The Miller City-New Cleveland school district, in northern Putnam County, is considered one of the best in the state.
It was one of just three local school districts to receive an A on the report cards released Thursday, along with Minster and Ottoville. Yet somehow, the state gave it a “C” for preparing its students for success. (You can see those results and more at LimaOhio.com/reportcards.)
Scott Mangas, Ottoville’s superintendent, noted only 89 schools in Ohio had a C or better in the “prepared for success” measure. His district got a “D” in that measure.
It’s all because someone setting up the scoring has a 20-year-old notion that the only way you can succeed is through college education.
“A large part of that is college credit and getting an honors diploma,” said Kerry Johnson, Miller City-New Cleveland’s superintendent. “Not enough of that really reflects on career preparation, things kids can do to get into a good career.”
Johnson walked me through a hypothetical student going to a welding program at a vocational school while in high school. That student can graduate with a welding certificate and immediately find a job that provides a very comfortable life.
Unfortunately, the “prepared for success” component doesn’t consider that success. It’s looking for ACT or SAT scores hitting proficient standards, an honors diploma or a credential from one of the 13 careers the state calls “high-demand.”
“It used to be we only had the kids who wanted to take those tests taking it,” said Aaron Rex, Wapakoneta’s superintendent. “You should kind of expect some scores to go down. They’re not taking the ACT for college. They’re taking it because they had to take it.”
Ohio needs to stop talking out of both sides of its mouth. Plenty of government agencies push the importance of technical career education, especially as we head toward more baby boomers deciding to retire. Factory work is meaningful work that pays well without the burden of a college education, right?
Well, no, not if schools’ reputations are being punished by poor ratings from the state. Despite warnings from superintendents to never over-think these report cards, voters always do. They factor into our support of school levies and individual administrators. They affect future economic and building development, as everyone wants to be near smart, successful school districts.
One measure, a full 15 percent of a school’s final grade, is based on the mistaken notion that the only way you can succeed is by going to college and earning a degree.
I don’t want to dismiss the college route. I took that route myself. It’s not for everyone, though, and we must stop demeaning people who learn how to do things by doing them instead of reading about them. The fact they can jump into these well-paying jobs without mortgaging their future with a college loan they may or may not be able to pay back is amazing.
The good news — or perhaps it’s bad news — is state testing and grade cards are ever-changing in Ohio. There are proposals to change the tests yet again. I hope one of those changes is to seriously think about what “prepared for success” really means, especially if it means fewer tests and more attention paid to real-world skills.