Pathway to Success: DECA prepares students for rigors of college, realities of life

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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.

Facing facts: Ohio's school report cards in a time of rising expectations

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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, urban schools almost universally receive low ratings (Ds and Fs). But when examining results from Ohio’s student growth measure (value added), variation in school quality emerges. Both urban charter and district schools receive high value added ratings, indicating the presence of schools that are helping students catch up with their peers.
  • Still, too many students in urban areas are trapped in low quality schools (receiving poor ratings on both the performance index and value added). Taken together, approximately 150,000 students in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton attend a low-quality school.

Download the report to learn more about the performance of Ohio’s public schools, statewide and in its eight largest urban areas.

2015 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report

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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. 

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio's best charter schools

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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.

Establishing a baseline: Ohio’s education system as it enters a new era

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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.


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

Getting Out of the Way: Education Flexibility to Boost Innovation and Improvement in Ohio

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For the past year, Ohio policymakers have been grappling with the issue of deregulating public schools. But what does deregulation mean--and how should policymakers go about doing it?

In this new report--authored by Education First’s Paolo DeMaria, Brinton S. Ramsey, and Susan R. Bodary--the Fordham Institute calls for a sweeping deregulation agenda. By cutting through the red tape, on-the-ground leaders will be empowered to recruit, develop, and manage a high-performing staff; innovate new models for education; and custom-tailor their educational approach to the unique needs of students.

The suggestions for commonsense reform include:

  • Eliminate seniority as a consideration in layoffs of nonteaching employees;
  • Expand opportunities for schools to use non-licensed individuals;
  • Eliminate districts’ ability to collectively bargain away inherent management rights, including the right to assign staff;
  • Eliminate any structural requirements on teacher salary schedules; and
  • Allow districts to remove teachers, including tenured ones, if they are evaluated ineffective for more than two years.

The report also recommends the creation of a simple process that allows district boards to waive certain state regulations and the formation of a high-level working group that would identify and evaluate ideas for further deregulatory action. 


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

School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio’s Urban District and Charter Schools

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School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio’s Urban District and Charter Schools examines 198 school closures that occurred between 2006 and 2012 in the Ohio ‘Big Eight’ urban areas (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown). The research included 120 closed district-run schools and seventy-eight closed charter schools. Taken together, these closures directly affected 22,722 students—disproportionately low-income, low-achieving, and minority students—who were in grades 3-8 at the point of closure.

The study reveals that children displaced by closure make significant academic gains on state math and reading exams after their school closes.

Three years after closure, the research found that displaced students overall made the following cumulative gains:

  • Students who had attended a closed district school gained forty-nine additional days of learning in reading and thirty-four additional days in math and;
  • Students who had attended a closed charter school gained forty-six additional days in math.

Further, the study reveals that students who attended a higher-quality school after closure made even greater progress. Three years after closure, displaced students who transferred to a higher-quality school made the following cumulative gains:

  • Students who had attended a closed district school gained sixty-nine additional days of learning in reading and sixty-three additional days in math and;
  • Students who had attended a closed charter school gained fifty-eight additional days of learning in reading and eighty-eight additional days in math.

Estimated gains are based upon a 180-day school year and are benchmarked against the gains displaced students would have likely made, had they attended their closed school.

Dr. Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Stéphane Lavertu of the Ohio State University conducted the research and authored the report. They used data provided by the Ohio Department of Education and applied empirical methods to gauge the impact of closure on students’ academic achievement.

Shutting Bad Schools, Helping Students
By Michael J. Petrilli and Aaron Churchill
Wall Street Journal

Closing schools has benefits
Editorial Board
Columbus Dispatch

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

The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio's Charter School Sector

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Over 120,000 charter students in Ohio deserve the opportunity to receive an excellent education. But far too often, Ohio charters have produced mediocre results. In the most extensive evaluation of Ohio charters to date, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently found that Ohio charter-school students, on average, make less academic progress than their district counterparts.

Part of the problem has been Ohio’s incoherent charter-school law—a law that has too often failed to put students’ best interests first. Instead, in too many ways, it has protected powerful vested interests, smothered schools with red tape, starved even the best schools, and tolerated academic mediocrity.

But fixing Ohio’s charter law is no easy task. The law itself is roughly 40,000 words and has been amended nineteen times since its enactment in 1997. It contains many peculiar exceptions, loopholes, and restrictions.

Policymakers must know exactly what needs to be repaired and how best to make the fix. Authored by Bellwether Education Partners, a national education-consulting group, this report offers ten policy recommendations that, if implemented, will lead to stronger charter policy in Ohio.

These recommendations pivot around three central objectives that policymakers must focus on in a charter-reform bill:

  • Define governing relationships: Currently, Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of each actor in the charter-governing system. State policymakers need to remedy this by more clearly and explicitly establishing the governing relationships in the charter-school structure.
  • Purge conflicts of interest: State policymakers should not tolerate permissive laws that allow adults to make dishonest gain at the expense of students’ best interest.
  • Help charters compete: At present, state policy treats Ohio charters as second-class public schools. They receive less overall taxpayer funding, garner scant facilities support, and are often at the mercy of traditional districts when it comes to student transportation. Now is the time to remedy charter-funding inequities.

The Ohio policymaking community is poised to tackle charter-school reform. This report, The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter Sector, builds on the policy foundations laid in our 2006 charter-policy report, considers the latest developments in Ohio charter policy, and reflects some of the very best thinking nationally concerning charter-school policy.

Wise policymakers—those who care deeply about the twin principles of good governance and robust competition in our public institutions—will keep this report at their side in the coming days.


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

Charter School Performance in Ohio

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Charter schools are quickly becoming a defining feature of Ohio’s public-education landscape, educating over 120,000 children statewide. The “theory of action” behind charters is fairly simple. Empower parents with choice, give schools greater freedom, and hold schools accountable to a contract—and higher student achievement, more innovation, and stronger parental engagement will follow.

But how does theory stack up against reality? Are Ohio charters actually producing better results than their district counterparts? One way to answer this question is by analyzing student achievement data, and since 1999, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has been the nation’s foremost independent evaluator of charter-school performance.  

In the most comprehensive analysis of Ohio charter school performance to date, CREDO looks at student test-result data from 2007-08 to 2012-13 to evaluate the academic impact of Ohio charters. 


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

2014 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report

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The 2014 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report is our opportunity to share the Fordham Foundation’s work as the sponsor of eleven schools serving 3,200 students, and our related policy work in Ohio and nationally. We are fortunate as an organization that our policy work benefits our sponsorship efforts; and, that our lessons from sponsorship inform our policy and advocacy strategies.

In the pages of this report, you will see that Fordham as a whole is committed to increasing the number of quality seats available to children - both as a policy and as a concrete goal within our portfolio of schools. We report candidly on the performance of our portfolio, our approach to sponsorship, and key policy publications from 2014. 


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