Among Clark and Champaign county schools, seven of the 12 districts, or 58 percent, would get Ds or Fs in that category, according to a Springfield News-Sun analysis.

The Ohio Department of Education released data last week showing how school districts, individual schools and charter schools across the state would fare under nine new graded areas, though no overall grade was given.

The information was based on the 2011-12 report cards.

State Superintendent Richard Ross said most schools will see lower grades than their past report card rankings but he said Ohio must keep raising its goals and standards each year so students are prepared for careers.

“We are going to keep improving for the sake of our children,” he said. “This world is moving too fast to have a static goal.”

Overall grades won’t come until 2015 on the new A-F report cards, which will replace the previous system that rated schools from Excellent with Distinction down to Academic Emergency.

About 60.5 percent of Ohio districts would receive an A rating for “performance indicators” using the new standards, according to information from the ODE. That compares to 63.4 percent that ranked Excellent or better that same year using the old criteria.

In Clark and Champaign counties, half of districts would receive an A rating for “performance indicators” using the new standards, compared to two-thirds of districts that were ranked Excellent or better on the old criteria.

Springfield City School District Superintendent Dave Estrop said some adjustments might occur as the report card is implemented, but he believes it is an improved way to measure schools.

“There’s going to be a period of confusion as it’s implemented, as we move from the old system to the new system,” he said. “But in general, I like the fact that it has almost equal weight for student performance and student progress or growth.”

Springfield got an A rating in each of the value-added categories, which measures how much a student grows academically during the course of the school year. On the performance-based indicators, the district got an F and a D.

“You’re going to see districts, and Springfield will be one, that have very good scores on progress but not very good scores on performance,” he said, adding that some school districts would do well on performance measures but not progress.

“That’s going to cause confusion and concern and I think, very frankly, that’s why accounting for both as opposed to one or the other will be a plus,” Estrop said.

State leaders believe the new, more rigorous school rating system will be simpler for parents to understand.

ODE spokesman John Charlton said most people will have an easier time understanding it because they are similar to student report cards.

“Because they are looking at so many measures and getting a grade in each of those measures, it allows not only parents and taxpayers but also superintendents and school officials, to look and see exactly where their weaknesses are.”

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