Ohio Policy

The news coverage around Race to the Top and the efforts states are making to become more competitive seems to now dominate much of the conversation around education. With so many state leaders moving into action (or at least using aggressive reform rhetoric), Ohio is like the kid in show-and-tell who forgets to bring something cool and shows off a piece of pocket lint while classmates hold up crystal geodes, model airplanes, and Indian arrowheads.

Some states have already enacted sweeping RttT-inspired legislation that will undoubtedly win them points: California enacted a law giving parents more power to move their children out of poorly performing schools. Michigan's governor signed sweeping legislation that gives the state authority to shut poorly performing schools and evaluates (and dismisses) teachers partly on the basis of student test scores.??

Other states get kudos for trying: Alabama is trying to schedule a special legislative session to pass the state's first charter schools bill. Tennessee's governor is rallying support for a proposal to tie teacher tenure decisions to student performance. Education leaders in Rhode Island are calling for an overhaul of teacher recruitment and retention, and certification based on student test scores. Several other states (Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana) have bold plans for reform even without legislative or executive action. The list could continue, but you get the gist.

Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers passed a provision giving the Department of Education and the chancellor authority to establish a...


Check out this special edition of the Ohio Education Gadfly, a look back at the decade's most significant education events in Ohio. 2010 bring new opportunities for K-12 education in Ohio, but let's not forget the impact of things like DeRolph, the Zelman voucher case, Strickland's "evidence-based" funding model, charter legislation, value-added measures, and more, and their potential to shape (for better or for worse) education reform in the Buckeye State in years to come.

In early December, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) told school districts to stay tuned for updates on the Race to the Top (RttT) grant program, promising to advise on "the value of supporting or not supporting" Ohio's application.?? Given the OEA's early concerns about RttT (particularly "over-reliance on student test score data") and their letter to Sen. Husted calling legislation to make Ohio more competitive "distracting" and "counterproductive", it seemed possible that local teacher unions (at the behest of the OEA) might try to thwart Ohio's chances of winning by encouraging districts to not participate.

A state earns points in its application for garnering support from LEAs (45 points to be exact). Union buy-in counts towards a state's odds of winning as much as turning around low-performing schools and implementing data systems. Stephen Sawchuck on Teacher Beat has been wondering for a while (see here, here, and here) how the level of union support in various states would impact the RttT competition.??

In Ohio, we don't have to wonder anymore. Last week the OEA posted two updates encouraging LEAs to carefully consider signing up, even promising that "some of Ohio's RttT grant will be used to support structural improvements to the system broadly" (a little misleading as to what RttT is about, if you ask me).?? OEA's attitude toward RttT seems far more acquiescent than it was several months ago (and worlds away from unions elsewhere) but the explanation...


This year, 18 urban school districts participated in the voluntary NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). Math results were released today, and student performance in Cleveland might be the only thing in that city more depressing than the Browns.??

Whether you're wondering how Cleveland compares to its peer cities, or whether students have made academic improvements since TUDA was first administered in 2003 (as many cities' students have), the stats on both fronts are discouraging.

Among the 10 cities that have participated in TUDA since 2003, Cleveland is the only district whose scores have not seen an increase in either fourth or eighth grade.?? Compared to the other 17 cities, Cleveland ranks second to last (next only to Detroit) in 4th grade, and fourth to last in 8th grade (behind Detroit, DC, and Milwaukee). While we've lamented before that Ohio's NAEP scores are low (45 and 36 percent of 4th and 8th graders scored proficient or above, respectively), Cleveland's scores are even more painful in comparison: only eight percent of both 4th and 8th graders in the city scored proficient or higher.

Average scores for eighth-grade public school students in NAEP mathematics (five lowest scoring cities) - 2009

Average scores for fourth-grade public school students in NAEP mathematics (five lowest scoring cities) - 2009

Source: NAEP TUDA 2009 Math Results

Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eugene Sanders is preparing to...

One of the great canards in public education is that no one should profit from the public schools. For example, cries of "corporate takeover of public schools" and "profits come before the needs of children" have been part of the anti-charter school rhetoric in Ohio and elsewhere since the first for-profit charters opened in the early 1990s.

In 2007, for example, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers called Ohio's charter schools a "franchise system of corporate-run schools." Ohio Governor Ted Strickland sought to outlaw all forms of "for-profit" charter operators in the Buckeye State in his budget proposals in both 2007 and 2009. In 2006, then gubernatorial candidate Strickland got great applause from the teacher unions and allies when he called charters "a rip-off." He even threw out the applause line that "There are people operating these schools getting rich and they're doing so on the backs of our children."

Yet, despite such political rhetoric every penny spent on education profits someone - teachers, administrators, text book publishers, computer companies, food service providers, bus drivers, school consultants, et al. Some, however, profit far more than others.

According to????a recent article in Education Week one of the organizations currently profiting nicely from public education is e-Luminate, a marketing and communications-consulting firm that was set up by Ken Kay. Ken Kay is the prophet of 21st Century Skills and according to Education Week his private consulting firm e-Luminate made...

