Ohio Policy

We know that our latest report doesn’t break new ground. There is national research going back decades on the keys to high-performing schools, and more recently there is Ohio-specific literature on the topic. We published a previous iteration of Needles in a Haystack in 2010, which looked at high-performing, high-need elementary and middles schools. Since 2002, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has identified “Schools of Promise” – high-poverty, high-achieving schools – and has published case studies of some of those schools along with Five Lessons Learned from Successful Schools. And late last year, Public Agenda – with funding from the Ohio Business Roundtable, The Ohio State University, and ODE – released Failure Is Not an Option: How Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents from Ohio’s High-Achieving, High-Poverty Schools Explain Their Success.

These studies all look at schools serving a large population of economically disadvantaged (ED) students, though the specific metrics vary. Our first Needles report focused on schools in which 75 percent or more of students were ED. ODE and Public Agenda use 40 percent as the threshold. Our new report adds greater precision in defining “high need,” applying additional metrics—three, in fact: 30 percent ED and/or 50 percent ED and/or 30 percent black. Likewise, the studies vary in how they define “high-performing.” Our new Needles report focuses on schools serving poor and black students well, zeroing in on the achievement rates of those subgroups. The other studies use overall achievement of the student body,...

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Profiles of six public high schools that serve poor and minority students to high levels of excellence.

Fifteen percent of Ohio’s high schools are “drop-out factories” – schools that fail to graduate even 60 percent of their students on time. Those students who do graduate often aren’t ready for college or work: College-remediation rates top 70 percent for some of Ohio’s urban school districts.

Yet, some high schools buck these bleak trends and help their students not only graduate, but go on to successful post-secondary careers and opportunities.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently studied six high schools across Ohio that prove that disadvantaged youngsters can learn at levels equal to or greater than their more fortunate peers in the suburbs. Fordham’s forthcoming report, Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing urban high schools, reports on these exceptional schools and how they help their students excel.

On January 15 in Dayton, two of these schools – Stivers School for the Arts and Dayton Early College Academy – will share their stories. Needles’ author, veteran journalist and former news editor of Life magazine Peter Meyer, will discuss what he learned in these schools and others in Columbus and Cleveland. The event will conclude with a panel discussion among the schools’ leaders and audience Q&A.

Questions we expect to tackle include:

  • Can great schools help kids overcome poverty and tough home lives?
  • Is there a secret sauce to the success of schools like Stivers and DECA? If so, what is it and can it be replicated in other buildings?
  • What is the role of school leaders in
  • ...
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We know that our latest report doesn’t break new ground. There is national research going back decades on the keys to high-performing schools, and more recently there is Ohio-specific literature on the topic. We published a previous iteration of Needles in a Haystack in 2010, which looked at high-performing, high-need elementary and middles schools. Since 2002, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has identified “Schools of Promise” – high-poverty, high-achieving schools – and has published case studies of some of those schools along with Five Lessons Learned from Successful Schools. And late last year, Public Agenda – with funding from the Ohio Business Roundtable, The Ohio State University, and ODE – released Failure Is Not an Option: How Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents from Ohio’s High-Achieving, High-Poverty Schools Explain Their Success.

These studies all look at schools serving a large population of economically disadvantaged (ED) students, though the specific metrics vary. Our first Needles report focused on schools in which 75 percent or more of students were ED. ODE and Public Agenda use 40 percent as the threshold. Our new report adds greater precision in defining “high need,” applying additional metrics—three, in fact: 30 percent ED and/or 50 percent ED and/or 30 percent black. Likewise, the studies vary in how they define “high-performing.” Our new Needles report focuses on schools serving poor and black students well, zeroing in on the achievement rates of those subgroups. The other studies use overall achievement of the student body,...

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The Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education announced last week the establishment of uniform statewide standards for students entering a two-year or four-year college or university to be considered “remediation free”. House Bill 153, signed into law by Governor Kasich in June 2011, required Ohio’s college presidents to spell out the assessment thresholds that would define “college readiness” and the methods by which this can be determined for students completing high school and wishing to move on to higher education without the need for expensive remedial courses.

The full standards and expectations document works out to multiple pages and is well worth a read, detailing the goals that our education chiefs – and this parent, for one – want to see our students meet.

How to determine whether a student has reached these worthy goals as of graduation from high school: ACT and SAT scores. The essence of the agreement between ODE and Regents is the establishing of cut scores for each content area (except science, which could not be agreed upon in the first round effort) that indicate a sufficient degree of achievement.

