Ohio Policy

Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio.  We found that in 2008-09, 54 percent of charter students in Ohio Big 8 cities were in a school rated D or F, while 50 percent of traditional district students attended such a school. In Cleveland and Dayton, however, charter students outperformed their district peers in both reading and math proficiency.

In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2008-09 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities.

City Profiles


Winning the award for pretty much the least surprising news ever is that the National Education Association (NEA) has slammed President Obama's Race to the Top (RttT) initiative, a $4.35 billion competitive grant program for states to support educational reforms and innovation. The NEA has eloquently pared down the program's stipulations into several choice buzzwords and phrases that are sure to make its members' blood boil (whether or not they've actually read RttT's proposed criteria and regulations). Here are the main criticisms extended by the NEA (and other teachers unions, I would venture to guess) as well as the hypothetical response of a Democrat who used to find herself disliking her own party on many education issues, until Obama and Duncan came along:

1) NEA: Obama's school improvement plans are "narrow," "top-down" and not much different from the Bush administration's mandates (hint: include as many references to NCLB as possible; it is education's own "weapons of mass destruction" and it will make everyone very uncomfortable).

Reform-minded Democrat: Obama's reform agenda is based on several components. He wishes for states to develop highly effective teachers, create high standards and assessments, build high-quality data systems, and turn around struggling schools. This doesn't seem narrow to me. Even so, "narrowness " and "wideness" are not the criteria upon which I'll judge his reform plans. "Effectiveness" matters more.

2) NEA: RttT just extends more federal mandates that will "usurp" the rights and responsibilities of state and local...

School-choice foes in the Buckeye State are getting smarter about the strategies they employ to undermine the choice movement.???? Since the birth of charters here in 1998 and vouchers in 2005, opponents--namely Democrats, teacher unions, and the education establishment--have fought a "districts = good, choice = bad" fight.???? But with Democrats, including the President, across the country embracing choice and some of the state's top districts????employing charter schools themselves, that fight can only take local choice opponents so far.???? Rather than accepting school choice as an important component to improving public education, they've now focused their efforts on driving a wedge in the choice movement itself.

We first saw this tactic during the state budget deliberation process last spring, when Ohio House Democrats proposed????different levels of funding for charter schools based on their affiliation with traditional school districts. Charters were pitted against charters in a way they hadn't been in previous budget battles, and the resulting fight wasn't pretty. For example, some school leaders of high performing charters in Cleveland associated with the district were shunned by other charter advocates who saw them as turncoats for urging closer district-charter collaboration at the expense of charters not authorized by school districts. While the House funding plot was ultimately foiled by Senate Republicans, relationships within the charter school community remain bruised.????To be fair, Ohio's charter school community has never marched together the way teacher unions and other education establishment organizations do, but there's no doubt that the...

An editorial in the Dayton Daily News from this Monday argued that Ohio should bring Teach For America (TFA) into the state. The piece rightly outlines the steps necessary to create an Ohio TFA presence--for example, changes to teacher certification rules, funding for TFA training, and buy-in from unions. Not to gloss over the importance of such regulatory changes (TFA's entry here is impossible otherwise), but it is the question of "why TFA?"--rather than "how TFA?"--that I find most compelling and deserving of elaboration.

One commonly-hailed justification for an Ohio-based TFA site is its potential to recruit smart, energetic young people into a state that is suffering from an exodus of talent. Earlier this year, Fordham explored this trend in the Losing Ohio's Future report , which elucidated some of the causes behind Ohio's brain drain. But would the creation of TFA Ohio (say, in Cleveland, Cincinnati or Appalachia) promise to retain young talent? In other words, is Ohio losing talented college graduates to other TFA-friendly states? According to recent data illustrating which national universities and colleges send the most graduating seniors into the 2009 TFA corps, the answer is a resounding "yes."?? Of the top twenty large schools (defined as 10,000 undergraduates or more), two are in the Buckeye State: Ohio State University and Miami University. Although Ohio doesn't make the list for medium-sized schools, three of its colleges are in the top twenty small schools (defined as 2,999 or fewer...

