December 11, 2012: Ohio Senate Education Committee – H.B. 555 Testimony

Chairwoman Lehner, Ranking Member Sawyer, and members  of  the  Senate  Education Committee, my name is Eric Gordon. I am Superintendent of The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and am submitting this written testimony regarding HB 555 on behalf of The Ohio 8.


The Ohio 8 is a strategic alliance composed of the superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight urban school districts – Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland,  Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. The Ohio 8 Coalition’s mission is to work with policy makers to improve academic performance, increase graduation rates and close the achievement gap for urban children throughout Ohio. The Coalition carries out its mission by working closely with legislators, educators, parents, labor and community officials. The Coalition brings a shared administrator-teacher voice to help shape state education policy.


HB 555

With regard to the provisions of HB 555 our concerns are outlined below within the following items:


1) Lower quintile student subgroup

The bill suggests that a ‘lower quintile subgroup’ be established to track the lowest performing students statewide. It is our suggestion that the tracking of students in quintiles be expanded to all five quintiles. This would allow for a more accurate understanding, comparison and tracking of students over time. In addition, it is likely that some student sub groups already being tracked (i.e. Special Education or Gifted) will also be counted within each quintile. This  would  present  a dynamic where some students would be counted twice—once within their separate subgroup and again within a quintile. As a result, we recommend the information tracked within any quintile not be factored into any letter grade and exist for informational purposes only, or be used to support the creation of a balanced dashboard that considers multiple measures of achievement and of growth equally.


2) Annual Measurable Objective (AMO)

In previous iterations of the system, the goal for the AMOs was to reduce by half the performance gaps existing for demographic subgroups within a 5-year timeframe. Within HB 555, the AMO language states that performance within that timeframe be measured within each of the five years and if performance within one year does not hit the annual benchmark, than even gains in subsequent years, allowing a district to meet the overall benchmark, would not be counted as meeting the overall 5 year benchmark. For example, if a district must grow a measure by 5% each year in order to meet the five year goal of a particular AMO and did not meet benchmarks for Year 1 (in which it grew 2%) and Year 2 (in which it gained 3%) but made significant gains from between Years 3, 4 and 5 (5% each of the final three years), the district would still fail to meet the total 5-year goal (earning 20% gain instead of 25% gain over the five year period) due to missing benchmarks in only a portion of those years. We would like you to consider the inclusion of:

  • Average of the growth measure over the entire 5-year period instead of each individual year.
  • Inclusion of a safe harbor provision which reflects annual progress against these five year goals


3) Performance indicators and performance index

In previous iterations proposed for the  system,  performance  indicators  and  performance  index were considered duplicative and the performance index was the mechanism chosen as the most meaningful as it’s purpose it to measure student “stretch” or growth. Inclusion of both performance indicators and performance index places greater emphasis on  achievement  over growth – an approach about which we have great concern. As a result, both  performance indicators and performance index should be weighted equally to reflect both student achievement and growth. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education has discussed the need to set high cut-scores on the newly developed assessments to more accurately measure student proficiency on those tests. However, in order to calculate an effective Performance Index, which measures students who are accelerated or advanced  compared  to  the  proficiency  goals,  these  cut-scores must be set lower in order to accommodate sufficient “stretch” questions to measure these performance levels.


4) Over counting of student subgroups

As we submitted to legislators during Senate Bill 316 discussions, at risk  students  impact  a district’s report card in several categories. The proposed A-F accountability system allows for a single student to be counted multiple times within the annual measurable objective achievement measure. For example, a Hispanic student also matching the criteria for the Limited English Proficiency category, who did not meet the  annual  measurable  objective  target  in  graduation rates, would be counted three times, once in each category, because that student is also captured in the  All  category. This  approach holds  a  school  district  accountable  for  the  same  student’s performance multiple times if that student is included in various categories. This method disproportionately impacts urban school districts with large, diverse student populations and high concentrations of special needs, economically disadvantaged, and Limited English Proficiency students.


Let me be clear, we have no problem with tracking and reporting student group data. We already use this to refine our approach to instruction and strategy. We do not believe, however, the accountability system should be punitive relative to the diverse student population of our district. We suggest that the ranking system count students only once for purposes of calculating the letter grade based on their primary category, defined as the student’s ethnic group category, while still reporting the  other categories  for  special needs, limited  English  proficiency, and  economically disadvantaged.


5) State Board of Education work product

Within HB 555 is a provision that requires the State Board of Education to present it’s final work product related to Ohio’ accountability system to the Ohio General Assembly. This provision, does not however, specify in what format, scope or timing of providing that information. The Ohio 8 suggests that the final work product of the State Board of Education not be limited to summaries and/bullet points and in a format that allows for stakeholders to  understand  the rationale and methodology behind the final decisions made behind the major  accountability systems standards and indicators.


6) Timeline for Implementation

The Ohio 8 suggests a phase in of a new ranking system with full and exclusive implementation of the new accountability system during the 2015-2016 school year, including significant outreach by the State of Ohio to stakeholders, school districts, and community members. Implementation mid-school year does not provide enough time for communities to understand the shift to letter grades, most especially if a district ranking changes significantly from the last report card or perhaps has a levy on the ballot in the spring of 2013.


7) Composite letter grade vs. Dashboard & addition of “+” and “-“

As it stands now HB 555 provides a dashboard for the first two years of implementation then the institution of a composite letter grade. HB 555 also does not include a ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ for each assigned letter grade. The Ohio 8 requests that in order to accurately reflect progress and growth of school districts and students over time that a dashboard is utilized in lieu of the composite grade and that ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ are added to each assigned letter grade.


8) Determination of whether a student is “college and career ready”

This question is the focus of work being done around the new Common Core standards, which Ohio and 45 other states have adopted. Those higher standards are considered by  many  to represent college and career readiness. Two consortia,  however,  are  still  developing  the assessments of student progress towards those standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), of which Ohio is a member, recently advised Ohio stakeholders that its assessments won’t be completed for another year, though preliminary drafts of elements of those assessments in English/Language Arts and math are developed for comment (See link here The timing  for the work  around the Common Core and implementation of Ohio’s accountability system should be aligned.


9)Voucher eligibility for value-add D or F schools

The Ohio 8 requests the following language be struck from the bill.

  • The district/building receives a grade of “D” or “F” for the performance index score and for the value-added progress dimension for the 2012-13 or 2013-14 school year, or both.
  • The district/building receives an overall grade of “D” or “F” or a grade of “F” for the value- added progress dimension for the 2014-15 school year or any school year thereafter.


10) Changing Achievement Benchmark from 75-92%

This dramatic shift is concerning particularly if it is not weighted in a balanced way vis-à-vis any “Growth” benchmarks. In other words, a school district’s ability to meet growth measures should be weighted equally with achievement measures. The Ohio Eight  would  suggest  that  school districts be measured not only on whether they are achieving the goal of increasing student proficiency rates to 92% but also on the year by year improvements on the number of students who are proficient, thereby balancing achievement with growth.



I want to thank this Committee for giving The Ohio 8 the opportunity to submit this testimony. We stand ready as a resource to each member of the  legislature  and  their  staff  as  this  issue evolves in the short and long term.