During his inauguration in early January, Governor Mike DeWine spoke of his desire to use education to improve Ohio. “Education is the key to equality and the key to opportunity,” he said.
During his inauguration in early January, Governor Mike DeWineof his desire to use education to improve Ohio. “Education is the key to equality and the key to opportunity,” he said. “Everyone—everyone—deserves a chance to succeed, to get a good-paying job, to raise a family comfortably.”
Although DeWine’s inauguration signaled the start of new state leadership, his focus on increasing educational opportunities and improving outcomes isn’t new. Under former Governor John Kasich, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformationthat Ohio was facing a “looming crisis” in educational attainment. from 2013 showed that 64 percent of Ohio jobs in 2020 would require post-secondary education. But only of working-age adults had a post-secondary degree or certificate as of 2016. More worrisome, Ohio students weren’t earning degrees and certificates at a fast enough rate to close the gap. To meet the needs of employers, Ohio would need to produce approximately 1.3 million more adults with high quality post-secondary certificates.
In response to these disheartening numbers, state leaders announced in 2016 that they would pursue “Ohio Attainment Goal 2025”—a statewide objective for 65 percent of Ohioans between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four to have a degree, certificate, or other post-secondary workforce credential of value in the workplace by 2025. Areleased by ODHE in 2017 identifies strategic priorities, including aligning credentials to in-demand jobs, decreasing racial gaps in attainment rates, and educating more adults.
ODHE and ODE areto prepare an annual report that accounts for the state’s progress. The results in the most recent are mixed. Ohio’s educational attainment rate was 44.1 percent in 2016, which is an impressive increase of 9.2 percentage points since 2008. But the state’s rate is still lower than the national average of 46.9 percent. Attainment has increased among all races, but large gaps still persist. And between 2011 and 2016, adult enrollment in post-secondary education—arguably the most important aspect of increasing overall attainment numbers in the short-run—declined by nearly one-third.
In short, Ohio’s got a lot of work to do if it hopes to meet its goal by 2025. As Governor DeWine and his team prepare their first budget proposal, they’d be wise to consider policies that could help improve Ohio’s post-secondary attainment numbers. Here’s a look at what’s working so far, and some places where the new administration could make an impact.
Getting a head start on credentials
Ohio does a pretty good job of offering K–12 students aon post-secondary degrees and credentials. (AP) has been present for decades, and the has steadily increased each year; over 73,000 students participated in AP in 2018. guarantees that these students can receive college credit from state institutions as long as they earn a score of three or higher on an AP exam. Articulated credit options like allow career and technical education (CTE) students to transfer credit from a of technical courses to state institutions. And , the state’s dual-enrollment program, allows students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Now in its fourth year, the program has rapidly ; over 71,000 students enrolled during 2017–18 compared to 54,000 in 2015–16. Maintaining both the volume and the quality of these and other programs will be vitally important for the administration going forward.
Expanding and improving CTE
CTE is another area where DeWine’s team should focus on expanding what already exists. Initiatives like, which aims to expand and improve career pathways for high school students, show . So do recent efforts around . But there’s more than enough room to grow, and the new , often referred to as Perkins V, is a great opportunity for the state to expand its offerings and invest in new and . DeWine’s administration should also make sure to keep the CTE it made during the campaign, including creating a Student Work Experience Tax Incentive for businesses and cutting the red tape that limits the use of funding for CTE schools.
Focusing on adult learners
When it comes to older adults, offering programs that focus on competency rather than seat time is crucial. Ohio’sallows adults over the age of twenty-two to earn a high school diploma and an industry credential that’s aligned to an in-demand job without requiring a certain number of credits or seat hours. And in 2018, the Ohio Department of Higher Education a partnership with , an online, competency-based university that allows adults to earn affordable degrees in business, health and nursing, education, and information technology. Despite these offerings, Ohio is still struggling to reach adult learners. During DeWine’s , he proposed establishing regional job-training partnerships and funding the completion of at least ten thousand in-demand industry certificates. Both these proposals could impact attainment numbers. But it will be vital for the governor’s office and the , which will be by Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, to continue focusing on how to reach and educate thousands more adults.
