Writer's Note: This story is the first in a series meant to take a closer look at the Ohio School Report Cards and what they entail. Each story in the series - following this first installment - will highlight how each of the school districts in Jackson and Vinton counties fared on the 2016-17 Report Card.
With the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) recent release of the 2016-17 Ohio School Report Cards, administrators, teachers, students and parents from across the state are now tasked with analyzing the data therein and making adjustments in preparation for the future. This year's Report Card, released Thursday, Sept. 14, is a particularly important one, as this year marks the last for "safe harbor" protections.
When the General Assembly directed the ODE to transition to new state tests in the areas of mathematics and English language arts (ELA) for the 2014-15 school year, new Ohio law suspended many of the consequences of the tests for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, in order to give schools, teachers and students time to adjust. Beginning in 2018, safe harbor will no longer be in effect, and school districts can become eligible for certain programs or interventions based on their Report Card performance. As a result, the following programs or interventions will no longer be suspended:
Challenged school district designation: When the state designates a school district as "challenged," new startup community schools can open within the district's boundaries.
Educational Choice Scholarship Program: Students attending persistently poor-performing schools can become eligible for vouchers to cover the costs of attending private schools.
Academic Distress Commissions: Ohio forms these commissions to help improve a school district after three consecutive years of poor results on its Report Cards. The 2016 Report Cards and ones thereafter count toward the three consecutive years for the formation of new academic distress commissions.
Community School closure: The majority of community schools receive the same traditional Report Cards as other public schools. Community schools can be closed by law for continued poor performance.
School restructuring: When traditional public schools receive low Report Card grades, there are several laws that require them to restructure or even close. Safe harbor protections have equated to no new school buildings being required to restructure based on the 2014-15, 2015-16 or 2016-17 report cards.
State Report Cards grade districts and schools on the following six components: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, K-3 Literacy and Prepared for Success. Districts and schools received A-F grades on each of the six components and most of the individual measures.
The Achievement component represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed on them. There are two subcategories for the Achievement component - Performance Index and Indicators Met.
The Performance Index measures the test results of every student. There are six levels on the index (Advanced Plus, Advanced, Accelerated, Proficient, Basic, Limited and Untested) and districts receive points for every student in each of these levels. The higher the achievement level, the more points awarded in the district's index.
Indicators Met measures the percent of students who have passed state tests. Test results are reported for each student in a grade and subject, and the passage rate for each indicator is 80 percent.
The Progress component of the Report Card examines the growth that all students are making based on their past performances. Aside from the overall component grade in this category, separate letter grades are also given for the subcategories of: All students (which measures the progress for all students in math, ELA, science and social studies using tests in grades 4-8 and some end-of-course exams); Gifted students (which measures the progress for students identified as gifted in reading, math, science, social studies and/or superior cognitive ability); Students in the lowest 20 percent in Achievement (which measures the progress for students identified as the lowest 20 percent statewide in reading, math, science or social studies achievement); and Students with disabilities (which measures the progress for students with disabilities).
The Gap Closing component shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable populations of students in ELA, math and graduation. This category utilizes Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) to compare the performance of student groups to a state goal. Charts then show how well each group achieves that goal in ELA, math and graduation, and emphasize any achievement gaps that exist between groups.
With regard to the K-3 Literacy category, schools are graded on how successful they are at getting struggling readers on track to levels of proficiency for grades three and up.
The Graduation Rate category simply examines the percentage of students in a given school who successfully finish high school with a diploma in four or five years.
The final component, Prepared for Success, takes a look at how well students in a given school or district are prepared for future opportunities. This component assigns a one-point value to the number of students that earned a remediation-free score on all parts of the ACT or SAT, earned an honors diploma, and/or earned an industry-recognized credential. Additionally, a number of "bonus" students count an additional 0.3 bonus points each, because they did the above and also earned a three or higher on at least one AP exam; earned a four or higher on at least one IB exam; and/or earned at least three college credits before leaving high school.
The next story in this series will delve into the specific Report Card scores for the Jackson City School District. Subsequent stories will then examine the Oak Hill Union Local, Vinton County Local and Wellston City School District Report Cards.
State Report Card information for individual school districts from across the state can be found by visiting education.ohio.gov/Topics/Data/Report-Card-Resources and selecting the "Find My District's 2017 Report Card" option.