Pluck and Tenacity: How five private schools in Ohio have adapted to vouchers
Roughly 30,000 kids in Ohio take advantage of a publicly funded voucher (or “scholarship”). But as students flee public schools for private ones, how does life change for the private schools that take voucher kids? Can private schools coexist with a publicly-funded voucher program? Can they adapt as they educate more students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
This new report from the Fordham Institute digs into these questions. Our study finds that, yes, voucher programs are changing private schools. But at the same time, these private schools are bravely—even heroically—adapting to such changes.
Written by Ellen Belcher, former editor at the Dayton Daily News and an award-winning journalist, Pluck and Tenacity delivers a candid view of life in private schools that take voucher kids. For this report, Ellen traveled across Ohio, visiting five schools: Three are Catholic—Immaculate Conception in Dayton, Saint Martin de Porres in Cleveland, and St. Patrick of Heatherdowns in Toledo—and two are evangelical—Eden Grove in Cincinnati and Youngstown Christian School.
The case studies yield seven key takeaways about private “voucher schools”:
- They are relentlessly mission oriented, and vouchers help support their missions
- These private schools have kept their distinctive values (e.g., behavioral standards, religious practices)
- The schools have become more diverse
- As they welcome more students who are far behind academically, these schools set high standards
- The schools worry—even agonize—about their academic quality
- Financial realities factor into the schools’ decisions to take voucher students
- None of the schools objected to state testing requirements.
For policymakers, this report should prompt clear thinking about how to strengthen voucher programs. As our research shows, some private schools are teetering financially, which is one (but not the only) reason lawmakers should consider boosting the per-pupil voucher amount. At the same time, if states make substantial public investments in private-school options, taxpayers have every reason to expect strong student outcomes. The good news is that private schools seem to understand the need for academic accountability and transparency when participating in voucher programs.
On January 30, 2014, we convened a group of school leaders in Columbus to discuss the report's findings. Click on the image below to watch the video of that event:
Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges
We are pleased to release our 2012-13 sponsorship annual report Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges. Annual reports for sponsors (i.e., charter school authorizers) are mandatory under Ohio law. In ours, we strive to strike the balance between reporting on various compliance requirements and capturing some of the more interesting aspects of our sponsorship work during the previous year. Toward that end, Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges provides an overview of Ohio’s new accountability system for schools and summarizes the performance of the Fordham-sponsored schools.
This year we also tried to capture the schools’ perspective regarding persistent challenges - and how the schools address those challenges – by weaving together comments from school leader interviews conducted by veteran journalist Ellen Belcher. Our goal was to more directly connect readers with the outlook in the schools themselves.
We hope that the transparent reporting on school performance and input from school leaders in the field provides an interesting read.
If you have questions about the book, please email Aaron Churchill.
Parsing Performance - Analysis of Ohio’s new school report cards
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.
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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.
In the Media
Half empty or half full: Superintendents' views on Ohio's education reforms
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.
Limitless: Education, The Reynoldsburg Way
The Reynoldsburg City School District, just east of Columbus, is far down the “portfolio management” path – further than probably any suburban school district of its size. This feature article discusses portfolio management and takes readers behind the scenes in Reynoldsburg.
Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Quality
In just two decades, charter schools have grown from a boutique school reform strategy to an alternative public school system serving a significant percentage of the nation’s K-12 students. In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. Fast forward to 2013: 41 states and the District of Columbia now have charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600 charter schools.
Many students attending charters are in high-need, high-poverty neighborhoods; in Cleveland for example—in Fordham’s home state Ohio—nearly 15,000 students (25 percent of Cleveland’s public school students) attended a charter school during the 2011-12 school year. This begs the question: how are these schools doing in comparison to their district peers and in comparison to their wealthier peers across the state? And how might we structure closure and new school policies to increase the number of high-flying charters while reducing the number of academic laggards?
Conducted jointly by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Public Impact, the new research study Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Quality sheds light on charter performance — in Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis. These cities were highlighted because they have relatively large numbers of charter schools and charter school students. These are cities where charters have been part of the educational landscape for a decade or more.
Searching for Excellence analyzes the 2010-11 standardized test results for 108 elementary and middle schools in these five cities. Charter school quality is assessed by comparing charter school test results to those of the home school district and to all public schools statewide. Results are reported for both individual charters and as a citywide cohort.
Download the report today!
Steps in the Right Direction
How does Governor Kasich’s school funding plan stack up, according to one of the nation’s foremost experts in school finance and reform? Find out in our latest publication, Steps in the Right Direction: Assessing “Ohio Achievement Everywhere” – the Kasich Plan.
In 2009, Fordham's Ohio team engaged Professor Paul Hill to to provide an analysis of then-Governor Strickland's school funding plan. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Hill—he is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. He was also the lead researcher on Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools, a six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results.
Fast forward to 2013, and another Ohio governor is proposing a school funding reform plan. We once again asked Professor Hill if he would provide a review of the governor’s plan. As the title notes, Professor Hill observes that Governor Kasich’s reform plan will advance Ohio and it schools, but it could be better and bolder. Download the short report to learn more about Professor Hill’s take on Kasich’s school funding plan.
Needles in a Haystack
“Nobody is satisfied with the educational performance of Ohio’s poor, urban, and minority youngsters—or the schools that serve them.” This was how we opened our 2010 report Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s High-Performing, High-Need Urban Schools, which examined high-flying elementary schools. That sentiment is just as true for the high schools in 2012 as it was two years ago for the grade schools we examined. Yet there are high schools in the Buckeye State that buck the bleak trends facing too many of our urban students. This report examines six of them -- urban high schools that are making good on promises of academic excellence; specifically, schools that work for low-income and minority students. These high schools make serious efforts not to leave anyone behind.
2011-12 Ohio Report Card Analysis
Fordham's annual analysis of school academic performance relies on the Ohio Department of Education's 2011-12 preliminary Report Card data as well as other ODE data sources. Our analysis of Ohio's public schools (district and charter) answers the following questions (among others):
- 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?
- Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?
- How many students attend high-performing schools versus failing schools?
- How far will the pass rate on standardized tests fall when Ohio moves to the Common Core?
This year's analysis also examines how Ohio's move to the Common Core and the PARCC exams in English language arts and math will impact the pass rates on standardized tests. The fall in pass rates is likely to be dramatic in 2014-15, and could stall the implementation of the Common Core. Despite this initial fall in test scores--and the shock that may ensue--Ohio must remain faithful to implementing these higher academic standards and more challenging exams, in order to ready all of its students for success in career and college.
In the Media
Moving Up: Fordham's 2011-12 Sponsorship Accountability Report
"Moving Up" is The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation's charter school sponsorship accountability report for 2011-12. Through it, we hope to help readers understand the complexities of charter schools and better appreciate the hard work of the teachers, school leaders, and board members who serve not only the schools we sponsor but also the schools around the state and nation that are working to make a difference in the lives of children. This year's report features an in-depth look at the struggles of two Fordham-sponsored schools in Dayton; it is researched and written by former Dayton Daily News reporter and editor Ellen Belcher.