Ohio Gadfly Daily

*Sarah Pechan is Senior Director of Programs for School Choice Ohio*

Ohio is the newest state with an income-based scholarship, joining Indiana, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

On Sunday, June 30, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the nation’s newest school choice program into law: a state-sponsored private school scholarship for students starting kindergarten this fall whose family income falls at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

This is the state’s fifth school voucher program joining the EdChoice (eligibility based on school performance), Cleveland Scholarship, (for students who would otherwise attend Cleveland Metropolitan School District), and the Jon Peterson and Autism scholarship programs (both for students with special needs).

Parent demand

For many years, parents have been clamoring for an income-based scholarship. Just because they couldn’t afford a better education, they said, didn’t mean that their kids should be stuck in an environment that wasn’t high quality or wasn’t a good fit for them. They recognized the importance of education and knew that they needed to have more, not fewer, doors open to them.

So parents met with their elected representatives and senators in Columbus on advocacy days, spoke at and attended rallies in torrential downpours, sent personal letters and postcards, came to the Statehouse to testify before legislative committees, and made hundreds of phone calls. Parents shared their powerful personal stories:

-Barb: “I wish I had a choice in the education of my children. My children’s school is not the environment that...

The Dayton Public Schools, like so many other urban districts, has been in a state of decline. The district enrolls about 13,700 students; less than a fourth of the system’s peak (1965) enrollment, and down from 25,000 students in 2000. As the district has shrunk student achievement has languished. A majority of the district’s students (53 percent) attended a school building rated academic watch (D) or academic emergency (F) in 2011-12.

The numbers don’t lie and very few familiar with the district’s travails would deny it has long struggled to deliver the quality of education the city’s children need; 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged. There are many reasons behind the district’s struggles, but one thing is certain. For the district to improve academically it must have a high quality teaching force. . We know from researchers like the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek that “having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.”

Teachers matter greatly, especially those teaching our neediest students. It is in recognition of this fact that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Learn to Earn Dayton teamed up with the Dayton Public Schools to request a review of the district’s teacher policies and practices. No organization does this work better than the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and their in-depth study Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Dayton offers powerful advice on how the district can improve its teaching force.

Among...

The definition of K-12 academic rigor is “students demonstrate a thorough, in-depth mastery of challenging and complex curricular concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning must include commitment to a knowledge core and the application of that knowledge core to solve complex real-world problems", according to the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina. Rigor applies to both teachers and students, and that is right.

Ohio’s Department of Education talks a lot about academic rigor in the K-12 continuum, but does not define it on its own. The Common Core State Standards are an effort to raise the floor on student achievement, which we heartily support. But what about raising the ceiling?

One longstanding avenue for setting a high bar for students is found in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. While AP is not perhaps the holy grail for everyone, and perhaps it doesn’t fully live up to its own hype, it is seen by many as a way to introduce high expectations for students, to better prepare high school students for the first year of college, and especially to offer rigor where otherwise none would exist. It is also seen as a way to address concerns about high levels of college remediation, which is becoming a crisis which affects not only success in college but also growing levels of student debt for many of those who do succeed.

But as is...

The Ohio Senate passed legislation (House Bill 167) last week that enables Columbus’ mayor to authorize charter schools. The reform legislation was introduced in response to a cheating scandal that has brought Columbus City Schools to its knees. When Governor Kasich signs the bill into law—we expect he will—Columbus will be one of two cities in America (Indianapolis being the other) that directly empowers the mayor to authorize charter schools.  

The reform legislation has one other major component, in addition to the mayoral authorization of charters. The Columbus City Schools school board will be required to place a levy on the ballot, which will require that the district share the revenue with partnering charter schools. If passed, this could be a considerable boost for Columbus’ charters, who until now have had no access to local revenue. (Cleveland Metropolitan School District is the only other school district in Ohio that is required by law to share local revenue with charter schools.)

As Columbus’ mayor acquires a portfolio of charter schools to authorize, and as he and the district prepare a levy for the November elections, let us suggest that these leaders be choosy about which charter schools they partner with. For it has become nearly axiomatic that cities around the nation and in Ohio have a fair share of both dreadful and fantastic charter schools.

Columbus is no exception. To show the variation in charter school quality, consider the chart below that shows the academic performance of Columbus’...

Simply put, girls are outperforming boys in nearly every test-subject-grade combination of Ohio’s standardized achievement tests. The table below shows that on 105 out of 145 comparisons of boys’ and girls’ proficiency rates, girls perform better. The data are sorted to compare proficiency rates (or, "pass" rates) by race, thus comparing, for example, Asian males to Asian females, Black males to Black females, et cetera.

The cells shaded in red indicate that girls outperform boys. The cells shaded in blue indicate that boys outperform girls. Darker shading indicates a greater gender difference.

We observe a whole lot of red (girls doing better), and not a lot of blue (boys doing better).

The gender gap is especially substantial in reading and writing. For example, girls' proficiency rates are 4.9 to 11.4 percentage points higher in 5th grade reading depending on race. In 10th grade writing, girls' proficiency rates are 5.1 to 14.0 percentage points higher.

Girls outperform boys: Percentage point difference in proficiency rates for girls and boys on Ohio’s standardized tests, by race - 2011-12



SOURCE: Ohio Department of Education NOTE: Differences are shown in relation to girls’ proficiency rates (e.g., 6.9 indicates that girls’ proficiency rate is 6.9 percentage points higher than boys’). ODE reports proficiency rates greater than 95 percent as “>95”; in these cases (n=11, and all occur in...

