Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Schools' grades higher on latest report cards




BY SPENCER HUNT
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — State school superintendent Susan Tave Zelman says the new batch of school report cards show Ohio's schools are improving.

        Dr. Zelman's remarks Tuesday were her first since the state mailed report cards to about 1.7 million parents. Despite her praise, results of last year's student testing show only 30 of the state's 607 school districts met all 27 state standards for a quality education.

CHECK THE GRADES
  • Grades for area districts
  • All report cards are online at ww.ode.state.oh.us
        The report cards were mailed to parents Monday, accompanied by renewed condemnations from critics who consider them inaccurate. Some school administrators who have tax issues before voters also complained, saying the state's bad marks won't help them win at the polls March 7.

        Dr. Zelman said many schools' test results have improved since 1998.

        “These results, while showing us that so much more needs to be accomplished, remind us that a lot of talented educators are working hard,” Dr. Zelman said. “They are getting results, and

        they are taking our new performance standards seriously.”

        Although 30 school districts achieved the state's highest rating of “effective,” Dr. Zelman said only six hit that level in 1998. The number of districts listed under “continuous improvement” went up to 377 districts from 278 in 1998.

        There also are 77 fewer school districts under “academic watch.” The number of schools ranked as “academic emergencies” dropped to 69 districts from 115 in 1998.

        Cincinnati Public Schools were again listed as one of those “academic emergencies,” having met six of the state's 27 standards.

        Volunteers campaigning to pass two CPS issues on the March 7 ballot hope voters will look past the grade and see the district is improving. CPS seeks two levies totaling nearly $104 million a year, which would decrease class size, repair buildings, expand reading and math programs, and fund other operating expenses.

        “I would hope that we are dealing with people who understand we are working on the problem,” said Bob Brown, president of Cincinnatians Active to Support Education, (CASE), the political action committee working to pass the levies.

        The timing problem was created when state lawmakers moved the election from May to March so that Ohio would take part in the Super Tuesday presidential primaries.

        Other area school districts with issues on the ballot seem unconcerned.

        While “continuous improvement” is not the highest rating, Three Rivers Schools Superintendent Richard Scherer and Lakota Schools Superintendent Kathy Klink said it's better than average.

        “It's difficult for any district to be (ranked) Effective ” Mr. Scherer said.

        The report cards could actually help Madeira Schools pass its 8.9-mill continuing levy, which would raise $1.6 million a year to cover higher operating costs. Madeira is one of the few districts Ohio considers “effective.”

        “It supports our assertion that we have a record of excellence,” said Madeira Superintendent Michele Hummel. “For us it was very helpful.”

        While administrators weigh the effects on their levies, some critics of the report cards chose this weekend's mass mailing to speak out.

        One of those critics is Randy Hoover, a Youngstown State University education professor. Mr. Hoover released a study that he says shows 64 percent of a student's grade on the state test is related to factors that teachers cannot control, such as family income, property values and poverty levels.

        Dr. Zelman said she disagrees with Mr. Hoover's findings.

        “Clearly, what I think his study is suggesting is that some students cost more to educate than other students,” she said. “However, my goal is that we do not have a set of standards for poor kids and a set of standards for rich kids. We need one high-quality set of standards for all children.”

       



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