Story submitted for posting on the Outlook – 10-9-18

By George Wood: George Wood is superintendent of schools, Federal Hocking Local, in Stewart, Ohio, and the father of two sons who were prepared for success by their public school teachers.

Imagine this. You are a Midwestern state that lost thousands of industrial and other jobs in the past 20 years. But you are digging yourself out. You have a governor whose slogan is that the state is “open for business.” Your Jobs and Family Services agency offices answer with “Ohio Means Jobs.” You cut business and personal taxes.

On the employment front your capital city is one of the finalists for the second Amazon headquarters, which means around 50,000 good-paying tech jobs. Several regions have seen improved employment markets to the point that the state needs to attract, by some predictions, over 2 million new residents just to keep up with demand for employees.

But amid this potentially promising future you put out a report that says your public schools cannot prepare students for success.

What state would do that to itself?

Ohio has.

On its own, without any demands from the federal government to do so, the Ohio Department of Education has created the “Prepared for Success” category on the school report card. The measure counts how many students earn a high score on ACT or SAT (neither of which are good predictors of college success), or an Ohio Honors Diploma (there has never been any research tying this diploma to success after school), or complete an industry credential (many of which can only be earned after high school in an apprenticeship program). The percentage of students getting “points” on these criteria is then magically turned into a letter grade of “A” to “F”.

This year, nine, yes, just nine Ohio school districts out of 646, earned an “A” on this measure. On the other hand, 555 districts, 86 percent of the total, earned a “D” or “F.”

In other words, Amazon and all of you thinking about coming to Ohio, only 1.4 percent of Ohio’s schools are good at preparing children for the future so you might consider other options.

It would be one thing if this measure actually related to anything in real life. But it does not. The standard was created out of the imagination of bureaucrats in Columbus; no other state has a similar measure and no research backs it up.

There are so many things wrong with Ohio’s school report cards released this month it is hard to know where to start. Schools get graded on how well 7- and 8-year-olds take a reading test – a test given on a computer to children many too young to know how to type let alone drag-and-drop answers. In figuring overall school district grades the graduation rate only counts for 15 percent of the total when we all know this is the most important measure of a school.

And the Ohio Achievement Test scores, which count for the most on the report card, have still not been demonstrated to connect to anything other than the ability to take a test.

But the Prepared for Success measure may be the most damning. Despite all the children who graduate from Ohio public schools to go on to success in college, employment and the military, ODE puts out a report card claiming that the vast majority of the state’s schools do not prepare graduates for success.

What a great message to send to every employer considering our state and every new resident we are trying to attract.

Why would any state do this to itself?

Who knows? But Ohio has.