Publications

Ohio Pension Reform in Cleveland: New Teachers Beware

Vertical Tabs

At first glance, the recent teacher-retirement reforms in Ohio seem to bring good fiscal news to school systems in the Buckeye State. Thanks to Senate Bills 341 and 342—and a series of cutbacks on retiree healthcare—the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is projected to spend less on retirement costs in 2020 than it does today. But these reforms come at a big price.

While much of the burden was taken off school districts (and students), it now falls heavily on the shoulders of Cleveland’s newest teachers. (In effect, they are now being taxed to pay for the benefits of other current and past employees.) What will this redistribution of burden mean for those who will teach Cleveland’s children tomorrow? Will the District have more trouble recruiting and keeping a high-quality instructional force for its classrooms?

In Ohio Pension Reform in Cleveland: New Teachers Beware, authors Robert M. Costrell and Larry Maloney project the city’s future retirement obligations and illumine how retirement reform can help solve the pension-funding problem—and some of the accompanying challenges.

Parsing Performance - Analysis of Ohio’s new school report cards

2012-13 Ohio Report Card Analysis

Vertical Tabs

This August, Ohio issued for the first time conventional A through F school grades along nine indicators of school performance. The new A-F school report cards follow Florida’s pioneering example of A-F accountability, and Ohio joins 9 other states which have implemented A-F report cards. Over the course of the next three years, the Buckeye State will incorporate several additional indicators of school performance, and starting in August 2015, Ohio will issue “overall” A-F letter grades for its schools and districts.

Parsing Performance, Fordham's annual analysis of Ohio's school performance, examines the state's new report cards and uncovers the two keys to school performance: a school's achievement and its progress ratings. The progress grade (Overall Value-Added) measures the impact a school has on student-learning progress over the course of the school year. The achievement grade (Performance Index) is a one-year snapshot of whether students within a school are attaining basic academic skills and on track for academic success.

Statewide, achievement A's were more difficult to earn than progress A's. Among Ohio’s 610 traditional school districts, 46 percent received A grades on progress, but only 4 percent received A grades on achievement in the 2012-13 school year. The numbers were similar for Ohio’s charter schools: 33 percent earned an A on progress, while just 2 percent earned an A on achievement. 

The analysis also looks at city-level data from the Ohio' "Big 8" and compares district and charter school performance. Both charter and district school struggle academically, and generally, charter and district school performance along both the achievement and progress indicators is similar. Only Cleveland's charter schools outperform the district schools along both dimensions. A few inner-city schools—and their students—perform exceptionally and do overcome the odds stacked against them. In this report, we list 27 Big 8 urban schools that perform well on both the achievement and the progress metrics—an honor roll of high-performing urban schools.

When one parses the data, statewide and especially for Ohio’s urban areas, no one should be satisfied with the performance of today’s public education system. It goes without saying that poverty, broken families, and unemployment contribute to the challenges faced by inner-city schools, but these socio-economic problems are no excuse for poorly educating students. If we want to ensure that every child receives a K-12 education that unlocks a brighter future, school and city leaders must overcome the odds. A first step is to understand, appreciate, and confront the data rather than wishing them away.

* * * 

The report provides answers to the following questions: 

·         What academic ratings (there were 9 ratings issued to schools in 2012-13) are the most critical for parents, taxpayers, and policymakers to understand?

·         How many students statewide "passed" their standardized exams? Are there differences in the "pass rate" by race and income?

·         How many students attend a charter school in Ohio's urban areas? 

·         How do charter schools, as a group, perform compared to traditional public schools? What is the academic performance of the state's largest online charter schools?

·         Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?

·         How many students attend high-performing schools versus low-performing schools in Ohio's 8 largest cities?

____________

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

What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-offs

A National Survey of K-12 Parents

Vertical Tabs

This groundbreaking study finds that nearly all parents seek schools with a solid core curriculum in reading and math, an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and the development in students of good study habits, strong critical thinking skills, and excellent verbal and written communication skills. But some parents also prefer specializations and emphases that are only possible in a system of school choice.

  • Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.” Compared to the total parent population, Pragmatists have lower household incomes, are less likely themselves to have graduated from college, and are more likely to be parents of boys.
  • Jeffersonians (24 percent) prefer a school that “emphasizes instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership,” although they are no more likely than other parents to be active in their communities or schools.
  • Test-Score Hawks (23 percent) look for a school that “has high test scores.” Such parents are more likely to have academically gifted children who put more effort into school. They are also more likely to set high expectations for their children, push them to excel, and expect them to earn graduate degrees. Test-Score Hawks are also more apt to report that their child has changed schools because, as parents, they were dissatisfied with the school or its teachers.
  • Multiculturalists (22 percent) laud the student goal: “learns how to work with people from diverse backgrounds.” They are more likely to be African American, to self-identify as liberal, and to live in an urban area.
  • Expressionists (15 percent) want a school that “emphasizes arts and music instruction.” They are more likely to be parents of girls and to identify as liberal; they are less likely to be Christian. (In fact, they are three times more likely to self-identify as atheists.)
  • Strivers (12 percent) assign importance to their child being “accepted at a top-tier college.” Strivers are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic. They are also more apt to be Catholic. But they do not differ from the total population in terms of their own educational attainment.
     

