The elimination of letter grades on state rankings of K-12 schools would benefit all schools, supporters say, but would especially help schools struggling to help poor and marginalized students.
The superintendent of a district with a level of poverty so high that all students are eligible for free meals said the report card puts them at an immediate disadvantage.
Montgomery County’s Trotwood-Madison City Schools is a predominantly African-American district with 2,800 students, according to the district’s superintendent, Dr. Reva Cosby.
Cosby told the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee that many of the district’s students arrive “well below the level of the students who arrive in financially secure districts,” and some parents hold distrust of the educational system based on previous bad experiences.
Lower socio-economic situations lead to different levels of support at home for students, and lead to more work for the school district that isn’t necessarily reflected in the state report cards.
“For a district like mine, the current report card sets us on a journey to continually finding ourselves at the bottom of the education totem pole, where we were, literally a few years ago,” Cosby told the committee.
The committee is considering legislation to overhaul the state report card system, removing the A-F ranking, and creating more descriptive reports of schools’ positive and negative aspects.
The A-F ranking can dissuade families from coming to a district, and it can dissuade teachers from staying in the district and learning how to work with students with different needs than in higher-rated districts, Cosby said.
“When your district is rated as a D or F school year after year, it becomes hard to stay because you are perceived by others in our fields as a ‘bad’ teacher,” Cosby said. “We see our teachers leave for high socio-economic districts and they magically become ‘good’ teachers because their district has an A or B rating.”
Cosby and other bill supporters said they support the change to rankings ranging from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “in need of support” to give them something to build upon, rather than a lead balloon repelling families and staff.
“Taken together, (the bill’s) changes clarify the meaning of report card ratings, offer more positive and actionable feedback for districts/schools, and avoid oversimplification that often obscures or conceals what is really happening in a district or building,” said Jeff Wensing, Vice President of the Ohio Education Association.
The OEA offered one “area of improvement” for the bill, which would create a “student opportunity profile,” including staffing/student ratios, programs, services and activities.
“Such a profile would create an important aspect of the report card outside of the usual testing data and would often be more relevant to parents and students,” Wensing said in his testimony.
Bill sponsors have said in previous hearings that they expect changes and improvements to be a part of the bill passage process.