Parsing Performance - Analysis of Ohio’s new school report cards

2012-13 Ohio Report Card Analysis

This August, Ohio issued for the first time conventional A through F school grades along nine indicators of school performance. The new A-F school report cards follow Florida’s pioneering example of A-F accountability, and Ohio joins 9 other states which have implemented A-F report cards. Over the course of the next three years, the Buckeye State will incorporate several additional indicators of school performance, and starting in August 2015, Ohio will issue “overall” A-F letter grades for its schools and districts.

Parsing Performance, Fordham's annual analysis of Ohio's school performance, examines the state's new report cards and uncovers the two keys to school performance: a school's achievement and its progress ratings. The progress grade (Overall Value-Added) measures the impact a school has on student-learning progress over the course of the school year. The achievement grade (Performance Index) is a one-year snapshot of whether students within a school are attaining basic academic skills and on track for academic success.

Statewide, achievement A's were more difficult to earn than progress A's. Among Ohio’s 610 traditional school districts, 46 percent received A grades on progress, but only 4 percent received A grades on achievement in the 2012-13 school year. The numbers were similar for Ohio’s charter schools: 33 percent earned an A on progress, while just 2 percent earned an A on achievement. 

The analysis also looks at city-level data from the Ohio' "Big 8" and compares district and charter school performance. Both charter and district school struggle academically, and generally, charter and district school performance along both the achievement and progress indicators is similar. Only Cleveland's charter schools outperform the district schools along both dimensions. A few inner-city schools—and their students—perform exceptionally and do overcome the odds stacked against them. In this report, we list 27 Big 8 urban schools that perform well on both the achievement and the progress metrics—an honor roll of high-performing urban schools.

When one parses the data, statewide and especially for Ohio’s urban areas, no one should be satisfied with the performance of today’s public education system. It goes without saying that poverty, broken families, and unemployment contribute to the challenges faced by inner-city schools, but these socio-economic problems are no excuse for poorly educating students. If we want to ensure that every child receives a K-12 education that unlocks a brighter future, school and city leaders must overcome the odds. A first step is to understand, appreciate, and confront the data rather than wishing them away.

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The report provides answers to the following questions: 

·         What academic ratings (there were 9 ratings issued to schools in 2012-13) are the most critical for parents, taxpayers, and policymakers to understand?

·         How many students statewide "passed" their standardized exams? Are there differences in the "pass rate" by race and income?

·         How many students attend a charter school in Ohio's urban areas? 

·         How do charter schools, as a group, perform compared to traditional public schools? What is the academic performance of the state's largest online charter schools?

·         Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?

·         How many students attend high-performing schools versus low-performing schools in Ohio's 8 largest cities?