A Performance Index Primer: What do PI Scores Mean, Anyway?

Performance Index Score uses 26 different State data points to compare school districts and charter schools, and features five topline measures for quick comparison. One of these five is the Performance Index Score.  To better understand how schools are rated in Ohio, it’s important to know what the Performance Index is, how it is calculated and what it can tell us about charters and traditional public schools.

What is it?

The Performance Index Score is intended, in the words of the Ohio Department of Education, “to measure the achievement of every student regardless of their level of proficiency.” In other words, it tells us how many students are working at a level commensurate with the grade they’re in.

How the Calculation Works

The Performance Index looks at all standardized test scores of each student in a school district, individual school, or charter school and assigns a different score to each level of proficiency. The 11th grade tests aren’t used in the calculation.

Here is the list of ODE-assigned scores:

Level Score
Advanced Plus 1.3
Advanced 1.2
Accelerated 1.1
Proficient 1
Basic 0.6
Limited 0.3
Test Not Taken 0

Students with scores one grade above their current grade level – such as a third-grader who performs at the fourth-grade level in reading – are awarded the relatively new “Advanced Plus” designation and a score of 1.3. The Performance Index is based on the percentage of students with scores in each of the various levels. For example, if all students (100%) have advanced level scores, the Performance Index Score would be 120 (100 x 1.2). If all students have limited scores, the Performance Index Score would be 30 (100 x 30).

Making the Grade

The average Ohio school district has a 99.1 Performance Index Score. This means about 70% of their kids are in the top 2 categories. The average Ohio charter school has a 78.1 score. That means about half of their students are below proficient. While it’s possible for a school to score higher than 120, the letter grade for school districts, individual schools and charter schools is based on the percentage of total points earned on the 120-point scale on the Ohio Report Card.

Score Percentage Grade
108-120 90-100% A
96-107.9 80-89.9% B
84-95.9 70-79.9% C
60-83.9 50-69.9% D
< 60 <50% F

Why Does Emphasize Performance Index Score?

About 70% of school districts earn a B on the Performance Index. In contrast, about 57% of charter schools get a D on the Performance Index. We chose the Performance Index Score as one of five topline measurements – and the only report card letter grade – not only for the quickest comparison, but because it is the standard that many charter proponents say is the best measure of school performance.

And, significantly, under state law, school districts that score in the bottom 5% of Performance Index Scores are eligible to have charter schools open in those districts. If the Performance Index is the measure by which districts are subject to competition because of a district’s poor performance, then it is reasonable to make charter and traditional public school district performance comparisons using that same measure. Prominent charter proponents have said proficiency tests remain a good measure of success.[1]

In fact, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools gives out a Charter School of the Year Award every year based mostly on that school’s Performance Index Score.

How Do Ohio’s Charter Schools Fare on Performance Index Score?

In a word — poorly. While a few charter schools perform extremely well (the top two Performance Index Scores are charters), only 16 of the state’s 284 charter schools that received a Performance Index Score (5.6%) earned scores in the most recent school year above the average for districts of 99.1. The state’s bottom 88 scores all belong to charter schools.

Only 8 public school districts received scores below the average charter school score of 78.1. However the Big 8 urban districts[2] average of 80.7 was more than two points higher than the average charter school score. In fact, only about 28% of Ohio’s charter schools earned a Performance Index Score above the bottom 5% of Ohio’s traditional public school districts.  It would seem the state’s attempt to give options to parents with children in low-scoring traditional public schools is not living up to its promise. Nearly three out of four charter schools have scores that are either at or lower than the school districts for which scores are so low the state feels the need to step in and provide an alternative educational setting.

Meanwhile, school districts with scores above the state average of 99.1 (only 16 charter schools have higher scores) lose $144,778,819 to charter schools, with an average loss of state funding for every child not in a charter school of $84. The average district in this category – which account for more than half of all Ohio districts – loses $427,913. top_performers_crop lowest_performers_crop ——-

[1]Chester Finn – founder of the Fordham Institute – a big backer of charter schools – said as much in this article, claiming that while student growth is important, it’s “not reason enough to abandon proficiency. Not, at least, so long as it matters greatly in the real world. Do you want the pilot of your plane to be proficient at take-offs and landings or simply to demonstrate improvement in those skills? (Do you want to fly on an airline that uses only “growth measures” when hiring pilots?) How about dining in restaurants that use only growth measures when selecting chefs? Having your chest cut open by thoracic surgeons who showed “gains” on their surgical boards but didn’t actually “pass” them? Kids can show plenty of “growth” in school—and yes, we should laud schools that accomplish this—but still not be ready for college because they aren’t actually proficient. This is why absolute levels matter, too, and why schools should be judged in part by how many of the students emerging from them have reached true proficiency or, in today’s parlance, are truly college and career ready.”

[2] Big 8 Urban districts are Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown