One year later: A look at how Ohio performed during the first year of Race to the Top
Just over a year ago, Ohio won $400 million in Race to the Top grant dollars and promised to implement a number of significant reform programs. The U.S. Department of Education just released a progress report for the Buckeye State detailing how it has fared in year one, as well as the work that remains.
First, it might be helpful to revisit the major commitments Ohio made. They were to:
- Increase the high school graduation rate by 0.5 percent per year with the eventual goal of an 88 percent graduation rate. Right now only 84.3 percent of students graduate from Ohio’s high schools.
- Reduce the graduation rate gap between white and minority students by 50 percent. The current gap is 16 percentage points.
- Reduce the performance gap between Ohio students and some of the nation’s highest performers like Massachusetts.
- Double college enrollment for Ohioans under the age of 19. Ohio ranks 35th in terms of adults with a two-year degree of higher.
- Adopt and implement high-quality academic standards aligned assessments.
- Ensure great principals and teachers in every school (however that’s measured).
Ohio has more than 600 school district, 3,500 district schools and over 300 charter schools so it had its work cut out for it when it applied for RttT dollars and then won. The list of goals stated above is no easy task. So how is Ohio doing a year into the process?
Year 1 Successes
- Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards in English and mathematics, ensuring a system of new high quality standards. Ohio also developed numerous web-based resources to help educators and administrators learn and understand the importance of the standards.
- Ohio developed a teacher evaluation system of which 50 percent must be based on student growth, many details still need to be worked out on this though. Around 130 school districts volunteered to be part of the pilot year that started in the 2011 school year. By the 2013 school year all districts and charter schools must participate.
- Ohio is still on track for developing a statewide longitudinal data system that includes pre-kindergarten through higher education data by 2013.
- An increase in pathways for aspiring teachers and principals. Year one of RttT saw several legislative victories including the potential for Teach For America to set up shop in Ohio.
- Established the Ohio Appalachian Initiative- a collaboration among 22 rural districts to help share data, train teachers, and engage members of the community.
Ohio has scored some significant implementation victories in the first year and compared with laggards like Hawaii and New York one could argue the first year has been a real success for the Buckeye State. U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan summed the situation up nicely when he told the Columbus Dispatch “Ohio is in really good shape,”
However, everyone agrees a great deal of work remains if Ohio is going to move from meaningful activity to increasing student achievement. Year 2 and beyond looks to be the years when action has to start translating into success and most importantly gains in things like test scores.
The following issues remain on the table:
- Continuing to reach out to educators to help them understand and successfully implement the Common Core Standards.
- Putting in place workable teacher evaluation systems. While the state provided a framework for the evaluations districts can choose to create their own or adapt the framework provided, potentially resulting in a variety of different evaluation systems with some being stronger than others.
- Getting Teach For America corps members into schools around Ohio is proving to be a challenge. Raising external funding in tight fiscal times in not easy, especially when there are many competing interests for scarce dollars. School districts are also having a hard time selling the idea of TFA to unions and their teachers when many are, or have in recent years, been laying off teachers.
Ohio should be applauded for their accomplishments thus far, but now the tough job of beginning to implement the new policies begins. Hopefully, the progress report for year 2 will tell a similar story of success.
This piece originally appeared on the Ohio Gadfly Daily.
Category: Ohio Policy
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