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Ohio A-F School Rating System Signed by Gov. Kasich

A measure that institutes an A-F grading system for Ohio's public schools and replaces an existing system of qualitative ratings has been signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The move helps the state meet the requirements it agreed to when it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education from the No Child Left Behind Act.

As the analysis of the forthcoming A-F system for Ohio schools puts it, the A-F grades will be instituted for the 2012-13 school year, but only in specific performance categories and not for overall school grades. That system will continue in the 2013-14 school year, and only in the 2014-15 school year will schools begin receiving a general A-F grade. In total, there are 15 specific performance categories, and not all of them will receive grades in 2012-13 and 2013-14, since some will only be reported. Some of the categories include four- and five-year cohort graduation rates, Advanced Placement program participation rates and test scores, and the share of students determined not to be college-ready." In addition, the "academic progress measure" for high school students won't become part of schools' overall grades until 2015-16. The literacy rate of K-3 at schools, also a hot topic in Ohio, won't be reported or graded for the 2012-13 year, but it will be graded in 2013-14 and thereafter.

House Education Committee Chairman Gerald Stebelton, a Republican, told StateImpact Ohio when the bill passed that the new system might irritate school and districts due to how hard it will be under the new system to get an "A" grade: "It's going to cause some heartburn, I suppose, for some of our school districts and some of our administrators for a period of time, but they'll get through it. And I think in the long term they'll be better off for it."

Back in May, I wrote about how the NCLB waiver process was pushing many states to adopt explicit school grading systems, and I touched on Ohio's situation.

So who likes these kind of A-F systems? The Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Tallahassee, Fla.-based education advocacy group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, that pushes for heightened accountability through data, among other approaches. "Ohio's new A-F school grading system will provide transparent and objective data to parents, educators and the public. As seen in other states that have implemented A-F school grading, this framework stimulates more parental and community involvement, ultimately spurring significant improvement among schools," the group said in a statement commending Kasich, a Republican, for signing the bill.

But what about the problems some see in A-F? As Matt Di Carlo wrote for the National Education Policy Center in Boulder, Colo., discussing Indiana's A-F school grading system, "All schools can get at least decent grades if they do well on the growth component, but some face a severe structural disadvantage (or advantage) at the business ends of the grade distribution (F and A)."

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