Ohio Gadfly Daily

  • The Columbus Dispatch urged residents to vote “yes” on the November 5th 9.01-mill school levy request. The Dispatch editorial concluded by stating that “voters should take advantage of this unique alignment of all the city’s constituencies to launch a historic transformation of Columbus City Schools.”
  • Two-thirds of Ohio high schoolers passed their AP exam last year (scored a 3 or above, on a scale of 1 to 5), an increase of 9 percent compared to spring 2011. African-American students’ passage rate increased by 17 percent and Hispanic students by 20 percent.
  • Cincinnati-area school districts showing big jumps in English language learning student enrollment. From 2007-08 to 2012-13, Cincinnati’s ELL population is up 77 percent; Mason up 74 percent; and Lakota up 70 percent.
  • Forbes recognized Oakwood City Schools, in suburban Dayton, as the third best school district with affordable housing costs in the Midwest. (Gadfly knows of one particularly charming house currently available in Oakwood!)
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In a prior post, I looked at the relationship between the Buckeye State’s value-added index scores and the state’s measure of poverty. Value-added scores are Ohio’s estimate, using a statistical method, of a school’s contribution to their students’ learning over the course of a school year. In this post, I examine the relationship between a school’s racial composition and its value-added score.

First, by selecting race as a variable that may influence school-level impacts on education, I’m not implying that kids of an African descent versus European versus Hispanic versus Asian have any inherent advantage. However, race (specifically, a school’s percentage of black students) could capture the impact of many untracked variables in the state’s education data, including the following factors:

  • In Ohio, 74 percent of black children come from a single-parent family compared to 28 percent of white children;
  • 58 percent of Ohio’s black children live in families where no parent has a full-time, year-round job, compared to just 27 percent of white children;
  • 50 percent of Ohio’s black children come from families living below the federal poverty level ($23,000 per year for a family of four), compared to 17 percent of white children;
  • 43 percent of black males (national data) have seen someone shot by age 18.

These bleak statistics surely factor into the lower achievement scores for black vis-à-vis white children. (To see the racial achievement gap in Ohio, see figures 3.5 and 3.6 in our 2012-13 Report Card analysis.)

But,...

Terry Ryan
President

Guest columnist Terry Ryan is Fordham's former vice-president for Ohio policy and programs and is now the president of the Idaho Charter School Network.

The education historian Diane Ravitch is barnstorming the country promoting her new book Reign of Error. Ravitch is a fantastic story teller who selectively uses data and anecdotes to make a sweeping indictment of education reform in America. There is certainly some harsh truth in what she writes (e.g. education consultants have made a financial killing on education reform efforts in recent years with Race to the Top being a prime example).

But, her sweeping generalizations don’t hold up when it comes to charter schools. Ravitch argues that “what’s wrong with charter schools is that they originally were supposed to be created to collaborate with public schools and help them solve problems.” But, she claims, “they have now been taken over by the idea of competition, they have become part of the movement to turn education into a consumer product rather than a social and public responsibility.”

In working with charter schools in Ohio, and now Idaho, I have met dozens of educators over the years who started their careers as teachers in district schools or as administrators in district offices. These educators turned to the charter school model only after coming to the realization that if they wanted to better serve their kids they needed the freedom and flexibility that comes with a charter school. They simply couldn’t do what their students needed because...

Recent blogs by William Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding (posted on Diane Ravitch’s website) and Join the Future highlight the academic woes of some of Ohio’s charter schools. Phillis writes: “The Department of Education’s ranking of schools and districts reveals that 83 out of the bottom 84 schools are charter schools.” Join the Future exclaims “Out of the bottom 200 districts, just 21 are traditional public schools, the remaining 179 are charter schools!”

Both authors make spurious comparisons that ought to be dismissed. Both make the mistake of comparing the performance index scores of charter schools to school districts. To compare charters to school districts fails to account for the disproportionate number of disadvantaged students that charters serve. In 2011-12, Ohio charter schools on average enrolled 79 percent economically disadvantaged (ED) and 61 percent African American students.[1] Meanwhile, the statewide average was 46 percent ED and 16 percent African American. So long as the “achievement gaps” persist between race and income groups, is it fair to compare charter school performance with all statewide school districts? And do statistics about the worst-performing charter schools, in comparison with school districts, tell us anything beyond the fact that many charters struggle to narrow achievement gaps?

Taking a building-level view, rather than comparing charter schools to school districts, is a better comparison of charter and district performance. For, at a building-level, we gain a clearer picture of how charter schools...

"If you're comfortable with mediocrity, fine." – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Sharper words could not have been spoken in the face of torrential criticism against the Common Core nationally and here in Ohio. For those unaware, the Common Core are new, rigorous academic standards in English and math that Ohio and 44 other states have voluntarily adopted and are in the process of implementing. The data below suggest that the Buckeye State's K-12 education system, taken as a whole, is still mired in “mediocrity.” As such, these data should provide ample reason for Ohioans to back a full-throttled implementation of the Common Core.

ACT Scores

Ohio’s main college admissions exam is administered by the ACT, an organization that has established “College Readiness” benchmarks in the four subject areas it tests (English, reading, math, science). The benchmarks are tied to the probability a test taker will obtain a B or C in a corresponding freshman-level college course (50 percent chance of getting a B, or a 75 percent chance of getting a C). In 2013, 92,813 Ohio graduates took the ACT exam—and less than a third of them (31 percent) reached all four subject-matter benchmarks. Grads performed best in English (71 percent made the benchmark, or a score of 18). But, in the other three content areas, far fewer graduates made it. Barely half of Ohio’s graduates hit the reading benchmark (51 percent, score of 22), while less than half reached the math (49 percent, score of 22)...

