Some have said that we’ve reached the end of education policy, but that seems to be far from the case in Ohio.
Some have said that we’ve reached the, but that seems to be far from the case in Ohio. In fact, next year is shaping up to be a pretty busy one—so busy that I had to expand our for the year’s top issues from five to six. With a new governor and a budget cycle on the horizon, there’s sure to be plenty to discuss. Here’s a look—for good or ill—at what will likely make headlines in 2019.
As long as there are still state- and federally-mandated tests, and as long as the results of those tests are used to inform parents via grading schools and districts, testing will be a hot topic. Although debates on the topic cooled somewhat in 2018, next year could bring renewed fervor thanks to incoming governor-elect Mike DeWine. His campaign platformreducing the number of tests that students are required to take, as well as providing parents and teachers with more meaningful and timely results (something ). Any reduction is likely going to be minimal, however, because most of the standardized tests students take are required by federal law. But there are a few DeWine could get rid of without running afoul of federal law.
5. Revamping report cards
Like testing, school report cards are another topic that seems to crop up every year. In 2018, there was a hard push to ditch Ohio’s current A-to-F grading system in favor of a dashboard model that would display academic data in raw numbers rather than letter grades. Although it was ultimately unsuccessful, there are plenty of district superintendents and legislators who remain interested in changing the current system. It’s possible that the incoming governor will be more sympathetic to potential changes than Governor Kasich, so keep an eye out for another push to overhaul Ohio’s school report cards.
4. Expanding pre-k
This is an issue that featured as prominently as any in the governor-elect’s campaign agenda. DeWine’s policy platform had an entire, including promises to raise the eligibility level for publicly funded early childhood programs and to ensure that all early childhood education centers are high quality. There is already an intense focus on pre-k in cities like , , and . With the support of a new governor, look for pre-k expansion and quality to be a hot topic this year. The only things that may possibly get in the way of big increases in pre-k funding are state revenue limitations and other big-ticket items like Medicaid and school funding reform.
3. Career and technical education
This summer, President Trump signed the long-awaited reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The new law is known as the—Perkins V for short—and it governs how states implement and expand access to career and technical education (CTE) programs, as well as providing over a billion dollars in federal funding. To access these funds, Ohio must submit a state plan to the federal government in much the same way it did with ESSA. Perkins V contains provisions that require states to complete local comprehensive needs assessments and increased levels of stakeholder engagement, so we can expect to see something similar to the . But the determining factor on whether CTE will be a huge headline or just another discussion point will be whether governor-elect DeWine follows through on his extensive campaign promises related to CTE. He to create a student work experience tax incentive for businesses, expand career exposure and training opportunities for K–12 students, and remove limits on which CTE courses a student can count toward their high school diploma. Given the that Ohio is already doing in CTE, the upcoming year could be a big one.
2. School funding
Another one of governor-elect DeWine’s campaign promises was to “create a more equitable funding system.” Although his platform included few details, he did specify that he plans to direct state resources toward “supportive services for children most in need.” That sounds a lot like wraparound services, which enjoy mostly bipartisan support and have become increasingly popular with the general public thanks to initiatives like, which offers a host of support services for students and their families. But there are two other major issues that will also push school funding to the top of the priority pile. The first is the recurring ghost of ECOT, which inspired legislators to a . The committee met in the waning days of 2018 to hear testimony on various e-school funding models that Ohio could potentially adopt, including a performance-based model. And 2019 could bring some proposals for a new funding system. The second issue is charter school funding. Ohio’s high performing charters continue to achieve solid results with far less funding than their district counterparts. If the DeWine administration is truly looking to tackle this issue, it would be hard to ignore charter school funding inequities.
