Lawmaker seeks improvements to school rating system

A bill sponsored by State Senator Gary Cates (R- Butler County) would lessen the blow to otherwise high-performing districts that fail to make adequate academic progress with a few subgroups of students. Currently, a district that fails to achieve federally mandated “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) for three consecutive years can be rated no higher than Continuous Improvement (or “C”) by the state. In August, Kettering City Schools saw its overall performance improve (the district met 29 of the state’s 30 academic performance indicators last year, up from 28 the year before and 26 two years ago) but was rated Continuous Improvement because it failed to make AYP with English language learners and special education students. Without the AYP provision, Kettering would have ranked four categories higher at Excellent with Distinction, the state’s highest rating (see here). Lebanon City Schools experienced a similar drop in its rating. 

Senate Bill 167 specifies that a district’s rating could only be negatively impacted by AYP if the district missed AYP for the same two subgroups of students for three consecutive years, and in that case the district’s rating would only drop one level, not directly to Continuous Improvement (see here). Cates introduced the bill in response to concerns from officials in Kettering, Lebanon, and other communities that such a swift drop in a district’s rating could have a negative impact on the community beyond the schoolhouse walls.

“Businesses, taxpayers, government leaders and parents all put a tremendous emphasis on school district ratings. Many companies look at school ratings when deciding to locate in a particular community. Taxpayers may use performance ratings to determine whether they will vote yes or no an important levy. And, parents use rankings to evaluate the quality of their child’s education and the effectiveness of local teachers and administrators,” explained Cates. “While Ohio’s schools should make every effort to ensure all kids have the opportunity to succeed in the classroom, traditionally high-performing districts should not see their ratings plunge, and their reputation tarnished, because of the performance of a small subgroup of students.”

The bill also addresses the other end of the Continuous Improvement spectrum, those otherwise low-performing districts that see their rating bumped up to a “C” simply for making AYP. Marion City Schools met none of the state’s 30 academic performance indicators this year, but was rated Continuous Improvement due to the AYP provision; meanwhile, Youngstown City Schools met two indicators but saw a rating of Academic Emergency. Under Cates’ proposal, a district would need to make AYP and meet at least 10 indicators to earn the “C” rating. Eighteen districts, including Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo, could lose their Continuous Improvement status if the proposed changes are enacted.

A companion bill is still being packaged in the House and there is hope for bipartisan support for the measure.

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