Ohio districts respond to “Prepared for Success” grades

The Ohio school report cards are designed to give parents, educators and policymakers information about the performances of districts and schools and celebrate success.  So when most Ohio schools received poor grades in the “Prepared for Success” category, there wasn’t much to celebrate.

Without a requirement from the federal government, the Ohio Department of Education has created the “Prepared for Success” category to the school report card.

The 2018 report cards revealed that just nine of 608 school districts in Ohio received an A in the “Prepared for Success” section. Out of the 608 districts, 520 of them received either a D or an F, implying that Ohio students are not prepared for all future opportunities.

According to the report cards, only 1.5 percent of Ohio schools are good at preparing children for the future.

On the surface, it seems like schools have not been fulfilling the requirements needed to receive a good grade, but there may be a more in-depth answer as to why so many districts are struggling.

Kent City Schools received a D on the report card in the “Prepared for Success” component, but superintendent George Joseph believes that they are at a disadvantage economically.

 

“International Baccalaureate Organization… there are two components of the “Prepared for Success” that allows for IB,” Joseph said. “And since we don’t have IB in the district, that’s two less areas that we can score points for the report card.”

Kent City Schools superintendent George Joseph (Pic from Kent Schools)

For the report card, districts must accumulate a certain number of points in order to receive a good grade. In the “Prepared for Success” component, there are 11 separate subcategories, where districts can earn points. Some of these categories include ACT scores, SAT scores, AP scores and honors diplomas.

Two other categories to earn points are International Baccalaureate courses taken and International Baccalaureate scores.

International Baccalaureate (IB) is an organization that offers various programs to districts, but many schools can’t afford them.  Instead of having 11 opportunities to earn points, most schools only have nine. Only 4 percent of districts in Ohio offered IB courses in the 2017-18 year.

Howland High School union representative Ed Whittaker

While the standard reflects poorly on the districts as a whole, it isn’t necessarily tied to specific teachers.  Howland High School Union Representative Ed Whittaker believes that teachers are still upset about the results.

“Teachers are discouraged because it doesn’t tell the whole picture,” Whittaker said.  “It’s an unfair, one-size-all snapshot with a lot of loopholes in it that doesn’t take into account things like subgroups and a lot of regards like that.”

 

For example, a school can have 15 kids in a subgroup, with nine of those students passing a given assessment.  From this sample size, the schools are assigned a poor grade, but that district may have 3,000 students. The sample size can be seen as a grain of sand on a beach compared to the entire picture.

Howland also received a D in the “Prepared for Success” category.

 

“The state makes you chase report card indicators in a lot of ways,” Whittaker said.  “They put these carrots out there for ‘hey, here’s how you can meet these indicators if you go implement these programs.’ But again, that’s out of the district’s pocket.  They aren’t providing the funding for those things.”

Earning an industry-recognized credential another way to earn a high school diploma.  Districts get credit on report cards when students earn industry-recognized credentials.  This is another issue with the “Prepared for Success” category.

The state department has credentialing for programs that many districts cannot offer and don’t teach. As an example, they have credentialing for 18-year-olds, while the majority of high school students aren’t 18 years old.

“It’s beyond me, Scott, to have someone from Columbus telling us that the credentialing is for 18-year-olds,” Joseph said.  “They aren’t 18 until the end of their senior year, so that makes no sense whatsoever.”

The Department of Education requires credentialing, but it doesn’t match what the districts do or who they have. This results in the districts being penalized.

International Baccalaureate Programs 

Primary Years Program (3-12)

– Prepares students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others

Middle Years Program (11-16)

– Challenging framework that encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world

Diploma Program (16-19)

– The program aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge

Career-related Program (16-19)

– Addresses the needs of students engaged in career-related education

For more information visit https://ibo.og

Because of this issue, it is hard for Kent City Schools to gather assessment results from all of their students.

“As a district, we had 38.4 percent of our students taking at least one advanced placement class with 74% taking ACT,” Joseph said.  “It’s difficult for us to make sure students have assessment results sent to us to count this on our report card.”

Communication is a common problem between the Department of Education and school districts. On the other hand, communication is strong between superintendents, principals and teachers. It is up to them to contact the state and find out what they can do to improve.

“Usually the communication process is very slow,” Theodore Roosevelt High School principal Dennis Love said. “It’s hard for the school districts to really understand what’s expected from them after the report cards are released. Even when they do, those expectations typically change in the future.”

Photo from kentschools.net
Theodore Roosevelt High School principal Dennis Love (from School site)

So, without any requisite from the federal government, the Ohio Department of Education has decided to create this “Prepared for Success” category to grade a school district (from A to F) on its ability to prepare students for the future. Districts believe that they are being unfairly graded, without clear representation of what actually happens in the classroom.

Paolo DeMaria, State Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Ohio Department of Education, declined an interview.

“It’s punitive in a lot of ways,” Whittaker said.  “It doesn’t show a lot of the positive things that are going on in our schools.”   

Despite the feeling of being judged unfairly, districts worry less about how they are graded and more on how they can help their students prepare for the future.

 

“We try not to focus too much on the report card,” Love said. “We try to focus on what our mission is here, which is to educate, support and build relationships with our students. If we spend a lot of time worrying about the report card we’re kind of wasting our time because it’s so convoluted that it will drive you crazy.”