1. A continued push for lower expectations
By far, theeducation issue over the last two years has been the over . In the final days of the year, the General Assembly passed a bill that extends to the classes of 2019 and 2020, which Governor Kasich before the holiday break. Now, for the first time in twenty-five years, Ohio students won’t need to demonstrate some level of objective academic competence to receive a diploma (at least for two years). The extension is indicative of a larger trend, one that reflects a steady lowering of expectations for students. For example, the state’s five-year centers on a goal that is , “shies away from traditional academic measures,” and calls for assessing and incorporating social-emotional learning into the state’s accountability system despite that warns against doing so. Meanwhile, the proposed by the Ohio Department of Education and the State Board would offer students a menu of options that are and . Buoyed by their “ ” on weakening graduation requirements, advocates for lowering expectations at both the state and local level are likely to be energized heading into the new year. So, you can expect even more debate about the importance of maintaining high expectations.
If the shape of education in 2019 seems dependent upon the new governor’s policies and priorities, it’s because it does. That’s how it always goes in Ohio—no prognostication required.
Happy New Year!
Like the roller-coasters at Cedar Point, the past year had its highs and lows.didn’t pick Columbus for HQ2 (bummer), and says it’s shutting down a plant in Northeast Ohio (double bummer). LeBron left, again, this time for sunny . But up in Cleveland, has the Browns winning; the Columbus Crew is staying put; and Cincinnati made the New York Times’ list of “ .” And hey, even the state has money socked away in its .
It was also a topsy-turvy year for education in the Buckeye State. The year started with a thud—the sound of the, once Ohio’s largest e-school. But later in July, trumpets heralded the opening of a sparkling in Akron supported by King James himself. Meanwhile, at the statehouse, various education policies waned and waxed. For instance, Ohio lawmakers dumped the state’s clunky known as OTES, while putting funding for e-schools squarely on the radar. The year also saw debates over proposals to , to suspend Ohio’s , and to ditch .
But in my view, the following five topics were the most interesting—albeit not necessarily the most important—issues, trends, and stories of the year that was.
The great graduation debacle
In July 2017, the state legislature approved various low-levelthe class of 2018 could meet to receive diplomas. The move was supposed to be a , allowing students to exit high school without meeting new requirements that include passing state or college-entrance exams, or earning industry credentials. But district officials and the State Board of Education continued to press the legislature for relaxed standards for future classes. After resisting calls for much of 2018, lawmakers capitulated in December, extending easily-gameable, softball graduation options to the .
We at Fordham have made it no secret that we- , arguing that young people’s opportunities over the long haul diminish greatly when they exit high school not having demonstrated necessary academic or career-technical abilities. Moving forward, Ohio policymakers need to stop playing games with graduation requirements—they should either fully commit to the or come up with something (here’s a ) that asks young men and women to earn diplomas under reasonably serious standards.
The rise of “social-emotional learning”
For those not in the education bubble, the phrase “social-emotional learning” is likely unfamiliar and may even sound a bit kooky or technocratic. Nevertheless, “social-emotional learning” wins the prize for the trendiest education cliché of the year. It refers to some of thewherewithals that students, and all people, should have—stuff like “self-management” and “relationship skills.” The term is especially prominent in the State Board of Education’s , released last year, which goes as far as to recommend—contrary to —that it somehow be crammed into formal assessment and accountability systems.
My colleague Jessica Poiner has rightlyon that particular parade; and yes, a lone cheer to board member, , who voted against the plan because of its overemphasis on “social-emotional learning.” A few national commentators, including and our own , have also taken issue with the growing fad, with Checker noting, rather troublingly, that among the twenty-five “ ” identified by social-emotional experts, “You won't even find such old-fashioned virtues as integrity, courage, or honesty, and certainly nothing as edgy as patriotism.”
It’s true thathave a key role to play in character building. But will touting “social-emotional learning” win the hearts and minds of parents, educators, and kids? Maybe—but color me skeptical. Instead, Ohio leaders may want to chew on the more inspiring words of former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett who once put : “A critical function of any public school should be to develop the character of each child.... Although the family is the first and most important incubator of morality, schools must be an ally of parents in the moral upbringing of the young.”
