Letter grades don’t tell it all


I perused the Ohio Department of Education’s website for this column because report cards for Ohio schools were recently released. And the results (grades) for schools were reported in myriad newspapers in Ohio.

How does a school or district earn an A-F Achievement Component Grade? By a Performance Index score: the level of achievement for each student on each state test. The possible levels are Advanced, Accelerated, Proficient, Basic and Limited.

Folks, these A-F grades don’t tell it all.

“The state test results that form the backbone of the report card have long been closely correlated to wealth and poverty. Schools in higher-income communities generally test well, while those in lower-income areas usually score lower,” according to a 2019 article in the Dayton Daily News.

Do school districts need to be held accountable for student learning? Yes. Do schools need to measure achievement and progress? Yes. Does balanced testing have a place in our school system? Yes.

And what about schools in Ohio’s Appalachian counties? The Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools, in partnership with the Ohio University College of Education, is an organization composed of 136 school districts, institutions of higher learning and other educational agencies in the 35-county region of Ohio designated as Appalachia. What say you about an overall grade for schools in Appalachia? Please speak up and speak louder—I can’t hear you.

I agree with the following paragraph on the ODE website, “Report Cards are only one part of the story. To get a fuller picture, we encourage you to visit schools, talk to educators, parents and students, and review the school’s or district’s webpage. A lot of great things are happening every day in Ohio’s schools!”

So, send some appreciation to teachers, administrators, and school staff in Scioto County. National Teacher Appreciation Day, also known as National Teacher Day, is observed on the Tuesday of the first full week in May. But you can send some extra gratitude anytime. Speak out against the overall grade as a viable measurement.

“Teachers have the capacity to shape the minds and futures of many – and they do so at all kinds of critical life stages. Kindergarten teachers introduce young minds to the wonder of learning – and to the basic tools of learning that students will use their entire lives. Middle School teachers have the onerous challenge of instilling a passion for academics in large groups of teens and tweens, whose minds are so deeply focused on developmental issues and their idiosyncratic social worlds. High school teachers are charged with teaching detailed intellectual content to large groups of “near adults” – whose worlds are often tumultuous on the inside and on the outside,” according to a 2015 article in Psychology Today.

Using an overall grade indicator remains controversial among lawmakers, school administrators, educators, teachers, parents, and others.

Kudos to State Rep. Mike Duffey, the primary sponsor of House Bill 591. Duffy’s position in a nutshell: A-F grades lead to a punitive approach to schools and should be dropped. Cosponsors include Representatives: Theresa Gavarone, George Lang, Bill Reineke, Craig Riedel, Tim Shaffer, and William Seitz. Read information on HB 591 at www.legislature.ohio.gov.

Shame and blame are not positive motivators for kids or adults. So just stop it with the punitive approach of overall grades for Ohio schools. ODE needs to speak up and support House Bill 591.

The take-way from this column is that Ohio schools should not be labeled with an overall grade indicator. What say you?


By Melissa Martin

Contributing columnist

Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Wheelersburg in Southern Ohio.

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