The (Ohio) State board: Eliminate letter grades on school, district report cards

The State Board of Education is urging lawmakers to eliminate all letter grades from school and district report cards issued by the state.

At its monthly meeting in Columbus on Thursday, the board unanimously approved a resolution recommending a host of changes to the annual report cards.

The sponsor of the resolution, board member Lisa Woods, of Medina, said she hoped the legislature would act on the request before adjourning in mid-December. Several board members said “A to F” grades tend to label schools as good or failing and none should be judged by a letter grade. The goal, they said is for report cards to provide fair and easily understood portrayals of school and district performance.

“Letter grades should be eliminated for all measures or rescaled as appropriate to, where possible, strive to avoid correlation to poverty and racial demographics. In no event should measures be combined in such a manner as to produce an obvious prejudicial effect for districts with poverty and racial diversity,” the resolution said.

The board recommended some measures be eliminated and others adjusted. They did not specify what system should replace letter grades.“The overall emphasis of the report card should be on measuring student growth, while making standardized test achievement data available without assigning it necessarily to districts as a success or failure,” the resolution said.

The report cards have been a frequent target of criticism by teachers, school administrators and others who argue they are confusing and fail to accurately reflect student achievement. Several legislative proposals have been introduced, including one by Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, but it’s unclear if lawmakers will enact any of them during the lame-duck session.

In report cards for the 2017-2018 school year issued by the Department of Education in September, Columbus City Schools and 16 charter schools in Franklin County were among the small group of publicly funded schools statewide to receive an overall letter grade of “F.”

The grades contained the first overall scores issued since the 2011-12 school year, combining several measures into a single letter grade.

Columbus City schools was one of 14 school districts, out of a total of 608 districts statewide, to get an overall “F.” Sixteen of the 59 charter schools in Franklin County also received an F for the 2017-18 school year.

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