For most of Ohio’s youngsters, school’s out for the summer. But for the girls and boys who have dropped out of school, school may be out for good, with devastating consequences.

In its annual “Diplomas Count” report, Education Week claims that around a million students drop out of school annually. Not surprisingly, these dropouts’ prospects are bleak: diminished earnings potential, greater likelihood of unemployment, and greater likelihood of incarceration. In addition to these jarring facts, EdWeek’s interactive graphic soberingly depicts the journey from “student” to “dropout,” and how dropping out has effects that linger for a lifetime.

The report also provides a handful of examples of states and localities, which have implemented dropout intervention and recovery programs. Ohio is one such state. Since 2011, the Buckeye State has encouraged, through state law, the growth of charter schools that serve mainly students who have either dropped out of school at one point, or are at-risk of dropping out. These “dropout recovery” charter schools, of which there were seventy six in 2012-13, enroll approximately 12,500 students statewide.

In accordance with state law, the Ohio Department of Education approves “dropout recovery” charter schools, and under legislation passed last year (House Bill 555), these schools will be held accountable for student results through an alternative report card system, starting this year.

What do we know about Ohio’s dropout recovery schools? The following statistics are taken from the Ohio Department of Education’s 2011-12 data: 

1.)    School size varies. Some are relatively...

Large or small, urban or rural–many Ohio schools continue to experience the widespread trend of high student mobility. Students may find themselves moving between schools or districts due to the positive initiative of engaged parents choosing a higher achieving school for their children, or unfortunate events like eviction or family instability.

A panel of project partners met to discuss the findings and implications of Fordham’s student mobility study, Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. The study examined student mobility across Ohio’s school buildings and districts between October 2009 and May 2011. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) hosted this discussion today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Community Research Partners’ (the study’s lead researcher) Aaron Schill presented the findings to an audience of 100 or so researchers from around the nation.  Fordham staff member Aaron Churchill joined Ann Bischoff of KidsOhio.org and John Farley of the Education Council to discuss the findings in a moderated panel.

Panelists (from left to right): Ann Bischoff of KidsOhio.org; John Farley of the Education Council; Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute. Moderator: Aaron Schill of CRP

The presentation and ensuing discussion reviewed how CRP, Fordham, and other school and community leaders have used this research to inform and prompt action. The panel members took questions from the moderator and audience, regarding the motivation behind the project, some of the limitations to this research, and the implications of the research for public policy. To learn more about student mobility...

The high-quality implementation of the Common Core standards, its aligned exams, and an evaluation framework that measures how effectively teachers teach these new standards ought to be the goal for Ohio’s public schools. This is a heavy lift, however, and there is little doubt that the implementation of these reforms—all of which are intertwined and taken on simultaneously—will pose challenges for state education and school leaders.

One such implementation challenge is the switch in assessments. Starting in 2014-15, Ohio’s schools will implement new math and reading exams that align to the Common Core standards. The Buckeye State is presently one of twenty-two member states of PARCC, a consortium that is working together to develop these new assessments.

PARCC
Goodbye OGT, hello PARCC

It is expected that the PARCC exams will differ considerably in comparison to Ohio’s old math and reading exams (the OAAs and OGTs), which are being phased out. The differences include anything from the content and difficulty of the tests, to the “cut score” that is required to pass them, to the online format in which the tests will be administered.

Ohio’s switch to the PARCC exams is likely to affect teachers’ value-added scores, for their scores are based on students’ present and past test results. (Value-added is a statistical model that estimates a teacher contribution to her students’ learning over...

Two recent Dayton Daily News articles cast the spotlight on important education reform discussions. As a sponsor of eleven charter schools in Ohio, the Fordham team understands the importance of accountability. This article mentioned financial oversights in some of Ohio’s charter school laws and Terry Ryan, Fordham’s vice president of Ohio programs and policy, said Ohio needs to rewrite charter school law.

The second article focused on retaining Ohio’s graduates. While Ohio had previously experienced a brain drain and lost graduates to other states, a rebounding economy and job opportunities could keep graduates in the state. Ryan said while some larger cities have appeal to graduates, their primary concern is finding employment. Stay tuned for upcoming articles and discussions related to these evolving topics and share your thoughts below!

Ohio has put the welcome mat out for charter schools that provide career technical education. Building on criteria from the federal Carl D. Perkins Act Ohio’s biennial budget (HB59) provides a significant increase in funding for charter schools that provide career technical courses. Table 1, is based on the “Estimated Formula Aid for Community (aka charters) Schools” released by the Senate earlier this month. It shows some of the big winners under the plan.

Table 1: Bumps in Career Technical Funding for Selected Ohio Charter Schools (FY2014 and 2015)

Source: All numbers come from “Comparison of Estimated Formula Aid for Community Schools Under H.B. 59, As Reported by Senate Finance and Actual Aid Under Current Law, FY2012

It is not just charters that benefit from this new emphasis on Career Technical education. The state’s Joint Vocational Education Centers, STEM Schools, and district high schools with career technical programs will see increases in funding comparable to the charters if they meet the Career Technical requirements for Perkins and the Ohio Department of Education.

This increased support for career technical education is not without controversy, especially when it comes to the charters gaining from these new dollars. For example, some of the state’s highest performing charters are likely to see a reduction in state aid, while those charters deemed providers of technical education will see state funding increases of 10, 15 or even 20 percent. Also controversial is the fact that some...

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