Governance woes in Columbus City Schools
To put it mildly, Ohio’s largest school district has had its share of governance troubles of late. Back in 2012, administrators were caught, resulting in , , and for the data rigger-in-chief, , fifteen days jail time and probation. Several years of calmer waters (and a successful campaign) followed under superintendent Dan Good, who was brought to clean up the mess—but he at the end of 2017.
The search for Good’s successor, however, took some strange turns in 2018. It started in February when thereported that two of the three finalists for the position had “ties” to the data scrubbing scandal. (One subsequently bowed out.) Then, a few months later, with only one candidate still standing, the Ohio Auditor of State sent a to the Columbus school board alleging breaches of open-meetings laws during its search. This led the board to start all over again in August, and in a swift, one-month process it selected as the next district chief. Then, after some over her start date, Dixon agreed to take the reins this coming , hopefully earning every penny of her -dollar salary (she’ll face some tough decisions, especially on . Whew!
Finally, to cap off the year, Columbus board member Mary Jo Hudson wrote this in her December “Our completely inadequate model of governance is broken. Until it is fixed, our schools will continue to fail, students will be housed in sub-standard facilities, our board will be unresponsive and our families will be kept in poverty rather than given pathways out.” That about says it all.:
Interdistrict open enrollment in Liberty School District
The winner for the fascinating story of the year goes to Liberty School District, a 1,100 student district in Northeast Ohio. No, it isn’t the case of a Liberty kindergarten teacher charged with stealing Chromebooks and. Rather, it’s the district’s efforts to stand in the way of students wanting to attend school elsewhere that warrants the spotlight. In April, Liberty school officials passed a barring white pupils from exiting the district via . According to the local , Joseph Nohra, the reason was because “it’s creating segregation in our school district.” While he may or may not have a case on those grounds, money was also a key subplot. As Nohra disclosed, “Our tuition out, which includes all open enrollment, every dollar that gets deducted is over $2.5 million.”
Soon after the resolution was made public, the Youngstown NAACP chapter weighed-in—but, perhaps surprisingly, in strong opposition. Jimma McWilson, rebuked the saying, “You are denying them the opportunity, and denying parents the right to make the decision on where they want their child educated? … It’s not race first—it’s money first.... The kids should not be held hostage because the district lost money.”
Based on June , the Liberty board seems to have softened its stance, and current financial indicate that pupils are still transferring out via open enrollment (and some are transferring in). All as it probably should be, especially in a district named “liberty.”
Ohio gets a classical charter school
Lest you think that 2018 was a total downer, allow me to end on a high note. Loyal Gadfly readers will surely recall that this time last year Ithat 2018 would see a “rebirth in liberal arts education.” For most of the year, it looked like another false prognostication from yours truly, but in the waning days of 2018, the reported that a classical charter school is slated to open in fall 2019, the first in Ohio. According to the report, this school will focus on phonics, history, and even expect their students to become proficient in Latin. Granted, I’m biased towards the classics—I took Greek and Latin at one point in my life and do love me some . But to ring in the new year, I wish all my best to this new Toledo-based school, hoping that it will achieve the same successes as other classically-driven charters across the nation, serving both children in highly disadvantaged communities ( or ), as well as middle-class ones ( in Arizona).
That’s it for now, and we hope you’ll stay tuned to the Gadfly for what should be a very exciting 2019. After all, there are state budgetary matters to debate!
In 2015, Ohio imported a successful program used to help community college students in the City University of New York (CUNY) system persist in school and complete a degree in three years or less. A new policy brief from the nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization MDRC—also an implementation partner in both the CUNY and Ohio programs—looks at the first data from Ohio.
The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) began in 2007 with a suite of supports and requirements for CUNY students. Based on research showing where students’ ambitions and abilities were mismatched, these efforts included incentivizing full-time enrollment; encouraging students to take remedial courses immediately rather than putting them off to focus on whatever credit-bearing courses are available; providing comprehensive support services such as intensive advising and financial support; and offering blocked courses (seats held open in specific courses that college officials deem necessary for participants) and condensed schedules. Six years of data on the CUNY program can be found here.
