Losing Ohio's Future
The media is awash with stories about Ohio's brain drain: in 2007, the Buckeye State saw 6,981 more residents between the ages of 25 and 34 leave the state than migrate into it. What's worse, the more education these young people have, the more likely they are to leave the state. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has sought to shed light on this important problem--and explore possible solutions.
We commissioned the Farkas Duffet Research Group to create a survey tool that could investigate the attitudes of the state's top college students about their views of Ohio as a place to live, work, and invest themselves after graduation. We also wanted to know how these students view working in and around primary-secondary education and what it would take to entice them into this field.
2007-08 Ohio Report Card Analysis
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in partnership with Public Impact, analyzed the 2007-08 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities to produce Urban School Performance Report: An Analysis of Ohio Big Eight Charter and District School performance with a special analysis of Cyber Schools, 2007-08.
City-by-city analysis of school performance:
Accelerating Student Learning in Ohio
As Gov. Ted Strickland concludes his 12-city "Conversation on Education" tour to gather ideas for reforming public education in Ohio, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has put forth a report of five recommendations designed to keep improvements in the Buckeye State's public schools on track toward three critical goals: 1) maximizing the talents of every child; 2) producing graduates as good as any in the world; and 3) closing the persistent academic gaps that continue between rich and poor, and black and white and brown.
The five recommendations include:
- Creating world-class standards and stronger accountability mechanisms.
- Ensure that funding is fairly allocated among all children and schools.
- Recruit the best and brightest to lead schools and empower them to succeed.
- Improve teacher quality.
- Expand the quality of, and access to, a range of high-performing school options.
The report offers relevant examples of the best practices and thinking from across the nation and world as well as within the state of Ohio. These recommendations were developed on the basis of the work over the past decade of many organizations, including Achieve, McKinsey & Co., the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Center on Education and the Economy, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Ohio's State Board of Education and Department of Education.
The Proficiency Illusion
The Proficiency Illusion reveals that the tests that states use to measure academic progress under the No Child Left Behind Act are creating a false impression of success, especially in reading and especially in the early grades.
The report, a collaboration of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association, contains several major findings:
- States are aiming particularly low when it comes to their expectations for younger children, setting
elementary students up to fail as they progress through their academic careers.
- The central flaw in NCLB is that it allows each state to set its own definition of what constitutes "proficiency."
- By mandating that all students reach "proficiency" by 2014, it tempts states to define proficiency downward.
- Although there has not been a "race to the bottom," with the majority of states dramatically lowering standards under pressure from NCLB, the report did find a "walk to the middle," as some states with high standards saw their expectations drop toward the middle of the pack.
- In most states, math tests are consistently more difficult to pass than reading tests.
- Eighth-grade tests are sharply harder to pass in most states than those in earlier grades (even after taking into account obvious differences in subject-matter complexity and children's academic development).
As a result, students may be performing worse in reading, and worse in elementary school, than is readily apparent by looking at passing rates on state tests.
Individual State Reports
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
2006-07 Ohio Report Cards
Despite a decade of significant school reform efforts in Ohio, students in the state's largest cities still struggle mightily to meet basic academic standards and are nowhere close to achieving the goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to an analysis of the latest Ohio school report-card data.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute found 46 percent of 183,000 public and charter school students in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton are attending schools graded either D or F (officially "Academic Watch" or "Academic Emergency", respectively). That compares to about 75,000 students in D or F schools in the entire remainder of the state.
See the full press release here.
City By City Analysis:
Analysis of District and Charter School Performance in the Ohio 8:
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute also commissioned Public Impact to conduct a brief analysis of charter school performance in 2006-2007. See their findings here.
Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs
Dating to 1920, Ohio's State Teacher Retirement System (STRS) is the oldest of the Buckeye State's five public pension systems. It now covers close to half a million members--active, inactive, and retired--or one member for every ten Ohio households.
Despite its long history and prodigious size, all is not well with Ohio's teacher pension system. In this Fordham Institute report, nationally renowned economists Robert Costrell and Mike Podgursky illuminate some of the serious challenges facing STRS.
Among the report's findings are serious questions about the system's long-term health and sustainability. STRS is becoming increasingly expensive for all contributors. Employees contribute 10 percent of their earnings to the pension fund and employers contribute 14 percent, for a total contribution of 24 percent. This total has drifted up from 10 percent since 1945. Yet this is still insufficient to meet the state's funding goals: the system's unfunded liability is $19.4 billion, which represents a debt of over $4,300 per Ohio household. This liability far exceeds that of the state's other four public pension systems combined, despite the fact that STRS's membership is little more than one-third of those systems.
A system that is so large and increasingly costly should meet basic public policy requirements of transparency and efficiency. Sadly, the system fails to meet either requirement: it lacks transparency, and its incentives are perverse. As a result, Ohio's pension system almost certainly hinders rather than helps in the recruitment and retention of a highly qualified teaching workforce.
See the press release here.
See a supplementary PowerPoint presentation here.
Turning the Corner to Quality
At the request of Ohio's top government and education leaders, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have issued a report seeking to strengthen the state's charter school program. Among its 17 recommendations are calls for closing low-performing charter schools and holding sponsors more accountable for oversight of the growing charter movement while also helping more high-performance schools to open and succeed in Ohio. In return for sharply stepped-up accountability, restrictions on the formation of high-quality charters should be removed, and charter schools should receive more equitable funding.
Turning the Corner to Quality bases its findings on research and analysis of Ohio school performance data; a review of best practices in other states; input from experts in charter school finance, sponsorship, accountability and policy; and evaluation of dozens of policy options.
Fund the Child
Everyone agrees that education funding today is a mess. But a broad, bipartisan coalition now urges a new method of funding our public schools--one that finally ensures the students who need the most receive it, that empowers school leaders to make key decisions, and that opens the door to public school choice. It's a 100 percent solution to the most pressing problems in public school funding--and it's called Weighted Student Funding.
Halfway Out the Door
What do ordinary Ohioans think about the myriad education reforms enacted in the Buckeye state over the last half-decade? How do parents, taxpayers, and citizens view public schooling in 2005? Do they like these reforms? Seek more or less of them? Have confidence that they'll succeed? Fordham decided to enlist veteran analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett to examine the attitudes of Ohio residents toward their public schools. The results? Ohioans are frustrated with their K-12 education system on a number of fronts, and feel the state is in dire need of stronger, better leadership when it comes to education. Policymakers would do well to pay attention.
Testimony Prepared for the Alternative Education Subcommittee
On April 21, 2005, Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Program Director Terry Ryan testified before the Alternative Education Subcommittee of the Ohio House of Representatives. They discussed Ohio's community schools (a.k.a. charter schools), which face a developing paradox: the more they expand and the more students they serve, the more threatened they become, by internal and external forces alike.