Special education in Ohio – like in other states – is a maze of complexity, highly bureaucratic and compliance driven, often a point of contention between educators and parents, frequently litigious, and the single fastest growing portion of spending on public education. It has become something of a sacred cow in education and has been largely impervious to change or improvement efforts. Worse, despite the spending children in special education programs are not making gains academically.
By making some common-sense changes to policies and practices, Ohio could both improve special education services and save money.
Can special education be done better while controlling its growth? This is a question we’ve been asked over and over by school leaders and superintendents who struggle to serve all children well while dealing with tighter and tighter budgets. For answers, in partnership with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, we turned to Nathan Levenson, one of the country’s leading thinkers on doing more with fewer resources in special education and who has done extensive work with local school districts here in the Buckeye State and across the country. The result is a thought-provoking policy paper, Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Special Education in Ohio.
Levenson explains that Ohio’s resources for special education - $7 billion spent annually – are “siloed” not only across the K-12 education landscape but also across a dozen or more state and county agencies. In fact, he reports that “less than 50
Who pays for Cleveland students’ education? And who’s paying a greater portion of their education?
The chart below shows that the State of Ohio has contributed far and away the most to Cleveland students’ education. Over the past ten years, Cleveland Municipal School District has received somewhere between one-half and three-fourths of its revenue from the state. In fact, the share of state contributions grew unabated from 2002 to 2009: from 53 percent in 2002 up to 72 percent in 2009. In the past two fiscal years, the share of state contributions fell slightly off its ten-year high, so that in 2011 the state contributed 65 percent of the district’s total revenue.
Source: Ohio Auditor of State, Cleveland Municipal School District 2011 Comprehensive Financial Annual Report (see SR-10 & 11). Note: Calculations do not include miscellaneous income, donations, fees, and investment income (combined, they comprise less than 5 percent of the district’s revenue).
Ex-state congressman Stephen Dyer laments on his blog this week that the state of Ohio has not provided sufficient-enough funding for the students of Cleveland. He writes:
The reason I harp on state money, not total money, Terry (and fellow critics) is because it's the state, not the local residents, which bears the Constitutional duty to fund education. Our local taxpayers have been overly responsible for this cost for too long.
Unless Mr. Dyer proposes
This week, Ohio’s State Board of Education voted unanimously to delay the release of annual school performance report cards as state officials investigate allegations of data-tampering. It came to light this summer that some Ohio school districts (Auditor of State Dave Yost is working to determine just how many) retroactively un-enrolled and re-enrolled truant or low-performing students in order to break the students’ enrollment records with the district. Those students’ test scores and attendance records would then not count toward the district’s overall report card rating because the students hadn’t been continuously enrolled from October to spring testing. (To be clear, there is no evidence yet that data-tampering was taking place in all, or even most, of the state’s 600-plus districts.)
The state board’s decision to delay the release of school report cards was the right one.
The state board’s decision was the right one. They simply cannot make public extensive data about school performance unless they have faith in the accuracy of that information. However, the decision has widespread ramifications for Ohio’s districts, schools, and students. There are a number of policy provisions triggered by the annual report cards and the test data they are based on that will now be put on hold while the state awaits Auditor Yost’s findings.
Five major accountability policies are affected:
- Which schools are subject to mandatory turnaround: Public schools are ranked annually based on student achievement on state tests. Schools that
Category: Ohio Policy
Harder tests are coming to the Buckeye State.
Starting in the 2014-15 school year, Ohio will replace its current K-12 academic standards in math and English language arts, along with the aligned standardized tests, with the Common Core academic standards and their aligned tests. In Ohio, these exams will be the PARCC exams.
The Common Core standards will differ significantly from Ohio’s current academic standards in content, emphases, and cognitive demand. These standards promise greater rigor in what students are expected to learn and how their learning is applied; therefore, we can also expect that the Common Core’s aligned assessments—again, the PARCC exams—will be more difficult.
How much harder should we expect the PARCC exams to be? Take a look for yourself.
Figure 1 shows two sample questions from Ohio’s current seventh-grade math exam. (The Ohio Department of Education provides practice tests, which are accessible via the source link below the figure.) The questions are relatively simple: the first question tests whether a student understands ratios; the second question tests whether a student understands a basic algebraic equation. Although I wouldn’t suggest that the questions are necessarily “easy” (it took me a few minutes to calculate the answers), they are straightforward—and are basically one-dimensional (testing one concept at a time).