Second state report card bill hears mixed response

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A second state report card bill going through the Ohio Senate has received contrasting opinions to a similar bill going through the House, namely because of it keeping a five-part ranking system.

Senate Bill 145 looks to revise the state report card system by changing certain performance measures used in the ranking system to categories such as equity, achievement, progress, graduation, early literacy and prepared for success.

The state report card is used by parents moving into communities and teachers when deciding where to work, along with legislators in making policy on education measures.

The bill, which had its third hearing in the Senate Primary & Secondary Committee this week, maintains the A-F ranking that educators have criticized as pitting school districts against each other and that is changed in the House’s version of the report card overhaul.

In the Senate bill, descriptors of those grades would be required, with an A grade described as “significantly exceeds state targets” and an F grade as “does not meet state targets.”

In the House bill, the A-F ranking is eliminated in favor of description only rankings, from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “in need of support.”

The elimination of the A-F ranking system and a broader description of services and facets of educational life at every school — called a student opportunity profile in the House version of the bill — brought support for the House bill from school administrators, who said the changes made the report cards more about improvement and less about punishment.

Some school administrators and state teachers union officials told the Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee that the Senate bill needed work to add those components from the House bill before they could get their support behind it.

“Those are important pieces of data for parents to evaluate and frankly, for anyone who’s moving into that community to evaluate, and I think those are easily read and easily understood and comparable when you look at a student opportunity profile,” said Jeff Wensing of the Ohio Education Association.

Stephanie Starcher, superintendent of Fort Frye Local Schools and chair of the report card committee with the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, testified in support of the House bill, but came to speak out against the Senate version, with specific complaints about the five-level rankings.

Sponsors of the bill have discussed changing the A-F to a star system, which would still be five levels.

“It just takes the media one more step to change the five-star to the ‘A,’ the four-star to the ‘B,’ and so on,” Starcher told the committee in May 6 hearing. “Let’s truly make a complete shift away from the inappropriate use of letter grades for schools by (not) using a system of five levels.”

The report card overhaul also comes as a potential overhaul of the entire public school funding system is under review as part of the biennial budget.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.