Back to the Basics: A plan to simplify and balance Ohio’s school report cards

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For more than a decade, Ohio’s annual school report cards have offered the public information on school quality. The current iteration of report cards has notable strengths: School ratings are grounded in hard data, they use an intuitive A-F rating system, and several of the metrics encourage schools to pay attention to the achievement of all students.

Yet as the state has phased in new components over recent years, report cards have become increasingly complex and many of the metrics are strongly correlated with students’ background characteristics. Fordham’s latest report, Back to the Basics, suggests significant changes that would reduce the complexity of the report cards—aiding comprehension—and would produce ratings that are fairer to schools of all poverty levels.

To improve report cards, the paper offers three key recommendations:

  • Reduce the number of A-F grades. Ohio report cards now include fourteen letter grades—and soon to be fifteen as an overall rating comes out in 2018. Legislators should reduce the number of ratings to six: an overall grade plus five component ratings—Achievement, Progress, Graduation, Prepared for Success, and Equity.
  • Overhaul the Gap Closing component and rename it Equity. Gap Closing gauges the performance of subgroups, including students with disabilities, race/ethnic groups, etc. However, the current design of this component is unnecessarily complex and produces counterintuitive results. Ohio lawmakers should overhaul this component so that the public can see clearly whether all groups of students are meeting achievement and growth goals.
  • Create an overall school rating formula that better balances growth and achievement. Almost all high-poverty schools receive low ratings on achievement-based measures that largely reflect proficiency gaps between low- and high-income pupils. As the state adds an overall rating next year, legislators need to enact a formula that is more evenhanded to all schools, regardless of the students they enroll, by placing greater weight on growth measures.

To make informed decisions, parents, educators, and the taxpaying public rely on transparent school report cards. We encourage you to read this report on how state policy makers can devise a simpler, fairer report card system that works better for all Ohioans.

To access Fordham's press release accompanying the report, please click here.

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