In early February, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released the first draft of its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Required by law to incorporate at least one “non-academic” indicator in its report card, Ohio chose two: student engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism and the Prepared for Success report-card component. In a previous piece, I explored the student engagement aspect; here, I tackle the Prepared for Success (PFS) component, which is designed to gauge how well prepared students are for what comes after high school.

The PFS component contains six measures that are combined to determine an A-F grade. They are divided into a “primary” and “bonus” category. Primary measures earn districts one point toward their composite score and include students who earn any of the following:

Districts and schools are only able to earn a total of one point per student in the primary category, regardless of how many measures a student completes. Students who have earned one point based on the primary category can also earn their district an additional 0.3 points through the bonus category, which includes:

Districts and schools can only earn a maximum of 0.3 bonus points, regardless of how many bonus measures a student completes. Overall, they are able to earn a total of 0, 1, or 1.3 points per student. To determine the composite grade, the total number of points earned by a district is divided by the total number of students in that year’s graduating class to yield a percentage with a letter grade equivalent. According to the department, the PFS component will be weighted at 15 percent of a district or high school’s summative grade, the same weighting given to components like graduation rate and gap closing. Ohio’s achievement and academic progress components weigh slightly more at 20 percent each.

Other than the fact that the PFS component measures a completely different aspect of school quality, it differs from Ohio’s other non-academic indicator, student engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism, in three significant ways. First, PFS is not a new component. It has been part of Ohio’s statewide accountability system since the 2013-14 school year, although districts didn’t receive letter grades for it until 2016. Second, PFS only applies to districts and individual high schools (district, charter, or independent STEM). Student engagement, on the other hand, applies to all grades. Third, PFS will remain a separate, graded component of the accountability system. This is different than the student engagement indicator, which will be folded into the Achievement Component.

The only significant difference between Ohio’s current PFS component and the one it proposes in its ESSA plan is that the revised component will be based only on the four-year graduating class cohort, rather than the combination of both the four- and five-year cohorts. This small improvement clarifies both the calculation and the interpretation of its results. The change is also representative of what Ohio has proposed to do with many of its accountability indicators—small revisions, rather than a complete overhaul or major new additions, are the name of the game. This is good news, since Ohio already has a strong accountability system and since the state has undergone a tremendous amount of educational change in the past few years.

There are quite a few reasons why maintaining the PFS component under the new state accountability system is a good idea. For starters, stakeholder feedback conducted during the planning process was clear that measuring college and career readiness matters to Ohioans. Second, the component boasts multiple measures of preparation, all of which are objective assessments outside the scope of traditional, state standardized tests. The component also emphasizes Ohio-specific programs and initiatives, such as College Credit Plus and Ohio’s robust CTE options. The fact that districts and schools can earn points based on honors diplomas and industry-recognized credentials also signals Ohio’s commitment to the myriad pathways available to students, rather than focusing only on college. In short, PFS is definitely worth keeping.

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Jessica Poiner - Fordham

Jessica Poiner is a 2011 Teach For America corps member who worked as a high school English teacher in Memphis, Tennessee. While in Memphis, she taught for Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District. A native of Ohio, Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Baldwin-Wallace University. 

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