Ohio Policy


Check today's Ohio Education Gadfly for a special Race to the Top analysis recommending strategies for the Buckeye State as it heads into round two of the competition. Ohio has exactly one month (that's when districts and charter schools must sign on) to improve its application. Fordham recommends that Ohio:

  1. Address the state's round-one areas of weakness directly. Ohio shouldn't just resubmit the same package of proposals but should be sure that its second-round application reflects substantive changes to the areas it scored lowest in. This will show Sec. Duncan and reviewers that the state can take constructive criticism seriously and change course when necessary to improve student performance.
  2. Pay particular attention to the ???Great Teachers and Leaders??? section. Ohio scored second to lowest of the 16 finalists states in this category. Compared to winning states (Tennessee and Delaware) and those scoring highest in this section (Rhode Island and Louisiana), Ohio hasn't enacted the type of bold reforms related to teachers and leaders that it needs to. Not sure what those reforms look like? Ohio Education Gadfly synthesizes six of the boldest teacher-related reforms and provides examples of each.
  3. Be aware that other states are moving quickly to improve
  4. ...
Eric Ulas

Today's Dayton Daily News featured an op-ed by Fordham's Terry Ryan on what Ohio can do to win in the next round of Race to the Top. In the op-ed, he provides three actionable points for moving forward:

1. Get more buy-in from districts and the teachers' unions.

2. Show bipartisan support for the state's application.

3. Improve the overall quality of Ohio's proposal.

Terry also reminds us not to lose sight of true purpose of Race to the Top:

???Too much of the conversation around Race to the Top has been about getting the money, when the real issue is launching sustainable reforms that can make a difference in the lives of children.???

-Eric Ulas

This article is the reason I continue to hammer that states need to worry about reform substance not union support when crafting round two RTT applications.

Reading this, you'd think that the reason Connecticut lost in round one was because it had insufficient stakeholder buy-in. The truth is CT had among the worst proposals I've seen. It was weak from top to bottom, especially in the key section on teacher reform.

If CT roped in all of its districts and unions, it might collect another 20 points or so.

But it lost a total of 155 points.

If CT wants to win, it needs to get bold not acquiescent.

--Andy Smarick


Be sure to check out this week's Ohio Gadfly for a Q&A with Rick Hess, who divulges his thoughts on Race to the Top, educational entrepreneurship, Ohio's budget constraints, and why the notion of ???best practices??? in education makes him ???nauseous.??? But don't worry, Rick isn't sick-- he just recognizes the flaws of trying to import good practices, impose them on other organizations, and then assume the same level of effectiveness (*cough??? Ohio's evidence-based model, anyone?).

Also check out a detailed breakdown of Ohio's Race to the Top application and its areas of weakness. Lots of states did poorly on ???Great Teachers & Leaders,??? but Ohio performed second to worst in this area and will have to improve this first and foremost if the state hopes to be competitive.

Definitely don't miss Fordham Ohio's first of several videos in our ???Needles in a Haystack??? series, which features one of Cleveland's top charter schools,?? Citizens' Academy. You'll learn more about Ohio's ???Needles schools??? (e.g., high-performing, high-needs schools that are very hard to find) in May when our report comes out, but stay tuned for video previews by Fordham's Eric Ulas.

On tap for Capital Matters...

Guest Blogger

There's a new trend at many of America's higher learning institutions: emphasizing career-specific majors at the cost of the liberal arts. A recent Newsweek piece by Nancy Cook, ???The Death of Liberal Arts???, covers the causes and potential effects of this movement. Budget cuts are forcing universities to reevaluate their teaching priorities, and simultaneously, students facing an increasingly difficult job market (just 41 percent of those aged 18-29 have full-time employment according to a recent Pew Research Center study) are choosing what they perceive as more easily marketable degrees than those acquired through a liberal arts education.