This week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) unveiled its Cincinnati-focused report on human capital reform. The report's recommendations for Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) are similar (predictably so) to client reports for other districts, like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's because problems related to teacher quality are ubiquitous in American urban education.

Read the Cincinnati findings as well as the defensive reaction of the CFT, and you'll swear you could be reading a narrative of any city's human capital challenges: late hiring timelines prevent districts from snagging the best teacher candidates; evaluating teachers once every five years is meaningless; single step salary structures aren't the best way to recruit and reward excellence. It's chocked full of a lot of common sense. But common sense doesn't always translate into political action and policy reform.

Where TNTP's client cities part ways is in their willingness to truly make "teacher effectiveness" the helm of the human capital ship, and to measure this with student performance data. (There are other ways that districts/states can improve teacher quality but whether they place "effectiveness" at the core of their human capital philosophy says volumes.)??

In Ohio, the budget bill raised the bar for teacher tenure to seven years (the highest in the country among tenure-granting states) and made it easier to dismiss the worst teachers. These changes are positive, but ultimately don't overhaul the way that teachers are evaluated. Without meaningful...

Our friend Colleen Grady at State of Ohio Education blog points out legislation (Senate Bill 210) that would mandate physical activity in Ohio schools and track children's weight over the course of their academic careers. Schools would be required to screen students' body mass index (BMI) in grades K, 3, 5, and 9 and physical education requirements would be increased to a full unit.

Colleen rails against the proposal because it requires fitness data to be included in Ohio's rating system for schools and districts (yikes, as if it isn't complicated enough already). An article in the Marion Star points out the obvious burdens the law might impose on schools: hiring additional staff, tracking more indicators, and putting responsibity on them for "fixing society's ills" ("ill" is definitely the appropriate word, as a recent study estimates that more than half of Ohio's population will be obese by 2018).

Whether (and how) schools should play a role in students' physical wellness is a never-ending debate. There are myriad questions about privacy (would you want your BMI score on record?), paternalism, discrimination (at one Pennsylvania college, only students with a high BMI are required to take a fitness course) and fairness (seriously, do you know how inaccurate BMI scores are for athletes?). Not to mention the economics of adding requirements to already cash-strapped schools, and cramping their instructional time with non-academic mandates.

But alas, from this controversial...


The holiday season has arrived - and here at Fordham Ohio we're feeling pretty darn generous. ??We've decided to bestow upon you this week not one, but TWO Ohio Education Gadflies!

Hot on the heels of Monday's Special Edition, the regular Ohio Education Gadfly returns and you won't want to miss it!

This edition features a Q&A with Mark North, superintendent of Lebanon City Schools whose district is facing challenges from the unfunded mandates in H.B. 1. Jamie provides timely coverage of a report from The New Teacher Project that could have profound implications for improving teacher effectiveness in Cincinnati Public Schools. And be sure to check out a recap of Checker's recent keynote address at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools Annual Conference. (You can find the full text here??and the Q&A session below.)

The Dayton Daily News asked today why the "big names" in education from the Dayton area weren't on the state's new "Ohio School Funding Advisory Council". The names referenced included Fordham's Terry Ryan.

Capital Matters overfloweth with timely coverage of the recent flood of education-related legislation. Among them are bills that address the Buckeye State's bid in Race to the Top, and the proposed changes to the Ohio school rating system and its all-day kindergarten mandate.

Rounding out the issue are several excellent short reviews and Flypaper's...


Fordham's annual charter school accountability report, "Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity," is now out! As many of you know, Fordham authorizes (called "sponsoring" in Ohio) six charter schools in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Springfield. Each year we release a report outlining how Fordham-sponsored schools are doing, and contrasting them with charter schools statewide and schools within their home districts. The report also weighs in on timely political and legislative developments impacting charter schools in the Buckeye State. Highlights include:

  • - A recap on why Ohio charters faced such a tough year in 2008-09 (politically, legislatively, financially, you name it)
  • - A look at charter school growth since caps were placed on sponsors (unsurprisingly, fewer charter schools opened during 2007-09 than during 2005-07 period, and the sector as a whole is growing at a slower rate)
  • - A summary of the financial predicaments faced by charters in Ohio, including dwindling state and federal start-up dollars, and funding inequities between districts and charter schools that amount to charters receiving roughly $2000 less per pupil (see graph below)
  • - A brief narrative on Fordham's youngest charter schools, KIPP: Journey Academy and Columbus Collegiate Academy (a Building Excellent Schools affiliate)
  • - An academic snapshot of Fordham-sponsored schools, including the good (almost 70 percent of students in Fordham-sponsored schools achieved "above expected growth" on Ohio's value-added measure) and the bad (students in Fordham-sponsored schools still don't make the state proficiency goal of 75 percent in reading and math, similar to their district
  • ...

As a charter school sponsor (authorizer), Fordham submits an accountability report to the Ohio Department of Education at the end of November each year. The report includes profiles of each Fordham-sponsored school, as well as graphics comparing the achievement data of our schools, their home districts, and statewide averages. You’ll also find pertinent information on Ohio charter school spending over the last decade, and in the introduction, a timely analysis of the political and legislative environment impacting Ohio charters in 2008-09 that explains why the title, “Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity,” is befitting.