Real School Reform Near

At long last, Ohio seems on the brink of simple, common-sense school reforms.

One would compare the performance of students to those in other states. Another would eliminate the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that can make it difficult for taxpayers to know just how well schools are performing.

A graduation test given to high school students for several years was progress when it was established. It requires students to pass tests in important subjects before being given diplomas. But one flaw is that the Ohio Graduation Test is unique to the state, meaning it is difficult to evaluate how well students passing it stack up against those taking standardized tests in other states.

A change being readied in Columbus would replace the graduation test with a nationally standardized college readiness test, perhaps the ACT. It and the SAT are used by most colleges to judge whether high school seniors are ready for higher education. In addition, Ohio students would have to take 10 exams in various subjects.

Using a national test is a giant step forward because the performance of Ohio students can be compared to those in other states. That approach is an honest evaluation of how well Buckeye State schools are performing.

Another important proposal, contained in a bill in the state House of Representatives, involves how the state Department of Education “grades” public schools.

Under the current system, schools are given ratings that can be difficult for the public to decipher. We doubt many laypeople know precisely what it means if their school is rated “continuous improvement,” for example.

Among education reform plans in House Bill 555 is a change in the ratings system. If implemented, it would score scores with letter grades from “F” up to “A.”

Everyone understands what that means.

HB 555 should be enacted. The change to a nationally standardized test should be made. Knowing how well Ohio students perform in comparison with their peers elsewhere is important. So is understanding state evaluations of school quality.

Without those two components, no education reform campaign has any prospect of success.