But will the rise in popularity of more ???useful??? degree programs serve its intended purpose of increasing job-seekers' employability? Many say no, citing the creativity and imagination associated with liberal arts programs as a necessary component of success in the job market. Cook writes: [quote]

Although many students now want to major in something that sounds like a job, the economy is shifting so rapidly that it's hard to predict the landscape of the labor market??? there's no guarantee that business training will offer students the best preparation for the future.

In Fordham's own Beyond The...

Charter schools are different from traditional district schools in that they are free of many regulations and operating constraints, but in return for their freedoms they are held accountable for their results. Those charter schools that fail to deliver results over time are closed, the theory holds. Yet, strict charter accountability in the form of closure collides with the efforts of states like Ohio to use federal school improvement dollars to turn around troubled charter schools.

President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan are pushing the school turnaround concept hard through the Race to the Top competition and School Improvement Grants. Andy has written extensively about the many challenges that face turnaround efforts, and has mustered much evidence against the cause. [quote]

Despite Andy's strong case against all turnarounds, I have argued that there are times when the turnaround strategy may have merit for school districts. Of course, we should take on turnarounds with a healthy dose of skepticism and with the understanding that most will fail. But, in cities like Fordham's hometown of Dayton, half of the community's schools perennially receive an F or D on the state's academic report card.

Why would...

The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

Profiles of the eight Needles schools

Citizens' Academy (video)

College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)


The National Council on Teacher Quality recently reviewed the 16 Race to the Top finalist states' ???great teachers and leaders??? application sections. NCTQ rightly pointed out one significant reform Ohio has going for it in this area ??? last summer the governor and legislature moved teacher tenure decisions until after a teacher's seventh year on the job (instead of after the third).

But in reading the rest of NCTQ's Ohio blurb, I can't help but notice how many verbs are in the future tense. The Buckeye State's ???yellow??? rating from NCTQ (???proceed with caution???/stoplight metaphor) seems too generous unless it's a flashing yellow and you're turning right onto a crowded 70 mph highway while driving a Smart Car.

NCTQ reports (italics and parenthetical comment mine):


The state adopted a new licensure system in 2009, which it promises will be calibrated with its performance-based evaluation system (which doesn't exist yet). Ohio??? also plans to revamp its guidelines to districts regarding how tenure decisions are made. Ohio also says it intends its new four-step licensing system to provide the foundation for new teacher compensation statewide.

And the kicker, the optional clause:...

The superintendent of Ohio's Twin Valley Community Local School District has come under fire in his first year on the job from the local teachers union for, among other grievances, trying to make teachers do lesson plans:

???????I asked the teachers to do lesson plans, which they hadn't done in years. Sheryl Byrd [the local teacher union president] said that was a change in work expectations," he said Wednesday. "It's a requirement by the Ohio Revised Code, and we're going to follow it."

Here's what I want to know: when did lesson planning stop being a regular part of a teacher's job????? Don't most teachers view the process as fundamental to organizing their instruction, planning assignments, and ensuring they deliver the right content at the right time to their students?

It's no surprise when teachers unions fight education reforms, but resisting lesson planning????? Really?

--Emmy Partin

Eric Ulas

The 2009 NAEP reading scores were released this morning with little fanfare for Ohio. There has been virtually no growth in the Buckeyes State's NAEP reading results, with only 36 percent offourth graders and 37 percent of eighth graders in Ohio proficient or above in reading.

These scores come as no surprise as they've remained virtually unchanged over the last ten years, as illustrated in the graphic below.

As we've noted before a troubling gap continues to exist between Ohio's own measure of student proficiency (the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT) and the NAEP. According to 2009 OAT results, 72 percent of eighth graders and 82 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in reading. The graph below highlights this disparity.

Both the stalled achievement in reading according to NAEP scores, and the discrepancy between OAT and NAEP results highlight the need for strong common standards nationally correlated with a system of comprehensive assessments.

One thing is for sure ??? too few Ohio fourth and eighth graders have been scoring below proficient in reading for too long....