Educators say there's a relationship between student, school achievement and wealth

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Oh.-(WTAP) Updated: 9/24/2017 11:00 A.M>

The recently released Ohio Report Card on school and student achievement has raised discussion on the link between student achievement and economic status.

With a few exceptions, local school systems with the highest grades from the Ohio Department of Education were also in the wealthiest neighborhoods.

A local school administrator acknowledges wealth plays a role in student achievement.

She adds, however, districts in more rural areas lack access to other resources.

"I think the geographic remoteness we have in Southeast Ohio when it comes to access to these types of resources has an influence on students' overall performance," says Stephanie Starcher, Superintendent of Fort Frye Schools. "I think our region is trying to build those assets in our community and our economy. But I think economics does play a great role."

Starcher says those resources include access to student tutoring, mental health and medical services.

School leaders in general throughout Washington County say the report card results don't accurately express the progress their districts-and students-are making.


School leaders-even those from the state itself-say the way Ohio grades its local schools is complicated. Some even use the word "convoluted".

It grades a long list of criteria, without arriving at a final, overall grade.

"It can be confusing to the average individual, and even to some of us in education," says Tracy Huck, Science Teacher, Fort Frye schools. "The interpretation of that information is debatable; what does it all actually mean?"

For instance, most of Washington County's six public school districts got good to excellent grades for graduation rates, but low grades for performance on state exams.

It's those tests, generated outside the school system, that are frustrating to local educators.

"A lot of money, a lot of resources and a lot of time go into this testing and accountability system," says Stephanie Starcher, Superintendent, Fort Frye Schools. "And I think education experts, teachers, parents and community members believe that money could be better spent on resources to meet all of the child's needs that aren't just related to a score on an achievement test."

Another factor, say local administrators, is the economy. Some of them released data stating schools in Ohio's more affluent communities did better in the report card's categories than those in rural, more economically disadvantaged areas.

And, they say, there are factors in the classroom not reflected, even in the grades on a student's report card.

"Laboratory skills are not a component of the report card, and we put a high value on that," says teacher Huck. "So, there's an example of something in my own classroom where that's not being tested."

In short, a much-discussed system whose impact is downplayed even by the people who designed it.