A Reform-Driven System

Via this ambitious strand of work, we seek to deepen and strengthen the K–12 system’s capacity to deliver quality education to every child, based on rigorous standards and ample choices, by ensuring that it possesses the requisite talent, technology, policies, practices, structures, and nimble governance arrangements to promote efficiency as well as effectiveness.

Trailing only Medicaid, school spending is the second-largest public expenditure in Ohio’s $65 billion annual budget. Over the next biennium, the state is slated to spend $12 billion per year on education (including $2 billion per year in federal funds administered by the state), on top of $8 billion per year raised via local property taxes. Altogether, annual education expenditures will clock in at around $11,000 per student.

The bulk of state education spending—$7.4 billion in fiscal year 2016 (FY 16) and $7.7 billion in fiscal year 2017 (FY 17)—is sent to districts via block grants, meaning that districts can allocate funds as they choose. The value of the block grant is determined by a funding formula. FY 16’s formula aid represents an increase of 4.9 percent relative to FY 15, and the amount in FY 17 adds another 4.2 percent on top of that. These are generous increases, especially since statewide enrollment is slightly declining; they also exceed the recent rate of inflation.

Without a doubt, Ohio taxpayers are making big financial contributions to education. But one of the perennial (and perplexing) questions is whether taxpayer dollars are being properly allocated. Oftentimes—and this spring was...

Nominally, private schools (or “chartered nonpublic schools,” as they are known in the Ohio Revised Code) operate with a minimal amount of state oversight. Practically, however, there is a long history of state involvement with them. In exchange for added oversight, private schools receive transportation services for students (or parents can receive payment in lieu of transportation) through the district in which they are located; they can also seek state reimbursement, also passing through the district, for costs like textbook purchasing and school administration. Since Ohio began voucher programs in 1996, the bond has become even stronger.

On June 30, 2015, Governor John Kasich signed into law the new biennial budget (House Bill 64), which included a number of provisions impacting private schools. Here is a review of the most significant provisions.

Auxiliary Services (AS) and Administrative Cost Reimbursement (ACR)

As boring as their names may sound, these budget line items are the primary mechanism by which the state and private schools interact. Chartered nonpublic schools can request and receive reimbursements for textbooks, diagnostic/therapeutic/remedial personnel services, and “educational equipment” through the AS process. Transportation services provided to private school students are also funded via the AS...

Earlier this year, Forbes released a celebration of edu-wunderkinds, its “30 under 30” in education. Reading the descriptions of their innovative, tech-focused work made me feel totally old and out of touch. Though we’re separated by only 10–15 years, the gap in worldview felt enormous.

But I refuse to be put out to pasture before my fortieth birthday, so I tracked down some of this year’s selectees (and a previous winner) and asked if they’d be willing to chat. I just wanted to learn from them. The conversations were eye-opening, and I’ve been mulling over the lessons for the last few months.

But AEI recently hosted a terrific confab on K–12 entrepreneurship (short summary podcast here). The papers and panels touched on some of the issues that surfaced during my time with the “30-under-30” crew.

Since so many of us are either involved in K–12 innovations or simply trying to understand what’s going on, I thought I’d share the six biggest takeaways from my discussions with these young overachievers.

(Note: If you’re looking for gossip, a competitive advantage, or investment opportunities, this list will disappoint. I don’t name any organization or individual for three reasons. First, those I talked to were forthcoming, and I’m...

  • Teachers at “no-excuses” charter schools are widely thought to fit in a single, aggrieved category: twenty-two years old, working twenty-two hours a day, and earning $22,000 per year. It’s assumed that the exhausting daily schedule and prolonged school year, so crucial to the mission of lifting disadvantaged kids out of poverty, also ends up churning many depleted young educators out of the profession. But according to a new analysis from Education Week, that phenomenon may be overstated. The item, which builds on a more in-depth look published in the same outlet last month, points to Education Department data showing that charter teacher turnover dropped by 5.3 percent between the 2008–09 and 2012–13 school years—even while it ticked up slightly in traditional district schools. Imperfect collection methods and the sector’s rapid recent expansion make the signs hard to read, but this development certainly doesn’t qualify as bad news.
  • And it’s not the only upbeat story this week. In an American nerd triumph worthy of the great Rick Moranis, Team American took gold in last week’s International Mathematical Olympiad for the first time since 1994. The scrappy team of adolescents who will someday employ us all edged out
  • ...

The National Bureau of Economic Research has released a working paper in a series designed to estimate the earnings returns for vocational or technical education students in California community colleges—the nation’s largest such system. While there is a large body of research pertaining to the financial returns of earning a four-year college degree, very little has been conducted on the income of technical program graduates.

Researchers tracked students through their postsecondary institutions and into the labor market between 1992 and 2011. Using administrative records from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and California’s unemployment insurance system, they were able to match roughly 93 percent of students in the college data to earnings records. The evaluation of certificate and degree holders was divided into four categories: associates of science/arts degrees, 30–60-credit certificates, 18–30-credit certificates, and 6–18-credit certificates. They then analyzed these four groups’ returns in the six largest major employment areas: business and management, information technology, engineering and industrial technologies, healthcare, family and consumer sciences, and public protective services.

