Ohio Policy

The Common Core academic standards—gearing up this year and next, and to be fully implemented by 2014-15—represent an overhaul in how teachers teach and how students learn. The new learning standards in English language arts and math will stress students’ reasoning and analytical skills—considered by many educators and researchers to be an improvement compared to how educating students has been done in recent times.

Consider the mounting evidence that the Common Core will be a change—if not a “monumental shift”—that pushes education in the right direction for the Buckeye State.

  • Peggy Marrs, a Common Core coach for Cincinnati Public Schools, quipped that under the Common Core, students are “going to be reasoning with themselves and with others in groups. They’ll be judging one another’s conclusions and solutions…They’re going to be analyzing and justifying answers.”
  • Ellen Gorman, an eighth-grade math teacher at West Clermont School District, said that under the Common Core “[t]he focus has been shifted, to having students think about how they got their answer and be able to explain their process.”
  • Mark Farmer, Northwest Local School’s (Hamilton County) assistant superintendent of curriculum, remarked that “These new standards require our kids to do research, to look up sources and think about them, make an opinion and put it in writing in a clear way.”

And, a growing number of educator surveys show the support that the Common Core has in the field:

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Ohio’s bright-eyed freshmen aren’t ready for college coursework. That’s the story from the Ohio Board of Regents, which reports that 40 percent of Ohio’s college freshman at public colleges and universities take remedial (high-school level) coursework in either math or English. Moreover, 14 percent of incoming freshman are required by their colleges to take both a remedial math and English class.

These are staggering numbers, with massive implications for students and taxpayers. For students who take a remedial course, Complete College America found that only 35 percent graduate in six years. This compares to 56 percent of all students. Similarly, the Ohio State University found that students who took remedial coursework graduated at a rate 30 points lower than their non-remedial peers. With these dismal results in mind, remedial coursework largely wastes the $130 million per year Ohio spends to support remedial education.

The chart below takes a closer look at the remediation rates for incoming freshman who attend an Ohio public college or university, by the public high school from which they graduated. The performance index generally indicates the quality of the high school. The chart shows three things:

  • As expected, higher-performing schools tend to have lower remediation rates;
  • A small portion of Ohio high schools have remarkably high remediation rates—above 70 and 80 percent—and four schools break the 90 percent mark;
  • A modest-sized section of high-performing high schools also have high remediation rates. This is unexpected—and indicates that remediation is a problem for students
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High-quality gifted education for the state’s ablest students should be an imperative for Ohio. These kids are most likely to turn into tomorrow’s inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers and job creators. In generations to come, the state’s economic vitality—and America’s international competitiveness—will depend in no small part on whether we maximize our human capital at the high end even as we strive to raise the skill-and-knowledge level for all.

Today, however, the vast majority of Ohio’s high-potential youngsters aren’t receiving the education they need to reach their full potential. As the Columbus Dispatch recently reported, even high-flying districts are failing to make gains with gifted students.

It’s not a new problem. Two decades of federal education initiatives have pushed states to set minimum standards, raise the floor, and close achievement gaps. All are worthy goals—and millions of U.S. educators have been struggling to help their pupils attain them—but along the way our K-12 education system has sorely neglected those children who are already “proficient”, many of them actually achieving at high levels.

Ohio has long required its districts to identify which children are “gifted”—there are several different ways one can qualify—but does not require anybody actually to provide these kids with additional classroom challenges or with teachers prepared to instruct fast learners. Hence districts have no incentive or accountability for improving gifted education. So most of them don’t do it—or don’t do nearly enough of it. The result: Two hundred Ohio districts offer no special services whatsoever for their gifted students....

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Ohio’s bright-eyed freshmen aren’t ready for college coursework. That’s the story from the Ohio Board of Regents, which reports that 40 percent of Ohio’s college freshman take remedial (high-school level) coursework in either math or English. Moreover, 14 percent of incoming freshman are required by their college to take both a remedial math and English class.

These are staggering numbers, with massive implications for students and taxpayers. For students who take a remedial course, Complete College America found that only 35 percent graduate in six years. This compares to 56 percent of all students. Similarly, the Ohio State University found that students who took remedial coursework graduated at a rate 30 points lower than their non-remedial peers. With these dismal results in mind, remedial coursework largely wastes the $130 million per year Ohio spends to support remedial education.

The chart below takes a closer look at the remediation rates for incoming freshman who attend an Ohio public college or university, by the public high school from which they graduated. The performance index generally indicates the quality of the high school. The chart shows three things:

  • As expected, higher-performing schools tend to have lower remediation rates;
  • A small portion of Ohio high schools have remarkably high remediation rates—above 70 and 80 percent—and four schools break the 90 percent mark;
  • A modest-sized section of high-performing high schools also have high remediation rates. This is unexpected—and indicates that remediation is a problem for students who graduated some of the
  • ...
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Since 1986, over 557 school districts throughout Ohio have taken advantage of a very generous program, courtesy of taxpayers, that allows school districts to pay for capital improvements done to their facilities.  According to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, this program has funded over 952 projects, involving over 6,089 buildings, at a cost of over $1.25 billion, while saving taxpayers over $115 million.  However, this privilege is open to district schools and their buildings only, and denied to charter schools. 

The program, formally known as the Ohio School Facilities Commission Energy Conservation Program or the House Bill 264 Program, enables school districts to make energy-related improvements to district buildings that in theory would generate enough energy savings to eventually pay off the improvement bond from which the capital originated from its issuance, along with the cost of financing.  The cost savings over 15 years for energy, operational, and maintenance must equal or exceed the cost of implementing the measures.  The program allows energy-related improvements, as opposed to merely repairs.  This may seem like semantics until the discussion turns on how exactly projects are paid for. 

