Today Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report card for states. Ohio earned a C with an overall score of 74.2, aligning the Buckeye State for the second year in a row with national U.S. average (also 74.2). Its ranking of 22nd is up one place from 2016; all of Ohio’s neighboring states earned a C or C-minus except for Pennsylvania, which earned a B.

Ohio’s individual sub-grades also remained unchanged from last year:

  • C-plus in Chance for Success—a measure that includes educational inputs and outputs across the life span such as family income, parent educational levels, preschool and kindergarten enrollment, fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP scores, and adult educational attainment.
  • C-minus in K-12 Achievement—looks at student performance on the NAEP, graduation rates and percent of students scoring 3 or above on AP exams, as well as gaps in proficiency between poor and non-poor students.
  • C in School Finance—a measure that includes state funding systems’ reliance on local property wealth as well as other measures of equity, per pupil expenditures, and share of taxable resources spent on education.

For the last several years in the Quality Counts report cards, Ohio’s subcategory scores largely stayed consistent despite several shifts in its relative ranking when compared to other states (from fifth in 2010, to 26th in 2014, to 22nd currently). Ohio’s current grade—a 74.2 (C)—is seven points lower than its all-time high score in 2010—81.2 (B-minus). This appears to be at least in part a result of changes in the report card’s composition. For example, “standards, assessments, and accountability”—a category where Ohio scored a 96—was removed from the rankings.  

“It’s important to look at the nuanced data provided by Education Week’s annual report cards, rather than resort to an oversimplified narrative that Ohio is much worse off educationally because of its relative changes in rankings,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “That being said, Ohio still faces challenges in overcoming a significant poverty-based achievement gap and lower-than-average adult educational attainment. At a time when Ohio policy makers debate graduation standards, cut scores, and the next wave of report cards under ESSA, it’s critical that we continue to have high expectations for all Ohio students.”

Several data points highlight the need for continued priority among state policy makers.

  1. There are sizeable gaps in achievement between students in poverty and their financially more well-off peers. The latest data available (2015 NAEP scores) show that 32 states are shrinking these achievement gaps in fourth and/or eighth grade, while Ohio is not.
  2. Ohio’s numbers for early educational attainment as well as adult attainment remain below national averages. The percent of three- and four-year olds enrolled in preschool as well as kindergarten is below the national average, as are the percentages of young adults enrolled in postsecondary degrees, and the share of adults with a two- or four-year postsecondary degrees.
  3. Measuring equity in school funding is complicated. Ohio’s overall spending on education (per-pupil expenditures as well as share spent on education) are middle of the pack at $12,208 (compared to Vermont’s $19,654 and Utah’s $7,038). The state ranks high for equity, when measured by the relationship between district funding and local property wealth (i.e., more money flows to poorer districts). On this metric, Ohio’s score was more equitable than all but six other states. However, when calculating equity as the difference in per-pupil spending levels at the 95th and 5th percentiles, Ohio has among the highest gaps—a reflection of the fact that wealthier districts often opt to raise more money locally. 

“The report also provides a timely reminder that Ohio must continually grapple with how to create meaningful pathways to college and career for its young people,” Aldis added. “Ohio’s below-average numbers of adults enrolled in or holding postsecondary degrees, and slightly below-average numbers for adult annual income and steady employment, signal a need to continue the focus that Governor Kasich has placed on career and technical education and industry certification.”

Policy Priority:
Ohio Education Gadfly