The Ohio General Assembly should pass House Bill 555, which seeks to create and implement a grading system that will assign an A-F letter grade to schools and districts. Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee in a bipartisan 7-1 vote approved this bill, which moves on to full consideration by the Ohio Senate.
This task is pivotal to Ohio students and parents; each year, Ohio’s public schools are responsible for educating nearly 2 million students. These schools must be held accountable for the performance of its students.
I recently testified in front of the Ohio Senate Education Committee in favor of this bill, because I believe that Ohio’s current accountability system is in desperate need of renovation. The current classifications of schools, which include ratings like “under academic watch,” and “needs continuous improvement,” are ambiguously titled and do not provide enough information to empower parents to make an appropriate school choice for their child.
The simple, common sense solution to this problem is school grading. Implementing a letter grading system holds schools and districts accountable for the results they produce, provides parents with understandable information about the schools their children attend, and encourages consistent student achievement gains.
The grading system proposed by HB 555 places the focus back on students by underscoring student achievement and considering important factors like college and career readiness. Many states that employ A-F school grading systems choose to include achievement or proficiency scores, learning gains, and progress toward closing the achievement gap. HB 555 also provides its schools and districts with the flexibility to include other factors of achievement, such as graduation rates and SAT/ACT scores, which give parents access to information reflecting college and career readiness.
HB 555 also requires school report cards be made public on an annual basis; this maximizes the effectiveness of the tool and truly empowers parents. Under this system, when school report cards are distributed in an attendance area where a school is rated as “F” for failing, the parents of the students at that school and all community members are empowered by the information. When grades are issued annually, parents can see whether schools have improved, stayed the same, or declined from the previous year. It also gives parents the opportunity to compare performance between schools and districts in their area, as well as their own school’s performance over time. This information is necessary to understand the quality of education options available to Ohio families.
In addition to providing parents with more information, A-F grading systems ensure schools and districts are honestly assessed. When grades are published and publicly available, schools and districts cannot hide from their performance.
In 1999, Florida became the first state to implement school grading.¹ When it first began grading schools, the state had more schools receiving D and F grades than it did A’s and B’s, which constituted only 21 percent of the school grades. By 2010, 74 percent of Florida’s schools earned a grade of A or B, and the bar for achieving these higher grades has been raised four times. This improvement in achievement shows that transparent school accountability systems do in fact produce high-quality schools.
1 Foundation for Excellence in Education, “Florida’s Education Revolution,” accessed September 25, 2012. http://static.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/summary-floridas-education-revolution20121.pdf
Source: Foundation for Excellence in Education, “Florida’s Education Revolution,” accessed September 25, 2012. http://static.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/summary-floridas-education-revolution20121.pdf
Over the past three years, Ohio has become a leader in education reform by passing legislation that strives to put students first. With important measures such as rigorous annual evaluations for teachers and principals, clear accountability measures for charter schools, and a comprehensive reform plan to improve schools in Cleveland, Ohio is taking steps toward improving student achievement. Implementing an A-F school grading system is another pivotal step in improving Ohio’s education system and will keep the Buckeye State at the forefront of education reform.
About the author
Valentina Korkes is a member of the StudentsFirst policy team and a legislative analyst for the state of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri. Follow Valentina on twitter @ValentinaK_SF or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.