Ohio Policy

In just two decades charter schools have grown from a boutique school reform strategy to an alternative public school system serving a significant percentage of the nation’s K-12 students. In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. Fast forward to 2013: 41 states and the District of Columbia now have charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600 charter schools.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, seven school districts in the nation have at least 30 percent of their public school students enrolled in public charter schools (in Fordham’s home state of Ohio Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown each have 25 percent or more of their students enrolled in charters). An additional 18 districts have 20 percent or more of their public school students enrolled in charter schools. And, there are now more than 100 districts across the country with at least 10 percent of public school students enrolled in charters. Charter schools are undeniably one of the most popular and growing school reforms of the last 25 years.

But, there is still much work to be done, especially when it comes to improving student achievement in the nation’s charter schools. The fact is that the quality of charter schools remains uneven. While there are hundreds of high-performing charter schools across the country serving some of the nation’s neediest students there are an equal number...

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Fordham’s gadflies have been buzzing over the past weeks, discussing Governor Kasich’s budget, Common Core, and Student Nomads. If you’ve missed any of these items, here’s your chance to catch up!

  • In a Columbus Dispatch editorial, Terry Ryan wrote in favor of the governor’s school funding plan. The plan, Ryan argues, is worthy of support because it “recognizes the fact that more and more of the state’s students attend schools other than their neighborhood district schools.” And by acknowledging this fact, Governor Kasich’s plan attempts to “target children and their schools as the locus of public funding, as opposed to funding just school district.” For more analysis of the governor’s funding plan, please see Steps in the Right Direction, a report conducted by esteemed school finance professor Dr. Paul Hill.
  • Emmy Partin was a guest on National Public Radio’s The Sound of Ideas, discussing Ohio’s impending transition to the Common Core State Standards in 2014-15. The conversation, which included representatives of the Ohio Department of Education, State Impact Ohio, Cleveland Teachers Union, and callers from the general public, spotlighted changes in classroom instruction, Ohio’s standardized exams, and graduation requirements that are and will occur under the new academic standards.
  • Fordham facilitated a community discussion around student mobility in Dayton and Cincinnati, the third and fourth in a series of such conversations about mobility. (See here for the recaps of the Columbus and Cleveland events.) The discussions, which included Dayton Public Schools’ superintendent
  • ...
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Governor Kasich’s budget plan, now being debated in the House, calls for expanding the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship program. This statewide voucher program is one of four public voucher programs currently available to parents and students in the Buckeye State. Together these programs allow about 22,500 students to use publicly funded vouchers to attend a private or parochial school of their choice. The governor’s proposal would provide, on a first come first serve basis, vouchers starting in 2013-14 for any kindergartner with a household income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level – about $46,000 a year for a family of four. Voucher amounts would be up to $4,250 a year, and participating schools could not charge tuition above this amount.

In 2014-15, voucher eligibility would extend to all students in grades K-3 in a school building that gets low marks in the early literacy measure on the state’s new report card. The funding for the voucher will not be deducted from a school district’s state aid, but rather be paid out directly by the state. Kasich’s budget allocates $8.5 million in fiscal year 2014 for 2,000 new vouchers and $17 million in 2015 for up to 4,000 new vouchers.

Despite the modest scale of this proposed growth, and the fact the state will cover the voucher amounts, district educators are up in arms about the expansion. Yellow Springs’ Superintendent Mario Basora captured the view of many district officials across the state when he told the Dayton Daily...

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Governor Kasich’s budget plan, now being debated in the House, calls for expanding the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship program. This statewide voucher program is one of four public voucher programs currently available to parents and students in the Buckeye State. Together these programs allow about 22,500 students to use publicly funded vouchers to attend a private or parochial school of their choice. The governor’s proposal would provide, on a first come first serve basis, vouchers starting in 2013-14 for any kindergartner with a household income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level – about $46,000 a year for a family of four. Voucher amounts would be up to $4,250 a year, and participating schools could not charge tuition above this amount.

In 2014-15, voucher eligibility would extend to all students in grades K-3 in a school building that gets low marks in the early literacy measure on the state’s new report card. The funding for the voucher will not be deducted from a school district’s state aid, but rather be paid out directly by the state. Kasich’s budget allocates $8.5 million in fiscal year 2014 for 2,000 new vouchers and $17 million in 2015 for up to 4,000 new vouchers.

Despite the modest scale of this proposed growth, and the fact the state will cover the voucher amounts, district educators are up in arms about the expansion. Yellow Springs’ Superintendent Mario Basora captured the view of many district officials across the state when he told the Dayton Daily...

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Over the last decade the state of Ohio has invested over $10 billion in new school construction. Some of these school buildings opened in the mid-2000s, only to be shut down or repurposed just five or six years later. The Dayton Daily News reported in August 2011, for example, that “Trotwood-Madison is closing two elementary schools this fall. The Springfield City School District and Tecumseh Local schools are repurposing a new school building each because they didn’t have the students to fill them.”

This story of new public school buildings being built, and closed in just a few years, is important to understanding the logic behind Governor Kasich’s “Achievement Everywhere” school funding plan. His plan is remarkable because it actually tries to target children and their schools as the locus of public funding, as opposed to funding just school districts. The Kasich plan recognizes the fact that more and more of the state’s students attend schools other than their neighborhood district schools. As such, funding for their education should follow them to their respective school or educational program.

