Improving Ohio Schools

For several reasons, Ohio’s new “report card” system of evaluating public education probably should not seem like the end of the world to parents of students in school districts that did not do well.

But the evaluations cannot be dismissed entirely, either.

As we reported Saturday, the new letter grading system was a mixed bag for East Ohio public schools. Some did well, while others did not.

Among those that did not was Union Local Schools in Belmont County. There, Superintendent Doug Thoburn lashed out at the state Department of Education’s evaluation system. It is “grossly unfair to teachers and to parents that deserve some measure of confidence,” he said.

Thoburn added that officials in his district had found “data errors” in the state’s evaluation. A revised report card for Union Local will be released once those mistakes are corrected, he said.

His comment on errors is worrisome. If state evaluators made mistakes on Union Local’s grades, how many other districts are being portrayed unfairly? Clearly, local school administrators should take close looks at the report cards to ensure they are accurate.

Another comment by Thoburn deserves consideration. As he pointed out, “we have had several different grading criteria over the past 20 years by which to measure schools. About the time a school district finds a way to show success, the state changes the rules and we begin all over again – the constantly moving target.”

Not just in Ohio but in many other states, that is a valid complaint by many educators.

Still, parents, educators and school administrators should not dismiss the new evaluations out of hand. Where shortcomings are identified, they must be addressed. Boards of education and the communities that select them should demand that.