Accelerating Student Learning in Ohio

Five Policy Recommendations for Strengthening Public Education in the Buckeye State

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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:

  1. Creating world-class standards and stronger accountability mechanisms. 
  2. Ensure that funding is fairly allocated among all children and schools. 
  3. Recruit the best and brightest to lead schools and empower them to succeed. 
  4. Improve teacher quality. 
  5. 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. 

    Ohio Value-Added Primer

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    Since the piloting of value-added progress measures by the Ohio Department of Education in 2007, we at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute have repeatedly been asked by business people, journalists, philanthropists, educators, and others to explain "value-added" and what it means for schools and children.  In order to help answer this question and others--such as "How is it used?" "Should it replace standards-based assessments?" and "Is it a fairer measurer of school performance?"--we volunteered to produce a short primer to help non-specialists understand the basics of "value-added" in Ohio.

    Education Olympics 2008: The Games in Review

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    This report has a simple aim: to present results from international assessments so readers can judge for themselves how American students stack up globally.  It shows how the U.S. has performed internationally in education in recent years, and it provides a glimpse of how education looks in several top-performing nations.

    Unsurprisingly, the tale this report tells is not a comforting one. Americans accustomed to seeing the United States at the top of international rankings tables will not like what they see. And although the strengths of the U.S. economy and its higher-education system offer some hope for the future, the state of the K-12 education system depicted in the pages ahead should spark concerns about the long-term outlook for the U.S. economy.

    Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism

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    The most exciting innovation in education policy in the last decade is the emergence of highly effective schools in our nation’s inner cities, schools where disadvantaged teens make enormous gains in academic achievement. n this book, David Whitman takes readers inside six of these secondary schools—many of them charter schools—and reveals the secret to their success: They are paternalistic.

    The schools teach teens how to act according to traditional, middle-class values, set and enforce exacting academic standards, and closely supervise student behavior. But unlike paternalistic institutions of the past, these schools are warm, caring places, where teachers and principals form paternal-like bonds with students. Though little explored to date, the new paternalistic schools are the most promising means yet for closing the nation's costly and shameful achievement gap.

    For review copies, please contact John Horton.


    Other materials

    Education Next Book Club

    George Will writes about American Indian Public Charter School

    George Will writes about Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

    David Brooks mentions the book

    Press release

    Fordham held a book talk for "Sweating the Small Stuff" on September 3, 2008. Watch the video here.

    "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism" book talk from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

    Excerpt of David Whitman's comments at book talk for "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner City Schools and the New Paternalism," September 3, 2008

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    High-Achieving Students in the Era of No Child Left Behind

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    This publication reports the results of the first two (of five) studies of a multifaceted research investigation of the state of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.

    Part 1: An Analysis of NAEP Data, authored by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, examines achievement trends for high-achieving students (defined, like low-achieving students, by their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) since the early 1990s and, in more detail, since 2000.

    Part 2: Results from a National Teacher Survey, authored by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of Farkas Duffett Research Group, reports on teachers' own views of how schools are serving high-achieving pupils in the NCLB era.

    Related Resources

    Slideshow presentation of the findings

    Mike discusses the report on Fordham Factor

    In A Nutshell brief of the report

    Tom Loveless responds to this review of the study.

     Video coverage of our panel event on the report:

    High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

    5:30 - Tom Loveless, Brookings Institution
    19:05 - Steve Farkas, Farkas Duffett Research Group
    33:25 - Josh Wyner, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
    41:15 - Ross Wiener, Education Trust
    48:30 - Question & Answer

    Tom Loveless's slideshow
    Steve Farkas's slideshow

    Speaker bios

    Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools?

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    America's urban Catholic schools are in crisis. Over 1,300 of them have shut down since 1990, mostly in our cities. As a result, some 300,000 students have been displaced--double the number affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. These children have been forced to attend other schools at an estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $20 billion.

