New measure adds value to report cards

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

These report cards serve as a way for parents to have conversations with teachers about such basic questions as:

  • What's expected from my child?
  • How will I know my child is succeeding?
  • Did my child make the expected gains this year?
  • Is my child being challenged?
  • What can I do if my child is struggling?

"The state is providing more information for families so they can have a conversation with teachers about their school's progress to help their children succeed," says Jennifer Vargo, family and community engagement coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). "An informed parent can ask those important questions. These reports help parents understand specifically where their school is succeeding or lagging behind with their children's growth. Parents can ask teachers for specific activities to do at home, beyond homework."

Accessing online report cards

Ohio's report cards can be accessed at where you will find information on your child's school or your school district. The site now includes this value-added growth measurement.

Why should you care about report cards? Most families and citizens know their district's rating from the Local Report Card for districts and individual schools. People use this information to determine where they want to buy a home, invest in a business, or send their children to school. But most people don't look beyond the rating.

When you look underneath the rating label, you can tell a lot about an educational system. School districts and buildings receive report cards based on how well students score on state tests, how regularly students attend school and how many students graduate.

Understanding value-added data

Until now, the state measured the achievement of students at one specific point in time on a state test, like a snapshot of one day in a child's life. With new value-added data, we now can tell the story of children's progress, so measurement becomes more like a photo album. We can observe improvement from year to year to see how much they've grown academically.

On page 2 of the report card, you will see the new value-added measure that shows whether a school or building is above, at or below the expected growth level (Evaluated with plus, check or minus.)

Value-added scores are on the report card for grades 4 through 8 in reading and mathematics. They tell how much value your school and teachers have added to children's learning in a year. A composite score that reports the overall performance. The value-added measure reports the average of every child's progress-not just those who are behind, but those who are excelling.

In the past, we've compared one fourth-grade class to the previous year's fourth-grade class. Comparing two different groups of children doesn't tell us much about teaching and learning over time. Measuring the progress of the same group of children from year to year can help teachers and administrators pinpoint problems and gauge successes.

Ask about value-added scores

You may have already received an individualized family score report card in the mail that you can discuss with your child's teacher. Take the score report card and your school's local report card to your first parent-teacher meeting. Both pieces of information will help you and your child's teacher determine how much progress your child is making.

Report card conversations with the community

If you'd like to engage in conversations with other parents about report cards, here are some suggestions:

  • Host a parent meeting or open house to discuss the report card.
  • Contact the ODE to have a Parent Academy on school improvement or academic content standards.
  • Ask administrators to make the report cards available to parents.
  • Ask teachers and administrators to post report cards on the school website or in the school office.
  • Include information about report cards in the school newsletter.
  • Discuss the report card with other parents.
  • Host a community event at your school with community leaders, citizens, and business leaders.

Susan Tave Zelman is superintendent of public instruction at the Ohio Department of Education, which oversees K12 education in the state.