Students at Columbus Collegiate Academy, one of six schools Fordham authorizes in Ohio

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) recently released a report, Quality, Diversity and Choice: the Value of Multiple Charter Authorizing Options, which outlines various types of charter school authorizers and weighs the advantages and disadvantages associated with each. We're pleased that our sister organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, is listed in the nonprofit category as an example of a "strong authorizer," alongside organizations (in other categories) that we greatly respect, such as the Massachusetts Board of Education, Central Michigan University and the Mayor's Office in Indianapolis. (Fordham serves as an authorizer of six schools in the Buckeye State).

NACSA says that "good authorizing is about function more than form; there is no one particular authorizing option that works best in all circumstances... Good authorizing requires a relentless focus on quality." We wholeheartedly agree. Fordham has learned much in the last five years as a charter school authorizer (or sponsor, as it is called in Ohio). We've come to appreciate the many challenges facing schools serving the state's neediest children in an often hostile political environment. We believe sponsors must have an unwavering emphasis on school quality-academically, financially, and operationally. For more on Fordham's role as a charter school sponsor, see our annual Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report, which outlines in detail the status of our sponsorship...

Guest Blogger

Ohio intern Rachel Roseberry wrote this guest post.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In this case, we can only hope. Ohio State Senator Jon Husted (former State Speaker of the House) recently penned a letter to Governor Strickland, the President of the Senate, and the current Speaker detailing Ohio's shortcomings in its personal Race to the Top. He states that he is proposing legislation to correct these deficiencies; namely to lift the various caps Ohio currently has on new charter schools and to revise Ohio's value-added assessments for teachers and principals.

Senator Husted notes that Ohio now has the chance to start making decisive steps towards complying with the Race to the Top guidelines and ultimately to put in place better practice. As our own Terry Ryan says, can we afford to stumble into this federal funding any longer?

Will Compernolle


"It's ironic as hell that a budget that gives less funding to schools than the last seven budgets is being cast as a constitutional funding bill. That's funny. That's just funny." --Bill Seitz, Ohio State Senator

Bucyrus Telegraph Forum: Schools face big changes - eventually


18 : The number of charter schools featured in U.S. News's list of the top 100 high schools in America.

Kansas City infoZine: Poor Economy, Poor Student Achievement Threaten Charter Schools


Who better to report on the ???????brain drain??????? than college students themselves????? Check out this story from FOX affiliate Palestra.net , aka The College Network, featuring such luminaries as West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, III , and Fordham's own Terry Ryan .

The media is awash with stories about Ohio's brain drain: in 2007, the Buckeye State saw 6,981 more residents between the ages of 25 and 34 leave the state than migrate into it.  What's worse, the more education these young people have, the more likely they are to leave the state.  The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has sought to shed light on this important problem--and explore possible solutions.

We commissioned the Farkas Duffet Research Group to create a survey tool that could investigate the attitudes of the state's top college students about their views of Ohio as a place to live, work, and invest themselves after graduation.  We also wanted to know how these students view working in and around primary-secondary education and what it would take to entice them into this field.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education plan calls for modernizing Ohio's K-12 education system, including the state's school-funding system, but the plan's so-called "evidence-based" approach would actually scuttle any modernizing efforts, argues this study issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The governor's funding plan "would prop up an outdated system of school finance that establishes funding levels based on convention rather than need, sustains institutions whether they work or not, spends money with little regard for results and holds adults accountable for compliance not results," says author Paul T. Hill, Corbally Professor at the University of Washington, director of that university's Center on Reinventing Public Education, Senior Fellow at Brookings and former senior social scientist at RAND.

In fact, Hill says, "Once one gets past the rhetoric, one finds that the main active ingredients in the governor's plan are spending increases towards helping schools and districts employ more administrators, teachers and support staff."

Hill was lead author on the six-year, $6 million, Gates-funded, nationwide study Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. This report, issued in December 2008, is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, prepared by more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It was comprised of more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.

Much of Gov. Strickland's evidence-based approach to school funding runs counter to what the Gates report recommended in December. That study shows that "schools and systems that work...