Ohio Gadfly Daily

Late in 2015, Congress passed a new federal education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—which replaces the outdated No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The new legislation turns over considerably greater authority to states, which will now have much more flexibility in the design and implementation of accountability systems. At last, good riddance to NCLB’s alphabet soup of policies like “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and “highly qualified teachers” (HQT)—and yes, the absurd “100 percent proficient by 2014” mandate. Adios, too, to “waivers” that added new restrictions!

But now the question is whether states can do any better. As Ohio legislators contemplate a redesign of school accountability for the Buckeye State, it would first be useful to review our current system. This can help us better understand which elements should be kept and built upon, modified, or scrapped—and which areas warrant greater attention if policy makers are going to improve schools. Since Ohio has an A–F school rating system, it seems fitting to rate the present system’s various elements on an A–F scale. Some will disagree with my ratings—after all, report cards are something of an art—so send along your thoughts or post a comment.

NB: In this...

When Governor Kasich signed the state budget last June, myriad education changes became law. One of the most talked-about was the extension of a policy known as “safe harbor.” This was instituted to protect students, teachers, and schools from sanctions brought about by the state accountability system during Ohio’s transition to a new and more rigorous state assessment (its third in three years). The provisions are relatively simple: Test scores from 2014–15, 2015–16, and 2016–17 cannot be used in student promotion or course credit decisions, nor can they be used for teacher evaluations or employment decisions. Schools aren’t assigned an overall grade during the safe harbor, and report cards can’t be considered when determining “sanctions or penalties” for schools.

One of the accountability measures impacted by safe harbor is the EdChoice Scholarship program. EdChoice, Ohio’s largest voucher program, affords students otherwise stuck in the state’s lowest-performing schools the opportunity to attend private schools at public expense.[1] Safe harbor, however, mandates that schools on the EdChoice eligibility list as of 2014–15 remain on the list (even if they improve) and schools not on the list stay off (even if their performance declines). We immediately...

Ohio lawmakers recently proposed a bill (HB 420) that would remove students who opt out of standardized tests from the calculation of certain school and district accountability measures. Representative Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), who introduced the bill, declared that “if [a student is] not going to take the test, in no way should the school be penalized for it.” Students who fail to take state exams (for any reason, not just opting out) count against two of ten school report card measures, the performance index score, and the K–3 literacy measure. Non-participating students receive zeroes, which pulls down the overall score on those components.

On first reading, Roegner’s sentiments seem obvious: Why should schools be held responsible for students who decline even to sit for the exams? Is it the job of schools to convince students (or their parents, the more likely objectors) to show up on exam day? While compulsory schooling laws do require students to attend school, there is nothing especially enforceable about exam day in particular. Ohio does not prohibit opting out. Nor does it explicitly allow it, as some states do (e.g., Pennsylvania allows a religious objection to testing; Utah and...

Fordham Ohio’s latest report will be released on Wednesday, January 27, and will detail the results of a survey of leaders of some of the state’s highest-performing charter schools.

What do those leaders think of Ohio’s overall support for charter schools, closing failing charters, and criticism of the sector? These questions and more will be answered in this important new report.

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools will be available Wednesday, January 27, by clicking here.

 

  1. When I first looked at this story on the front page of the Dispatch this morning, I thought it was indicating a high success rate for Franklin County school districts in teaching English Language Learners. Turns out that “top” simply means quantity of ELL kids – quite an influx here, from all over the world – not quality of teaching or success rates. Neither of those topics is covered in this piece, but here’s hoping that’s part two of the story coming up soon. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/25/16)
     
  2. Not much else to report from the weekend, so we’re left with some commentary to celebrate the first day of National School Choice Week. First up, a Southwest Ohio teacher opining on why the state slipped from 5th to 23rd in the most recent Quality Counts report. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/24/16)
     
  3. Lastly, Canton-area commentator Charita Goshay opines on how much she dislikes charter schools. Hint: quite a lot. (Canton Repository, 1/24/16)

A few years ago, a couple of my Fordham colleagues coined the phrase “public private” schools to describe schools that educate virtually no low-income students. In the report, they suggested the following notion: Though “public” in name, high-wealth schools are, in practice, pretty much equivalent to private ones. Families wanting to enroll their children in such schools effectively pay “tuition” through higher real-estate taxes and/or paying a fortune on housing. Low-income families are functionally excluded from sending their children to these schools.

