Ohio Department of Education releases limited report card

No grades given due to pandemic, cancellation of some tests

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
This charts illustrates the percentage of students who graduate in four and five years in several Summit County School districts, in comparison to the state percentages.
  • Information on graduation rates included
  • Senate Bill 358 would allow state to ask federal government for testing waivers
  • Statewide improvements in graduation rates recorded
  • Ohio Education Association wants state to revamp report cards

While the Ohio Department of Education released its report card information on Tuesday, the information is limited this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering school buildings in March and cancelling some of the annual testing that make up the bulk of the report cards' information.

The state’s schools finished their year with teachers giving instruction on virtual platforms. As a result, this year’s report cards do not contain overall grades for any district or building, individual grades, or ratings for given components or performance measures, according to information from the ODE. 

The report cards also do not include any information about student performance on state tests, the academic growth of students during the school year or the extent to which achievement gaps are being addressed for students. Calculations were not made as most state tests for the last part of the 2019-20 school year were canceled by the state legislature.  

However, this year’s report cards do have percentages on some categories such as graduation rates and Prepared for Success ratings. In addition, much of the usual demographic and enrollment data can be found, along with other district and school operational details.

“While schools have less information available than in years past, we still emphasize the importance of gauging where students are in terms of academic achievement,” said Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction.

He added the partial data can still be used to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching.

“The education community’s goal is to carry forward the teamwork, collaboration and care we’ve seen since last spring through this new academic year and beyond.”  

Data includes the graduation rates, which calculates the number of students who graduated within four years and within five years. The four-year graduation rate applies to students who were a part of the class of 2019, who were in ninth grade in the fall of 2015. The five-year graduation applies to the class of 2018, who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2014 and graduated in 2019.

The report cards also include percentages on improving at-risk kindergarten through third grade readers, which looks at how well schools are doing at improving reading for kindergarten through third grade students deemed at-risk. This category only has partial data available; data was not available for the third grade since the third-grade tests were not given in the last school year.

The third category where data was reported was prepared for success, which looks at how districts prepare students for opportunities after graduation. This category “includes two years of graduation classes,” said Mandy Minick, deputy director of communications for the ODE. Prepared for success looks at the number of students who earned a remediation-free score on all parts of the ACT or SAT, earned an honors diploma, or earned an industry-recognized credential.

Area school officials had mixed views on the report cards.

Jeff Ferguson, the superintendent for the Tallmadge City Schools, said the district is "looking through it right now to see if there’s data there that can help us, but we also realize it’s rather incomplete."

"Every year, we use the state report cards as a snapshot, a data point in one point of time, a piece out of a bigger puzzle," Ferguson said. "But this is not the only way we evaluate our district. We also look at other factors such as our quality report."

Walter Davis, the superintendent of the Woodridge Local Schools, said he planned to share the information with the school board, but did not “intend to give much time to it.”

“While I recognize the legal requirement for ODE to produce and release them, very few school leaders find them to be impactful or useful especially this year,” Davis said.

Todd Nichols, the superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools, said that Ohio's school districts "are developing internal mechanisms to benchmark students in the fall of 2020 such that individualized instruction can be developed and delivered."

"Given the relief from testing requirements during the spring of 2020, the recently released report cards are rather irrelevant for the purpose of analyzing student achievement and growth," Nichols said.

Twinsburg Superintendent Kathryn Powers said information such as what each district spends on classroom instruction, compared to other districts, as well as other financial data.

“Although this year's local report does not include overall grades, it does provide data points and other important information which we will use to refine our programs and academic offerings in efforts to continue to enhance our students' overall performance in school,” Powers said.

Twinsburg School Board President Mark Curtis said he was  “pleased that this year's report cards do not have grades or ratings and rankings.” 

“Doing otherwise would be a disservice to all districts as they are forced to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances.

Joe Clark, the superintendent of the Nordonia Hills City Schools, said that he had “no real opinion about the report cards.”

“Because testing was waived last year, the report card gives little data,” Clark said.

For details, visit https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com