Governor Taft and Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Tave Zelman said The Blade's school-by-school analysis - by income- is something they see as essential for school reform in Ohio.
Shown The Blade's findings, Mr. Taft said it is “an important first step” toward identifying high-performing schools - and low-performing schools.
“This is a really excellent analysis,” Mr. Taft said. “You have to be careful not to draw the conclusion that students from lower-income families cannot be educated at high levels. I believe they can. I believe there are some schools that are doing it but not enough schools that are doing that.
“This data also reveals one of the weaknesses of our current system of assessment and accountability,” Mr. Taft said. “If you really want to assess how schools are doing you really have to look at how are they doing compared to similar schools with similar demographics.”
Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio's superintendent of education, said the state should be allowed to “disaggregate” data - to report test scores by race and income on a school-by-school basis.
“I would like to disaggregate our data so we can see whether all our children are learning,” Dr. Zelman said.
She said such an analysis would allow the state to identify high achieving schools in Ohio and target assistance and correction to schools that need it.
The Ohio General Assembly in 1998 barred reporting such details in the Report Cards.
Texas and North Carolina, for example, report data by race and gender. Those two states recently gave a presentation to the Governor's Commission for Student Success.
Sue Westendorf, a member of the state Board of Education from Napoleon, said many public school teachers and administrators fear the impact of comparing the performance of white and black students. She said most of the state board believes it must be done.
“If we don't start disaggregating data at the state level, we aren't going to know where our gaps are,” Ms. Westendorf said. “You can't deal with the problem when you keep covering it up.”
William Phillis, executive director of the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, said The Blade's findings show once again that the state is not getting its resources to where they are needed to guarantee quality education.
“That only the wealthiest schools are achieving - that's not really a surprise,” Mr. Phillis said.
The coalition of 500 school districts brought the DeRolph vs. State of Ohio lawsuit in which the state Supreme Court declared Ohio's property-tax school-funding system unconstitutional. The General Assembly was given a deadline of June 15, 2001, to find a remedy.
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