Ohio Policy

Guest Blogger

There's a new trend at many of America's higher learning institutions: emphasizing career-specific majors at the cost of the liberal arts. A recent Newsweek piece by Nancy Cook, ???The Death of Liberal Arts???, covers the causes and potential effects of this movement. Budget cuts are forcing universities to reevaluate their teaching priorities, and simultaneously, students facing an increasingly difficult job market (just 41 percent of those aged 18-29 have full-time employment according to a recent Pew Research Center study) are choosing what they perceive as more easily marketable degrees than those acquired through a liberal arts education.

But will the rise in popularity of more ???useful??? degree programs serve its intended purpose of increasing job-seekers' employability? Many say no, citing the creativity and imagination associated with liberal arts programs as a necessary component of success in the job market. Cook writes: [quote]

Although many students now want to major in something that sounds like a job, the economy is shifting so rapidly that it's hard to predict the landscape of the labor market??? there's no guarantee that business training will offer students the best preparation for the future.

In Fordham's own Beyond The...


Be sure to check out this week's Ohio Gadfly for a Q&A with Rick Hess, who divulges his thoughts on Race to the Top, educational entrepreneurship, Ohio's budget constraints, and why the notion of ???best practices??? in education makes him ???nauseous.??? But don't worry, Rick isn't sick-- he just recognizes the flaws of trying to import good practices, impose them on other organizations, and then assume the same level of effectiveness (*cough??? Ohio's evidence-based model, anyone?).

Also check out a detailed breakdown of Ohio's Race to the Top application and its areas of weakness. Lots of states did poorly on ???Great Teachers & Leaders,??? but Ohio performed second to worst in this area and will have to improve this first and foremost if the state hopes to be competitive.

Definitely don't miss Fordham Ohio's first of several videos in our ???Needles in a Haystack??? series, which features one of Cleveland's top charter schools,?? Citizens' Academy. You'll learn more about Ohio's ???Needles schools??? (e.g., high-performing, high-needs schools that are very hard to find) in May when our report comes out, but stay tuned for video previews by Fordham's Eric Ulas.

On tap for Capital Matters...

Charter schools are different from traditional district schools in that they are free of many regulations and operating constraints, but in return for their freedoms they are held accountable for their results. Those charter schools that fail to deliver results over time are closed, the theory holds. Yet, strict charter accountability in the form of closure collides with the efforts of states like Ohio to use federal school improvement dollars to turn around troubled charter schools.

President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan are pushing the school turnaround concept hard through the Race to the Top competition and School Improvement Grants. Andy has written extensively about the many challenges that face turnaround efforts, and has mustered much evidence against the cause. [quote]

Despite Andy's strong case against all turnarounds, I have argued that there are times when the turnaround strategy may have merit for school districts. Of course, we should take on turnarounds with a healthy dose of skepticism and with the understanding that most will fail. But, in cities like Fordham's hometown of Dayton, half of the community's schools perennially receive an F or D on the state's academic report card.

Why would...

The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

Profiles of the eight Needles schools

Citizens' Academy (video)

College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)


The National Council on Teacher Quality recently reviewed the 16 Race to the Top finalist states' ???great teachers and leaders??? application sections. NCTQ rightly pointed out one significant reform Ohio has going for it in this area ??? last summer the governor and legislature moved teacher tenure decisions until after a teacher's seventh year on the job (instead of after the third).

But in reading the rest of NCTQ's Ohio blurb, I can't help but notice how many verbs are in the future tense. The Buckeye State's ???yellow??? rating from NCTQ (???proceed with caution???/stoplight metaphor) seems too generous unless it's a flashing yellow and you're turning right onto a crowded 70 mph highway while driving a Smart Car.

NCTQ reports (italics and parenthetical comment mine):


The state adopted a new licensure system in 2009, which it promises will be calibrated with its performance-based evaluation system (which doesn't exist yet). Ohio??? also plans to revamp its guidelines to districts regarding how tenure decisions are made. Ohio also says it intends its new four-step licensing system to provide the foundation for new teacher compensation statewide.

And the kicker, the optional clause:...

The superintendent of Ohio's Twin Valley Community Local School District has come under fire in his first year on the job from the local teachers union for, among other grievances, trying to make teachers do lesson plans:

???????I asked the teachers to do lesson plans, which they hadn't done in years. Sheryl Byrd [the local teacher union president] said that was a change in work expectations," he said Wednesday. "It's a requirement by the Ohio Revised Code, and we're going to follow it."

