Publications

Losing Ohio's Future

Why college graduates flee the Buckeye State and what might be done about it

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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.

Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Trade-Offs Lie Ahead?

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In 2002-2003, 1 million students participated in AP by taking at least one exam. Five years later, nearly 1.6 million did—a 50+ percent increase. But is growth all good? Might there be a downside? Are ill prepared students eroding the quality of the program? Perhaps harming the best and brightest? To find out, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute commissioned the Farkas Duffett Research Group to survey AP teachers in public high schools across the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the AP program remains very popular with its teachers. But there are signs that the move toward "open door" access to AP is starting to cause concern. Read the report to learn more.

An interview with Steve Farkas, President of the Farkas Duffett Research Group.
Fordham commissioned the FDR Group to research and write this report.

When Private Schools Take Public Dollars: What's the Place of Accountability in School Voucher Programs?

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Voucher opponents often argue that it's unfair to hold public schools accountable for results under the No Child Left Behind Act and various state rules while allowing private schools that participate in voucher programs to receive taxpayer dollars without similar accountability.

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute don't entirely buy that argument but we also believe there's room for a reasonable middle ground. It's time for the school-voucher movement to embrace accountability done right, just as most of the charter-school movement has done. But it's also vital to preserve the capacity of private schools to be different and not to deter them from taking children who would benefit.

In pursuit of that middle ground, we sought the advice of twenty experts in the school-choice world. This paper presents their thoughts and opinions, as well as Fordham's own ideas.

The majority of experts agree that participating private schools should not face new regulation of their day-to-day affairs. They also see value in helping parents make informed choices by providing data about how well their own children are performing.

However, experts are not of one mind when it comes to making academic results and financial audits transparent. Some would "let the market rule" and are averse to transparency or accountability around school-level results. Others would "treat private schools like charter schools" when it comes to testing, financial transparency, etc. Some would also like government (or its proxy) to intervene if individual schools aren't performing adequately.

We suggest a "sliding scale" approach to bridge the divide: the more voucher-bearing
students a school enrolls, the greater its obligation for transparency and accountability. And the more generously taxpayers support vouchers, the greater their accountability claim on voucher-receiving schools.

Read the report in a nutshell.

The Accountability Illusion

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This study examines the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states. We selected 36 real schools (half elementary, half middle) that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which of them would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state's accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Wisconsin or Ohio, would that same school make AYP there? Based on this analysis, we can see how AYP varies across the country and evaluate the effectiveness of NCLB.

Compare data from the 28 states in our study. Click here for the full-size map.

State Reports

 Arizona
California
Colorado
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas

Maine
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Montana
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota

Ohio
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Texas
Vermont
Washington
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Ohio at the Crossroads: School funding—more of the same or changing the model?

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Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education plan calls for modernizing Ohio's K-12 education system, including the state's school-funding system, but the plan's so-called "evidence-based" approach would actually scuttle any modernizing efforts, argues this study issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The governor's funding plan "would prop up an outdated system of school finance that establishes funding levels based on convention rather than need, sustains institutions whether they work or not, spends money with little regard for results and holds adults accountable for compliance not results," says author Paul T. Hill, Corbally Professor at the University of Washington, director of that university's Center on Reinventing Public Education, Senior Fellow at Brookings and former senior social scientist at RAND.

In fact, Hill says, "Once one gets past the rhetoric, one finds that the main active ingredients in the governor's plan are spending increases towards helping schools and districts employ more administrators, teachers and support staff."

Hill was lead author on the six-year, $6 million, Gates-funded, nationwide study Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. This report, issued in December 2008, is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, prepared by more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It was comprised of more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.

Much of Gov. Strickland's evidence-based approach to school funding runs counter to what the Gates report recommended in December. That study shows that "schools and systems that work best, especially for poor and disadvantaged youngsters, are not all alike: they use funds, teachers, students' time, materials, and technology very differently."

Hill provides four recommendations for improving the Governor's school funding plan:

  • Drive funds to schools based on student numbers and needs through a process called weighted student funding.
  • Encourage experimentation with the uses of funds and imaginative new instructional programs.
  • Hold all schools and school districts to account for student performance and continuous improvement.
  • Gather and use data on the uses of funds and the results produced, so that alternative methods of delivering instruction can be compared on cost and effectiveness.

