(Toledo News Now) - Monday was the first day back to school for many students, teacher and administrators in Ohio. As they head back to class, school leaders are being graded by a new organization. Students First issued its first State Policy Report Card Monday. Students First was founded by Michelle Rhee after she left her high-profile job as chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools in 2010, and works to reform education in the United States.
The organization gave 11 states failing grades. Only two, Louisiana and Florida, managed to reach the "B" range. No "A" grades were awarded.
Students First gave Ohio a grade of "C-" on the report card. In terms of raw numerical scores, Ohio ranked tenth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Students First says the grades were calculated by comparing state education policy and laws to the organization's platform. Student performance was not a factor in the evaluation. The criteria was organized into three categories: evaluate teaching, empower parents and spend wisely & govern well. Letter grades were assigned in each category based on a defined rubric.
Students First gave Ohio a grade of "D+" in the "Evaluate Teaching" section, despite calling Ohio "a leader in several aspects" of the category. The organization highlighted Ohio's teacher evaluation system, which incorporates student growth. It also commended Ohio for using similar criteria to evaluate principals and administrators. In the area of teacher evaluation, Students First recommends Ohio begin to incorporate student feedback into teacher evaluations and consider teacher management skills when evaluating administrators. The aspects of teacher evaluation most in need of attention in Ohio according to Students First are tenure attainment & maintenance, rewarding performance with pay, reform of salary schedules and recognition of alternative certifications.
In the area of "Empower Students", Ohio received a "C+" grade. Students First recognized Ohio for issuing annual letter grades based on student performance to every district in the state, but said the state does little to inform parents of those grades. The report also recommends the state implement a parent trigger plan, which would allow parents to take over a failing school after several failing evaluations. When it comes to school choice, the report says Ohio has a strong plan for charter school evaluation. Students first recommends the state repeal a law which limits the number of charter schools one organization can operate at 100. The report also says Ohio needs to provide equal funding to students in charter and public schools, something the state is not currently doing.
Ohio earned its highest grade, a "B", in the "Spend Wisely & Govern Well" category. Students First cited a strong district takeover law in Ohio, which allows the state to take control of a district after it consistently fails to perform at an acceptable level in state evaluations. The report suggests expanding that power by allowing a city's mayor to appoint a single chancellor to run failing districts, rather than a nine member board of education.
Overall, the report says Ohio is headed in the right direction when it comes to education, but argues there is still a considerable amount of work to be done. Students First praises the passage of a bill known as "The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools" by the Ohio legislature last year. Under the plan, Cleveland's mayor took control of the school district. The bill allowed the district to make substantial changes to the way it handles teacher tenure and compensation. The bill also expands public support for charter schools and school choice. In the report, Students First calls the Cleveland plan "a model for reforms for the rest of the state."
Michigan received an overall "C-" grade on the report as well. Students First gave Michigan a "B-" in teacher evaluation, an "F" in empowering parents and a "B" in spending wisely & governing well.