Ohio department puts its own report card online

Ohio department puts its own report card online

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The Ohio Education Department is using Web technology to analyze school performance indicators and to communicate with students and families as it fulfills state legislative mandates for improving the state's school system.

Ohio Senate Bill 55, passed in the Ohio General Assembly in August 1997, requires the department to increase the achievement levels of its 1.8 million students.

'The bill also mandated the department create school report cards for performance of school districts and mail them to all schoolkids,'' said Robert B. Luikart, the department's information technology officer.

The department began distributing the paper report cards in June 1998, and this past August it launched its online interactive Local Report Card (iLRC) for fiscal 1998. Fiscal 1999 performance data will be online next month.

The report cards comprise statistics of 27 performance indicators from Ohio school districts collected through 23 data acquisition centers. This information is maintained in the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which uses an Oracle8 Release 8.05 database running under Microsoft Windows NT on a Compaq Computer Corp. server.

The department uses a customized Decision Support System Web interface from MicroStrategy Inc. of Vienna, Va., which lets users view the information on the iLRC link to its Web site.

Users can select a county by pointing and clicking on the map of Ohio on the iLRC Web page to compare information about districts or schools.

They can run a standard report of attendance, enrollment or graduation rates for the 611 districts, or 3,604 elementary, middle and high school buildings.

Other inquiry options include running proficiency test reports in mathematics, reading or science for fourth, sixth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades.

A user receives requested information via Active Server Pages, a feature of the Microsoft Internet Information Server.

An ASP holds small embedded programs in the Web page called scripts, which use input from the user to access the EMIS database and deliver a page with customized information.

The data is downloadable into Microsoft Excel or Access, and Lotus 1-2-3.

An interface that resembles Amazon.com's provides an easily navigable site, Luikart said.

'We found that we wanted to create an interactive environment for more analysis,'' he said. 'This allows administrators to compare like districts.''

Fund driver

Districts or schools could use this information to levy campaigns for more funds, Luikart said.

Information on iLRC could also help parents when selecting a new home because school district performance is often a factor in real estate decisions, Luikart said.

Thirty percent of Ohio households have Internet access, he added, and as access increases, electronic data could become more cost-effective than mailing paper copies of reports.

'Mailing the report cards costs $5 million. If we cut out even 1 percent of that, we cover the cost of development of this project, which was $400,000,'' Luikart said. 'From the technological point of view, Ohio is moving toward e-government with actionable information.''

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