The Ohio House has approved a bill designed to give school districts more flexibility in making up calamity days.
The bill requires students to spend a minimum number of hours in school each year instead of a minimum number of days. It changes the minimum school year from 182 days to a requirement of 455 hours for half-day kindergarten, 910 hours for grades one through six, and 1001 hours for grades seven through 12. The House has also approved a bill giving schools letter grades for their performance. The grades would be phased in over three school years based on 13 performance measures. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler has that story.
The bill would replace the current six categories – excellent with distinction, excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency – with the letter grades that most students get – A through F. Republican Rep. Gerald Stebelton of Lancaster said it’s time to replace that complicated ranking system which has low performance expectations for schools and students, imprecise and wide ranges of performance, and a lack of content and benchmarks from outside Ohio.
“There was nobody who testified in opposition to this bill. So. It’s a good bill. It’s a comprehensive bill. It’s a bill that’s been a long time coming. Could it be better? Probably. Will it get better in the future? We hope so.”
And indeed, several Democrats rose to complain about the bill – specifically, about what they felt was the rush in getting it to the floor. Nicki Antonio from the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood said there’s too much uncertainty with a new nationwide curriculum being implemented, with new teacher evaluations from the current budget and with no school funding formula yet from Gov. John Kasich.
“I think we would give it an incomplete on many scales that really means an F. Let’s fix this, let’s do the right thing. Let’s get Ohio’s children and the education system on the right path to passing a grade. A bit of remediation could go a long way.”
Democrat Matt Lundy of Elyria said the new system would hit in the middle of the school year. He compared this issue to the continuing coverage of the so-called “fiscal cliff”.
“I would suggest that Washington has the fiscal cliff, but Columbus has the “education cliff”. And public education is being driven right off the cliff, and Gov. Kasich is the one driving that bus. Our children and our schools in 555 are being set up for failure.”
Democrats tried to delay the new grading system, but Stebelton said only one area of measurement would be changed, so there was no need for delay. Republican Kristina Roegner of Hudson said in fact, she would have liked to have seen this bill sooner, because the current rankings are confusing.
“Continuous improvement? Now that sounds actually wonderful. We all strive to be continuously improving. Or academic watch – now there’s one for you. I mean, should we watch them because they’re an academic benchmark or we should follow their lead? How about excellent? That really should be the best there is – but wait. There is excellent with distinction. Now everyone who went to school in the United States understands the A through F grading system.”
Democrats also blasted the process, saying they hadn’t been heard during hearings and that the bill was being fast tracked because of the Governor’s desire to see it enacted this year, and urged Republicans to be independent and slow it down. But the bill passed the House easily, and now heads to the Senate, and President Tom Niehaus has said passing it is a priority.