The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

January 10, 2014

Ohio’s schools still get C’s on private report card

Here’s more ho-hum news on Ohio’s education system: The state earned five C’s and an A on a national report card released Thursday.

That’s pretty much unchanged from last year’s analysis by Education Week, a national newspaper whose annual report cards for the nation look into student achievement, teacher quality, education financing and other areas.

“The Quality Counts report tells us what we already knew. We have to do a better job educating our children,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

“We have a literacy problem — 27,000 third-graders were not reading at grade level, 40 percent of our high-school graduates attending public colleges and universities must take remedial courses, and 18 percent can’t pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery” given to military applicants.

An analysis that accompanies the state-by-state report cards for 2014 focuses on student learning and education finance, concluding that it’s too soon to gauge the impact of a number of forces affecting the nation’s schools, including Common Core academic standards, increasingly polarized politics on education issues, and new technologies reshaping how learning is delivered.

“There can be little doubt that the environment in which public schools operate is more complex today than ever before,” said Christopher B. Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week.

“With more pressure to perform and expanded options available to students and their families, business as usual is no longer good enough for local school leaders, who must fundamentally rethink how their school systems operate,” Swanson said.

In Ohio, educators are busy implementing the state’s new third-grade reading guarantee, Common Core academic standards, online assessments and teacher evaluations, while many districts seek additional state aid through grants from the new Straight A Fund.

“The third-grade reading guarantee is our No. 1 priority. Students who can read by the end of third grade control their education destiny. If you socially promote kids, they are more likely to drop out,” Charlton said. “But all these things are geared toward making students more successful.”

At the same time, students in Ohio and many other states have more educational options, including privately operated, tax-funded charter schools and state-funded vouchers for private-school tuition.

The report cards focus on six areas, but only three were updated for 2014: chances for success; K-12 achievement; and school finance.

The findings show that Ohio continues to struggle to close learning gaps between poor students and those living above the poverty level, and with equity in school funding.

Ohio ranked 39th in the range of per-pupil spending in poor and wealthy school districts, a spread of more than $5,200.

On test scores, the average Ohio student did well on national assessments.

Ohio ranked 10th in the percentage of fourth-graders scoring proficient or better in math.

Yet students living in poverty continue to lag. The state ranked 36th in the gap in scores on the fourth-grade math test.

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