Test numbers distort truth

Test numbers distort truth


I was disappointed in The Vindicator’s choice on Jan. 17 to base a news story on information provided by the Alliance of Public Charter Schools in promotion of their member schools. The article titled, “Charter schools top city’s in performance,” was deceptive in the way it presented data called Value Added Ratings from the Ohio Department of Education. The O.D.E. never intended for this rating to be used in isolation, without reference to students’ actual scores, as was done by the Alliance.

Value Added Scoring was added by the state in an attempt to improve fairness to schools in impoverished areas. It reports the gains that students made from one year to the next, even when they continue to fail to reach proficiency. The Alliance for charter schools (and The Vindicator) reported charter school gains without reference to the fact that while the students gained points, most still failed the test.

Many of the public schools listed actually had better scores than the charter schools. In Value Added Ratings a school may actually suffer as a result of its own success. The ratings are based on the difference in scores between two years. As a simplified illustration, a student who completed 100 percent of items correctly in the first year has nowhere to go but down in the second. Even if he achieves a high score, it will be reported as “expectations not met,” because the expectation is that his score will improve. However a student who failed with 40 percent in the first year and failed with 55 percent in the second year could show a gain of 15 points, at which point the Jan. 17 article would laud his “success” of “expectations exceeded.”

In this story, The Vindicator succeeded in obscuring the meaning of success, and failed an ethical test of journalism.



X The writer is a representative of the NEOEA, the northeast district of the Ohio Education Association.

Dollar figures distort story


The Jan. 7 article, “City schools lose 1,726 students in 3 years,” propagates a serious distortion of what happens to public school finances when students taking advantage of school choice programs leave traditional public schools.

The story says that 3,500 Youngstown schoolchildren have exercised the School Choice option, taking with them to their new schools the amount of the state subsidy (up to about $7,000 each).

While that statement is accurate, it’s only part of the story. It’s also true that those same students leave behind them the share of school funding that comes from local taxes, meaning that the school district has more money per student to educate remaining children.

In the years since school choice programs (public charter schools, vouchers, and open enrollment) first started in Ohio, per pupil spending in Youngstown schools has risen from $7,192 per year (1994-95) to $14,862 per year (2006-07). That’s a staggering increase of 106 percent, or 74 percent when adjusted for inflation, the largest per pupil expenditure of any urban school district in Ohio.

And these figures do not count the $192 million in tax funds being spent on school buildings.

For years, traditional school educators have repeated the misrepresentation that school choice students hurt districts financially. Taxpayers may want to inquire what they are getting for a real increase in per pupil spending of 74 per cent in just over a decade.



X The writer is president of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education.