POMEROY — Next year’s move by the Ohio Department of Education to change the way by which Ohio schools are rated as to their effectiveness in preparing students for a career and/or college after high school has some school superintendents concerned.
Under the new system, a letter grade will replace the current system of ratings — excellent with distinction, excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency — and the district and each school in the district will be assigned A through F as computed on the basis of performance, levels of improvement, test scores and graduation rates.
In 2011, all three Meigs County school districts — Eastern Local, Meigs Local and Southern Local — were given ratings of “effective” on the annual report card.
As for individual schools in each district, Eastern High School and Southern Elementary School were given “excellent” ratings. All other individual schools were rated “effective” with the exception of Meigs Intermediate which was given a “continuous improvement” rating.
However, in the Ohio Department of Education’s transition of last year’s ratings into what they would become under the new grading system, done by ODE as a way of helping school personnel better understand the new system, the excellent ratings received by Eastern High School and Southern Elementary in 2011 would receive only a “B.”
Southern Local School District rated “effective” on the report card would receive a “B” rating, because of the excellent rating of its elementary program; while Meigs Local and Eastern Local School Districts, both rated as “effective” last year, would get an overall grade of “C” (average).
The change to the new grading system for Ohio schools is described by the ODE as a way of “bringing a better understanding as to the academic conditions which prevail in Ohio’s schools.”
The ODE stressed that the simulated grades do not replace the actual ratings the districts and schools received in 2011.
“Nor are they predictions of how well schools and districts will fare under a new rating system in the future,” said ODE Superintendent Stan Heffner. “The tables only provide a comparison of this more rigorous measure of school and district performance with the actual results from 2011.”
The coming change in the grading system came about as a condition of Ohio getting a waiver on the No Child Left Behind federal program requirements, and offering as a substitute a plan requiring more accountability in the schools and the introduction of the letter grade evaluation program.
The change will come about next year and will be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year, according to ODE. At that time a more rigorous curriculum and assessments will be fully in place, and school systems will be charged with and graded on how well they are doing in preparing students for life after high school.
Of the 383 schools in Ohio that received an excellent rating under the old plan in Ohio last year, Scott Wolfe, director of federal program for Southern Local Schools, said only 22 schools would have gotten an “A” if the new evaluation system had been in place.
The reactions of the superintendents of Meigs County’s three school districts to the new evaluation program follow a similar pattern.
The general perception is that parents and the public will view the grades as they view them not only in education but in life — “A” for excellent, “B” for good, “C” for average, “D” for poor, and “F” for failure.
But as ODE changes the current report card system, based on ratings of excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency, into the proposed new method of evaluation, a school district now rated excellent, could conceivable be given a “C.”
That means parents and the public will now view that school as “just average” and perhaps not a satisfactory grade for the school they want their children to attend.
Southern Superintendent Tony Deem said, “We all want our schools to do better. We all want our students to perform better. I understand the concept of the state wanting to have better performing schools, but I don’t understand wanting higher performance at the cost of lessening the degree of success that we have already accomplished.”
“I think our teachers do a great job overall at teaching our kids, and ultimately I think our students are learning at a high level. I wouldn’t want our upcoming scores to paint an inaccurate negative picture of the many positive things we have here at Southern,” he added.
“We are striving to improve in all areas, and we are making improvements and progress in all areas all the time. As a district things are moving forward as new teaching techniques are introduced,” said Meigs Local Superintendent Rusty Bookman.
“We are concentrating on ways to improve the quality of instruction, and by doing that, we know good scores will follow. We’ll do the best we can with what we have locally. We’re making positive strides,” he said.
Eastern Superintendent Scott Gheen said, “My frustration lies in the fact as to how they (ODE) are putting this proposal together to grade our schools and how the public will view it. We have to have accountability, but I think the current system of grading is better when it comes to how the public perceives the school when it comes to equating education.”
He said one of his fears is that when the public sees the new grading system, A to F, they will look at the grade and relate it not only to aspects of life but to the education of their children. He went on to say that the current system of evaluating school performance shows how the school is actually doing in educating children by the ratings they receive which range from excellent to needing improvement.