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Ohio Schools' Report Cards Get Harder to Decipher

Think you understood why your Ohio school district rated "effective" last year or was labeled in "academic emergency"?

Well, forget everything you learned.

The state's report card being released today is far different from last year, and it's more complex.

State education officials said Monday the 2002-03 report card results will show a fourth year of improvement statewide, but parents will have difficulty making comparisons about their school district's achievement in past years. That's because the criteria used to determine the rankings aren't the same.

Parents and school districts pay close attention to the ratings because a top ranking can make a school district the next hot place to move.

"Comparing last year's results to this year's results will be misleading," said J.C. Benton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education. "There's a whole new accountability system because of federal No Child Left Behind requirements."

President Bush's No Child Left behind Act, signed in 2002, requires schools to work to reduce the achievement gap between students and requires regular testing in reading and math. The law also demands that districts break down the testing results by race and other factors.

The old system measured only how well students scored on proficiency tests and factored in attendance and graduation rates.

School districts will continue to receive rankings based on those factors. The ratings are academic emergency for the lowest-performing districts, followed by academic watch, continuous improvement, effective, and excellent for the highest-achieving districts.

(Story continues below graphic.)

School districts previously rated "excellent" if a certain percentage of students met all standards for graduation, attendance and passing state tests.

Now, districts have multiple ways to receive a ranking.

The new report cards will measure district progress and grant ranking using four methods:

They will calculate how many academic indicators a school district has met. Those indicators are based on attendance and graduation rates and the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on state tests.

A school district will receive a numerical rating, or a "performance index score," based on how well individual students scored on state tests. Districts receive more points for students who score at the advanced level on tests.

School districts can move from one category to another - such as academic emergency to academic watch - based on improvement on how well students score on tests and other measurements.

The report cards will reflect whether students in every demographic category have met state standards for graduation, attendance and passage rates on state tests. If all demographic groups meet state standards, then the district is considered to have met "Adequate Yearly Progress," which is a federal requirement.

The report cards also will include testing results for all special education students for the first time. In past years, students in some districts took the state tests but districts did not count their scores.

Schools across Ohio also will also receive rankings from academic emergency to excellent.

In addition to the report cards being more complex for parents, they will not be mailed home this year because of state budget constraints. They will be available on the Internet (www.ode.state.oh.us) .


— Jennifer Mrozowski
Ohio schools' report cards more complex
Cincinnati Enquirer


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