Ohio Policy

The 2015–16 school year was one of transition in Ohio. New state assessments (again), new charter sponsor evaluations, and even a new state superintendent.  Change is hard, but it is important to remember that the developments of the last twelve months have their roots in policy decisions designed to improve Ohio’s academic standards overall and its charter school sector in particular.

The 2016 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report is our opportunity to share the Fordham Foundation’s work as the sponsor of eleven schools serving approximately 3,200 students in five cities, especially as that work relates to the large education policy landscape in Ohio.

We urge you to read this report to learn of Fordham’s commitment to quality schools for all children.

KIPP Columbus achieves extraordinary outcomes for its students, predominantly students in poverty and students of color. Led by Hannah Powell and a visionary board, the school has a rare knack for forging powerful partnerships at every turn—ones that strengthen KIPP students, their families, and the entire community near its campus. We invite you to read this profile of Steve, a KIPP graduate, an immigrant and first-generation college student now attending Vanderbilt University. Steve’s entire family has been uplifted by the school and his story shows powerfully what is really possible in a high-quality charter school.

On September 15, Ohio released report cards for approximately 600 school districts and 3,500 public schools (district and charter). These report cards are based on state exam results from the 2015-16 school year, along with several other gauges of student success. This year’s report card analysis, Setting Sights on Excellence, offers a close look at the report card data while also placing them within the context of Ohio’s major policy reforms. With the aim of readying more students for college and career, such reforms include a shift to higher learning standards and more rigorous state assessments. 

The key findings:

  • Reflecting Ohio’s higher learning standards, fewer students in Ohio are deemed “proficient” on state exams than in previous years. In 2015-16, roughly 55 to 65 percent of Ohio pupils met the proficiency bar in the core subjects. Nevertheless, Ohio’s proficiency benchmark still falls short of matching a rigorous, college and career ready standard.
  • In turn, school ratings across that state have declined. In urban areas, public schools receive almost universally low ratings on proficiency based metrics: On the state’s performance index—a key gauge of student achievement—94 percent of urban schools received D or F ratings in 2015-16. This reflects
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Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA) epitomizes the relentlessness and vision necessary to close achievement gaps in urban education. Started in the basement of a church with 57 students in 2008, CCA evolved into one of the city’s top-performing middle schools. That success jump-started the United Schools Network, now serving 600 students in four buildings.
 
Through this profile of one CCA eighth-grader, you can clearly see the benefits of the school’s relentless focus on academics and high expectations both academically and behaviorally. We hope her story reminds you what is possible when we invest in and empower high-quality charter schools and what is at stake when we don't.

Shortly after Ohio lawmakers enacted a new voucher program in 2005, the state budget office wrote in its fiscal analysis, “The Educational Choice Scholarships are not only intended to offer another route for student success, but also to impel the administration and teaching staff of a failing school building to improve upon their students’ academic performance.” Today, the EdChoice Scholarship Program provides publicly funded vouchers to more than eighteen thousand Buckeye students who were previously assigned to some of the state’s lowest-performing schools, located primarily in low-income urban communities. Yet remarkably little else is known about the program.

Which children are using EdChoice when given the opportunity? Is the initiative faithfully working as its founders intended? Are participating students blossoming academically in their private schools of choice? Does the increased competition associated with EdChoice lead to improvements in the public schools that these kids left?

Fordham’s new study utilizes longitudinal student data from 2003–04 to 2012–13 to answer these and other important questions. 

Three key findings:

  • Student selection: The students participating in EdChoice are overwhelmingly low-income and minority children. But relative to pupils who are eligible for vouchers but choose not to use them, the participants in EdChoice are
  • ...

Too much of what we hear about urban public schools in America is disheartening. A student’s zip code—whether she comes from poverty or economic privilege—often predicts her likelihood of educational (and later-life) success. Motivated by this unacceptable reality, some schools have worked relentlessly against the odds to deliver excellent educational opportunities to students no matter their background. The Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) is an island of excellence in one of Ohio’s poorest and most academically challenged districts. The unique opportunities and supports it provides to students—both academic and personal—are showcased briefly through the story of Khadidja, an inspiring young woman whose experience at DECA has helped forge a very different future than the one facing many of her urban peers.

On February 25, 2016, Ohio released report cards for the 2014-15 school year—the first in which the state administered next generation assessments. In conjunction with these new exams, state officials raised the minimum test score needed for students to be deemed “proficient.” As a result of these transitions, proficiency and achievement-based ratings fell across the state—a necessary reset of basic accountability measures in a time of rising expectations. This year’s report provides an overview of these changes, along with a presentation of data from national exams, suggesting that policymakers should go further to match Ohio’s definition of proficiency with a true college and career ready benchmark.

Since 2005, the Fordham Institute has conducted annual analyses of Ohio’s school report cards, with a particular focus on the performance of urban schools, both district and charter. This year’s analysis again takes a deep-dive look at the student achievement and school quality in the Ohio Big Eight areas. The key findings are as follows:

  • College and career readiness rates are extremely low in Ohio’s high-poverty urban areas—in the Big Eight cities, roughly 10 to 25 percent of students are reaching rigorous benchmarks.
  • According to the state’s achievement-based school ratings,
  • ...

The 2015 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report is our opportunity to share the Fordham Foundation’s work as the sponsor of eleven schools serving approximately 3,200 students in five cities, and our related policy work in Ohio and nationally.

Charter school policy took a giant leap forward in Ohio in 2015 with the passage of HB 2. The road to a high-quality charter school sector has been laid out. If we want high-performing schools and networks to grow and replicate in the state, it is time to turn our attention to the human capital, facilities, and funding issues that have dogged the sector here for far too long.

We urge you to read this report to learn of Fordham’s commitment to quality schools for all children. 

Though charter schools are fiercely debated in Ohio, too rarely are the voices of charter leaders actually heard. This report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute surveys the leaders of the highest-performing Buckeye charters to take stock of their views on sector quality, accountability, and replication and growth.

The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan FDR Group, was fielded to the principals of 109 charter schools, yielding a 70 percent response rate. 

We hope that Quality in Adversity will help lift these leaders' voices, so that their firsthand knowledge can overcome counterproductive rhetoric and entrenched positions.

Like other states, Ohio has over the past few years put into place a standards and accountability framework with the clear goal of readying every student for college or career when she graduates high school.
 
Given the difficulty and the outcry as a result of these changes, one may ask why we conducted an overhaul in the first place. Why must states, including Ohio, see through the full and faithful implementation of educational change? Some of the answers rest in the pages of Fordham's latest report.
 
Research conducted by Public Impact shows the stark reality that too many Ohio students have not been fully prepared for their next step after high school—whether college or career.
 
The data in this report mark a starting point by which Ohio leaders can track our state’s progress going forward.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Aaron Churchill....

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