State Representative Mike Duffey wants to overhaul the way the State represents how well schools are teaching kids in Ohio.
Right now, the State uses an A-F letter grade system to give parents an idea of how well their school district is doing.
But Duffey says, there has been an outcry of disdain for the way those grades are calculated.
With the system not even fully implemented yet, Duffey is putting forward legislation that would fundamentally change what parents would have access to and how they could determine for themselves if they think the school is doing enough to educate kids.
According to Duffey, the way the current system is set up has a lot of problems.
“The nitty-gritty methodology of the current report card is unfair and prejudicial; it’s socio-economical prejudicial; it’s racially prejudicial, to be totally honest, and so we have to move away from that,” said Duffey.
Duffey says only 20 percent of the letter grade is based on student progress. The majority of the rest of the grade comes from outcomes of standardized tests.
Duffey says it is unfair that students of different skill levels are lumped together, and districts that do a good job of teaching students with special needs inevitably get worse overall grades as those students pull the assessment test scores down.
There are other factors that contribute to similar problems with weighting the letter grades on assessment as opposed to progress.
Duffey uses the example of a 3rd-grade student who is two years behind on their education. If a teacher was able to provide that student with a year’s worth of learning, and they absorbed it, that student would be getting a good education. If the teacher provided more than a year’s worth of learning, that student would be getting a great education, said Duffey.
That same student, even after all that learning, is still likely to fail the 3rd-grade test, according to Duffey, and as such it will go toward penalizing the school.
Among other things, Duffey’s bill would scrap the letter grade system. It would also wipe away the current weights and measures, and institute benchmarks.
Those benchmarks and the school’s scores could be viewed by parents so they could be compared on an apples to apples basis, not the apples to oranges basis currently occurring, according to Duffey.
In other words, the parents of a special needs student could see how other special needs students did in other school districts like their own.
Being able to compare district to district on equal footing is also important to Duffey.
Suburban predominantly white affluent school districts where the students have two parents with a college education are going to score differently than districts in distressed areas.
Those differences in socio-economic demographics should be taken into account, according to Duffey.
Being able to make these comparisons and see the data, as opposed to a meaningless letter, will give parents a clearer view of the educational landscape available to them, according to Duffey.
The State School Board will have to make a decision soon on whether to implement the last phase of the current system or put it on hold.
Duffey hopes they put it on hold until his legislation or something similar can be passed.
Because it is the middle of May, and lawmakers are about to go on summer break for two to three months, getting Duffey’s bill passed before the end of this General Assembly is still possible but increasingly unlikely.
Duffey says if the bill can get through the House before they go on break, it has a shot at making it to the Governor’s desk late in the session.
If it doesn’t, then it will likely have to be picked up by another lawmaker or the Governor themselves, since Duffey is term-limited and will not be returning to the Statehouse next year.
Duffey says the bill has the support of factions on both sides of the aisle and it doesn’t appear to have much if any opposition.
But things take time to get done here at the Statehouse. Still, if constituents want the bill to pass and they put pressure on their Representatives and Senators to get it done, stranger things have moved quickly through the process.
Congressional redistricting reform for instance only took three weeks, and that started with republicans and democrats in disagreement.
Duffey’s bill could see its first hearing in a House committee Tuesday.