Upward Mobility

Nationally and in Ohio, we work to promote policies and practices that help children born into poverty transcend their disadvantages and enter the middle class as adults, with a particular focus on what role our schools can play. Through publications, events, and commentary, we advocate for proven paths to the middle class, including high-quality career and technical education, a focus on high-achieving disadvantaged students, and the "Success Sequence."

Resources:

Our many upward-mobility-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s upward mobility experts:


In Ohio’s great graduation debate, we at Fordham have warned that lowering the bar is tantamount to the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Weakened standards, such as those pushed by the State Board of Education, imply that many low-income pupils need alternative routes to diplomas because they’re unable of reaching the state’s academic or career-technical requirements. Yet as this piece discusses, lowering our sights won’t just hurt poor students, it’ll also ask much less of our young men, especially Ohio’s young men of color.

Consider the four-year graduation rates for the class of 2017, the most recent available, displayed in the figures below. This was the final cohort subject to Ohio’s “old” graduation requirements, which included passage of the low-level Ohio Graduation Tests (OGTs). Figure 1 shows average graduation rates across Ohio’s district typologies, classifications developed by ODE to group districts with similar socio-economic and geographic characteristics. You’ll notice that graduation rates for males trail behind their female counterparts across all typologies, suggesting that high-school completion for young men should be a widespread concern. The disparities are most visible in Ohio’s high-poverty urban areas that include big- and small-city districts, and some inner-ring suburbs.

Figure...

 
 

Research tells us what works to serve gifted and talented students, including how best to identify these students and how to use acceleration strategies appropriately. A new resource, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Whole Grade, Early Entrance, and Single Subject, offers direction and clarity to school districts on gifted education practices, guidance many practitioners lack today.

Gifted and talented children need and deserve appropriate levels of challenge and stimulation as they reach for their personal best. Unfortunately, far too many children experience low expectations in their classrooms. Recent research by Dr. Scott Peters and others reveals that up to 10 percent of children perform four or more grade levels above the grade level standards used in their classrooms.

Acceleration strategies—such as advancing students an entire grade level or in specific subjects—are one of the most effective approaches to help ensure all children who demonstrate readiness for more advanced instruction receive quality gifted and talented programming. They allow students to access curriculum content, skills, and understandings before their expected age or grade level. Rather than requiring gifted children to endure repetitive work with content they have already mastered, educators can use a variety of acceleration strategies to challenge these learners...

 
 

Ohio’s news outlets have covered the debate over graduation requirements as if it were a burning problem that policymakers need to urgently “fix.” For instance, the local NPR affiliate headlined an article, “Ohio education panel still crafting long-term fix on graduation standards.” The Dayton Daily News ran a piece titled, “State school board backs long-term graduation changes, weighs emergency fix.”

Such headlines are likely inspired by public officials who have raised alarms over the past two years that Ohio’s new graduation standards would withhold diplomas from too many students. In fact, one former State Board of Education member predicted that graduation rates would fall sharply to 60 percent for the class of 2018, the first cohort subject to the state’s updated requirements that include exam-based and career-technical pathways. Based on these concerns, state lawmakers approved softball alternatives that this cohort could meet to receive high school diplomas. Various policymakers have expressed interest in extending less demanding options to future graduating classes.

Now that much of the class of 2018 has moved onto bigger and better things, it’s a good time to step back and see how these students fared in terms of meeting...

 
 

A few weeks ago, officials at ACT released a report that breaks down the ACT test results of the 2018 graduating class. It examines participation and performance overall, as well as data based on college and career readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math, and science that indicate whether students are prepared to succeed in first-year college courses. 

At the national level, the results are disheartening. The data—which account for more than 1.9 million graduates, or 55 percent of students in the 2018 national graduating class—show that the average composite score dropped from 21 to 20.8. Average scores in all four subjects also slid compared to last year (though only between 0.1 and 0.3 points).

As for the benchmarks, readiness in both math and English has been steadily declining since 2014. This year was no exception: 40 percent of graduates met the math benchmark, the lowest percentage in fourteen years, and 60 percent met the benchmark in English, the lowest level since the benchmarks were first introduced. Reading and science readiness levels were both down by 1 percentage point compared to the year prior, but generally show flat long-term trends.

In Ohio, the declines were larger. The table below...

 
 

Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the sixth in our series, under the umbrella of ensuring seamless transitions to college or career. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: Create a tax-credit program that allows employers to reduce their state tax liabilities based on the number of students who complete a state-registered apprenticeship at their worksite.

