Ohio Policy

 

Roughly 30,000 kids in Ohio take advantage of a publicly funded voucher (or “scholarship”). But as students flee public schools for private ones, how does life change for the private schools that take voucher kids? Can private schools coexist with a publicly-funded voucher program? Can they adapt as they educate more students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

This new report from the Fordham Institute digs into these questions. Our study finds that, yes, voucher programs are changing private schools. But at the same time, these private schools are bravely—even heroically—adapting to such changes.

Written by Ellen Belcher, former editor at the Dayton Daily News and an award-winning journalist, Pluck and Tenacity delivers a candid view of life in private schools that take voucher kids. For this report, Ellen traveled across Ohio, visiting five schools: Three are Catholic—Immaculate Conception in Dayton, Saint Martin de Porres in Cleveland, and St. Patrick of Heatherdowns in Toledo—and two are evangelical—Eden Grove in Cincinnati and Youngstown Christian School.

The case studies yield seven key takeaways about private “voucher schools”:

  1. They are relentlessly mission oriented, and vouchers help support their missions
  2. These private schools have kept their distinctive values (e.g., behavioral standards, religious practices)
  3. The schools have become more diverse
  4. As they welcome more students who are far behind academically, these schools set high standards
  5. The schools
  6. ...

Ohio earned a C- rating, placing the Buckeye State tenth in the nation in StudentsFirst’s second-annual “State Policy Report Card.” StudentsFirst is a national education-reform organization led by Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. The highest-rated states were Louisiana and Florida, which both received a B- rating. For its policy report card, StudentsFirst bases a state's ratings on three reform “pillars”: Teacher quality, parental choice, and fiscal- and governance-related issues. Fairly high praise for the Buckeye State, but as the mediocre rating indicates, Ohio still has plenty of room to improve.

According to StudentsFirst, Ohio’s areas of strength include:

  • Increase Quality Choices (B) – Ohio’s expansive voucher programs and performance-based charter contracts are cited as strengths.
  • Empower Parents with Information (C+) – Ohio’s new A-F school report cards are given high marks.
  • Spend Taxpayers Resources Wisely to Improve Outcomes for Students (C+) –Ohio’s improvements in fiscal transparency are commended. One example StudentsFirst cites is recent legislation that requires the department of education to display the link between school spending and academic outcomes.

The weaknesses include:

  • Value Effective Teachers (F) – Ohio’s minimum salary schedule for teachers (based primarily on seniority and credits-earned) remains in law, and is a significant barrier for education reform. However, not all is bleak in this area, as the report card rightly notes: Districts that participated in the federal Race to the Top program are now required to adopt a performance-based compensation system.
  • Provide Comparable Resources for All
  • ...
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There is near consensus that teacher-preparation programs need a facelift. Last summer, the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a withering critique of schools of education, characterizing their programs as “an industry of mediocrity.” Recently, the New York Times editorial board called America’s teacher-training system “abysmal” in comparison to other nations’ preparation programs. When Arthur Levine, former president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, studied teacher-prep programs, he found them to be a “troubled field characterized by curricular confusion, a faculty disconnected from practice, low admission and graduation standards, wide disparities in instructional quality, and weak quality control enforcement.”

Given these well-documented struggles of schools of education—with exceptions of course—you might find it hard to believe that every single teacher-prep program in Ohio, save one, received an “effective” rating from the Board of Regents.

But, let’s dig deeper into the content of the Regents’ second-annual Educator Preparation Performance Report  released this week. The report, required by state law, provides a wealth of information about Ohio’s teacher-prep programs. Here are the three key things to know about the results.

1.The teacher licensure exams: Everyone passes

An astounding 97 percent of Ohio’s teacher candidates achieved the state’s minimum score for passing their subject-matter licensure exam (Praxis II). In some content areas, the passage rate is a remarkable 100 percent. Seriously 100 percent. A closer look, however, indicates that Ohio’s “qualifying scores” are set too low—in fact, they...

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We are pleased to release our 2012-13 sponsorship annual report Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges. Annual reports for sponsors (i.e., charter school authorizers) are mandatory under Ohio law. In ours, we strive to strike the balance between reporting on various compliance requirements and capturing some of the more interesting aspects of our sponsorship work during the previous year. Toward that end, Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges provides an overview of Ohio’s new accountability system for schools and summarizes the performance of the Fordham-sponsored schools.

This year we also tried to capture the schools’ perspective regarding persistent challenges - and how the schools address those challenges – by weaving together comments from school leader interviews conducted by veteran journalist Ellen Belcher. Our goal was to more directly connect readers with the outlook in the schools themselves.

We hope that the transparent reporting on school performance and input from school leaders in the field provides an interesting read. 

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...

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  • 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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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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This August, Ohio issued for the first time conventional A through F school grades along nine indicators of school performance. The new A-F school report cards follow Florida’s pioneering example of A-F accountability, and Ohio joins 9 other states which have implemented A-F report cards. Over the course of the next three years, the Buckeye State will incorporate several additional indicators of school performance, and starting in August 2015, Ohio will issue “overall” A-F letter grades for its schools and districts.

Parsing Performance, Fordham's annual analysis of Ohio's school performance, examines the state's new report cards and uncovers the two keys to school performance: a school's achievement and its progress ratings. The progress grade (Overall Value-Added) measures the impact a school has on student-learning progress over the course of the school year. The achievement grade (Performance Index) is a one-year snapshot of whether students within a school are attaining basic academic skills and on track for academic success.

Statewide, achievement A's were more difficult to earn than progress A's. Among Ohio’s 610 traditional school districts, 46 percent received A grades on progress, but only 4 percent received A grades on achievement in the 2012-13 school year. The numbers were similar for Ohio’s charter schools: 33 percent earned an A on progress, while just 2 percent earned an A on achievement. 

The analysis also looks at city-level data from the Ohio' "Big 8" and compares district and charter school performance. Both charter and district school struggle academically, and generally, charter and district school performance...

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