Greg’s already explained how the Governor’s proposed new school district rankings are basically a fancy way to tell us which districts have the best standardized test scores. Steve Dyer of 10th Period calculates that under the plan, 77% of schools will see their rankings drop.

But there’s another very practical reality of this plan, and that is that it undercuts homeowners in suburban school districts across the state by taking away what has traditionally been a very effective selling point for their homes. According to the Dispatch, the state will go from having 386 top-rated school districts to just 22 under the new plan.

Let’s look at two representative counties in which a low-ranking urban school district is surrounded by affluent suburbs featuring top-rated schools.

First, in Franklin County, home of Columbus Public Schools, you have an urban school district with a C-rating on the current state report card. According to data from the Ohio Department of Taxation, the 2010 median sale price for a home in Columbus was $139,000. It will surprise no one to learn that homes in the adjacent suburbs surrounding Columbus that have the best-rated schools (“Excellent with Distinction” or A+) commanded prices ranging from 32% to 214% higher.

City 2010 Median Home Sales Price Price Premium vs. Columbus
NEW ALBANY $436,200 214%
DUBLIN $286,500 106%
UPPER ARLINGTON $272,750 96%
BEXLEY $216,500 56%
HILLIARD $197,000 42%
WESTERVILLE $183,250 32%

Every single one of those suburban communities will see its school district rating drop to a B under the Kasich plan.

Similarly, in Cuyahoga County, where homes in the C-rated Cleveland Municipal School District sell for $78,500, surrounding suburbs with the best schools enjoy home sale prices between 76% and 276% greater.

City 2010 Median Home Sales Price Price Premium vs. Cleveland
ORANGE $295,000 276%
CHAGRIN FALLS $289,000 268%
SOLON $245,000 212%
ROCKY RIVER $202,500 158%
MAYFIELD $182,500 132%
OLMSTEAD FALLS $140,000 78%
NORTH OLMSTED $138,250 76%

Of those communities, only Chagrin Falls and Rocky River schools retain the top rating under the plan. The rest drop to a B and will no longer be able to advertise themselves as home to one of the best school districts.

Obviously no one is arguing that the ONLY reason that people pay 214% more to live in New Albany is because of its schools, but let’s face it, it’s a huge selling point. You’ve seen the billboards advertising otherwise uninteresting, treeless tract houses in recently-converted farmland trumpeting access to “Dublin schools!” That will no longer mean much.

Under the new plan, parents seeking “the best schools” for their kids in Central Ohio would no longer look at Dublin, Upper Arlington or New Albany. In fact, the only top-rated district remaining in the entire region is Granville, 40 miles away in Licking County. Better get ready for a long commute, moms and dads! The same challenges face Cuyahoga county parents. Where home buyers previously had seven “top-rated” districts to choose from, now they only have two. Sorry North Olmsted, sorry Mayfield.

The only explanation I’ve seen appear for this change is that letter grades are somehow easier for people to understand than confusing words like “excellent” or “effective.” It reminds me of how they rate restaurants in New York City (“This one got a B. I forget, is that with or without rat droppings?”). But I’ve not yet seen any explanation for why the ratings of so many of the state’s districts and school buildings need to drop, compared to the few whose will go up. Considering the impact it could have on home values, let’s hope the administration rethinks its plan.

If you want to see where your school or district winds up under the proposed changes, check here.

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