ACT recently released individual state reports that reviewed student performance on the 2012-2013 ACT college readiness assessment. ACT introduced updates to the assessment last year explaining that, “tighter alignment was needed between ACT college readiness standards and the Common Core State Standards.” With the assessment’s alignment to the Common Core, Ohio received a clear look into the college readiness of its high school students. Ohio’s report reviews student achievement in each of the four content areas--English, reading, mathematics, and science--and overall performance on the ACT. In 2012-13, 92,813 Ohio students, or 72 percent of Ohio seniors, took the ACT exam. Ohio’s average composite score was 21.8, just higher than the national average of 20.9. Despite Ohio’s above-average performance, the report also found some concerning statistics. First, less than half of Ohio’s students met ACT’s benchmark for “college and career readiness” for math (49 percent met ACT’s benchmark) and for science (44 percent met the benchmark). A higher percentage of students, however, met the benchmarks in reading (51 percent) and in English (71 percent). More starkly, just 31 percent of high school students met ACT’s benchmark in all four subject areas. The report recommends that “all states—especially those that have adopted the Common Core State Standards—should be aligning college and career readiness standards to a rigorous core curriculum for all high school students whether they are bound for college or work.” With less than a third of Ohio graduates meeting all of ACT’s benchmarks for “college readiness,”...

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OASBO’s recent analysis of school performance shouldn’t shock anyone. A school’s overall student achievement level, the Ohio Association of School Business Officers found, is linked to economic disadvantage. No kidding! One could practically uproot a forest printing the research that has shown the link between poverty and achievement.

But as we lament the generally low achievement results of Ohio’s neediest students, let’s not ignore the fact that there are schools that do fantastic work helping Ohio’s most disadvantaged students achieve at high levels and/or make large learning gains (aka, “progress”) over the course of the school year. (For a more extended discussion about the differences in “achievement” and “progress,” read our recent analysis of Ohio’s school Report Cards, Parsing Performance.)

Consider chart 1, which shows yet again the relationship between poverty and student achievement. The trend line through the scatter plot of points (each point represents a school building) slopes sharply downwards. This indicates that a school with a higher poverty rate is also more likely to exhibit lower achievement, as measured by Ohio’s “performance index”—a weighted composite score that accounts for all test scores from a school.

But look, however, at the far right portion of the plot. There is substantial variation in the performance index score of schools with 95 percent or above economically disadvantaged students.[1] Although a good many very high poverty schools fall well beneath the trend line (lower than approximately 80 PI), many other schools are well above it...

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The Buckeye State’s new A-F report card is a wonderful opportunity for parents to gain a better appreciation of how their child’s school is doing, and to take action if necessary. This August, Ohio switched to a conventional A-F letter grading system to report (public) school and district performance. The A-F grades provide a clear and transparent way of reporting whether a school is academically strong, weak, or somewhere in between.

But with nine (!) indicators of school performance in play (and more to come), parents also need to know which of the letter grades are the most crucial to understand, and how they ought to interpret them. (Ohio will not issue an “overall” A-F letter grade to schools and districts until August 2015.)

So, how is a parent to understand the state’s new school report cards? To start, let’s begin with the two big questions that parents likely want to know about their child’s school (or potential school).

1.) Is the typical student in my child’s school achieving at a high-level?

2.) Is my child’s school helping students learn?

There are two key A-F letter grades that answer these questions.

To answer question one, parents should look towards a school’s performance index A-F rating. The performance index letter grade indicates how well a school’s students perform on Ohio’s standardized exams. Hence, this is the key gauge of raw student achievement within a school.

By looking at the performance index rating, parents can gain a sense of whether their child’s...

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Earlier this month, Fordham released a brand-new report, What Parents Want, which looks at parent priorities and preferences in K–12 schools. We found that parents’ “must-haves” do not vary greatly, and that parents are more alike than they are different. (Chief among parents’ priorities: schools that have provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.) But differences among parents also emerged, in six market-research “niches,” where parents prioritized individual school attributes or student goals that other parents viewed as less important.

So we know what all parents—and what parent “niches”—want in our schools. But do we have the schools that meet parents’ needs? Does Ohio’s supply of schools meet the demands of picky parents?

Not perfectly, of course. By all accounts, school, student, and parent don’t always mesh like a hand in glove. But, there is also evidence that public schools are increasingly designing curriculum and hiring staff to meet the demands of specific parental segments, while at the same time, holding to high academic standards. Looking across Ohio, we put together a short list of district and charter schools that, in some way or another, appear to cater these niches. (By no means is this an all-inclusive list; we surely left off many schools that exemplify the market niches.)

The following bullets describe parental niches that were identified in the survey, along with a few schools—all high schools—that we think meet the various niche markets. (See our...

Community and human service agency leaders gathered this morning in Columbus to discuss student mobility in Ohio’s schools (when students transfer schools for reasons other than customary promotion). Have A Heart Ohio (HAHO), a nonpartisan network of over 100 social service agencies and organizations, invited Aaron Churchill to present the results of Fordham’s groundbreaking Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools report and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) president Melissa Cropper provided her perspective on the findings. Jon Honeck, the Edward D. and Dorothy E.  Lynde Fellow at the Center for Community Solutions and Co-Chair of HAHO, organized the meeting and introduced the discussion as “an opportunity for education and human services to have more dialogue.”

Aaron opened the meeting by giving a PowerPoint presentation (downloadable copy available here: Mobility Presentation 8.9.13.ppton the student mobility study. The research, which used Ohio Department of Education data from October 2009 to May 2011, was conducted by Community Research Partners and received funding support from the OFT. Aaron presented the research findings concerning the magnitude of mobility, the patterns of mobility, and the impact of mobility on student achievement. He concluded the presentation with a few implications of the study for policy and practice. These included policies that encourage summer moves, rather than within school-year moves (if a student must move),...

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