 

An Open Letter to President Obama, Secretary Duncan and the 111th Congress

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute appraises the current policy landscape and its main players, and outlines the ideal federal role in K-12 education. In summary, the various education associations, interest groups, experts and think tanks cluster into three major factions:

The System Defenders. They believe that the public education system is fundamentally
sound but needs additional resources in order to be more effective.
The Army of the Potomac. This camp has generally sound instincts about reform, but suffers from its boundless faith in Washington's ability to accomplish significant positive change in K-12 education.
The Local Controllers. They want Uncle Sam, for the most part, to butt out of K-12 education-but to keep sending money to states and districts.
• Fordham favors a fourth approach, which we call Reform Realism.

We believe the federal government should:

Provide flexible dollars targeted at disadvantaged children. Principals and superintendents, facing the sunshine of transparency around their schools' results, should be free to spend Washington's dollars as they see fit.
Foster common standards and tests. While asking federal bureaucrats or politicians themselves to set standards and create tests would be perilous, the President could bring governors together and task them with agreeing on what students should know and be able to do in core subjects at various stages of their K-12 schooling.
Offer cash incentives to states or districts to embark upon promising but politically treacherous reforms. The cleanest way to do this is to enhance the Title I payments to jurisdictions that are pushing hard on important innovations such as performance-linked pay for teachers and quality school choices for families.
Produce high-quality data and solid research on what does and doesn't work. Today, education research and statistics is the caboose of federal education policy when it should be the engine.
Protect the civil rights of individual students and educators. This is a traditional and needed element of the federal role, both at the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights and in other agencies.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sam should eliminate the following items from his responsibilities:

Oversight of state testing and reporting systems. Once we have national tests that yield reliable data, states should be free--under the watchful eyes of their citizens--to make decisions about how to turn that information into school ratings.
Mandated school sanctions. Along with much else, we would eliminate No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) school transfer, free tutoring, and restructuring provisions. States decide how and when to incent and intervene.
Dictates around teacher credentials. If reformers want to encourage changes in the human capital pipeline, they should incentivize it, not make rules about it. The "highly qualified teacher" mandate should be scrapped.

"As Reform Realists, we favor a vigorous but realistic federal role that respects what is best done from Washington and for the entire nation while dismissing federal programs, policies and practices that have not and cannot succeed," said Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. "We hope others will join our small but feisty band."
 

More resources

In a Nutshell: An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama, Secretary-Designate Duncan and the 111th Congress provides a brief summary of Fordham's letter providing guidance to new federal education leaders

Watch a video in which Mike Petrilli explains Fordham's concept of education "Reform Realism"

Read Mike Petrilli and Checker Finn's National Review Online article about "Reform Realism"

Climbing to Quality 2007-2008 Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report

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This yearly report covers Fordham's sponsorship practices throughout the year as well as newsworthy events related to our sponsored charter schools. You can also find detailed reports on all of Fordham-sponsored schools.  Each school report contains information on the school's academic performance, educational philosophy, and compliance for the 2007-2008 school year.

A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era

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America brims with education data and these days it seems everyone in education claims--or at least wants--to be guided by data. In A Byte at the Apple, leaders and scholars map the landscape of data providers and users and explores why what's supplied by the former too often fails to meet the needs of the latter. It documents the barriers to collecting good information, including well-meaning privacy laws and the maze of overlapping government units and agencies. Most important, it explores potential solutions--including a future system where a "backpack" of achievement information would accompany every student from place to place.

Among the book's main points:

America has made significant gains in education data.
No Child Left Behind, while much-criticized, has led to important strides in the creation of and demand for student achievement data. New technologies are making data entry, collection, analysis and dissemination vastly easier.

Yet many education-data systems remain archaic, cumbersome and non-comparable.
For instance, higher ed data typically don't align with elementary-secondary. Students who change schools get lost. Finance data are a mess. And some information, such as which pupils are taught by which teachers, isn't even gathered. Key definitions, such as "dropout" and "graduate" remain unsettled. Leaders also need better ways of digging through mounds of existing data to identify useful information that will actually tell them "what works" in education.

Barriers to quality data are tough but surmountable.
California has struggled to develop a statewide data repository, hampered by politics, bureaucracy, and human foible. Yet Kansas and Virginia have found ways to overcome such challenges to make solid advances in their education data systems.

There are data 'gaps' to be filled.
American education craves more longitudinal data and value-added analyses. Educators and analysts seek information that tracks student achievement over time. Policymakers yearn for better means of investigating the sources of school effectiveness. Many want to link student and teacher data. Some, however, have good data that they can't use to meet their needs. Knowing what to do with education data--and why--is as important as having them.

The mission IS possible.
Getting the education data America needs to the people who need it will not be easy, but it is doable. Other countries and other sectors suggest some possibilities. Innovations like "dashboards" showing school management data, and savvier uses of technology would lead to dramatically better information about our schools and our students, helping us understand what works and what we can improve.

