The baseball playoffs started this week in earnest, with the Cincinnati Reds carrying Buckeye State’s hopes for a pennant (next year for sure, Cleveland fans). This year’s playoffs includes teams with varying levels of economic resources—from the high-spending New York Yankees, to the low-spending, upstart Oakland A’s. Yet, all these teams have proven themselves to be successful over the long regular season.
Schools districts, like baseball teams, are similarly endowed with varying amounts of economic resources. And like baseball teams, some districts get a lot for their money—the Oakland A’s of school districts—while others get little for their money. “Efficiency” generally describes whether an organization gets a lot or a little out of the resources they put in.
To look at which schools are more efficient, we use Ohio public school districts’ expenditure per equivalent (EPE) and performance index score (PI). EPE is the district’s input (the money it expends) and PI is the output (what it gets for the money: namely, student achievement). The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has developed both of these measures.
- EPE is a weighted per-pupil expenditure that accounts for the higher cost of educating poor, English language learning, and special needs students. ODE reports official EPE data for traditional districts (there is not official, publically-accessible data for charter schools, so they are excluded from this analysis).
- PI is a weighted proficiency average, with greater weight given to students who score at higher levels of achievement on the
Over the past two years, the Buckeye State has been at the forefront in the competition for creating and expanding businesses and the jobs that go with growth. According to the Dayton Daily News JobsOhio – Governor Kasich’s public-private job-creation initiative -- has provided “assistance to 400 companies investing or expanding in the state, 31,300 new job commitments and $6.1 billion in capital investment.”
The energy, passion, and focus JobsOhio has applied to recruiting and developing businesses needs to be replicated in education through a similar program -- EducateOhio perhaps? The Buckeye State needs a strategy, and the supporting resources, to become a state where top education talent wants to invest time and energy and build high quality schools and education programs. Other states have already moved in this direction, and more are joining fast.
For example, last week I spent time with leaders from top reform states and cities as part of the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) annual conference. The 75 or so CEE-Trust participants learned about the efforts of cities like New Orleans, Indianapolis, Nashville, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee to recruit top education talent to their locales from across the country and to help available talent do more through things like charter school replication. The competition is friendly but fierce. Top school operators and educators are being poached by communities hungry for better schools.
Increasingly schools are seen as pivotal to economic development and states and cities are
Valentina is a legislative analyst for StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement working to improve the nation’s schools.
Every year, Ohio’s public schools are responsible for educating 1.8 million students. To ensure that all students are making learning gains and meeting academic expectations, the Buckeye State needs a system in place to hold schools and school districts accountable for student performance. The Ohio Department of Education is currently redesigning Ohio’s accountability system, and lawmakers have promised to put a new Report Card system into law by the end of December.
In its ongoing efforts to improve student achievement, the Ohio General Assembly can benefit by understanding A-F accountability reforms in other states. Whereas Ohio’s current school rating system uses ambiguous terms like “effective,” “academic watch,” and “continuous improvement” to report on school and district performance, other states are moving towards easier-to-understand, A-F summative ratings. We at StudentsFirst recommend that states issue annual letter grades for all schools and districts based on student achievement. Implementing a letter grading system holds schools and districts accountable for the results they produce, provides parents with understandable information about the schools their children attend, and encourages school improvement efforts.
Done well, A-F rating systems place the focus on students by underscoring student achievement. Because the criteria used to determine school grades are objective and results-focused, educators are held accountable for their students’ progress. Many states that employ A-F school grading systems include proficiency scores, learning gains, and progress
As local school districts prepare to implement the state’s new third-grade reading guarantee, many are bemoaning the increased costs associated with providing more reading assessments and interventions to struggling K-3 readers (as required by law) and retaining more kids. The Ohio School Boards Association called the new law, and specifically its reporting requirements, “an unfunded mandate.”
The legislature did dedicate $13 million in competitive funding to support the new mandate, and last week the State Board of Education mulled recommending $105 million to support the law in the Ohio Department of Education’s FY2014-15 budget request. But would more money make a difference? Let’s take a look at the relationship between funding and reading achievement in the past.
Ohio had a reading guarantee on the books more than a decade ago (it was watered down before taking effect). At that time, with a governor (Taft) who had taken on improving early literacy skills as a primary policy objective and with the state coffers flush, Ohio poured millions into literacy improvement programs and professional development for teachers (via programs like OhioReads, the State Institutes for Reading Instruction, adolescent literacy grants, and summer intervention programs – to say nothing of federally funded efforts like Reading First). Chart 1 shows state funding for literacy improvement initiatives and reading professional development, from FY2000-01 (Governor Taft’s first budget) to FY2012.
Chart 1: Dedicated state spending on literacy improvement initiatives and professional development, FY2000 to FY2012