What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs uses market-research techniques to determine what school characteristics and student goals are most important to parents.

 


Infographic

PragmatistsJeffersoniansTest Score HawksMulticulturalistsExpressionistsStrivers

In the Media

February 17, 2017
The Philadelphia Citizen

Commentary on Appendix L: Alignment of the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Vertical Tabs

Among the shortcomings of the NGSS is its acute dearth of math content, even in situations where math is essential to the study and proper understanding of the science that students are being asked to master. Also problematic is the alignment of NGSS math with the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. Appendix L of the NGSS seeks to explain the alignment and apply math more thoroughly to NGSS science. This commentary by Johns Hopkins mathematician appraises that appendix.

Download Commentary on Appendix L: Alignment of the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics above to read the appraisal.

In the Media

October 01, 2013
The Huffington Post

Exemplary Science Standards: How Does Your State Compare?

Vertical Tabs

With states weighing whether to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute compares the existing science standards of thirty-eight states with the NGSS and with exemplary standards from three other states. (The thirty-eight are those states with standards that are either “clearly inferior” to the NGSS or “too close to call,” based on our Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards and The State of Science Standards 2012.)

State Profiles

 

Milwaukee: Saved by Act 10...For Now

Vertical Tabs

In 2011, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) faced a dramatic and painful increase in employee retirement costs, driven primarily by a sharp rise in the bill for retiree health insurance, a program covered by collective-bargaining agreements between the district and its unions. In March 2011, however, the nation watched as Governor Scott Walker signed into law the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10. By limiting collective bargaining to wages only, this measure gave MPS the authority to modify its retiree health program, and the Badger State’s largest school system has since acted upon that authority.

How did this happen? How much will it save? What would Milwaukee’s costs have been without this repair? How durable is the reform? What difference does it make at the classroom level? And what lessons might other states and districts draw from this experience?

In Milwaukee: Saved by Act 10…For Now, authors Robert M. Costrell and Larry Maloney analyze and project the future retirement obligations in Milwaukee and illumine how retirement reform can help to solve the pension-funding problem.

Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards

Vertical Tabs

In the final evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute grants the standards a C grade. The NGSS grade is clearly superior to grades we granted to the science standards of sixteen states and the PISA framework in the State of State Science Standards 2012 but clearly inferior to those of twelve states and the District of Columbia, as well as the NAEP and TIMSS frameworks.

Also available:

Commentary on Appendix L: Alignment of the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Among the shortcomings of the NGSS is its acute dearth of math content, even in situations where math is essential to the study and proper understanding of the science that students are being asked to master. Also problematic is the alignment of NGSS math with the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. Appendix L of the NGSS seeks to explain the alignment and apply math more thoroughly to NGSS science. This commentary by Johns Hopkins mathematician appraises that appendix.

 

Paying the Pension Price in Philadelphia

Vertical Tabs

Teachers and other employees of the School District of Philadelphia receive their retirement benefits from the Pennsylvania state retirement plan for schools, which includes both a defined-benefit pension plan and a modest retiree health benefit. The cost of the former is expected to rise quite substantially and, as this technical analysis will show, presents a daunting burden for the district in the near future.

What will the burden of retirement benefits actually be in the future? What impact will it have on the School District of Philadelphia’s budget? How much effect could this have on the classroom?

In Paying the Pension Price in Philadelphia, authors Robert Costrell and Larry Maloney analyze and project the future retirement obligations in Philadelphia and illumine the nature and scale of the pension-funding problem.

 

 

The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School-District Budgets

Vertical Tabs

When it comes to pension reform in the education realm, it’s hard to stay positive. Here, we’re saddled with a bona fide fiscal calamity (up to a trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities by some counts), and no consensus about how to rectify the situation. No matter how one slices and dices this problem, somebody ends up paying in ways they won’t like and perhaps shouldn’t have to bear. All we can say is that some options are less bad than others.

In The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School-District Budgets, we analyze and project how big an impact the pension and retiree health care obligations will have on the budgets of three school districts: Milwaukee Public Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and the School District of Philadelphia.

The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School-District Budgets is a summary report by Dara Zeehandelaar and Amber M. Winkler, based on three technical analyses conducted by Robert Costrell and Larry Maloney to be released by the end of Summer 2013.

Half empty or half full: Superintendents' views on Ohio's education reforms

Superintendents' views on Ohio's education reforms

Vertical Tabs

This report is based on the responses to an online survey conducted in Spring 2013 with 344 school district superintendents (an impressive 56 percent) in Ohio. The survey covered seven education policies, specifically: Common Core State Standards, teacher evaluations, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, open enrollment, A-to-F ratings for schools and districts, individualized learning (blended learning and credit flexibility), and school choice (charter schools and vouchers). It also included several questions on general attitudes towards school reform in Ohio and two trend items. Download today to discover the key findings and also view a PowerPoint by researcher Steve Farkas of FDR Group.

Pages