When the Ohio Department of Education unveiled its waiver request from certain items in the No Child Left Behind law, they revealed a major change in the rating system for public schools that resulted in a lower ranking for the majority of schools and school districts.  To say that this change to a system that would assign letter grades was not received well by all stakeholders would be an understatement.  We explained the new (down)grading system and offered our thoughts on how it would adversely effect homeowners in districts assigned lower grades by the Ohio Department of Education.

But the strangest part of this is the story that people haven’t been screaming about.  This wasn’t the first planned downgrade for schools enacted by Superintendent Stan Heffner and the Ohio Department of Education.  In June 2010, Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards, a new curriculum that will be effective in 2014-2015 when newly aligned assessments also will be implemented.  The new standards are intended to “raise the bar” on instruction in Ohio and were expected to lower student achievement and lower school ratings, something discussed as recently as December by Heffner and reported by us and the Dispatch:

Statewide education organizations are supportive of the initiative, even though it apparently would make it tougher for districts to earn an “A.” . …the bar for students and schools will be raised under the new system. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/7/11)

So today, when the Dispatch discussed both the harder standards for 2014 and the already lower grades for 2012 didn’t they ask Heffner about the double-whammy on districts?  The likely scenario is that they don’t understand the inter-connectivity of the educational structure in Ohio and it’s highly unlikely that Heffner wants the public to find out.

Here are the quotes from today’s article (the very same article).

At the beginning, a recap of the change to tougher standards.

So they’re overhauling the guidelines of what students should know, writing more challenging tests to assess what they’ve learned, forcing schools to revamp curriculum and grading schools on a tougher scale. “The current system is letting kids down,” state Superintendent Stan Heffner said.  Three school years from now, the overhaul will be complete and every school will be teaching under tougher standards.

And then near the end the downgrade of districts that is now coming even earlier.

In addition to new curriculum and testing, state report cards also will be revamped. And parents might want to brace themselves: Most school districts are expected to drop a grade or two under the new ratings. “Parents won’t see as many A’s,” warned state Superintendent Heffner. “This is a far more-rigorous system.” Last year, 92 percent of school districts got the equivalent of an A or B on state-issued report cards; if the new system had been in place, it would have been 66?percent.  In some [measurement] areas, the state raised the bar, too, making it harder for schools and districts to earn an A.

We need you to understand this crucial detail — those paragraphs are referencing two completely different reform initiatives being put in place by the Ohio Department of Education designed to lower the ratings of public schools.

And the intended outcome of each is to “raise the bar” and lower the rankings of all public schools in the state.  The waiver changes resulted in a ‘C’ average for Ohio’s school districts, with many of Ohio’s high-performing districts dropping to a ‘B’ after being top-ranked.  In 2014, Ohio Schools Supt Heffner is expecting those scores to drop even further due to the tougher assessments.  Given that the grading system is based completely around the assessments, it’s not unrealistic to believe that a district could drop another full letter grade, resulting in your Excellent school district bring home straight Cs on their report card.

Nothing like another well-designed plan coming out of Ohio.  After all, aren’t people known to flock to jobs and homes in “average” school districts?