 Source: Ohio Board of Regents

The establishment of these standards and defining the means of assessment are significant for a number of reasons:

  • This is another step – along with adoption of the Common Core and the third grade reading guarantee – toward quantifying a rigorous K-12 curriculum for Ohio’s students and making sure that those students
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Some of Ohio’s largest school districts are embracing charter schools as part of their overall district reform strategies. Mayor Jackson’s education reform plan in Cleveland calls for tripling “the number of Cleveland students enrolled in high-performing district and charter schools from the approximately 11,000 students currently enrolled in these schools to approximately 33,000 by 2018-19.” In Columbus, Mayor Coleman’s “education commission” is exploring ways to encourage “the growth of high performing charter schools.” In Cincinnati the district recently announced a new partnership with the charter operator Carpe Diem (a high-performing blended-learning charter school model based in Arizona).

Fordham has long-advocated, along with groups like the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, for better cooperation and creative partnerships between school districts and quality charter schools. As far back as 2007, we argued for a “Portfolio Governance Approach to Meeting the Needs of All Dayton Children.”

Unfortunately Dayton couldn’t run with the concept in 2007, but fast forward to 2013, and according to a new book by Paul Hill, Christine Campbell, and Betheny Gross entitled Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools, there are now close to 30 urban school districts across the country pursuing “the portfolio strategy.” According to Hill, Campbell and Gross leading portfolio districts “support existing schools that are succeeding with the children they serve, close unproductive schools, create new ones similar to schools that have already proven effective, and seek even more effective models…Districts pursuing the portfolio strategy are indifferent about who...

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Ohio remains an education reform leader, yet still has a ways to go to lead the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from today’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.

StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.

Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth out of the 51 examined jurisdictions. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350 plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or parents of students who want to access a special education voucher. StudentsFirst also righty recognizes improvements in Ohio’s accountability laws, most recently through passage of House Bill 555. This legislation establishes a clear, A-F grading system for school accountability, and holds charter schools to a higher accountability standard.

A tough grader, StudentsFirst also indicates that Ohio—and other states—still have miles to...

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Our annual analysis of school performance in our home state's major urban areas, plus a projection of proficiency rates when the PARCC exams arrive in 2014-15.
  • Neither the apple nor its juice falls far from the tree. A Sylvania Southview High School junior (a Toledo-area school) has created an experiment that was published in a professional journal this month. Jasmine Serpen studied the sugar content of bottled juices versus fresh-pressed fruit. She credits the science curriculum of her high school with giving her the tools to persevere and succeed in her research.
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the keynote speaker at the Brookings Institution as it unveiled the 2012 Education Choice and Competition Index. Brookings awarded the Recovery School District in New Orleans with top honors for both the quantity of choices available to parents as well as the availability of information for families.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer is urging parents to hold Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon’s feet to the fire when it comes to the promises made in his academic turnaround plan. The district is soon to unveil a dashboard on its website noting progress in the four-year implementation plan.
  • Reynoldsburg City Schools Superintendent Steve Dackin is no stranger to innovation. With one guiding principle—an excellent education for all students—he led Reynoldsburg to an A+ rating in 2011-12. Check out the Columbus Dispatch’s profile of Dackin and Reynoldsburg.
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Fifteen percent of Ohio’s high schools are “drop-out factories” – schools that fail to graduate even 60 percent of their students on time. Those students who do graduate often aren’t ready for college or work: College-remediation rates top 70 percent for some of Ohio’s urban school districts.

Yet, some high schools buck these bleak trends and help their students not only graduate, but go on to successful post-secondary careers and opportunities.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently studied six high schools across Ohio that prove that disadvantaged youngsters can learn at levels equal to or greater than their more fortunate peers in the suburbs. Fordham’s forthcoming report, Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing urban high schools, reports on these exceptional schools and how they help their students excel.

On January 15 in Dayton, two of these schools – Stivers School for the Arts and Dayton Early College Academy – will share their stories. Needles’ author, veteran journalist and former news editor of Life magazine Peter Meyer, will discuss what he learned in these schools and others in Columbus and Cleveland. The event will conclude with a panel discussion among the schools’ leaders and audience Q&A.

Questions we expect to tackle include:

  • Can great schools help kids overcome poverty and tough home lives?
  • Is there a secret sauce to the success of schools like Stivers and DECA? If so, what is it and can it be replicated in other buildings?
  • What is the role of school leaders in
  • ...
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