Here's what I want to know: when did lesson planning stop being a regular part of a teacher's job????? Don't most teachers view the process as fundamental to organizing their instruction, planning assignments, and ensuring they deliver the right content at the right time to their students?

It's no surprise when teachers unions fight education reforms, but resisting lesson planning????? Really?

--Emmy Partin

Eric Ulas

The 2009 NAEP reading scores were released this morning with little fanfare for Ohio. There has been virtually no growth in the Buckeyes State's NAEP reading results, with only 36 percent offourth graders and 37 percent of eighth graders in Ohio proficient or above in reading.

These scores come as no surprise as they've remained virtually unchanged over the last ten years, as illustrated in the graphic below.

As we've noted before a troubling gap continues to exist between Ohio's own measure of student proficiency (the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT) and the NAEP. According to 2009 OAT results, 72 percent of eighth graders and 82 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in reading. The graph below highlights this disparity.

Both the stalled achievement in reading according to NAEP scores, and the discrepancy between OAT and NAEP results highlight the need for strong common standards nationally correlated with a system of comprehensive assessments.

One thing is for sure ??? too few Ohio fourth and eighth graders have been scoring below proficient in reading for too long....


Don't miss the latest Ohio Education Gadfly! Terry, Emmy, and Jamie, along with Fordham friend Colleen Grady (at State of Ohio Education blog), discuss how the Common Core standards are an improvement over Ohio's current academic standards (and they name a few caveats and suggestions for revision).

Next, Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr.'s National Review Online editorial joins in endorsing the common education standards, and is targeted specifically toward conservatives who might otherwise be wary of the concept of national standards.

Eric writes up a section on Ohio's recently released NAEP reading scores. The bad news is that fourth and eighth-grade proficiency scores are perpetually low.

Also read about Columbus Collegiate Academy's recent ???silver gain??? EPIC prize by New Leaders for New Schools for their extraordinary student achievement gains ??? the only school in Ohio to win.

And be sure to check out Flypaper's Finest, some great reviews, and Editor's Extras for information ranging from online learning and a KIPP school's performance, to Drew Carey's work in Cleveland, and notable podcasts (on teachers' unions and No Child Left Behind) you should definitely check out....

Guest Blogger

When asked how he would go about improving Pittsburgh, Frank Lloyd Wright offered a simple solution: ???Abandon it.???

But that Price-is-Right hosting, Michael Moore look-a-like (minus the baseball hat and hammer-and-sickle) Drew Carey won't drop the commitment to his hometown Cleveland that easily. Carey recently teamed up with the Reason Foundation to offer solutions for revitalizing his city going bust.

Episode 2 in the ???Reason Saves Cleveland??? series deals specifically with fixing Cleveland's schools???and points to improvements in school performance in Oakland, California as an example of how struggling cities can boost their students' achievement.??

Carey and producer Paul Feine point to Citizen's Academy in Cleveland?? as an example of how charters can help make a difference in battling educational failure (see here for more praise). ??Carey also touts working with teachers' unions to promote school autonomy and implementing a weighted student funding system.

You can find ???Reason Saves Cleveland??? here.

Tim Hoffine is a Policy & Research Intern in the Fordham Columbus office.

Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy just released a proposal for ???America's Teacher Corps,??? a federally funded program that would recognize highly effective teachers in Title I schools, award them a salary bonus ($10,000), and give them a ???portable credential??? transferrable from state to state so as to encourage the best teachers to flow to the highest-need schools. Perhaps most important, ATC would encourage states and districts to develop metrics to identify highly effective teachers in the first place. (All exciting stuff.)

The authors of the paper are spot-on in pointing out the rationale for such a program. There are general problems with the profession not recruiting the best and brightest, being plagued with high turnover, inequitable distribution of talent, etc. The ATC would minimize credentialing barriers. Ohio needs this desperately, as it doesn't always grant reciprocity for out-of-state teachers ??? i.e. making Teach For America alums jump through certification hoops regardless of prior classroom experience/performance.

Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat has a good write-up about it. He also expresses concern over a few ???potential pitfalls,??? among them the fact that a program like ATC would rely on districts having valid and reliable teacher evaluation systems.

Which is...