Ohio Lawmakers Propose Scrapping Letter Grades For State Report Cards On Schools

Students take tests in a classroom in Licking Heights in 2019. [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
Students take tests in a classroom in Licking Heights in 2019. [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
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A bipartisan bill from two Ohio House lawmakers would once again overhaul the state’s report cards on its schools.

The bill, proposed by state Reps. Don Jones (R-Freeport) and Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon), scraps the A-F letter grades that started in 2012 after confusion over the previous rating system. Jones said those simplistic grades would be replaced with designations that more accurately represent what is happening in schools.

“The six designations are ‘significantly exceeds expectations,’ ‘exceeds expectations,' ‘meets expectations,' ‘substantially approaching expectations,' ‘moderately approaching expectations’ or ‘in need of support,'” Jones said.

The new designations would be based on performance in the existing categories of graduation, achievement, progress and gap closing and the third-grade reading guarantee. They’re modeled after the school rating system used in Massachusetts.

The new proposal may initially sound similar to the designations preceding the A-F grading system, which were:

  • excellent with distinction
  • excellent
  • effective
  • continuous improvement
  • academic watch
  • academic emergency

When it was introduced, that scale was criticized for being too complicated, which led former Gov. John Kasich to push for the letter-grade system.

Ohio's major school administration groups support the change, saying “every school district is more than a letter grade” and that “this new system will create a transparent report card that informs students, parents, educators and communities.”

The Ohio PTA also supports the bill.

The move to overhaul the report cards came after thousands of students would have qualified for EdChoice vouchers because their school buildings got failing grades.

Though a version of the report cards were issued for the 2019-20 academic year, the state issued no letter grades for either districts or buildings, no grades on individual performance measures, no information on student academic growth or on achievement gaps between groups in light of the pandemic and the havoc it created for education.

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