But when an affluent district enacts an open enrollment policy, students outside its jurisdiction can attend. This suggests that they’re acting more in their public than private nature. Since 1989, Ohio has permitted such inter-district open enrollment, and today, most (though not all) districts participate. For the 2015–16 year, 81 percent of districts allowed some degree of open enrollment.[1]

So what about Ohio’s public private school districts? Do any of them open their doors for all comers? Or are they adhering more closely to their “private” identity by denying non-resident students the opportunity to enroll? Let’s take a look at the data.

When my colleagues examined public private schools in 2010, they identified...

It’s often argued that improving education will improve the nation’s economy. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research not only affirms this argument but also demonstrates just how big the economic effects of school improvement could be.

From the start, it’s clear that this paper differs from its predecessors. Previous studies examined human capital and its effect on states’ economic development by measuring school attainment (high school graduation). This one points out that attainment is an imperfect yardstick—it incorrectly assumes that increased levels of schooling automatically suggest increased levels of knowledge and skills. A better way to determine the relationship between education and economic value is to measure a different outcome: achievement. Since “no direct measures of cognitive skills for the labor force” exist, the authors craft their own. They start by constructing an average test score for each state using NAEP, then adjust the test scores for different types of migration (interstate and international among them) in order to offset the high mobility of the American population.

Hanushek, who has published multiple studies linking economic activity with enhanced educational output, offers several scenarios in his latest report. If every state improved to the level of...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this very brief look at the new NAPCS state rankings. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/20/16)
     
  2. A new report from the Ohio Department of Higher Education says that fewer college freshmen needed remedial courses in 2014 than need them in 2013. Props are being given to Ohio colleges for efforts to commonly define the core skills students need to have and be able to do in order to be considered “remediation free”. (Is that code? Perhaps for “lowering the bar?”) They are also being given props for their use of “co-requisite remediation”, in which students enroll in college-level courses instead of remedial classes and receive academic support to help them succeed. You can check out coverage in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 1/20/16) and the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/21/16)
     
  3. Count on the good folks at the Harvard Graduate School of Economics to kill whatever buzz the above-referenced remediation news may have generated. A new report from them suggests that the college admissions process needs to be “reshaped” in order to stop the escalation of what they call “achievement pressure.” Now THAT is definitely code. Probably for “less emphasis on
  4. ...

Ohio has been included in lots of national rankings and scorecards lately. The latest comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which ranks the Buckeye State at number twenty-three (out of forty-three states) for its charter school law. At first blush, twenty-third doesn’t seem like much to laud (after all, we just lamented Ohio’s fall to twenty-third in Education Week’sQuality Counts” ranking). But there’s more to Ohio’s modest slot than meets the eye.

For starters, Ohio improved five slots from last year. In fact, it was the third-most-improved state in terms of rankings, next to Oklahoma and Massachusetts. More important than its rise in the rankings (which could occur for a host of reasons, including other states’ charter climates getting worse) is the reason why. The report notes that Ohio’s improvement occurred because “it enacted legislation that improved its authorizer funding provisions and strengthened its charter monitoring processes.” They went further, praising other aspects of House Bill 2: “It is important to note that the legislation enacted in Ohio made a lot of other positive changes to the state’s law; it dealt with some specific challenges that have emerged...

In recent weeks, two national publications have assigned Ohio grades for its education policies and outcomes. The first, “Quality Counts,” came courtesy of Education Week. It revealed that Ohio’s grades have fallen from previous years, moving the state down in national rankings. The second was a group of report cards that rated states on their support for public higher education. These grades were furnished by the Young Invincibles (YI), a national organization that seeks to represent the millennial generation. At first glance, the reports don’t share much in common. Quality Counts examines K–12 education and, despite lower rankings, still grades Ohio as middle-of-the-pack. The Young Invincibles report, on the other hand, examines higher education and gives Ohio a giant red F.

Closer inspection reveals that the reports both examine the connection between education and money. “Quality Counts,” for example, points out rising poverty gaps on Ohio’s NAEP results. Ohio’s gaps between poor and non-poor kids aren’t just large, they’re getting larger—the opposite of the national trend. The YI report, meanwhile, focuses on the financial difficulty of attending college in Ohio. While Ohio has seen some of the smallest tuition hikes since...

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