Ohio’s preliminary test results look pretty good

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At the most recent State Board of Education meeting, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) reported preliminary test results from the 2017–18 school year. The numbers still need to be verified by districts before they can be used to calculate report cards, which will include more detailed data and be disaggregated by subgroup. But the early results are promising.

In grades three through eight, proficiency rates went up in math and English language arts (ELA) in every grade except third. Third grade rates dropped by 3 percentage points in math and 2 points in ELA—but were still higher than rates from 2016, the first year that Ohio’s current state tests were administered. See table 1.

Table 1. The percentage of students who scored proficient or above in math and English, 2016–18 

Grade/Test

% proficient or above 2016

% proficient or above 2017

% proficient or above 2018

2017-2018 Increase/Decrease

Grade 3 Math

64.92%

70.08%

67.04%

-3.04

Grade 4 Math

67.26%

70.83%

72.55%

1.72

Grade 5 Math

59.53%

59.01%

62.65%

3.64

Grade 6 Math

53.86%

57.56%

59.22%

1.66

Grade 7 Math

52.74%

53.38%

59.08%

5.70

Grade 8 Math

50.92%

52.87%

53.74%

0.87

Grade 3 ELA

52.54%

62.22%

60.15%

-2.07

Grade 4 ELA

55.29%

60.92%

65.84%

4.92

Grade 5 ELA

57.43%

65.58%

69.96%

4.38

Grade 6 ELA

51.41%

57.64%

59.43%

1.79

Grade 7 ELA

50.77%

56.32%

63.47%

7.15

Grade 8 ELA

44.82%

47.23%

53.89%

6.66

Source: Ohio State Board of Education

Proficiency rates have increased in every subject since 2016. In some cases, the improvements have been large: In fifth and seventh grade ELA, for instance, proficiency rates have increased by 12.5 and 12.7 percentage points since 2016, respectively. And science scores, not included in the table, are also up 3.7 percentage points in fifth grade and a 5.5 percentage points in eighth.

As for the seven End of Course (EOC) exams that students must pass in order to graduate via the state test graduation pathway,[1] proficiency rates increased on every test except English I. See table 2.

Table 2. Proficiency rates on the major End of Course exams, 2016–2018

Grade/Test

% proficient or above 2016

% proficient or above 2017

% proficient or above 2018

2017-2018 Increase/Decrease

English I

55.58%

62.27%

60.80%

-1.47

English II

51.15%

57.46%

58.18%

0.72

Algebra

46.94%

48.17%

52.19%

4.02

Geometry

46.04%

43.32%

43.62%

0.30

Biology

64.52%

59.81%

69.42%

9.61

American History

73.31%

69.03%

71.67%

2.64

American Government

66.82%

71.33%

80.12%

8.79

 Source: Ohio State Board of Education

Two EOCs boasted the highest percentage gains of any state test between 2017 and 2018: Biology, which rose by 9.6 percentage points, and American Government, with a rise of 8.8 percentage points. But the story’s different when you going back two years: Biology’s rise shrinks to 4.9 percentage points, English II’s increases to 7 percentage points, and American Government’s rate growth goes up to a whopping 13.3 percentage points. Yet unlike the elementary and middle school assessments—which all had higher proficiency rates in 2018 than in 2016—rates for two EOCs have decreased since 2016: American History, with a drop of 1.6 percentage points, and Geometry’s dip of 2.4 points. We don’t know what’s caused these declines, but they warrant further investigation.

Nevertheless, there’s more good news than bad. A growing percentage of students are reaching proficiency in a bevy of subjects, despite more rigorous assessments, and students and teachers deserve credit for clearing these higher bars. Going forward, schools should focus on the few areas where scores dipped and continue to improve their efforts in others. As for policymakers, these data should be a clear indication that setting high expectations—and sticking to them—is important. Ohio’s teachers and students are proving that they’re up to the challenge. Now it’s time for lawmakers to do their part and hold the line.


[1] There are three additional EOCs that are not included in this analysis: Integrated Math I, Integrated Math II, and Physical Science. These data are not included because, as noted by ODE, they reflect less than 10 percent of respective grade level students.

 

 
 
Jessica Poiner
Jessica Poiner is an education policy analyst in the Fordham Institute’s Columbus office. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member who worked and taught in Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District.