Today we continue our look at draft rankings of Ohio school districts the Ohio Department of Education released last month.
This year’s state budget bill required the Ohio Department of Education to rank public schools and school districts based on students’ performance on standardized tests. That includes ranking districts on a measure called the “performance index” that looks at how many students passed state standardized tests, how many excelled and how many failed. The draft rankings released earlier this fall include traditional public schools as well as charter schools, joint vocational school districts and STEM schools.
(There are also rankings of how districts based on “value-added” calculations. Value-added calculations show how much students learned each year in reading and math in grades four through eight.)
Today, we look at rural districts. By the draft rankings:
- Mahoning County’s Springfield school district is the state’s top Appalachian school district;
- The St. Henry Consolidated school district in Mercer County is the state’s top “country” school district; and
- The Minster school district in Auglaize County is the state’s top “small-town” school district.
To group districts, we applied the Ohio Department of Education’s categories of school districts to the official draft rankings. (The official draft rankings don’t distinguish between different types of districts.) In addition to urban and suburban school districts, the department identifies three types of rural school districts:
- Appalachian school districts: These are rural agricultural districts mostly in the Appalachian area of Ohio. As a group, they tend to have higher-than-average poverty rates and few adults with college degrees
- “Country” school districts: These are mostly small, very rural districts outside of Appalachia. Like Appalachian school districts, they have few adults with college degrees, but their overall poverty rates are much lower.
- “Small-town” school districts: These districts tend to be small towns located in rural areas outside of Appalachia. They have relatively low poverty rates, comparable to many suburban districts, but lower rates of college attendance.
Source: Ohio Department of Education
Source: Ohio Department of Education
As we’ve noted earlier, these rankings aren’t the be-all and end-all of evaluating school quality in Ohio. Even the Ohio Department of Education would not say these rankings show the best and worst schools in Ohio.
Former state legislator and former State Board of Education member Colleen Grady actually calls these performance index rankings “the most confusing and least useful of the accountability ratings, lists and rankings” because:
- The PI calculation is based on passage rates of Ohio Achievement Assessments (grades 3-8) and the Ohio Graduation Test (grades 10 and 11). The proficiency “cut scores” are so low that students can be determined “proficient” even when they answer less than 50% of test questions correctly.
- The PI calculation gives schools and districts “partial” credit for students who fail to meet the proficient standard.
- The PI calculation does not include a growth component. Districts and schools can be highly ranked even if students are learning little from year to year.
- The PI is a clumsy instrument that does not allow the average person to distinguish the true performance of districts. For example, 50 districts have PI scores of 100.XXXX [with the X's representing the digits after the decimal point]. Is there any real difference in performance between the district ranked 210 of 611 or 260 of 611 districts?
Still, these rankings are one way of looking at Ohio school districts’ performance. As we pointed out earlier this year when state report cards were released, this kind of information can be used as a starting point for understanding how your local school district is doing.