Making college degrees more affordable
In a 2016from the Institute for Research on Higher Education, Ohio was forty-fifth out of fifty states in college affordability. In a post-secondary access and affordability released in 2017, Philanthropy Ohio used this and other data sources to warn that “Ohio’s investment in higher education generally, and need-based aid specifically, is not keeping pace with our peer states. If this issue is not recognized immediately and addressed head on, Ohio will continue to face a significant talent gap.” If students can’t afford tuition, then the state’s attainment rate isn’t going to improve.
Fortunately, Ohio has been paying close attention to college affordability over the past few years. Tuition caps have. And according to ODHE’s annual attainment goal report, the state’s funding mechanism for higher education—the —incentivizes outcomes like student progress and completion instead of just enrollment. Capitalizing on these developments and considering additional should be instrumental parts of the governor’s plan to improve Ohio’s attainment rate.
Improving data gathering and reporting
When it comes to measuring attainment, good data are key. ODHE’s annual report contains some solid data, but most of them come from a single place—the Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation 2018 report, which includes bothand information from various . Although this data is good and useful, the state would benefit greatly from establishing its own data-tracking system. The governor could direct state agencies to work together to connect students’ K–12 and higher-education records with workforce data such as wages, career fields, or unemployment records. This would allow the state to gauge attainment rates and workforce outcomes. This information could then be used to shape state policy, identify areas for growth, and communicate transparently with taxpayers. For a more detailed look at what such a data system could look like, check out this .
As is the case in the broader education sphere, there is no silver bullet for improving Ohio’s attainment rates. Meeting Attainment Goal 2025 is going to take a considerable amount of work and creativity from state agencies, employers, and local schools and programs. And just like with high school diplomas, the state needs to make sure that credentials aren’t meaningless pieces of paper, but instead represent actual mastery of knowledge and skills. Otherwise, meeting the attainment goal won’t mean anything. The governor’s office can play an instrumental role in these efforts by proposing sound state policy and incentivizing the right practices. The five areas outlined above would be great places to start.
With popular, bipartisan support, career-and-technical education (CTE) is being embraced by policymakersthe . It’s no different in Ohio where newly elected has promised to make CTE a priority during his term. There’s good reason for the increased focus. If done well, CTE allows students to accumulate technical skills—and certifications verifying attainment—that can help them secure rewarding jobs.
Given the growing attention, it’s important to describe the state of CTE in Ohio. This post will look at the basic question of how many students currently avail themselves of CTE opportunities, and in what fields. Meanwhile, a follow-up piece will explore what we know about the outcomes of CTE students, including their graduation and industry certification rates.
One might think counting the number of CTE students would be easy, but there’s more to it than initially meets the eye. Part of the challenge lies in determining what a “CTE student” is. In fact, there are two official definitions in use.
First, there are CTE participants who have earned credit in at least one CTE course. This is a very low threshold; for instance, passing just one introductoryor course likely qualifies someone as a participant. For the 2016–17 year, Ohio reported 125,375 participants in its CTE reporting.
A more helpful measure is CTE concentrators. These are students with a stronger focus in a particular CTE field. Ohio considers any student who completes at least 50 percent of the courses required in a single CTE program to be a concentrator. The chart below shows that 33,593 Ohio students reached the concentrator status in 2016–17. Since this covers any student in grades seven through twelve reaching concentrator status, we can’t tell from these data what proportion of the class of 2017 did so—an arguably more useful data point than the share of concentrators in all of those grades. Though an estimate, the share probably falls between 15 and 20 percent in the class of 2017. Such a percentage would track fairly close to national from the class of 2005 indicating that 21 percent of graduates earned three or more CTE credits. Meanwhile, Figure 1 also shows a largely flat trend in concentrators over the past decade, though with some bumps in recent years.
