The revamped school report cards released yesterday paint a picture of a Columbus City Schools district that is struggling in so many ways: Not enough kids can pass state tests. A year's worth of learning didn't take place last year. It's outright failing at helping gifted children grow and, at the same time, struggling with disabled students and children who have fallen behind. Far too few students are graduating.
If the state’s old report-card system had been in place, it’s likely that Columbus City Schools would have dropped to an “academic watch” grade yesterday. That’s a D.
But there’s no overall grade this year, so the district is spared a slip from the C grade it has clung to for several years. Still, the revamped school report cards released yesterday paint a picture of a district that is struggling in so many ways: Not enough kids can pass state tests. A year’s worth of learning didn’t take place last year. It’s outright failing at helping gifted children grow and, at the same time, struggling with disabled students and children who have fallen behind.
Far too few students are graduating.
On the revamped report cards, in which districts received nine letter grades for test scores, graduation rates, making progress and closing achievement gaps among groups of students, Columbus earned four F’s, three D’s and two C’s. It met the minimum passing-rate standard on only three state tests.
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And for the first time in years, the district’s attendance rate went down significantly, to 92.5 percent. It usually had at least met the state’s minimum requirement of 93 percent.
District officials said they could not comment on whether Columbus’ weaker performance had anything to do with the alleged practice of “scrubbing,” or withdrawing students who had been absent a lot, coming to an end. Critics said the data-rigging booted those students’ absences and test scores from their schools’ state report-card calculations.
No school district in the state had straight A’s. Only one in central Ohio — Heath in Licking County — had more F’s than Columbus.
Columbus’ mayor, the interim superintendent and other city and school officials seized the abysmal academic news as an opportunity to demand action. In a news conference yesterday, the mayor said there’s only one thing to do: Start doing everything differently in Columbus City Schools and pass a 9.01-mill levy in November.
“We as a community have failed the children of this school and we have failed the children of this district,” Mayor Michael B. Coleman said yesterday at Hamilton STEM Academy in the South Linden neighborhood. “We are here to say enough is enough and we are not going to take it anymore."
Coleman spoke in his strongest terms yet about the state of academics in Columbus, calling them disgraceful. The community no longer can pretend that all is well here. It is not, he said.
Still, other large, urban school districts in Ohio, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, Canton and Youngstown, had more F grades than Columbus.
One Columbus school, Arlington Park Elementary, received F grades across the board.
All but eight of the district’s 115 schools earned at least one F. One school — Clinton Elementary — earned four A’s out of its six possible grades. It had the most A’s in the entire district. Eighty-four schools, or 73 percent of the district’s buildings, didn’t earn a single A grade.
“The state report card is not acceptable to this community and it’s not acceptable to me,” said interim Superintendent Dan Good, saying he already has made changes to the way the schools operate. “There are no excuses and I’m going to offer none.”
Mark Real, president and CEO of KidsOhio, said he found the don’t-deny-it attitude from Coleman and Good about the poor report card refreshing.
“At least this is candid,” he said. “I think this is coming to terms just with the facts. They said, ‘We only met three of 24 standards.’ You wouldn’t have acknowledged that in past years.”
Former Superintendent Gene Harris often offered the same take on Columbus’ report-card showing: It’s not perfect, but it’s progress.
Coleman said it’s time to adopt the city’s version of the “Declaration of Independence” from the old way of doing business in the district.
“The (Columbus Education Commission’s) recommendations are the path of freedom from the state of failure,” he said. “We need to walk down the path of freedom.”