State report cards need to keep it simple

By Melanie Yingst

Over the last two years or so, I’ve written about various aspects of being a parent, a life-long member of this community where I was born and raised and the antics that go along with this career.

One of my most favorite things I’ve enjoyed is sharing the highs and lows as a single parent. One of my favorite activities I look forward to is helping with Evan’s LEGO League team through the Waco Historical Society’s learning center.

One of the things I enjoy most about First LEGO League is the emphasis on the “KISS” principle. The “Keep It Simple, Silly” principle because it is something I have to work at constantly in my own life.

As a First LEGO League coach, I love watching these pre-teens come up with grand ideas because it’s human nature to think big. So, as coaches, we encourage them to, what I call “reel it in,” and pull back some of the details and focus on the main task at hand.

This is not only hard to do as an energetic tween, but hard to do as overzealous adults.

Just ask the folks who work at the Ohio Department of Education.

More than eight years ago, one of my first major reporting assignments was to contact Miami County’s public schools on the state report card. Back in those days, the state report card was four pages long.

Four. Pages. Long.

The same state report card also gave out five designations to districts ranging from “Excellent with Distinction” to “Continuous Effort” all the way down to “Academic Emergency.”

Five. Designated. Categories.

On Thursday, the state released its 2015-2016 state report card.

Want to know how many pages each district’s report card is? Only 31 pages long for each district.

As a news reporter, do you want to know how many of those pages I looked at as I interviewed local superintendents?

Just the first page.

Sure I glanced at the rest of the 30 pages, but their time is precious and so is mine. At first glance, there are some really pretty pie charts, red X’s and green check marks and neat data boxes. I didn’t pause to see what they mean, they were just colorful.

Yes, I took a gander at my son’s school and his class results from last year, but I couldn’t tell you how well they did right at this moment, though.

There’s too many numbers, categories, sub categories and line graphs to follow. Yesterday, I scrolled through to try to reach the bottom of the report. By the time I reached page 31, I couldn’t begin to tell you what any of it meant.

In my defense, the state’s own data contradicts itself from the very start. For example, District X earned an F in K-3 literacy, an A in graduation rate and another F in “gap closing.”

How can District X have K-3 students unable to read, yet nearly 100 percent of the class graduate? Isn’t that the whole point of “closing the gap?” You have Kindergartners who can barely read to students earning their diploma. I don’t get it.

But that’s what is being reported on the first page on District X.

In the LEGO League coach’s handbook, the organization’s creators remind coaches that “in the engineering world, simple solutions are much more desirable than complex ones. The complex solution has many more places to fail, is more difficult to repair, may cost more, and its operation may be less intuitive.”

Well, in the education world, simple state report cards are much more desirable than complex ones.

It sure would be nice if someone would suggest to Ohio Department of Education’s Superintendent Dr. Paolo DeMaria if they could apply this “K.I.S.S” principle to the state department of education and their annual report cards.

By Melanie Yingst

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. She can still remember her ACT score, only because it was higher than her twin sister’s score.

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. She can still remember her ACT score, only because it was higher than her twin sister’s score.


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