Ohio Gadfly Daily

Jack Archer

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

Last fall I retired to Northeast Ohio, where my wife and I have family, from Washington state, where I’d been staff to the State Board of Education and the state legislature. In perusing the Plain Dealer one morning, I felt that I could as well have been back in Olympia. 

The story described new state high school graduation requirements linked to higher standards defining readiness for college and career that had been set by Ohio’s State Board of Education and the fierce backlash ensuing from superintendents and others. The State Department of Education calculated that nearly 30 percent of high school juniors were likely to fall short of graduating next year if the new requirements were applied to them. Superintendents organized a protest rally—dubbed by one State Board member a “march for mediocrity”—on the statehouse steps. In light of the concerns voiced, the Board created a task force to make a recommendation on whether the requirements should be changed or phased in in some manner.

That the present controversy resonates with my experience in...

Much prior research indicates that youngsters from single-parent families face a greater risk of poor schooling outcomes compared to their peers from two-parent households. A recent study from the Institute for Family Studies at the University of Virginia adds to this evidence using data from Ohio.

Authors Nicholas Zill and W. Bradford Wilcox examine parent survey data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. This dataset contains information on 1,340 Ohio youngsters—a small but representative sample. The outcomes Zill and Wilcox examine are threefold: 1) whether the parent had been contacted at least once by their child’s school for behavioral or academic problems; 2) whether the child has had to repeat a grade; and 3) a parent’s perception of their child’s engagement in schoolwork.

The upshot: Buckeye children from married, two-parent households fare better on schooling outcomes, even after controlling for race/ethnicity, parental education, and income. Compared to youngsters from non-intact families, children with married parents were about half as likely to have been contacted by their school or to have repeated a grade. They were also more likely to be engaged in their schoolwork, though that result was not statistically significant.

An estimated 895,000 children...

More than sixty years after Brown v. Board, traditional district schools are more often than not still havens of homogeneity. Static land use guidelines, assignment zones, feeder patterns, and transportation monopolies reinforce boundaries that functionally segregate schools and give rise to the adage that ZIP code means destiny for K-12 students. Asserting that student diversity is an object of increasing parental demand, at least among a certain subset of parents of school-age kids, the National Charter School Resource Center has issued a toolkit for charter school leaders looking to leverage their schools’ unique attributes and flexibilities to build diverse student communities not found in nearby district schools. The report cites a number of studies showing academic benefits of desegregated schools, especially for low-income and minority students. It is unlikely that the mere existence of documentable diversity is at the root of those benefits. More likely, it is a complicated alchemy of choice, quality, culture, and expectations that drives any observable academic boosts. Garden-variety school quality is a strong selling point for any type of school, but this toolkit sets aside that discussion to focus on deliberately building a multi-cultural student body for its own sake. Bear...

Peter Cunningham recently called district-charter collaboration the “great unfilled promise” of school choice. He explains the possibilities by pointing to a host of cities that are already benefiting from collaboration: In New York City, districts and charters are partnering to improve parent engagement. In Rhode Island, charters are sharing with district schools their wealth of knowledge on how to personalize learning effectively. Boston has district, charter, and Catholic schools working together on issues like transportation and professional development and has successfully lowered costs for each sector. The SKY Partnership in Houston is expanding choice and opportunities for students. The common enrollment system in New Orleans has solved a few long-standing problems for parents (like issues with transparency), and partnerships in Denver have set the stage for even more innovation. Though the type and extent of collaboration differs in each of these places, the bottom line is the same: Kids benefit.

Here in the Buckeye State, there are thousands of kids in need of those benefits. Our most recent analysis of state report card data shows that within Ohio’s large urban districts (commonly known as “the Big Eight”), proficiency rates were far below...

  1. In case you didn't know, our own Chad Aldis is serving on the state supe’s workgroup on dropout prevention and recovery schools and was quoted following the group’s meeting earlier this week. As you might have predicted, he urged the study of data on dropout recovery students and schools to aid in decision making and any redesign/reform efforts. (Gongwer Ohio, 1/11/17)
     
  2. Miracle of miracles! The Dayton RTA drivers and mechanics strike lasted less time than the Louisville teachers strike – just four days in fact. Full service resumed this morning, which should be a great relief for all of the Dayton students who rely on RTA for school transportation. The city school board said “hundreds” of students were absent during the strike because they could not get to school. (Dayton Daily News, 1/13/17)
     
  3. Ohio this week was awarded a $2 million grant from JPMorgan Chase and the Council of Chief State School Officers (through the New Skills for Youth initiative), which is meant to strengthen career-focused education in the Buckeye State. Wonder if that’s why the House Education Committee was this week renamed to the Education and Career Readiness Committee? Just askin’. (Associated Press, 1/11/17)
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Education Week just issued its twenty-first “Quality Counts” report card for states. Ohio’s grades are so-so—and nearly identical to last year’s. Yet with a “C” overall and ranking twenty-second nationally, the Buckeye State’s standing relative to other states has fallen dramatically since 2010 when it stood proud at number five.