Figure 1: Trend in Ohio’s CTE concentrators, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Federal statistics also report the areas in which students concentrate in sixteen CTE fields, or “career clusters.” Figure 2 below displays the six most popular CTE fields in Ohio, with the ten other fields combined into an “other” category. We see that agriculture, health, and information technology (IT) are the most prevalent fields among Ohio CTE students. Agriculture emerges as an especially popular CTE route in Ohio, as the 18 percent rate among concentrators almost doubles the national average (10 percent). The chart also illustrates that CTE isn’t only used by young people seeking “blue collar” manufacturing or plumbing jobs, but also careers in fields like IT and healthcare. Lastly, Figure 2 shows that 36 percent of CTE students concentrate in the other ten fields such as hospitality, education, business, or marketing.
Figure 2: Percentage of Ohio concentrators in CTE career fields, 2016-17
Source:. Note: The chart displays the six most popular career fields among Ohio’s CTE concentrators, with the ten other fields combined into an “other” category. The full list of fields is .
These data are starting points for better understanding CTE in Ohio. Though CTE concentration isn’t per se a guaranteed ticket to good jobs—e.g., demonstrating competency through an industry certification is critical too—it’s an important first step. On this count, we see that about one in five Ohio students use CTE programs in some purposeful manner. There seems ample room to encourage more concentration. For instance,of students exit high school and go directly into the workforce, and increased CTE concentration could help more of these young people get off to a solid start. It could also benefit college-going students who gain marketable skills when they enter the job market. We also see a wide diversity of CTE programs that students use. With offerings in areas ranging from agriculture and IT to architecture and construction, it’s important that we no longer view CTE as simply shop class.
All this, of course, only scratches the surface. The data don’t tell us anything about the backgrounds of CTE students. Are they disproportionately low income or more affluent, and what are their racial and ethnic backgrounds? What are their academic track records? Are they mainly high achievers or more apt to struggle? How many go beyond the “concentrator” status and take almost all of their electives in a particular field (“super concentrators” of sorts)? And perhaps most importantly, what are CTE students’ outcomes?
Some of these questions, among others, require more detailed data than what is available publicly, and state agencies or researchers should shine a light on them. However, we do have some data on CTE students’ outcomes from Ohio’s career-technical report cards. Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which we dive into these data.
 The recently reauthorized will likely change Ohio’s definition of “concentrators.” Under the new federal law, any student who has completed two CTE courses in a career-tech field is deemed a concentrator.
 At most, the proportion of concentrators in the class of 2017 was 24 percent: 33,593/137,340 (students in the class of 2017, including both graduates and non-graduates).
Last summer, President Trump signed into law the. Referred to as Perkins V, it’s the long-awaited reauthorization of the federal law that governs how states fund and oversee career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Historically, Perkins federal funding has allocated more than $1 billion a year on top of state and local contributions to CTE. 2019 will be no different. Thanks to an appropriations billin September, as well as funding changes included in the new law, Perkins state grants will increase overall by $70 million this year. The U.S. Department of Education estimated allocation numbers last week, and the for state grants indicates Ohio should receive over $46 million in 2019, which is $2.5 million more than its 2018 allocation—an increase of nearly 6 percent.
More funding for CTE, even a relatively modest increase, is good news. But what’s even more important is that the reauthorization, Perkins V, gives both states and local recipients more flexibility in how they spend their allocated funds. The law also allows the U.S. Department of Education to award grants for innovation—which means the Buckeye State could win even more money if it’s brave enough to get creative.
So what’s Ohio to do with this opportunity? Here are two ideas.
In a 2018, argues that states should invest in innovation through the Perkins Reserve—a provision that allows state leaders to set aside a percentage of their allocated money to award grants to local recipients. Perkins V raised the allowable amount from 10 to 15 percent, which means states could opt to reserve more money than in years past. Based on the , if state leaders opt to set aside the full 15 percent, Ohio would have nearly $7 million in its reserves.
There’s a lot that Ohio could do with that money, and a grant competition that rewards innovative ideas would be a good place to start. For instance, the state could hold a competition that funds programs committed to expanding and improvingpractices. Another option would be to award funding to programs with promising ideas for how to help the state reach . The state could also choose to fund innovative solutions to long-standing problems like racial achievement gaps, providing access to or improving the performance of underserved students (which Perkins V prioritizes), or removing transportation barriers for rural students.
