Proposals would change school report cards, in very different ways

House, Senate, state school board and educator group all have recommendations for changing K-12 grade cards

Two competing bills to revamp the K-12 state report card for schools have been introduced, but a state school board committee declined this week to endorse either of them.

The state board of education’s legislative committee approved a report card resolution Thursday. Like House Bill 200, the resolution supported elimination of the A-F letter grade rating system. And like Senate Bill 145, it supported creation of an “equity” component, making sure performance of all student groups continues to be assessed.

Both bills have only had their introductory hearing so far, and it’s not clear whether one bill will advance nearly as-is, or whether amendments will create a compromise bill. Ohio’s largest teachers union, the Ohio Education Association, said it is just an “interested party” on both bills for now.

“OEA looks forward to working with the House, Senate and governor on a final report card package that meets the OEA’s overall objectives of eliminating misleading letter grades and creating more focus on student opportunity indicators, not just test scores,” union President Scott DiMauro said.

The Ohio School Boards Association backed House Bill 200 last month. Will Schwartz, OSBA’s deputy director of legislative services, said Friday that both bills are positive steps toward “correcting fundamental flaws” with Ohio’s report card, and OSBA will continue working for “a positive outcome.”

“However, SB 145 would double down on the use of the A-F letter grade system and continue using an overall summative rating,” Schwartz said. “Letter grades provide a false sense of understanding about school quality, and summative ratings dilute and minimize critically important components of the report card.”

According to an analysis by Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission, HB 200 includes more forgiving ways of calculating a school’s performance index on state tests, its year-over-year student progress, and its success with early-grade reading improvement.

Senate Bill 145, which was introduced more recently, would continue the use of an overall rating for each school or district, and would put more weight on the core state-test-based measures of achievement and year-over-year progress.

SB 145 would make several changes to individual components of the report card, according to an Ohio Department of Education comparison document.

  • Under “achievement,” it would eliminate the “indicators met” measure, which shows whether schools met proficiency goals on each individual state test. Achievement would be solely based on the overall performance index score on state tests.
  • Under “improving at-risk K-3 readers,” SB 145 would rename the measure “early literacy,” and would calculate it half on all third-graders’ reading proficiency and half on struggling K-3 readers’ year-over-year improvement.
  • Under “progress,” the bill would use a three-year measure of test scores, using a school’s entire student base. Existing progress measures for gifted and special education students would be moved to the “equity” component, which is not weighted as heavily. The progress measure for a school’s lowest-scoring students would be eliminated.

“This report card should be used by school districts, teachers, parents, students and even legislators as a reflection of what has changed in a school district or building so that improvements can be made to student performance,” said state Sen. Andrew Brenner, in his sponsor testimony for HB 145.

The Ohio Department of Education’s comparison document expressed several equity concerns about HB 200 — limiting “prepared for success” measures only to students who graduate, eliminating students who switch schools from K-3 literacy scores, and excluding subgroup scores (such as Black, low-income, etc.) if a school has fewer than 20 students in the category.

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper said her group has not taken a position on the report card bills yet. But she said there is still work to be done for a report card to show “what actually happens in a school setting.”

That’s the goal of the Urban Network report card proposal, from a group of northern Ohio educators. It would measure how well schools execute the state’s strategic plan, incorporating measures like educator hiring, types of class offerings, ratio of nurses and counselors per student, and more.

That Urban Network proposal is not part of a current bill, with some legislators saying it could be pursued later as a long-term option.

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