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Quick Fact Check — Yes For Columbus Schools

Quick Fact Check — Yes For Columbus Schools

614now Staff

While the presidential election continues to occupy the political spotlight, local voters will also be making decisions on several levy and bond requests.  Earlier this month, Franklin County Auditor, Clarence Mingo, released his office’s Levy Estimator so that residents could predict the financial impact of the ballot asks.

The most significant request is Issue 57, a package that asks for an 18% increase in property taxes for Columbus City Schools.  You’ve probably seen the campaign for the issue, Yes for Columbus Schools, it includes a website, commercials, and a social media presence. 

The whole thing is looking to be an callback to a 2013 school levy that failed — but this one has far more narrow goals — upkeep, new staff, and raising money for general operations.

As it is with any political campaign, some of its claims are more true than others.

Let’s look at its two academic improvements in the district, highlighted on its web page:

CLAIM: “Three years ago the Schools’ third grade reading test (a prerequisite to moving up to fourth grade) success rate was 42%.  For the last two years, 91% of all CCS third graders moved up to 4th grade.”

As the claim is suggesting that 125% more third graders are advancing to the fourth grade, that suggestion is FALSE.

The campaign compares test scores from October of 2013 with scores from April of subsequent years. Low test scores in October are typical throughout Ohio (in fact, the Ohio Department of Education published the state scoring trends in 2013 here.) That’s because students taking the October exam have completed only one month of third grade.  When the students take the exam again in April, the passage rate always improves dramatically, as the students have gained an academic year’s worth of education.

The campaign is comparing a pre-test with a post-test.  It would be striking if students managed to learn nothing during third grade, although that may be the district’s expectation.

According to the 2016 Ohio Department of Education Report Card,  while 90.1% of the district’s third graders qualified to advance to the fourth grade, only 30.6% were labeled proficient, earning the district an F in K-3 literacy improvement.

CLAIM: “The Ohio Department of Education gave the Schools an “A” for academic improvement in 2015, up from an “F” in 2013.”

The claim for 2015 is TRUE. The Ohio Department of Education released its updated report card for 2016 here. It does not include any A grades for the district.

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