The state report cards in Ohio are a disaster. Not because of poor teaching, not because of poor administrators, not because of poor students, but because of poor test composition, poor expectations, poor measurement, poor supports, poor financing, and poor policy making. Superintendent DeMaria, putting the best lipstick he can find on to this pig, and offering nothing but advice, (no resources, no change of policy, no admission of any fault on the state’s part) tells us to be hopeful.
First there’s this. This is what the state thinks of our schools:
– Achievement Component: Over half of all districts and about 60% of all schools received a D or an F.
– Graduation Rate Component: Looks okay for the moment with graduation rates above 90%, but these test results do not impact current graduation rates. When they do, at the end of the 2017/2018 school year, expect graduation rates to drop below 60%
– Progress Component: A third of our districts and schools are in D or F territory.
– Gap Closing Component: How are Ohio’s schools doing at closing the gap between wealthier students and the most vulnerable students? 86% of our school districts got an F.
– K-3 Literacy Component: Over 70% of our districts picked up an F on this measurement.
– Prepared for Success Component: Just under half of our districts were told they deserved a D or F because of the terrible job they are doing.
Seriously? Must be, because Superintendent DeMaria (who is only two months into the job) also says:
“Let’s remember what we’re trying to do: Make sure our students are prepared to succeed in a highly competitive global economy.” DeMaria and the policy makers believe that the best way to do this is to call most of Ohio’s schools, students, teachers, and administrators a bunch of losers. No new resources come with this name calling, no concrete information with which to improve instruction, no supports for students who are struggling. Just non-constructive labeling. Want proof?
DeMaria: “The report card reflects the higher expectations – and it shows. We expected this to happen.” In other words, we knew we would end up calling you all stupid, but we raised the bar anyway. We didn’t have a bit of scientific reasoning behind this increase, but we did it anyway.
DeMaria: “Improvement does not show up clearly given the changes on the report card.” Truth: Improvement doesn’t show up at all. In the past three years, Ohio’s ranking among the states has dropped from the top 5 to the middle of the pack.
DeMaria: “There’s more to a child’s learning than what is measured on the report card.” Then why aren’t we measuring that instead of putting all of our eggs into the demand for rigor in a few subjects while ignoring many others?
DeMaria: “The report card is one – but not the only – measure of school and district performance.” It would be nice to know what those things are and why they aren’t being reported.
DeMaria: “We know that Ohio’s students, teachers and schools have what it takes to reach our goal.” What is that goal – specifically – because every year the state moves the goal posts.
DeMaria: “We should not let the report cards define us.” Tell that to the local papers who put the scores across their front pages, because that is the only information we give them. Our schools are much more complex than a letter grade can convey, but that’s what you put out there, so that’s what gets reported.
1. To accommodate testing and test preparation for the report cards, recess, art, music, physical education and subjects with great value to educating the whole person are being set aside.
2. Because the report card is based on tests, curriculum must be geared to a test, not to the educational needs of a student. For instance, a child weak in vocabulary may be ignored in favor of teaching the high ordered thinking skills needed for the test.
3. Scores are randomly set higher and higher without causal validity, creating unnecessary pressures on students, teachers, and schools.
4. Teachers are leaving the profession, while potential teachers are not signing up for those pressures. This is causing serious teacher shortages, especially in impoverished schools where teachers are being evaluated as ineffective because their students don’t do well on a test.
5. The education gap between rich and poor is growing as is the racial segregation of schools.
6. Whole communities are destroyed as their schools are rated poorly, thus reducing the value of their property and causing flight to other areas where more affluent schools can be accessed. This is despite the truth that some of our best teachers are in difficult schools with a dedication to help the poor.
7. Even good teachers in struggling schools finally give up and move to more affluent schools where they are paid better, and the tests don’t cause them to be rated as ineffective.
8. Teachers’ relationships with students are negatively impacted by the teacher’s need to get the student to pass a test.
9. Hundreds of millions of dollars are taken from the classroom and redirected to testing companies for a product that is wholly unreliable.
Bottom line: These report cards are doing great harm to our kids. The report cards prove nothing. The report cards will not improve teacher effectiveness, they do not show a principal’s value, they do not improve a school’s success, and they are so out of line with the truth that they can’t be taken seriously. These report cards should be dumped and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to produce them returned to the classroom.
~A.J. Wagner, State Board of Education Member