Ohio's public schools show gains on report cards, but one in four kids is chronically absent
The state's more than 600 public schools districts are showing improvement in the annual report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education. But the cards, featuring a five-star rating system, also show there is still a long way for schools to go to get back to where they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It takes three stars and above to meet state standards, which 79% of districts achieved. Only 1% of districts got one star, and 11% of districts got five stars. More than a third of districts got either 3.5 or four stars.
"We're seeing improvement across the board, both in math and English language arts. But we are not back to where we were before the pandemic," said Chris Woolard, the interim superintendent of public instruction for the Ohio Department of Education.
There continues to be an achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their peers in wealthier districts, as has been the case for decades.
"We had gaps before the pandemic and in fact, those gaps persist and in some cases are actually getting worse," Woolard said. "And so we're sort of seeing that improvement, but we're seeing our most vulnerable students are continuing to sort of have significant achievement gaps."
And Woolard said the report cards show more needs to be done to keep kids in school to learn.
"Last year we had over 26% of students in the state were chronically absent. Now that's actually an improvement from the previous year where we were at 30%, but still we have 26%," Woolard said. "So one out of every four students in the state of Ohio is chronically absent."
Woolard said that's a problem because data and research shows students who are chronically absent are less likely to be proficient readers, are more likely to drop out of school and are less likely to be college and career ready. Wollard said kindergarten students and high school seniors are the most likely to be chronically absent.
This is the second year of an overhaul of the report cards. An A-F letter grade system had been phased in starting in 2013 under Republican Gov. John Kasich as a simple way to understand what's happening in schools. The letter grades were suspended for two years during the pandemic. The letter grades were replaced with a star rating system last year.
Woolard said this is the first year the report cards feature overall summative star ratings that give a "big picture" of the district. He said the new star system should be more helpful to parents and will be accompanied by some descriptive language.
If you would like to see how your local schools stacked up this year, click here.