The annual evaluations of Ohio public schools tend to tell us what we already know. Most suburban districts do well, and large city schools are struggling. The overall trends are driven by family income, parental involvement and the degree of stability at home.Yet, the school report card system can be a valuable tool. For that to happen, the public must gain a more complete understanding of what is achieved.Parents are supposed to be able to look at the grade of their child's school to see how it is performing compared to others in the state. That being the case, it was not a good sign when 18 school districts in the nine-county area dropped a designation with just 15 showing improvement.Yet, the results this year may not be as bad as it appears, When digging into the numbers, it becomes quickly apparent that it is more difficult to have apples-to-apples comparisons due to ever-shifting criteria. The new state budget requires the addition of six new categories for ranking schools — apart from the current report cards. In three years, there will be even more new academic content standards, including a school's own assessment of its performance. The refinement is necessary to more accurately track student progress.State Superintendent Stan Heffner said the change allows the state greater confidence that it is accurately identifying whether a district meets the expected growth.While this may sound confusing, the end result is that school districts are re-evaluating the ways that today's students are being educated, thanks to the grade card data. In the case of Lima Schools, it was a driving force behind the district restructuring. The restructuring included putting fifth and sixth grades in one building and seventh and eighth grades in another. That will help with the ongoing mobility issue, where pupils end up in multiple schools in a year.Middle schools continue to be a problem statewide. Heffner said one of his biggest concerns from the statewide report card was the progress of fifth-graders. Pupils in fifth grade missed the state's proficiency mark for math, reading and science.The good news statewide was the percentage of students scoring proficient increased on 21 of 26 indicators, with the strongest gains in third-grade math, eighth-grade math and 10th-grade writing.