Find ways to improve ‘grades’

Schools across the Buckeye State received some feedback from the Ohio Department of Education last week in the form of annual “report cards” issued to assess the progress and performance of each district and the individuals schools within them. Unfortunately, the marks local schools received were “average” at best.

All districts in Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties received an overall letter grade of C or D. Those certainly cannot be described as “high marks.” Most parents would not reward similar “grades” for individual students.

Overall district grades were listed as follows: Barnesville, C; Bellaire, D; Bridgeport, C; Buckeye Local, D; Harrison Hills, C; Martins Ferry, D; Shadyside, D; St. Clairsville, C; Switzerland of Ohio, D; and Union Local, D. Still, local education leaders insist those grades do not paint an accurate picture of what is taking place in area schools. They say local teachers are talented and dedicated, and that they are making real stride with students.

We do not doubt that the vast majority of teachers in our area schools are dedicated, capable professionals who work hard every day. We truly believe they want to help their students learn and grow and achieve success. But something is obviously missing in our local schools if a C grade is the best they could do.

In addition to an overall grade, the districts also received grades for six separate components: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers and Prepared for Success. It was in some of these areas that superintendents said their districts made progress.

“There are so many different things in this report card. We went up in some areas and down in some areas. It takes 31 pages to explain what is in this report card. Shadyside is a D. … That is not a true indicator of what happens in our district. … I don’t think the overall grade is a true reflection of what goes on in our district,” Shadyside Superintendent John Haswell said. “I don’t give much credence to this.”

Regardless of whether educators like the assessment method or not, it is something the state has implemented. It may be flawed, but local districts need to find ways to perform better. Some local educators said more affluent districts perform better. Perhaps they should investigate those districts’ methods and imitate them.

In any event, these grades are reported to the public and are the basis upon many an opinion is formed. Local school districts should examine the data closely and identify more ways to improve.