November 28, 2014

Elyria
Flurries
27°F
test

New report cards due for districts in August

Parents who haven’t quite mastered the current state report card system will soon be able to stop attempting to decipher exactly what “effective” or “continuous improvement” means.
In roughly eight weeks — around the same time parents are in the thick of back-to-school preparation — the Ohio Department of Education will roll out the first phase of a new report card system that aims to better communicate with parents the academic performance of its schools and districts. The new report card uses A to F letter grades.
The old report cards were based on how well students performed on state standardized tests taken each spring. The new report card — evaluations in some categories will begin in August — will be a more in-depth look at how students are learning and how well districts are doing at educating.
The six components on the new report card are:

  • Achievement: This component measures absolute academic achievement compared with national standards of success.
  • Progress: This component measures the average annual improvement for each student (for example, whether a student gained more or less than a year’s worth of knowledge and skills each year).
  • Gap closing: This component measures how well a school or district is doing in narrowing gaps in reading, math and graduation rate among students according to socioeconomic, racial, ethnic or disability status.
  • Graduation rate: This component measures the percentage of students who entered the ninth grade and graduated in four and five years.
  • K-3 literacy: This component measures the improvement in reading for students in kindergarten through grade three.
  • Prepared for success: This component measures whether students who graduate are prepared for college or a career.

“It measures more than did we pass or didn’t we pass the test,” Elyria director of academic services Ann Schloss said. “I like how it measures how we are closing achievement gaps within subgroups. It’s going to show us if we are meeting all students’ needs.”
Schloss said educators have always dug out more data than the current report cards offered, and now that same work will be done for parents who want to know how students are doing and if they will be prepared for college.
Lorain Superintendent Tom Tucker said having the right data, such as that available in the state report cards, helps a district determine where it should focus its resources.
Lorain staffers are in the midst of data mining using preliminary information from the upcoming report cards. They are preparing for a presentation July 8 to the Academic Distress Commission. The unelected body took over the school district in April after Lorain received failing grades for yet another year.
“People ask why we have so many data people and I always say it’s because those people are desperately needed,” Tucker said earlier this month. “Teachers need that data in the classrooms.”
Companion changes in learning standards and yearly assessments will only help make the report card data richer in the coming years when the full system is in place, school officials say.
When the report cards are unveiled in August — there will be no component or overall grades until August 2015 — Schloss said parents will still see the grades go up and down. But it won’t be a reflection of how students are doing, instead it’ll show how the new changes are being implemented.
“There will be a learning curve with not just teachers and administrators, but students as well who will be asked to analyze material in a much different way,” she said. “It won’t just be new report cards. We are talking new learning standards and new assessments as well. I’ve been in education more than 22 years and this is the first time I have seen this much change at once. It’s not that there are changes, but the level of rigor in instruction and assessment is deeper.”
John Charleton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the new report card will be in an easy-to-read format for parents. Information from the state will come out in the coming weeks to help parents understand how to read the new report cards.
Last year, the state ran a simulation report using information from the 2011-12 school year to show parents and districts what grades would look like if the new system was in place. The A through F letter grades in nine categories did not replace the designations handed out last year, but the exercise did serve as a good tool for understanding the new system.
Schloss said Elyria’s grades fluctuated, but the one consistency the district has long touted as a success was the value-added measure, which determined whether a student gained more or less knowledge and skills each year.
“We consistently scored well there because our students are learning a lot of material from year to year,” she said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.