Some Tri-State school districts receive F's in some areas under Ohio's new grading system

CINCINNATI - School districts that earned top ratings from previous Ohio evaluations suddenly face C’s and D’s under the state’s new grading system, while Cincinnati Public Schools must deal with six Fs out of nine categories.

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Under the old ratings system, school districts would receive vague grades like “continuous improvement” and “academic watch,” as well as self-explanatory grades like “excellent” and “excellent with distinction.” But now they’re going to receive traditional “A” through “F” in up to nine categories.

Among the Greater Cincinnati schools that previously enjoyed the top grade of “excellent with distinction,” none received straight A’s under the new system, including:

  • Wyoming City Schools, which received six A’s but C’s in “Gifted Value-Added” and “Disabled Value-Added, categories which try to gauge how well schools are serving gifted students and those with disabilities.
  • Three Rivers earned three A’s and a B but also received four C’s. Its superintendent also could not be reached.
  • Reading Community Schools, whose fortunes plummeted by this accounting, with three D’s, three C’s and just two B’s and an A.

Scott Inskeep, superintendent of Reading Community Schools, called the grades Reading received “disconcerting.”

“I can’t figure out if the second one is the right one or the first one,” he said, referring to last year’s excellent with distinction rating and this year’s mixed grades. 

“Bottom line is, we’re going to look at it, we’re going to do everything we can to improve. It is what it is. No excuses,” he said.

Loveland Schools had received a rating of “excellent” for 12 years running but scored Ds in “Gifted Value-Added” and “Disabled Value-Added,” for example, a pattern seen for many of Greater Cincinnati’s schools that had previously been rated excellent or excellent with distinction.

Chad Hilliker, Loveland City School District superintendent, said his district would evaluate the results but keep its priorities in place.

“We will use the new data to strengthen the areas where we need improvement and embrace this as an opportunity to be even better for the students who we serve,” he said.

Asked about the C and two Ds that Loveland received, Hilliker said, “Our results for our students are basically the same; it is being viewed under a different lens by the state,” adding that the district must evaluate how the grades were determined.

Cincinnati Public Schools received six F's, one D and two C's on their new annual report card from the Ohio Department of Education Thursday.

Cincinnati Public Schools officials said their new grades are equivalent to the "Continuous Improvement" grade they received on last year's report card, 9 On Your Side's Tom McKee reported.

CPS got a C in Basic Performance but F's in Tests Scores and Graduation Rates.

“We are confident that focusing on implementing strategies to achieve our academic priorities our educators and our students will meet this higher bar in the years to come," CPS superintendent Mary Ronan said at a Thursday news conference.

She said the district is prioritizing early literacy; full implementation of the more rigorous common-core academic standards; preparing our seventh through 12th graders for success in high school, college and careers; and infusing technology into the learning process.

Dr. Susan Lang, superintendent of Wyoming City Schools, cautioned against evaluating the breadth of student education based on the state’s current criteria.

“I believe in accountability, but my issue is that one test shouldn’t measure the excellence of any one school,” she said.

Instruction and curriculum is built on student needs, not just teaching to the test,” Lang said. “But will we use the data? We always use data.”

Smaller school districts like Wyoming can face lower grades under this system based on the outcomes with very small pools of students, including those with special needs, she said. “We need to ensure that those one two or three students have their needs addressed.”

How does the new grading system stack up to the old one?

“If I had to give it a grade, I’d give it an incomplete, a B for effort and a C overall,” said Andrew Benson, an education consultant and executive director of Smarter Schools. “All those indicators that they wrap up into a score, there’s too many. There may be other ways to make it simpler so there’s more trust behind it.”

Among the biggest concerns for school districts are the effects that lower grades may have on voter sentiment when it comes to passing school levies.

“It is hard enough for districts to pass any levy,” Benson said. “So, having something that looks like your performance and achievements went down will not be helpful for districts that have a levy in November. Perhaps there is time for districts that have levies later to work on a message and also to work on raising the scores to raise the grade.”

Even if a district received a lower grade than expected, that doesn’t mean a school's performance has dropped, according to Lang. She also said it's not a reason for parents to worry.

That's because the new metric is intended to be a tool for school administrators to figure out what areas need to be addressed and how they can better serve the needs of the students in their district.

"The report card is meant for us to really dig a little deeper and look at our data," she said.

Lang said she hopes it makes it easier for parents to understand.

"The way the grades are, they'll be able to understand it because they're used to having report cards when they went to school, A, B, C, D, F."

The new system is being rolled out over three years. In 2015, the various category grades will be aggregated into one overall grade.

While she anticipates some parents reacting to potentially lower grades than usual, Lang said there’s no reason to panic. A lower grade might be the reflection of the inclusion of new categories in the rating system.

"There are more categories compared to this year's report card than last year's report card," said Lang, who added that the new system is tougher than in past years. 

She also wanted to remind parents that there is more to education than just standardized testing. Things such as being involved in clubs, extracurricular activities and out-of-class scholastic endeavors are also important.


9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas contributed to this report.

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