In Ohio, tax levies are typically raised in order to fund capital projects, including improvements to school buildings.  Ohio law requires that such levies must be submitted to the voters of the school district for approval.  Under HB 264, however, school districts can bypass this process of accountability by invoking the desired project as a qualified, energy-related, permanent improvement.

Once could argue that HB...

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The last few weeks in Ohio have seen a torrent of anti-Common Core literature, comments, blogs, and letters aimed at lawmakers and state board of education members. Much of this chatter has been perpetrated by two organizations with a lot to say and claims to make. See here and here. Such critics and criticisms need a response, and in the following we provide rebuttals to four widely circulated fabrications about the Common Core.

It is well known that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been a long-time champion of high academic standards and aligned assessments. We are also supporters of the Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics, mainly because they are superior to what Ohio and most other states currently have in place for their schools.

There is no doubt that the Common Core and the PARCC assessments aligned to them will face challenges in the coming months and years ( e.g. preparing all teachers, getting the necessary technology in place, developing pacing guides). But, despite the challenges superintendents, school principals, and teachers are remarkably supportive of the Common Core in Ohio and across the country. For example, Fordham recently surveyed Ohio’s superintendents (344 of the state’s 614 superintendents – a 56 percent response rate), and discovered that 81 percent of the respondents believe that five years from now the Common Core standards “will be widely and routinely in use in Ohio.” Only one in ten say it “will have faded away by then.”...

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During construction of the continental railroads in the 1860s, workers dug from both ends to tunnel through the Rocky Mountains. When they met in the middle, the tunnel was finished and the trains could roll. This is how America became a great continental power. This image of the tunnel bored from two directions is an apt metaphor for what needs to happen with Governor Kasich’s biennial budget proposal (House Bill 59) and the very different plan emerging from the Ohio House this week.

Governor Kasich’s “Achievement Everywhere” plan has three main things going for it. First, it actually tries to target children and the schools they actually attend as the loci of public funding, as opposed to just spreading money across school districts. Traditionally, school funding has been about simply spreading the money around so far more districts feel like winners than losers. The House version does this by reducing the number of districts receiving no new money from nearly 400 to 175. But in doing so the House version loses some of the worthy Kasich reforms. 

Specifically, Kasich’s plan proposed reducing one-size fits all spending restrictions by removing a number of minimum operating standards.  This would free up educators but the House puts those standards back in place. They mandate practices like assignment of personnel and the use of specific instructional materials (especially odd considering the speed at which blended learning is spreading across the state). The House version also requires fixed staffing ratios...

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John Dues

Aaron and I responded to recent anti-charter school pieces that have popped up in some of the state’s newspapers in Hard to Kill Charter School Canards. As follow up to this, we’d like to share the first part of a letter written by educator John Dues.  John is school director for Columbus Collegiate Academy in Columbus and he was inspired to respond to some of the (mis)information shared in a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch by Maureen Reedy over the weekend. We are happy to share his thoughtful insights. -Terry Ryan

This letter is written in response to the Letter to the Editor you wrote that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday, April 6, 2013. My sincere hope is that you read this letter with an open mind and seriously consider a viewpoint different from your own on the topic of charter schools.

I believe we could learn a lot from each other, and I would be more than willing to sit down over coffee to discuss the contents of this letter. I am also extending an open invitation to you to visit Columbus Collegiate Academy, a high-performing, high poverty charter school on the Near East Side of Columbus, where I serve as the School Director.

In 2005, after teaching fifth grade in Atlanta Public Schools and returning to Ohio to earn my Master of Education degree, I took a job with a charter school in Denver, Colorado. My mom, who worked as...

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Ohio’s public schools and parents will soon see a revamped local report card, starting in August 2015. The new Report Cards will display A-F ratings for all public school district and building (traditional and charter). The grading system will have six components: achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation rate, K-3 literacy, and prepared for success. The new rating system was enacted under House Bill 555, which was signed into law in December 2012.

The new grading system improves upon Ohio’s outgoing report card system in three substantial ways:

  • Greater rigor: Under Ohio’s current grading system 387 out of 610 school districts received an Excellent (A) or higher rating in 2011-12. The new grading system, however, will increase the definition of an A rated district. In the Ohio Department of Education’s simulation of districts’ 2015 report cards, 30 districts received an A for performance index (part of the achievement component) and 25 districts received an A for annual measurable objectives (part of the gap closing component).[1]
  • Increased transparency: Ohio’s new A-F rating system is more transparent and understandable for parents and the general public. Gone are the days when mediocre districts could hide behind Continuous Improvement (C), or the harmless “below” value-added rating. In are letter grades for each indicator, giving the public a clearer understanding of how well their district does in comparison to statewide performance benchmarks.
  • More inclusive view of school and student performance: Ohio’s current rating system is largely based on two indicators: performance index,
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  • Cuyahoga County plans to begin the College Savings Account Program which will open a college-savings account, with $100, for every kindergarten student in the county.
  • An audit from a private consulting firm has made suggestions for Toledo Public Schools that would save them $100 million over five years.
  • The Ohio Department of Education released rankings for the state’s 832 traditional school districts and charter schools based on their value-added scores.
  • Catholic schools in Ohio are in the process of adjusting their lesson plans in response to the Common Core
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