December 20, 2014

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New education standards applied in coming school year

Education in Ohio is experiencing rapid changes that will be fleshed out over the next three to five years. From school safety to new graduation requirements, a lot will need to be known by parents. Here is a brief overview of some of those changes from the Ohio Department of Education for the 2014-15 school year.

District/school report cards

Each year, the Ohio Department of Education puts out a comprehensive report card for every district and school building.

This year, the report card — to be released to the public in mid-September — will again use letter grades to show progress. Each report card will offer 10 grades in six areas to paint a picture of how students and teachers did in the 2013-14 school year.

New this year, an 80 percent proficient rate is needed in content areas to indicate a school or district has reached the state standard in these areas:

  • Achievement — Two of the grades on Ohio’s report card measure how well students scored on annual achievement tests. One grade reflects how many students passed state tests and the other reflects how well they performed on those tests.
  • Progress — Four grades will measure how much growth students have made during the school year. These grades reveal if students are making a year’s worth of progress or if they are making more or less. One grade measures the progress of all students tested in grades four through eight and the other measures the progress made by students in certain subgroups like gifted, lower-performing and students with disabilities.
  • Graduation rate — Two grades will look at the graduation rate. One grade measures how many students graduate within four years of entering the ninth grade. The other measures how many graduate within five years.
  • Gap closing — This grade compares the performance of students with various incomes, races, ethnicities or disabilities to identify any achievement gaps that exist between groups.
  • K-3 literacy — This grade relates to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which measures if students are reading on grade level by third grade.
  • Prepared for success —These measures report how well schools and districts are preparing students for college or a career. This section will have data but no actual grade this year.

Third Grade Reading Guarantee

The state mandate requires third-graders be able to demonstrate they can read on a third-grade level in order to move on to fourth grade-level work.

It has been discussed in the news and in local schools recently because the 2013-14 school year was the first year students were held to the standard and faced possible retention if they did not pass the state reading achievement test or an alternative reading assessment test.

There are some exemptions to this new policy for students who were previously held back and received intensive intervention, are just learning the English language or have special needs.

“It’s really about identifying students early and getting them the interventions they need to get them on level by third grade,” said John Charlton, spokesman of the state Department of Education.

Districts are required to identify students in need of additional help as soon as possible and start them on individualized reading intervention plans.

New this year, the state Board of Education has increased the 2014-15 promotion score to 394 from 392.

“That will continue to rise as we eventually want it to match the proficient score of 400,” Charlton said.

Graduation requirements

Freshmen this year will not have to take the Ohio Graduation Test.

A new system is in place for students that includes seven end-of-course exams over four years in the following subjects: English 1 and 2, geometry, algebra 1, physical science, American history and American government. The tests can take the place of final exams.

The state will also now begin paying the testing fee for students who take the ACT college-acceptance exam as juniors.

Students will have to earn a preset “graduation score” on the end-of-course tests and a score that shows they do not need college remediation in English or math to be eligible for graduation.

“College and career readiness is what the state wants from students and districts,” said Larry Early, the state’s associate director of Curriculum and Assessment

The class of 2017 will be the last class required to take the Ohio Graduation Test.

Common Core standards

The goal of Common Core, a set of higher standards that delve deeper into curriculum in the areas of English language arts, science, math and social studies, is to better prepare American students for jobs and technologies of the future.

By mastering the more stringent standards, students will garner skills needed for the future.

The difference is in the variety of concepts taught by teachers. Common Core requires teachers to focus on only the most important and useful concepts within each subject each year. Students will concentrate deeper into each subject area, learning to apply more critical and analytical thinking skills.

Days to hours/calamity days

When it came to school calendars, 180 days of instruction was always the target number thrown around by school officials.

This year, the school calendar changes to one that is driven by hours. Under the new Ohio law, school has to be in session for a set number of hours in the year, and the district will no longer have so-called calamity days, which are days a district chooses not to hold classes whether it’s for weather, safety or building concerns.

The new threshold for the minimum number of hours is:

  • Part-time kindergarten — 455 hours
  • Full-day kindergarten through Grade 6 — 910 hours
  • Grades 7 through 12 — 1,001 hours

“This does provide some flexibility in scheduling, but it does mean there are no more calamity days,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the state Department of Education. “Obviously districts will still take off if it’s bad weather, but as long as they meet the minimum number of hours, they do not have to have make-up days.”

Districts will still have to make-up hours if they fall below the minimum number of instructional hours set by the state by grade level.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.