Starting next year, school districts in Ohio will do away with current grade card designations, such as “Excellent,” and “Effective,” and “Continuous Improvement.” Instead, they will receive letter grades on several measures similar to how students receive grades for their classes.
“I think it’s time now to begin preparing the community for this,” Oregon City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar said at a recent school board meeting.
“Starting next year, we’re going to do away with the current grade card that has designations. We’re going to a letter grade system,” he said.
The grades for measures will be combined into six categories, called components. The six components are: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, K-3 Literacy, and Prepared for Success.
Achievement, according to the Ohio Department of Education, measures absolute academic achievement compared to national standards of success. Progress measures the average annual improvement for each student. Gap Closing measures how well a school or district is doing in narrowing gaps in reading, math, and graduation rate among students according to socioeconomic, racial, ethnic or disability status. K-3 Literacy measures the improvement in reading for students in kindergarten through third grade. And Prepared for Success measures whether students who graduate are prepared for college or a career.
“By the year 2015, it will go to nine components,” said Zalar. “The state is not exactly sure yet of how they’re going to come up with a composite grade based on these components. It’s something they’re working on right now. We need to start talking about this in our community because it’s going to be a big change. Oregon is going to be on top of this.”
The standard level of proficiency will also rise to 80 percent from 75 percent, said Zalar.
“So the bar continues to be raised, as well as the standards,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for a number of years. I’m confident that our staff and our kids are going to be prepared when these new changes come down. This is something that the state board of education feels strongly about. Their rationale is to try to make it easier for parents to understand. Parents understand letter grades. They don’t necessarily understand the various distinctions and categories like “Excellent,” and “Effective.”
Board member Diana Gadus said it will take time for the community to understand the changes.
“The letter grades that are going to be coming out are going to be based on this year’s testing results. The whole process of change is going to take at least three years as we move in that direction, with the new curriculum standards,” she said.
The district is frustrated, said Zalar, by the number of new statewide initiatives that are being mandated, such as: The new teacher evaluation system, new principal evaluation system, third grade reading guarantee, common core state standards, and online testing.
“These are major change initiatives that really should be years in the making that is sort of being dumped on public education, and we’re being asked to accommodate these changes very quickly,” said Zalar. “I believe the preparation we are taking, I want to commend our staff. We’re out in front of the curve a little bit. Certainly, we have room for improvement. These changes are tough on everyone. But they are necessary. They are mandated by the state and we’re doing the best we can to assimilate and accommodate them.”