The state of Ohio released school report cards earlier this month, and they should be treated with the seriousness of a thumbed-nose farting noise in a Monty Python sketch.

Across the state this year, district grades are down as new tests have set benchmarks higher for students than in years past.

The state’s A-F system for grading public schools began in 2013 and replaced the old system that ranked districts from “excellent” to “continuing improvement” to “academic emergency.”

While an “overall district grade” will not be in place until 2018, each school and district did receive six separate A-F grades, one for each area graded.

Those areas include achievement (students passing state tests), the progress of students over past performances, the high-school graduation rate, “closing the gap” (progress of students in subgroups, such as disabilities, low-income and racial/ethnic groups), K-3 literacy, and “prepared for success,” which includes technical training or preparation for work or college.

Low grades across Ohio appear to be borne out in the statewide data, with 504 out of 608 districts graded receiving a C or D grade on the achievement component, 532 out of 608 districts receiving a C or D grade on the “prepared for success” component, and 526 districts receiving an F on the “closing the gap” component.

But frankly, these grades are essentially useless as they are based on a third new test in as many years, and they don’t take into account key factors such as the poverty achievement gap, Ohio’s unconstitutional funding model, and the disastrous impacts of ridiculously over-administered standardized testing.

I was at an event recently with three regional superintendents in southeast Ohio and all were in agreement that these tests were being used with ill intent to bogusly malign public education, and contributed very little to a real-world analysis of the state of Ohio’s schools.

Indeed, Warren Local Superintendent Kyle Newton shared an analysis recently showing that the report cards do little more than confirm what anybody interested in education already knows ­– the biggest driver of bad educational outcomes in America is the poverty achievement gap.

Newton’s analysis showed the following:

  • Not one district with MORE than 18 percent poverty received an “A” on Indicators Met.  524 districts have more than 18 percent poverty.  83 percent of schools have more than 18 percent poverty.
  • Only two districts received an “A” on Performance Index Score.  One has 0 percent poverty and the other has 9 percent poverty.  One is ranked in the top 16 percent while the other is in the top 10 percent for property value.
  • None of the 100 poorest schools, by property valuation, received above a “D” or an “F” in Indicators Met.
  • No Rural High Poverty Districts received anything higher than a “D” on Indicators Met.
  • 3 percent of Rural Districts received an “A” or “B” in Indicators Met.
  • No Small Town High Poverty Districts received anything higher than a “D” on indicators Met.
  • 4 percent of Small Town Districts received a “B” on Indicators Met, there were no “A.”
  • All but one “A” for Indicators Met was received by a Suburban District.  There are No High Poverty or Medium Poverty Districts with the Suburban District typology.
  • All but one Urban District received an “F” on Indicators Met.  One received a “D.

Public education crusader William Phillis shared the following from the analysis in his Ohio E&A Newsletter:

Poverty creates barriers to learning. All of the “accept no excuses” rhetoric and test and punish strategies put forward the past two decades have not resulted in any significant “gap closing.” The reason is obvious: significant compensatory resources are required to overcome the effects of poverty on education achievement.

Federal and state officials will try anything-charters, vouchers, state takeover, recovery districts-as long as it doesn’t involve a sufficient investment of money and resources to overcome the learning barriers of poverty children. An Ohio legislator recently stated that he liked charters because it is a cheaper way to deal with urban school districts.

D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive’s, the National Journal’s The Hotline, and The New York Observer’s He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.


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