    Fordham's latest report, which includes a comprehensive survey of the attitudes of U.S. Catholics and the broader public toward inner-city Catholic schools, examines this crisis and offers several suggestions for arresting and perhaps reversing this trend in the interests of better education. By looking at seven case studies, the report shows that in a few cities, such as Wichita, urban Catholic education is making a comeback. However, in other cities like Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., despite public voucher programs, enrollment continues to decline and/or schools are being closed or converted into charters.

    Related Resources

    Full survey results

    Fordham VP Mike Petrilli discusses the report on NPR, Fox Business channel, and Fordham Factor

      In A Nutshell brief of the report

      Fund The Child: Bringing Equity, Autonomy, and Portability to Ohio School Finance

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      Ohio can boast of praiseworthy gains over the past decade in making school funding more equitable across districts. The next step must be to make funding fairer within districts, according to this study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. This imperative also gives Ohio the opportunity to modernize its public-education finance system to keep pace with powerful changes in the education system itself.

      To mitigate the school-finance inequities that remain within districts and gear school funding toward the realities of student mobility, school choice and effective school-based management, the report recommends that Ohio embrace Weighted Student Funding (WSF).

      Weighted Student Funding makes equity a reality within districts by allocating resources based on the needs of individual students and by sending dollars directly to schools rather than lodging most spending decisions at the district level.

      Today, one in seven Ohio students is educated in a school other than their neighborhood district school. Families increasingly change schools during the course of their children's K-12 careers and more and more of them select options other than their assigned district schools, options that include magnet schools, community (charter) schools, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) schools. Yet there is no mechanism to ensure that as students move from one school to another, resources move, too.

      And while Ohio has made a start at modifying education funding according to the singular needs of individual children, most school dollars are doled out without regard to student circumstances and needs-and even when they are, districts may not channel the additional dollars to the school that a child actually attends.

      Weighted Student Funding addresses these problems:

      • Dollars follow students to the public schools that they actually attend. A high-poverty student, for example, would be funded in whatever school he or she enrolls in--and that money also would move with the student to a different school;
      • Spending is calibrated to each student's needs. It costs more to educate disadvantaged, disabled, and non-English speaking youngsters. WSF allots resources accordingly; and
      • Principals gain the flexibility to spend their schools' budgets in ways that maximize results for their pupils. Funds arrive at schools as real dollars, not staff positions or categorical programs.

      Fund the Child was written by expert analysts at the University of Dayton's School of Education and Allied Professions and at Public Impact, a North Carolina-based education policy consulting firm.

      The report's conclusions and recommendations affirm those of thoughtful groups that have already urged Ohio to move toward Weighted Student Funding. These include McKinsey & Company, Achieve, and the School Funding Subcommittee of the State Board of Education.

      Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First

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      Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First, by Sol Stern, is an in-depth and alarming study of Reading First's betrayal.

      President Bush vowed he would "leave no child behind." The centerpiece of his education agenda was Reading First, a new federal program aimed at helping poor children acquire basic reading skills. Under the leadership of White House domestic policy chief Margaret Spellings (then LaMontagne) and with support from Congress, Reading First was to provide funding to primary-reading programs that were based on scientific research. Christopher Doherty became Reading First's new director. His job was to ensure that Reading First schools used only programs that work and shunned those that don't.

      Backlash and brouhaha followed. Aggrieved whole-language program proprietors complained bitterly that their wares couldn't be purchased with Reading First funds. They found a receptive ear in the Education Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a bastion of green eyeshade and Dragnet types who weren't the least bit interested in children learning to read. The OIG launched a witch hunt against Doherty, falsely claiming that he was improperly favoring particular publishers. Despite the lack of evidence and the fact that Doherty was acting with the full knowledge and support of Margaret Spellings, this conscientious and hard-working public servant was forced to resign. Then the administration turned its back on Reading First, allowing the program to be gutted and starved of funding.