To understand what a shift in thinking this represents a little history is necessary. The public conversation around school funding in Ohio for decades has revolved around issues of “equity” and “adequacy;” between “rich” and “poor” school districts. The first “DeRolph” decision in 1997 by the Ohio Supreme Court, for example, ruled that school funding depended overmuch on local property taxes and thereby perpetuated unacceptable inequities across school districts. Since then, consecutive General Assemblies...

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Data – no, not the character from the hit television series Star Trek -- travels an amazing and mainly unknown journey through galaxies of complex IT systems that only perhaps Stephen Hawking can fully articulate.

As the newest member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s sponsorship team in Dayton, Ohio, I have been inundated recently with compliance issues and database systems.  The database systems are intended to support timely and voluminous data-gathering and reporting between schools and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), and to make that data accessible to the public and researchers.  My most recent assimilation did not involve the Borg, but instead involved ODE’s Education Management Information System, or EMIS.

EMIS, established in 1989, is expansive to say the least. It is ODE’s main data collection source for primary and secondary education, including demographic, attendance, course information, financial data, and test results.  EMIS’ collected data falls into four general categories: district level, student, staff, and financial data.  A community school must timely enter and maintain all of this data into their computer, in goal of sharing it with ODE. In practice, however, this is not as simple as a school merely downloading its data directly into an ODE portal each month and calling it a victory.

All states have similar data systems nowadays, but Ohio’s is deficient among its peers in some regards. First, as Auditor Yost has highlighted, Ohio law prevents the state from having personally identifiable student data.  Instead both ODE and schools are dependent...

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Mathematica Policy Research last week released a major research report showing that students attending KIPP middle schools make substantial additional academic growth relative to peer students who attend other public schools.

Nationwide, the KIPP network of charters consists of 125 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia; of those, this report focused on 43 middle schools serving students in grades five through eight. The student population that participated in the study was 96 percent black or Hispanic; 83 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. 

Mathematica found that after three years, KIPP schools produced an additional eleven months of learning growth in math and eight months in reading. The report also dispels the myth that KIPP schools’ positive effects on learning are a function of “teaching to the test”.  Mathematica examined test results from both state assessments and from the nationally norm-referenced test (Terra Nova), for which teachers and students do not prepare, and found consistently positive results for both exams.

Ohio currently has one KIPP school, KIPP: Journey Academy, which serves grades five through eight in Columbus, and is sponsored by Fordham. While Mathematica did not include KIPP: Journey in its study, we do know that state-reported data indicate that KIPP: Journey is effectively educating students. It was rated “Effective” (B) by the Ohio Department of Education in 2012 and had an “Above” rating along the value-added performance indicator. This, while serving 300 students, of which 91 percent were black and 100 percent were...

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Yesterday was the first day of public testimony on Governor Kasich’s budget proposal before the Ohio House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Terry submitted testimony on behalf of the Fordham Institute, as did Students First and others.  Following is a good recap from Gongwer News Service:

Terry Ryan, vice-president for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, offered support for the budget, saying the funding offered through the formula would outpace that of almost every other comparable state in FY 14. He also offered suggestions for use in the budget or as the subjects of future legislation.

Firstly, he said all dollars should follow students to the schools they actually attend, but funding is still stuck in categorical programs and flows to the district but not necessarily the building attended.

Mr. Ryan also called for annual academic return on investment reporting for all public schools, both districts and charters. "Just as some districts are more productive than others so are some schools and these should be acknowledged and better understood," he said.

More mandates related to regulations, laws and contract should be eliminated if they force funds to be spent in certain ways in all schools regardless of student characteristics. He said the flexibilities of the Cleveland Plan should be expanded to all districts.

Like the administration, Mr. Ryan said the state should move away from hold harmless provisions and guarantees "that provide funding to districts for phantom students."...

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When then-Governor Ted Strickland issued his Evidence-Based Model (EBM) of school funding reform in 2009 we engaged Professor Paul Hill to provide an analysis of the proposals. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Professor Hill. His credentials are impeccable. He is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. Further, Professor Hill has roots in Ohio as a graduate of Ohio State University. He also has family in Dayton.
 
Professor Hill’s analysis of Strickland’s plan was largely informed by the research project he led, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. That six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results. Facing the Future was the work of more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It included more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
 
Based on findings and recommendations from Facing the Future we asked Professor Hill to develop a “crosswalk” between the key findings of that seminal report and the policy recommendations in the Strickland’s Plan. Professor Hill’s analysis of Governor Strickland’s EBM was not kind. It stated bluntly, “Though Governor Ted...

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Here in the policy world—as we prepare legislative testimony, author white papers, commission research studies, draft blog posts, prepare for meetings, and do additional, far more mundane work—we often say to ourselves, “Didn’t I just do this the other day?” Likely we mean, didn’t I just advocate for this the other month or year. We repeat, and repeat, and repeat, our messages. To observers, we might be a broken record. And we are—with good reason.

Consider this example from education policy: Ohio’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010. Today, two-and-a-half years later, how many of those members still serve on the board? Five. Out of 19. What about the General Assembly? How many of those members were serving during Ohio’s eight-month debate over adopting the Common Core standards? Fifty-two percent (or 69 members).

Since the state adopted the Common Core standards, Fordham-Ohio has produced multiple reports on the topic, convened three major events about the standards, and written more than fifty articles on our blog and in our e-newsletter. (To say nothing of the numerous conversations we have with lawmakers, State Board of Education members, reporters, and business/education/community leaders.) This ongoing and, yes, repetitive work serves a purpose: to help new policymakers, education leaders, and the public engaged in and understanding of important issues facing our state’s schools. As policy advocates we have to keep this in mind, and learn to be okay with sounding like a broken record.

Thank you to my...

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