LIMA — Giving a grade to schools similar to the way students are graded on their academic studies is unfair, or at least needs to be tweaked.
That was the consensus of local educators, a state lawmaker and a city leader who took part in an Education Roundtable discussion hosted by The Lima News last week.
“The report cards in a lot of cases aren’t understood,” said Joel Mengerink, superintendent of Elida schools. “How are the measurements being obtained? It’s a one day snapshot of a kid’s performance in a classroom. If standardized tests are that important, why do we not do it more than one day a year?”
The concern of Lima Schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman is the state report card forces schools to play a numbers game, and as a result, not all students are treated equally.
She explained, “We have to look at those kids that we believe we can move into another category to help improve that grade on that grade card. So we have tutoring programs and we’re targeting kids rather than trying to help the kids way at the bottom, which we do, but not to the extent that we should be doing.”
Aaron Rex, Superintendent of Wapakoneta schools, has similar concerns.
“To say that we’re a C school that doesn’t encompass who we are because we do so much more than that,” he said.
Rex is also concerned about young students having to take the state test on a computer.
“At the last board meeting, we passed a resolution to take the third-grade test on paper next year because we think our kids will do better by writing it on paper,” he said.
State Senator Matt Huffman realizes the state report card is not what was originally envisioned. He said it got caught up in “big-brain thinking.”
“On paper, it maybe looks good, but in application it’s nearly impossible, even in the best of circumstances,” Huffman said.
Linda Haycock, District 1 representative on the State Board of Education, agreed.
“I think the purpose of the report card was accountability to the education and I think it’s not reflecting what’s going on (at schools),” Haycock said. She acknowledged the stigma of a failing school system is a negative when it comes to attracting jobs to a community.
“It’s like, ‘All of your schools are failing, why would I want to bring my business here?’ And so this is a big conversation that needs to happen,” said Haycock.
Lima schools received an F on the most recent state report card. It faces being taken over by the state in two years through an academic distress commission. However, the Ohio House passed a spending plan Thursday that includes language to repeal and replace House Bill 70, the state’s controversial school takeover law passed in 2015.
Initially, the budget included language from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria regarding academic distress commissions — much of which either kept the state takeover process the same or gave more power to DeMaria. The new language would replace academic distress commissions and other state mandates in struggling districts with support from the Ohio Department of Education.
The budget bill passed the House 83-12 on May 1 and is headed to the Senate Education Committee for discussion.
Lima Mayor David Berger said changes needs to occur.
“I don’t think giving a letter grade informs anybody,” Berger said. “Giving a district a letter grade hides information the public needs to have. It sells a concept that is wrong — that we can somehow boil this all down to a letter to encapsulate all the initiatives that a school district offers.”
Berger agrees there needs to be public reporting of a district’s performance but said “it should not be simplified to a point where it truly doesn’t tell you anything. … It has incredible consequences and whether it’s Lorain, East Cleveland, Youngstown or the 14 other districts that are on the bubble around the state it just sets up a set of dominoes that I think need to be avoided at all costs.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.