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Ohio's schools will never again get letter grades on their report cards

A student walks down a hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, the first week all students were back to in-person learning in 2021.
Daniel Konik
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Statehouse News Bureau
A student walks down a hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, the first week all students were back to in-person learning in 2021.

The letter grades haven't been used the last two years on state report cards because of the pandemic, and won't ever be used again.

Ohio’s state report cards on schools will never again rank districts and buildings on an A-F letter grade scale.

This year’s abbreviated report cards show graduation rate, student performance on certain indicators and demographic and enrollment data for buildings and districts.

The report cards back up what a report from the Ohio Department of Education showed last month - that across the board, students lost ground during the pandemic. That report said state test results showed scores that were eight points lower in state language arts tests and 15 points down in math.

Dr. Chris Woolard, senior executive director of the center of performance and impact at the Ohio Department of Education, said even without letter grades, the report cards tell a story of what’s happened in the last year.

“Statewide student performance decreased. It didn't impact everybody the same, though. And that's sort of an important point, too, that it was our sort of historically underserved students, our economically disadvantaged students who were more impacted had larger decreases," Woolard said.

An analysis by the state's largest teachers' union, the Ohio Education Association, showed there was about a 10% drop in districts' Performance Index scores. But it said charter schools in the state saw a 25% drop – a 2.5 times greater degree of loss.

Last year's report cards also didn't feature letter grades.

But Woolard said there's still a lot of information in the report cards, even without the letter grades.

“It's really designed to have a better understanding, one, the impact of the pandemic, sort of understand where students and schools are, and to sort of set a bit of a baseline moving forward about how do we move forward this year," Woolard said.

Woolard said a law passed earlier this year replaces letter grades with one to five stars, and other data will be simplified.

This is the second major overhaul for the report cards in a decade. The letter grades, first put in place in 2012, were scrapped after some lawmakers didn’t like the labeling of some low-performing districts as failing. There were also complaints that the system was both too simplistic and too complicated.

Changing letter grades to stars doesn't affect how buildings are categorized for the state's EdChoice voucher program. As of a law passed in November 2020, whether students in a building qualify for EdChoice is based on that building's performance index score, which is one element of the report cards.

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