Ohio Policy

By Jennifer O’Neal Schiess, Max Marchitello, and Juliet Squire
Ohio’s current approach to school funding (K-12) has several strengths, including its ability to drive more state aid to disadvantaged districts and to add dollars for students with greater educational needs. But in a time when Ohio’s budget – like that of many other states – is stretched thin, policy makers need to ensure that every dollar is being well spent. As state lawmakers debate Ohio’s biennial budget, thoughtful analysis is more important than ever.
Our latest research report, A Formula That Works, takes a deep dive into Ohio’s education funding policies and includes several recommendations for improvement. Conducted by national education policy experts at Bellwether Education Partners, this analysis touches on questions such as: How well does Ohio’s funding system promote fairness and efficiency to all schools and districts? How can policy makers better ensure that all students have the resources needed to reach their goals? And what are the most critical policy issues that legislators should concentrate on as the budget debate proceeds this spring?
All vital questions for Ohio's students, families, schools, and districts....
Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing its middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life. CLA is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District's.
No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.
We invite you to read this profile of a CLA student and see for yourself how this high-performing charter school has helped Keith become an honors scholar as well as an active, engaged citizen and community member....
Ohio House Bill 2 (HB 2) was signed into law on November 1, 2015. It was a landmark piece of legislation that significantly altered the framework governing the state’s charter schools. The comprehensive legislation sought to right a sector that has struggled since Ohio’s first charter schools opened in 1998, while also protecting the very school-level autonomy that is essential to the charter model.
HB 2 aimed to reverse years of poor oversight and to put Ohio’s charter schools on the road to redemption through tougher oversight of sponsors, the entities that hold charter schools accountable (also commonly known as “authorizers”); strengthening of charter governing boards, the bodies that oversee school operations and management; and requiring greater transparency from charter operators.
Now that more than a year has passed, we take a first close look and how these charter reforms are being implemented—with vigor and care, or with neglect? Are there any early indications that the reforms are improving sector performance? Alternatively, are any unintended consequences becoming clear?
Download the full report now to see for yourself.

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
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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,
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