Ensure School Data Is Accurate

It should have raised a red flag in front of someone at the Ohio Department of Education when Union Local schools got an F in the round of state “Report Cards” released earlier this year. The Union Local district certainly has challenges to face – but the initial grades for it this year were in sharp contrast to previous reports.

Nearly all school teachers recognize that if a student whose grades normally are good suddenly fails a test, something is wrong. Often, the first thing a teacher looks at is whether she or he made errors in grading the student’s work.

But that did not happen in Columbus. The Union Local district’s report card initially showed it with a high school achievement grade of F and a district grade of D.

District Superintendent Doug Thoburn and other educators knew something had to be wrong, so they got in touch with the state education department. This week they revealed the district’s Report Card, found online at the Ohio Department of Education website, has been corrected. The district now has an achievement grade of C, with the high school getting an A.

Thoburn explained some data, from tests given to high school juniors, was not included in the state’s records. Once it was factored into the evaluation, the district and high school grades went up.

Again, the district does need to improve in some ways. In programs for gifted students and work to close the achievement gaps between most children and those coping with various challenges, improvements are needed.

But Union Local did not deserve the black eye it received in Columbus. Neither did other districts that encountered similar problems with the state report. That was an unfair reflection not just on educators, but on students, parents and the communities that support public schools.

State education evaluators should pay more attention to sudden changes, good or bad, in achievement at Ohio schools. Delaying release of state Report Card data a few days, until local school officials can be contacted to ensure a problem such as that at Union Local did not cause a low grade, is better than creating an inaccurate impression of how well a district is doing.