The study authors found substantial differences in financial returns for different programs—even among credentials that require the same number of credit hours—and concluded that “all CTE education programs are not equal.” The...

A new study by Pennsylvania State University researchers examines which types of instructional practices are most effective with first-grade math students—both with and without mathematical difficulties (MD).

They analyzed survey responses from roughly 3,600 teachers and data from over thirteen thousand kindergarten children in the class of 1998–99. The database is known as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). The authors then controlled for students’ prior math and reading achievement, family income, classroom and school contexts, and other factors. (MD was defined as falling in the bottom 15 percent of the score distribution on the ECLS-K Math test.)

The key findings: In first-grade classrooms with higher percentages of MD students, teachers were more likely to use practices not associated with greater math achievement by these students. These non-effective practices included using manipulatives, calculators, movement, and music to learn math. It should be noted that these practices were also ineffective for students without math difficulties.

Yet more frequent use of teacher-directed instructional practices was consistently associated with gains in math achievement for first graders with MD. More specifically, the most effective instructional practice teachers could use with these struggling students was routine practice and drills (that’s right,...

Every sentence in Sir Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools begins with a capital letter. There is also a punctuation mark at the end of each, without exception. I have made a careful study of his nearly three-hundred-page manuscript, and can now report conclusively that its author employs—precisely and exclusively—the twenty-six letters of the standard English alphabet. 

Normally, this would not be worth remarking upon. Most of us have come to expect standard English in books written for general readers. But most of us are not Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D. He is “one of the elite thinkers on creativity and education,” whose TED talk on how schools kill creativity in children is “the most watched in TED history.”  Sir Ken intensely dislikes standardization in all its forms. So it is at least somewhat disappointing that he has chosen to eschew interpretive dance, semaphore flags, or other means to argue against standards and for creativity in education.

It is not uncommon for education gurus to lack the courage of their convictions.  So allow me to be creative on Sir Ken’s behalf: Don’t think of Creative Schools as a book; think of it as a jukebox cranking out all of the anti-reform hits. Nod...

Robert Schwartz

Let’s begin with some data. Fewer than 33 percent of young people succeed in attaining a four-year degree by age twenty-five. If you disaggregate by income, only about 15 percent in the bottom third of the distribution attain a degree. In the bottom quintile, it’s half that. If you look at graduation rates among those who enroll, only about 30 percent in the bottom two income quintiles complete within six years. The economic returns of “some college” (i.e., those who drop out with no degree or occupational certificate) are no different than for those with only a high school diploma.

Finally, nearly half of those young people who attain a four-year degree are struggling in this labor market: 44 percent are underemployed, working in jobs that historically have not required a four-year degree, or working part-time while seeking full time employment. Meanwhile, there is rising evidence that those with two-year technical degrees (AAS) are out-earning average young BA holders.

It’s no longer a matter only of how much education you have, but what skills you have acquired and how well they match up with what the economy requires.

While it obviously should be a critical national priority...

John Kasich announced today that he’s running for president. The current governor of Ohio is the sixteenth Republican to join the crowded GOP primary, dwarfing the five-person field on the other side of the aisle. He’s also the twenty-first subject of our Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling presidential candidates’ stances on education issues.

Kasich entered politics in the late 1970s, when he was elected to the Ohio Senate. He moved on to the House of Representatives in 1983, representing the state’s Twelfth Congressional District until 2001. After taking a break from public life, he returned to take Ohio’s helm in 2011. During his time as the state’s sixty-ninth governor, Kasich has made education a priority, and his efforts have produced some positive results. Here’s a sampling of his views:

1. Common Core: “[The idea behind the standards was for] students in every state to be given the opportunity to compete with every other student….I want kids to jump higher….I’m going to make sure, at least in my state, that standards are high and local control is maintained….Now, some may call that Common Core. I don’t really know, but I’m telling you the way it is in my...

I had an economics professor in grad school who told us that every civilized household should use the most recent edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” as a coffee table book.

For one hundred thirty years, the “Stat Ab” has been was an annual federal publication packed to the rafters with data: page after page of data tables on every imaginable aspect of our lives—demographics, jobs, transportation, health, agriculture, the military, and more.

When our class laughed at the idea of replacing a book of Ansel Adams’s photos with one that included “Table 925. Energy Supply and Disposition by Type of Fuel,” our professor excitedly (and without irony) replied, “But there’s just so much you can learn from these numbers!”

The same could be said of the “2015 Condition of Education” recently published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For years, Congress has required this federal agency to annually produce a report on the state of U.S. schools. If it were up to me, it would be mandatory professional development for everyone working in K–12 to spend ninety minutes with this report.

We should all stay up to speed with the...

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