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State report cards may be studied

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Changes could be coming to schools’ state report cards, with the Senate’s version of the biennial budget calling for a study on the achievement measure.

The Senate unanimously passed its substitute bill to the House-introduced biennial budget Thursday. While it removed language addressing academic distress commissions — an incendiary topic throughout the budget process — it created a committee to study the principles of the state report card.

Under House Bill 70, the 2015 law that allowed for the state takeover of Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland schools, a district’s report card is what sends a struggling district under state mandate. Like the state takeover of struggling school districts, school report cards have been a topic of much discussion during this budget cycle — and often the two topics intertwine.

The East Cleveland school board’s lawsuit against the state regarding its takeover is based on report card data. In it, the board alleges the district did not receive an overall failing grade for its 2017-18 report card, as it was given was based on “flawed, unreliable data.”

Lorain similarly decried its takeover after it was denied a safe-harbor provision that hinged on state report cards, as the tests that determined certain indexes had changed annually ahead of the district’s final failing grade. In 2016, Lorain’s then-Superintendent Jeff Graham unsuccessfully urged state Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria to include the district in provisions that kept other districts report card scores from counting toward a state takeover.

Under the current report card metrics, 10 other districts, including Columbus, Dayton and Toledo school districts, could fall under state purview in the next two years.

During Thursday’s full Senate hearing, Sens. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, recognized the educational investments the budget makes while noting something needs to change with the state takeover law.

“By not providing relief and a better strategy to assist our schools that are threatened with the mismanagement of our academic distress commissions, that’s a tragedy,” Sykes said. “We weren’t able to make a decision on those issues, and we’re just kicking the can a little further down the road.”

The state report card committee would look at how performance measures and overall grades are calculated and weighted and whether the measures accurately reflect student academic achievement.

The committee will include DeMaria or his designee, the chairperson of the House primary and secondary education committee, chairperson of the Senate education committee, two members of the House appointed by the speaker of the House, two members of the Senate appointed by the president of the senate, and three superintendents appointed by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. Each superintendent would represent a different type of school district: one rural, one suburban and one urban.

It also calls for the committee to consult with independent experts and stakeholders including educators, advocates, parents and the business community.

If the language remains in the budget, the committee would meet no later than 30 days after the budget was signed. The deadline for the governor to sign the bill is June 30.

The committee would look at how many years of data should be included in a district’s score and specific components of the current report card. The committee must submit a report to the General Assembly by Dec. 15 addressing any changes to the evaluation system.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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