Lawmakers consider eliminating school A-F ratings

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — Ohio lawmakers may do away with A through F on school grade cards in favor of a ratings system that would tell parents whether schools meet or exceed performance expectations.

For schools that fall short, the proposed system would describe their progress in terms of how close they are to meeting expectations or as in need of support, rather than brand the school with a failing grade.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced Wednesday by state Reps. Don Jones, R-Freeport, and Phil Robinson, D-Solon, following a 2019 legislative study committee. It has already won the approval of several educational groups.

“Nothing about an overall school letter grade properly informs a parent or community about what is going on in their schools,” Ohio School Boards Association CEO Richard Lewis said in support of the legislation on Wednesday. “Just as every student is more than a test score, every school district is more than a letter grade.”

Wapakoneta schools Superintendent Aaron Rex said the grade card system was intended to give parents an easy way to understand how their schools were performing, but the measures used to determine the grades change constantly and only capture a snapshot in time.

The ratings scale proposed by Jones and Robinson should still help parents understand how schools are performing, Rex said, but do so in a way that does not appear punitive and that better reflects what schools look for to help students improve.

“The grade card has some very difficult standards to meet, and we are educating in different times,” he said. “These are not excuses, but I can guarantee that every school person walking into a building cares about their kids and wants to do whatever they can to help them be successful. How do we measure that?”

The Jones and Robinson bill would replace letter grades with six new ratings, raging from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “in need of support” and would require the Ohio Board of Education to set rules for the performance criteria.

The bill would also eliminate the overall grade currently given to buildings and school districts, offering a more detailed look at how schools are performing by grading each component separately.

“So now instead of saying ‘they’re this,’ or ‘they’re this,’” Jones said during a press conference Wednesday, “you’re going to have to look at the report card and see what they do or do not do very well.”

By Mackenzi Klemann

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