Ohio Gadfly Daily

This new report, published in the August 2013 issue of Science magazine, looks at Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs)—attempting to determine if these pre-K evaluation systems actually lead to improved educational outcomes for students. This is important as QRISs are proliferating rapidly across the country. Ohio has a QRIS system in place (“Step Up to Quality”), managed by the Office of Job and Family Services, which gives pre-K school providers a rating of one to five stars. The rating system is based primarily on “input measures” such as staff to child ratios, pre-K staff qualifications and professional development, and other factors.

But do highly-rated QRIS preschools relate to better learning outcomes at the end of pre-school? The study raises concerns. The researchers used data sets from two previous studies: one conducted by the National Center for Early Development and Learning and the other from the State-Wide Early Education Programs (SWEEP) study. Overall, the data set for this study included 2,419 children in 673 public pre-K programs in 11 states including Ohio. These studies were chosen for their similarity to the data collected by current QRISs, which are being used in nearly half the states in the U.S.

The study finds that an omitted variable—a measure of the quality of teacher-student interactions called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System)—is the strongest predictor of children’s learning. This data was studied previously but is not currently included in any QRISs, a major finding and a major flaw in QRISs....

Today’s whiz kids are those most apt to become tomorrow’s leaders. Our ablest students will hatch ideas for products that satisfy the needs and wants of future generations. They’ll be the engineers, investors, teachers, lawyers, and civic leaders that form the backbone of a strong 21st century economy.

Columbus’ public school system, however, by and large neglects its gifted students. This jeopardizes the city and region’s future prosperity and the diversity of its workforce.

First, the neglect of gifted youngsters isn’t such a problem in suburban communities. In fact, parents there are more likely to be accused of “pushing” their kids too hard not too little. Many upper-middle-class parents make sure their children play, for example, violin (for Pete’s sake, first chair), star in a sport (if not three), join the Key Club (why not become president), and of course do well in school (straight A’s in at least three AP courses).

It is not the well-heeled students who win spelling bees and ace their standardized exams with which I’m concerned. On the whole, suburban parents—and schools when coaxed by parents—give their girls and boys ample opportunity to excel academically.

But what happens to talented youngsters who don’t have a pushy parent around, or when their parents don’t have the wherewithal to push very hard? Indeed, what about high-potential students who are born and raised in Columbus’ poorer urban communities? Communities where a child is more likely to grow up in a single-parent home and where household incomes are low?...

My name is Chad Aldis, and I’m the latest addition to the Fordham Ohio team as Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. This is an important and exciting time to be involved in education policy in the Buckeye state. We are led by Governor Kasich who has a passion for education and has made it an important issue in his first two budgets. The governor alone can’t move the achievement needle, though. He has had the support of committed legislators, from both parties, who are intensely interested in increasing student achievement.

The result of recent education reform has been a new “Straight A Fund” to identify and support promising reforms, promising city-based reform plans with leadership from strong mayors in Cleveland and Columbus, a continued push to implement world-class educational standards in Ohio schools, an expansion of programs to empower parents with educational options, and a growing belief that the quality of education matters whether the education occurs in a traditional public school, public charter school, or a private school using public funding.

This is a little atypical for a Gadfly article in that it won’t be as hard hitting as you’ve come to expect. Don’t worry though as we’ll have a lot of opportunities for that over the coming months and years. Like my predecessor and dear friend Terry Ryan before me, the Fordham team and I will continue to tackle the tough issues facing education in Ohio. In this first article though I want to give our...

The colossal urban district is now more legend than reality, at least for Ohio’s city schools. While some may lament the decline of Ohio’s big-city districts, might not the “downsizing” of the traditional district present a terrific opportunity to do education differently?

Consider the two charts below. The first chart shows the K-12 enrollment of these eight districts at four points in time: 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. The second chart displays the percentage of white students enrolled in these 8 districts for these same four years. For illustration the enrollment numbers for Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton (Fordham’s hometown) are displayed.

K-12 student enrollment, Ohio Big 8 Districts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

% White students, Ohio Big 8 Districts

Source: Ohio Department of Education, Enrollment Data. Note: Numbers and percentages displayed for Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton

These charts make two clear points.

  1. Ohio’s urban school districts have contracted significantly. In 1980 Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s enrollment topped 85,000 students; 30 years later, it enrolled just 43,000 students. Similarly, Dayton Public Schools has experienced a steep enrollment decline, from nearly 33,000 students in 1980 to just 14,000 students in 2010.
  2. Student enrollment has become less white. As of 2010, all 8 districts enrolled less than 50 percent white students (in 1980, four of them--Canton, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus--were majority white). Cleveland Metropolitan School
  3. ...
  • 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!)

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,”...

Pages