Background: In contrast to traditional career and technical programs, where training is delivered entirely by K–12 schools, apprenticeships include paid on-the-job training provided by employers or professional associations in addition to formal education. American high school students rarely participate in apprenticeships, though their counterparts in countries like Germany and Switzerland are far more likely to do so. Apprenticeships are slowly gaining traction in other states, including Georgia, Maryland, and Wisconsin, which have devised apprenticeship programs geared toward high school students. In Ohio, students aged sixteen or older can participate in one...

 
 

NOTE: On September 14, 2018, Chad Aldis was invited to provide testimony to the Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The meeting, held in Cleveland, examined civil rights as it relates to education funding in Ohio. The big question in front of the committee was “whether the state’s school funding system contributes to a disparate impact on educational outcomes for student groups protected under federal law.” The following is a summary of Chad’s remarks compiled from his notes.
 

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s long-term focus on school quality and student achievement makes us very appreciative of the work of this advisory committee. Any aspect of the education system that could be contributing to the racial achievement gap must be identified and corrected.

Today, I’ll provide information in a variety of areas that are likely to be relevant to the analysis this committee will conduct, including student achievement, funding data, the relationship between funding and academic achievement, and data related to charter schools. Finally, I’ll identify a few areas where Ohio can improve its funding system and offer a few final thoughts.

Achievement gap data

Using data from the 2016–17 school year, compiled by the...

 
 

In fashion these days are craft breweries, shabby-chic decor, and farm-to-fork restaurants. But what’ll get you a seat at the cool-kids table in the education world? At the top of the list is dismissing—or is it “dissing”?—standardized test scores. Just consider some of the latest reactions, fresh off the release of Ohio’s 2017–18 school report cards. An unnamed Columbus City Schools official told the Dispatch, “There’s far more to measuring a child’s learning and growth than what’s scored on the state’s annual Local Report Card, which offers only a limited snapshot.” The Zanesville superintendent told his local  paper, “When we look at that [report card data], I don't think it accurately reflects the work of our students and teachers.” Up in Northeast Ohio, a local school official told the Akron Beacon Journal, “I’m not panicked because state tests suggest we do poor in a certain area. I don’t necessarily think state tests are valid and reliable.”

It’s true that test scores don’t capture important intangible qualities of schools. And yes, students are “more than test scores”; they also need to develop character traits that enable them to live as responsible adults. But none of this gives us...

 
 

Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the second in our series, under the umbrella of ensuring seamless transitions to college or career. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: State agencies should connect, or allow a research university to connect, students’ K–12 and higher-education records with workforce data, such as wages, career fields, or unemployment records. This proposal may not require legislation but would require state leadership to coordinate between agencies and ensure a secure IT system that protects sensitive personal information. With an integrated information system, the state could then begin reporting (though not necessarily use for formal accountability purposes) workforce outcomes by high school or college and university.

Background: For more than a decade, Ohio has reported extensive data on K–12 student outcomes on its school report cards and in publicly accessible databases. These data systems are integral to transparently reporting proficiency and growth on...

 
 

On a recent visit to Xenia schools, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said: “I think so many times we underestimate what students can do. Our hearts tell us to be a little more protective—I’m not sure they can reach that level or handle that kind of work. But time and time again as I go across the state talking to teachers, I find that their socks are blown off because kids always are able to exceed even the highest expectations we set.”

Superintendent DeMaria is right, but not everyone in authority seems to agree. As you’ll recall, doomsayers sounded the alarm back in 2016, declaring that hordes of students would never meet the state’s new and tougher graduation requirements, which offer young Ohioans three pathways to a diploma. Of the three, the state test pathway caused the most concern: Students earn one to five points based on their performance on seven end-of-course (EOC) exams, and must earn a total of eighteen out of thirty-five points to graduate. District officials claimed that students were struggling to accumulate eighteen points because the tests were so difficult.

Perhaps unsure how to judge that concern, and open to giving schools more...

 
 

You’ve probably heard by now that basketball superstar LeBron James opened a school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Called I Promise School (IPS), it’s a joint effort between the I Promise Network, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and Akron Public Schools. The newly renovated building opened its doors on July 30 to 240 students in third and fourth grade, along with forty-three staff members. Though he’s taking his talents to Los Angeles, King James himself was on hand to dedicate the new school.

Just like students who are part of the I Promise Network that serves more than 1,300 children and their families across the district, IPS students were identified based on their reading achievement data. After identifying students who were a year or two behind grade level, administrators used a lottery to randomly select which children would be offered a spot at the new school. These students will receive free uniforms, transportation within two miles, tuition to the University of Akron when they graduate, a bicycle and helmet, and a variety of other resources. Their families will have access to GED classes, job placement assistance, and a food pantry.

James is being lavished with praise...

 
 

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