The Ohio iteration, implemented at three independent and geographically separated community colleges—Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College—was designed similarly to the New York program. The Ohio Department of Higher Education coordinated the effort, and financial support was provided by a range of national and Ohio-based philanthropic organizations. Participating students had to be degree-seeking, willing to attend full-time, majoring in degree programs that could be completed in three years or less, and Pell Grant eligible. A lottery determined which students entered the program (806 participants) and which comprised the control group (695 non-participants). Students in the control group had access to the usual suite of support services the colleges provided but not the more-intensive support given students in the treatment group.
Students in the treatment group not only had access to a suite of additional services and supports provided by the program, but also faced some important additional requirements. They were required to enroll full-time in at least their first two semesters and were encouraged and supported to attend during the summer as well. Outside financial support covered any tuition amounts above students’ Pell Grant awards, as well as textbooks and class fees. Students could also earn multiple monthly financial incentives—in the form of gift cards for groceries or gasoline—for participating in program-provided activities, such as advisory meetings and career-development activities. Meetings with advisers were required twice a month in the first semester but became optional (while still strongly encouraged) for most students in further semesters. Students who were deemed at risk of dropping out of the program maintained stricter advisory requirements for a longer period of time. Full-time enrollment also became optional for some students in later semesters.
After two years, the treatment group outperformed the control group in all measured outcomes: persistence in school, persistence of full-time enrollment, credit accumulation, and graduation. All program effects were large, significant, and increased over the four semesters under study. But it is important to keep things in perspective. Credits earned by program group students showed a 37 percent increase over control group students at the end of two years, although that amounts to only eight additional credits. Similarly, after two years, 19 percent of the program group had completed a degree or credential, compared to just 8 percent of the control group.
That impressive increase still represents a small slice of the total number of students, and we have no data showing how close the remaining students in either group are to graduation in the final year of the program. Additional data will, hopefully, tell the tale.
MDRC researchers note that the program effects in Ohio largely outstripped those in the CUNY system. Three things stand out which could explain the difference. First, roughly half of the students in the Ohio study (both program and control) were nontraditional as compared to about a third at CUNY—meaning they were adults long out of K–12 education—many with jobs and family obligations and some without a high school diploma—looking to return to formal education to better their standing in life. The financial incentives appeared to have played an outsized role in supporting these students’ ability to persist and finish—as compared to young people just out of high school—and perhaps led to the better outcomes observed in Ohio versus CUNY.
Second, the financial incentives as a whole cost less and went further in Ohio than they did in New York City, leading to a leaner and more efficient program with superior outcomes.
Third, the independent nature of the Ohio community college sites allowed for a degree of individual adaptation that does not appear to happen in the CUNY version of the program. Block scheduling, for example, appears to have been a particular weakness for the schools with large numbers of nontraditional students whose work and life commitments precluded a more traditional weekday/daytime class schedule. Being able to flex this aspect of the CUNY program and move courses to fit the students’ schedules seems to have paid dividends in Ohio.
There’s a lot to the story for something appearing so simple at the outset. But the big picture is important: Common-sense academic supports, advising, and incentives can increase students’ odds of college persistence and degree completion. That’s not a bad lesson for high schools to learn either.
SOURCE: Colleen Sommo, et. al., “Doubling Graduation Rates in a New State: Two-Year Findings from the ASAP Ohio Demonstration,” MDRC (December 2018).
One of Ohio’s oldest public charter schools,(TSA) was forged from concerns about the state of arts education, especially performing arts and dance. For young people with a keen interest in the arts, any shortage of offerings limits opportunities and may lead to less engagement in school.
The latest entry in our Pathway to Success series shows how one specialized charter school has been able to tap into students’ interests, focusing and inspiring them to cultivate their talents. TSA, for instance, encourages freshman students to choose an art “major” to pursue. The twins featured in this profile are TSA graduates, one who carried her major in dance from Toledo to Wright State University and one whose major in writing led to pursuit of an English degree at the University of Toledo.
We urge you to read the profile and see their success for yourself. How many other young people would benefit from a high school education like the one provided at TSA?