Ohio’s slide in EdWeek’s Quality Counts ranking has become easy fodder for those wishing to criticize the state’s education policies. Those on the receiving end of blame for Ohio’s fall have included: Governor Kasich (and the lawmakers who upended former Governor Strickland’s “evidence-based” school funding system), Ohio’s charter schools (never mind that nothing whatsoever in the EdWeek score cards takes them into consideration!), and even President Obama (specifically for his 2009 Race to the Top program). I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard or read that Ohio’s plummeting ranking is incontrovertible evidence of things gone awry.

An almost-twenty slot drop in rankings sounds terrible, but my guess is that many people who lament it don’t know what the ratings comprise or that EdWeek’s indicators have changed over time. Let’s take a look at the overall rankings, and then take a...

  1. Here is a nice look at a charter school in Canton, newly opened this school year, which focuses on students with special needs. For anyone who’s keeping count (besides me), that’s now two articles from shall we say “typical skeptics” reporting nice things about charters managed by Cambridge Education Group. (Canton Repository, 1/10/17) On the topic of students with special needs, the Warren County ESC has purchased a former church complex in Franklin, Ohio, in which to expand their Laura Farrell Learning Center. Looks like the aim of this program (not a school, despite the headline) is to expand the provision of services for students in need of extra help to flourish in traditional classroom settings. This is a good advance look at the program’s expansion plans. (Dayton Daily News, 1/11/17)
     
  2. Today is day three of a strike by Dayton RTA bus drivers and mechanics. We have told you repeatedly about the school district’s transportation woes, now the Gem City transit strike is affecting students who take RTA as an alternative. New talks are supposedly set for today. (Dayton Daily News, 1/10/17)
     
  3. Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall that Ohio’s state board of education in
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  1. Columbus City Schools is looking to expand selective admissions in a number of its lottery schools. This effort comes complete with school fairs to help district families find the best fit for their students among the CCS offerings. Whatever you may think of the former move, the latter is most definitely a welcome development. More please! (Columbus Dispatch, 1/9/17)
     
  2. Speaking of school choice, here’s another look at open enrollment from the perspective of a group of districts in Northern Ohio who seem to swap students back and forth fairly regularly. As is typical with these stories, the folks interviewed seem to have a clear grasp on the dollars and cents involved with open borders but very little idea as to why students come or go from their districts (aside from the dry observation that “people always like to have a choice”). Seems to me that one of these is more important to the proper functioning of the program than the other. Just sayin’. (Fremont News-Messenger, 1/6/17)
     
  3. Columbus will likely need permission from the state board of education for the above-mentioned proposal to expand selective admissions. The new session of the board begins with its first meeting
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  1. Our own Chad Aldis was quoted this week on Ohio’s placement in EdWeek’s latest Quality Counts survey of states. At a glance, the Buckeye State’s middling rank was lackluster, but Chad’s more in-depth analysis helps put the data in context. Check out that analysis in Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 1/4/17) and in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 1/5/17).
     
  2. Speaking of EdWeek, here’s a nicely-detailed piece on what various states are doing in terms of preparation for ESSA accountability plan implementation. Ohio’s recent “massive” effort at public input is noted with general positivity. (Education Week, 1/4/17)
     
  3. Youngstown City Schools has a new COO, having “poached” the superintendent of a nearby (i.e. - suburban, higher-performing) district for the job. It seems that Youngstown CEO Krish “Sheriff” Mohip has no problem finding high-level talent to fill the ranks of his deputies. Now, about that school board… (Youngstown Vindicator, 1/5/17)
     
  4. Finally, we have a curious little piece from the PD in which census data reveals the percentage of school-age children attending private vs. public schools in all of the cities in the state. The full chart is there, but the article focuses on Northeast Ohio. No mention is
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Today Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report card for states. Ohio earned a C with an overall score of 74.2, aligning the Buckeye State for the second year in a row with national U.S. average (also 74.2). Its ranking of 22nd is up one place from 2016; all of Ohio’s neighboring states earned a C or C-minus except for Pennsylvania, which earned a B.

Ohio’s individual sub-grades also remained unchanged from last year:

  • C-plus in Chance for Success—a measure that includes educational inputs and outputs across the life span such as family income, parent educational levels, preschool and kindergarten enrollment, fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP scores, and adult educational attainment.
  • C-minus in K-12 Achievement—looks at student performance on the NAEP, graduation rates and percent of students scoring 3 or above on AP exams, as well as gaps in proficiency between poor and non-poor students.
  • C in School Finance—a measure that includes state funding systems’ reliance on local property wealth as well as other measures of equity, per pupil expenditures, and share of taxable resources spent on education.

For the last several years in the Quality Counts report cards, Ohio’s subcategory scores largely stayed consistent despite several shifts in...

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