"A Byte at the Apple" BOOK CONTENTS

Foreword
Marci Kanstoroom, Eric C. Osberg, and Robert D. Muller

Introduction: The Education Data Landscape
Paul Manna

Why We Don't Have the Data We Need

Getting FERPA Right: Encouraging Data Use While Protecting Student Privacy
Chrys Dougherty

Federalism and the Politics of Data Use
Kenneth K. Wong

Political Roadblocks to Quality Data: The Case of California
RiShawn Biddle

Innovations and Promising Practices

States Getting It Right: The Cases of Kansas and Virginia
Nancy Smith

The Student Data Backpack
Margaret Raymond

Balanced Scorecards and Management Data
Frederick M. Hess and Jon Fullerton

Circling the Education-Data Globe
Daniele Vidoni and Kornelia Kozovska

Cutting-Edge Strategies from Other Sectors
Bryan C. Hassel

The Way Forward

From Building Systems to Using Their Data
Aimee Rogstad Guidera

Education Data in 2025
Chester E. Finn, Jr.

More Resources

"A Byte at the Apple" in a nutshell: This one-page PDF document offers an overview of the book's main points

"A Byte at the Apple" video, Panel 1 discussion: Why We Don't Have the Data We Need
Paul Manna, via video
Chrys Dougherty
Nancy Smith
Discussant: Mark Schneider
Moderator: Checker Finn

"A Byte at the Apple" video, Panel 2 discussion: Innovations and Promising Practices
Jon Fullerton
Macke Raymond
Bryan Hassel
Discussant: Kevin Carey
Moderator: Mike Petrilli

"A Byte at the Apple" video, Panel 3 discussion: The Way Forward
Aimee Guidera
Checker Finn
Discussants: John Deasy & Glynn Ligon
Moderator: Eric Osberg

"A Byte at the Apple" video, panel highlights

FERPA music video: The tragic tale of one harried education researcher's quest for data.

2007-08 Ohio Report Card Analysis

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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:

Cincinnati

Cleveland

Columbus

Dayton

Toledo

The Red Tape Report: An Exploratory Study of the Regulatory Interference Faced by School Leaders in Five States

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Observers of American public education have repeatedly asserted that schools are over-regulated, but little empirical evidence exists about the nature and scope of such regulatory interference. That's probably because the problem is so complex; aggregating and analyzing the copious volumes of statutes and regulations that bear on schools, not to mention collective bargaining agreements and reams of court decisions impacting classrooms, might easily seem a never-ending quest.  

In the past, some have suggested measuring regulatory interference with crude measures, such as physically weighing the books that spell out such regulations, stacking them end to end, or simply counting the number of pages. These antics, while attention-grabbing, ultimately contribute little to our understanding of the depth and breadth of regulatory interference in education.  

Thus our pilot study has a simple, if ambitious, aim: to delve into the details of key state statutory and administrative codes, as well as state budgeting practices, in order to measure some of the most critical parts of the regulatory context in which schools operate. To our knowledge, no previous analysis has attempted to map out as much of the regulatory landscape across multiple states in as much detail.  

Our study is grounded in the premise that, in this era of school accountability, it is counterproductive to hold principals' "feet to the fire" for increasing student achievement while simultaneously tying their hands when it comes to staffing, budgeting, and performing other key functions of school operations.  

To understand the degree to which state policy limits principals' autonomy in such crucial areas, we analyzed state legal codes in three broad regulatory areas (Staffing, Budgeting, and Academic/Administrative regulations), across five states. We examined 26 regulatory categories in detail-and then constructed a series of metrics to measure states' regulatory interference against a standard, and against one another. The key findings are illuminating:  

  • Among our five pilot states-California, Florida, Missouri, New York, and Ohio-the most over-regulated public schools are in New York, followed closely by those in California and Florida. The state with the least regulation is Missouri.
  •  In all five states, over-regulation occurs precisely in those management domains that are most important for school effectiveness. Specifically, principals' authority is thwarted in the following critical areas: teacher selection and other staffing decisions (including retention, compensation and evaluation, layoffs, and transfers for teachers and other staff); the length of the school day and year; and curricular decisions in English/language arts and social studies. 

     

    We plan to expand our examination of state regulatory interference to include all 50 states and hope as well to devise informative comparisons of district-operated and charter schools with regard to state regulation. We want to refine and strengthen our methods and metrics to capture what is most important and relevant in measuring state regulatory interference.

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