Districts already working to discredit pending state report cards

The state's new round of local report cards detailing last year's performance for Ohio public schools won't be made public until the last week of August, but district school officials are already scrambling to discredit the reports.

Representatives of the "Ohio Eight" urban districts met with the Ohio Department of Education last month to express concerns over the accuracy of last year's Ohio Achievement Tests (see here), and a Cincinnati Public Schools official expressed concerns over the validity of tests at particular grade levels and subjects (see here).

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, half of Cincinnati's fourth-graders passed the math test in the 2006-2007 school year, but, as fifth graders, just 35 percent passed. Elizabeth Holtzapple, the district's student achievement data expert, told the Enquirer, "we think the testing scores should not fluctuate as much from year to year."

Last fall's Fordham report The Proficiency Illusion supports Holtzapple's concerns. The report found that Ohio's math exam isn't well-calibrated across grade levels, meaning that it is tougher to pass at some grade levels than others. In fact, the report found that Ohio's math test peaks in difficulty at the fifth grade (see here).

Such imperfections in the state's assessments, however, should not become an excuse for scrapping the system entirely. But they should remind the State Board of Education and Ohio Department of Education of the importance of continually refining and improving the tests, including reviewing cut scores and ensuring calibration across grades.

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