Public schools in Cleveland have worked hard to overcome the stigma of a “failing grade” from the state’s annual school report card rating system. By assigning schools and districts a letter grade of A-F, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) tried to give parents and caregivers information about the quality of their child’s school. 

Unfortunately, many of the factors used to determine a school’s report card rating, such as standardized test scores, early literacy data, and graduation rates, tell us more about the income levels and barriers to success in a community than the quality of teaching and support available in its schools. 

Updates to the state’s school rating system were approved last year, and the ODE released the new report cards for the 2021-22 school year in September. The new State Report Card uses stars instead of the traditional letter grades, hoping to give a more balanced perspective. Instead of a letter grade of “C,” schools that meet expectations receive 3 stars. Those that exceed expectations have a score of five stars. 

In the past, CMSD has focused on the indicators that its schools are closing the achievement gap and student progress from one year to the next. Progress + gap closing = higher achievement. Before COVID-19, the district celebrated a drastic improvement in high school graduation rates and preschool enrollment, both very important measures of school achievement. Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic undercut these successes and placed many students who already struggled further behind. 

Key factors in understanding this year’s report card changes include:  

  • No more letter grades. 
  • Schools and districts are now measured using a star rating system. 

Schools can earn up to 5 stars in each of the following categories: 

  • Gap Closing —  Reduction in educational gaps based on student subgroups such as racial identity and diverse learning needs
  • Progress —  Growth students are making based on past performance
  • Early Literacy —  Reading skills and growth for students in Kindergarten – 3rd grade
  • Achievement — Measures student performance based on statewide benchmarks 
  • Graduation — Measure the % of students who graduate in 4 or 5 years 


A sixth category, “college, career, workforce, and military readiness,” will be added for 2022-23. The new star system will be fully implemented over the next 2-3 years, and it will also include half-stars which was not possible in the prior grade letter system.