      This report cites the real scandals of Reading First:

      • An influential "progressive" lawmaker, Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, slashed by over $600 million the budget of one of the most effective programs for poor children in the federal government--the only No Child Left Behind program that has received plaudits from both the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget.
      • President Bush and Secretary Spellings hung Chris Doherty out to dry, even though he was following their orders and acting aggressively (and heroically) to ensure that only effective programs got money under Reading First.
      • Another influential "progressive" lawmaker, Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, hauled Doherty before his panel and browbeat him for carrying out the very policies that Miller had helped to craft.
      • The Education Department's Inspector General pursued a reckless, one-sided investigation and was not held accountable for his actions. Who inspects the inspectors in today's Washington?
      • Most of all, millions of poor children are suffering from the political games of adults-toying with the Reading First program, its implementation, and its budget.


      Related Resources

      In A Nutshell brief of the report

      At A Glance: a look at state-by-state funding

      Video from March 10 press conference

      Transcript of Michael Petrilli's remarks at March 10 press conference

      Freedom of Information Act Request

      Letter to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency & Integrity Committee's Response

      Letter to Congressman Obey urging him to publicly disclose the extent of his relationship with Robert Slavin


      Fordham demands investigation into real Reading First scandals

      Press Release - March 10, 2008

      Fordham demands investigation into real Reading First scandals

      Calls for Secretary Margaret Spellings, Rep. David Obey and ED's Office of the Inspector General to account for their actions

      Washington--At a press conference held outside the U.S. Department of Education headquarters today, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute demanded an inquiry into scandalous efforts by the executive and legislative branches to sabotage the Reading First program.

      Designed to help poor children learn primary-reading skills, Reading First is the only program among the many contained in the No Child Left Behind act to receive stamps of approval from both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Yet, Reading First's funding has been slashed by two-thirds, the Bush Administration has gone AWOL on this once-loved program, and its first director, Christopher Doherty, was forced to resign--all purportedly because of a "scandal" uncovered by the Education Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

      Fordham's latest report, Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First, written by City Journal contributing editor Sol Stern, reveals the real scandals that have yet to be brought to public attention:

      • Millions of poor, illiterate children are suffering because of the political games of adults who have undercut the implementation, budget and positive impact of the Reading First program.
      • Doherty was sacrificed for vigorously doing his job: making sure that only effective reading programs received funding--just as Congress envisioned and the White House intended--while intervening when taxpayer dollars flowed to unreliable programs.
      • For doing his job, Doherty and his team were subjected to a reckless, one-sided, hydra-headed investigation by the Department of Education's OIG. After failing to uncover any financial wrongdoing, corruption, or abuse, the OIG published a weak, mostly unsubstantiated report that called Doherty's integrity into question with little or no evidence.
      • Doherty was hung out to dry, even though he was doing the bidding of President Bush and then- domestic policy advisor Margaret Spellings (then LaMontagne). From her office in the West Wing, Spellings oversaw the Reading First program. She was Doherty's de facto supervisor. Her invisible fingerprints were all over every key decision made by Doherty. Yet only Doherty came to grief.
      • President Bush and Secretary Spellings have allowed Reading First's budget to be gutted, and a once top administration priority has fallen by the wayside.
      • Chairman David Obey (D-WI) of the House education appropriations subcommittee slashed Reading First's budget by over $600 million in fiscal 2008.
      • Chairman Obey is known to be a longtime supporter of Robert Slavin, developer of the Success for All reading program, who has publicly stated that he was angry Success for All was not receiving more federal funds under Reading First. He urged the OIG to investigate Doherty. Following the OIG report, Slavin demanded that Reading First's budget be substantially cut--which Obey did.

      "Maybe Secretary Spellings and her team hoped that throwing Chris Doherty over the side would resolve the matter and save the program," said Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "That obviously didn't happen. This is the sort of tragedy that Shakespeare or Sophocles would have relished."

      In order to get to the bottom of the Reading First tragedy, the Fordham Institute took these actions today:

      • Filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding that all correspondence, including e-mails, between Secretary Spellings, as well as other Education Department senior staff, and the OIG, related to the audit of the Reading First program be made available.
      • Wrote the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency requesting an independent investigation into the manner in which the OIG accepted, conducted, and reported its audit of the Reading First program.
      • Sent a letter to Congressman Obey urging him to publicly disclose the full extent of his association with Slavin, including correspondence, e-mails or conversations he and/or his staff had with Slavin and/or his staff about the Reading First program and its funding. Furthermore, the letter asks that Congressman Obey disclose whether he has ever received any campaign contributions or gifts from Slavin or his associates.

