Ohio Policy

In today's Ohio Education Gadfly, Jamie, Bianca, and I explore what's missing from the debate around Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Akron mom who was jailed for nine days and convicted of tampering with documents in order to send her two children to a school outside their home district.

Many are calling it a ???Rosa Parks moment for education.??? Civil rights and political activists are pleading with the governor to pardon Williams-Bolar (and he has asked the Ohio Parole Board to review the case). Kevin Huffman noted in the Washington Post, ???She looked at her options, she looked at the law, she looked at her kids. And she made a choice.???

But did she really look at all of her options? Lost among the clarion calls for expanding school choice to help parents like Ms. Williams-Bolar are key questions. Besides falsifying documents to send her kids outside of Akron Public Schools, did Williams-Bolar have other options? If so, why didn't she use them?

In fact, Williams-Bolar did have legal school-choice options, more than most Ohio families, including:

Intra-district transfer. The Akron Public Schools allows students to attend a school other than their local...

In a New York Times article this week, Sam Dillon examined the Obama administration's $4 billion attempt to turn around the country's worst schools and highlighted Ohio's capital city's $20 million effort to remake seven of the city's most troubled schools. One school, Champion Middle School, has for decades been a poster child for failed schools and failed turnaround efforts.

As we noted late last year, the dysfunction at Champion is chronic. In 2001, only 23 percent of the school's sixth graders were proficient in reading. A decade later and after multiple turnaround efforts (including new principals and teachers over the years) the figure was just above 26 percent and math scores had actually slid from 33 percent proficient to just 23 percent proficient. These are bleak numbers indeed and they offer a fairly stark indictment of the whole turnaround enterprise.

Yet, as Dillon reported, ???because leading schools out of chronic failure is harder than managing a successful school ??? often requiring more creative problem-solving abilities and stronger leadership, among other skills ??? the supply of principals capable of doing the work is tiny.??? The nation's schools of education have not been generating the talent necessary...

Last week the Ohio House Education Committee held hearings related to several education bills currently on the table, among them HB 21, which aims to lift the ironclad moratorium on virtual e-schools, grant a professional educator license to graduates of Teach For America wishing to teach in the Buckeye State, and require the use of student performance data in evaluating teachers. Fordham's Terry Ryan, along with two teachers from Fordham-authorized charter schools, testified in support of the bill. (Read their testimonies here, here, and here.)

As we've noted before, this bill is a new iteration of Senate Bill 180 from the fall of 2009, for which Terry testified back then. What's different this time around, however, is that a GOP-controlled House is likely to go further than the Democratic-controlled House of a year-and-a-half ago, and push for bolder changes in each of these areas (and others). While Fordham supports the provisions of HB 21, the legislature can, and should, go further that merely granting licensure to TFA alums, lifting e-school caps, and requiring value-added data. As Terry said:


?much has changed just in the last year and change is happening fast in states across


Ohio's EdChoice Scholarship Program, a voucher program for students attending chronically underperforming schools, will begin to accept applications for the 2011-2012 school year tomorrow, February 1. EdChoice is a state-funded program that gives students who attend underperforming public schools a voucher worth up to $5,000 to go to a private school of their choice.

According to School Choice Ohio, which works to protect and expand children's educational options in the Buckeye State, 85,453 Ohio students are eligible to apply for the public voucher for the coming school year. However, because of a state-mandated cap on enrollment only 14,000 students are permitted to participate in the program.

To be eligible for one of the coveted vouchers students must attend one of the 197 schools rated academic watch (D) or academic emergency (F) by the state for two of the past three years.? During the 2010-2011 school year the voucher program almost reached the statutory cap of 14,000 students with just a little over 13,000 participating in the program.? Participation in the voucher program has steadily increased since its inception in 2006, and this year's participation will most likely be on the same path. Chad Aldis, Executive Director...

Guest Blogger

It's National School Choice Week ? the first of its kind. And now, thanks to Gov. Kasich making it official, it's also Ohio School Choice Week.

Close to 1,000 Ohioans have attended events across the state this week to celebrate.

This week's Cap City event brought together legislators from both parties, education reform leaders from across the state, school principals, public school board members, and skeptics. Featured panelists included Ohio Representative Matt Huffman; Ohio Senator Kris Jordan; School Choice Ohio Executive Director Chad Aldis; Terry Ryan of the Fordham Institute, and others.

Terry highlighted Dayton, Fordham's hometown, as a place where a large percentage of district students have exerted choice and attend area charters, which are performing better academically than their district counterpart schools. Referencing Fordham's on-the-ground work, ?Our experience in Dayton is not a panacea; it's a tool? (Hannah News Service; subscription required).

The discussion, which centered on new ways to expand school options for families while keeping high standards of quality and accountability, was encouraging as Ohio heads into a tough year financially and will have to think innovatively about how best to serve students across the state.

Speaker of the...

Fordham gives its advice to Governor-elect Kasich and the incoming leaders of the Ohio House and Senate as it relates to the future of K-12 education policy in the Buckeye State. To move Ohio forward in education, while spending less, we outline seven policy recommendations. 1) Strengthen results-based accountability for schools and those who work in them. 2) Replace the so-called “Evidence-Based Model” of school funding with a rational allocation of available resources in ways that empower families, schools, and districts to get the most bang for these bucks. 3) Invest in high-yield programs and activities while pursuing smart savings. 4) Improve teacher quality, reform teacher compensation, and reduce barriers to entering the profession. 5) Expand access to quality schools of choice of every kind. 6) Turn around or close persistently low-performing schools. 7) Develop modern, versatile instructional-delivery systems that both improve and go beyond traditional schools.