      Fordham also believes the media should probe why Secretary Spellings was unwilling to stand up for Doherty, and why she has repeatedly failed to defend Reading First from the assaults of Congress.

      The Leadership Limbo

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      In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America's Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.

        The main findings:

        • Thirty, or more than half, of the 50 districts have labor agreements that are ambiguous. The collective bargaining agreements and the formal board policies in these districts appear to grant leaders substantial leeway to manage assertively, should they so choose.
        • Fifteen of the 50 districts are home to Restrictive or Highly Restrictive labor agreements. Nearly 10 percent of the nation's African-American K-12 students population attend school in the 15 lowest-scoring districts-making these contracts major barriers to more equal educational opportunity.
        • The study also found that districts with high concentrations of poor and minority students tend to have more restrictive contracts than other districts-another alarming indication of inequity along racial and class lines.
        • The labor agreements of the nation's 50 largest districts are particularly restrictive when it comes to work rules.
        • Most of these agreements are also quite restrictive when it comes to rewarding teachers for service in hard-to-staff subject areas such as math and science, with 31 actually prohibiting districts from doing so.

        Individual District Reports

        Albuquerque Public Schools (NM)
        Anne Arundel County Public Schools (MD)
        Austin Independent School District (TX)
        Baltimore City Public School System (MD)
        Baltimore County Public Schools (MD)
        Brevard County School District (FL)
        Broward County School District (FL)
        Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (NC)
        City of Chicago School District (IL)
        Clark County School District (NV)
        Cleveland Municipal City School District (OH)
        Cobb County School District (GA)
        Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (TX)
        Dallas Independent School District (TX)
        Dekalb County School System (GA)
        Denver Public Schools (CO)
        Detroit Public Schools (MI)
        Duval County School District (FL)
        Fairfax County Public Schools (VA)
        Fort Worth Independent School District (TX)
        Fresno Unified School District (CA)
        Fulton County Schools (GA)
        Granite School District (UT)
        Guilford County Schools (NC)
        Gwinnett County Public Schools (GA)
        Hawaii Department of Education (HI)
        Hillsborough County School District (FL)
        Houston Independent School District (TX)
        Jefferson County Public Schools (CO)
        Jefferson County Public Schools (KY)
        Jordan School District (UT)
        Long Beach Unified School District (CA)
        Los Angeles Unified School District (CA)
        Memphis City Schools (TN)
        Mesa Public Schools (AZ)
        Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (TN)
        Miami-Dade County Public Schools (FL)
        Milwaukee Public Schools (WI)
        Montgomery County Public Schools (MD)
        New York City Public Schools (NY)
        Northside Independent School District (TX)
        Orange County School District (FL)
        Palm Beach County School District (FL)
        Pinellas County School District (FL)
        Polk County School District (FL)
        Prince Georges County Public Schools (MD)
        San Diego Unified School District (CA)
        School District of Philadelphia (PA)
        Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VA)
        Wake County Schools (NC)

        Related Resources

        Click here to read the "In A Nutshell" summary of The Leadership Limbo.

        Click here to see the fifty districts ranked from top to bottom.

        Panel Discussion

        On February 20, Frederick M. Hess, co-author of The Leadership Limbo, was joined by the following distinguished panelists to discuss the report:

        • Dr. Terry Grier, Superintendent, Guilford County (NC) Schools
        • Gail Littlejohn, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Center for Reform of School Systems
        • Bill Raabe, Director of Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy, National Education Association
        • Moderator: Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Fordham Institute


        Opening remarks from Chester Finn and panelists 

        Chester Finn asks panelists questions 

        Q & A

          Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report 2007

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          For information on Fordham's unique role as a charter school sponsor in Ohio, there's no better source than The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report 2006-07. The report offers a comprehensive account of Fordham's sponsorship policies and practices-as well as individual profiles of all Fordham-sponsored schools. Included in the profiles are descriptions of each school's educational program, school philosophy, and overall academic performance.