Build a better data and tracking system
Ohio has a strong and diverse CTE sector, but information on programs, participation, and outcomes is hard to come by. My colleague Aaron Churchill recentlyan overview of Ohio CTE data. Unfortunately, as he notes in his conclusion, his analysis “only scratches the surface” because there’s very little detailed data that are publicly available.
Fortunately, Perkins V offers Ohio an ideal opportunity to fix this. To be eligible for funds under the new law, local recipients must conduct a comprehensive local needs assessment every two years and include the results in their application. The assessment must include:
- An evaluation of student performance by subgroup on Perkins’s core indicators
- A description of CTE programs that are offered, including their size, scope, quality, and alignment
- An evaluation of progress toward implementing CTE programs and programs of study
- A description of recruitment, retention, and training for CTE educators and support professionals
- A description of progress toward implementing equal access to CTE for all students.
This information is precisely the kind of data that Ohio policymakers and taxpayers don’t have easy access to. Under the new law, every local agency that applies for Perkins funds in the foreseeable future will have to collect this information every two years. That means Ohio will soon have a treasure trove of data on CTE programs all across the state. Officials could compile this information in one place and then publicly report it in a user-friendly way that maintains the privacy of students and educators. This would provide increased transparency to taxpayers and would allow families to have a clearer picture of the CTE options in their area. It would also give researchers the ability to track trends and growth over time, particularly if it’s part of athat connects students’ K–12 and higher-education records with workforce data such as wages, career fields, and unemployment records.
Since this data system wouldn’t contain accountability measures tied to sanctions, it would be different than the state report cards that. The absence of sanctions should make establishing a statewide system that publicly shares local-needs-assessment data more politically feasible. And because Perkins permits states to set additional requirements for those assessments, state officials could align their requests to statewide priorities like .
Thanks to Perkins V’s increased flexibility, Ohio’s CTE programs are on the brink of what could be a transformational next few years. The Buckeye State has a solid CTE sector already, but there’s still a ton of room for growth and improvement. Funding innovative ideas through a competitive grant program and improving data collection and transparency are key aspects of taking Ohio’s sector to the next level.
Last Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch ran contrasting op-eds on the question, “Should Ohio charter schools receive more state funding?” I authored one of them, and in it I highlight the fact that charters receive far less public funding than school districts to educate pupils with comparable needs. I make the case that underfunding charters is simply unfair to students choosing a different type of school for their education. William Phillis, a harsh critic who’s called charters “parasites,” authored the opposing editorial. He trots out several tired charter canards and half-truths, notes the misconduct of the now-shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, and implies that charters misuse funds on things such as marketing and administration.
Let me first say that I agree with Phillis that the responsible stewardship of public dollars matters immensely. Just like districts, charters should be leveraging their resources to do the most for students. If a charter school is spending excessive amounts on marketing or administration, its governing board should reprioritize its expenditures. The same principle applies to district boards; they too should be combing through their budgets to ensure dollars are being well spent.
But two of his claims require strong refutation. The first deals with a serious mathematical error. Phillis challenges my finding of a charter funding shortfall by citing the following data:
Another set of data from Ohio Department of Education files is needed to complete the fiscal picture. According to the department’s school year 2017-2018 Expenditure Flow Model, charter schools, on average, actually spent $360 more per pupil than school districts ($11,819 vs $11,459).
Here’s the problem: The data he cites represent an unweighted average across districts and charters that ignores pupil enrollments. When he computes the statewide average, each district is treated as an equal contributor to the average, even though districts enroll widely varying numbers of students. For instance, under this method, the spending of a 500-student rural district is weighted just the same as the 50,000-student Columbus City School District. This is, of course, absurd—akin to treating California the same as North Dakota when computing the per-capita national GDP.
When one does a proper student-weighted calculation, the correct numbers are:
According to the department’s school year 2017-2018 Expenditure Flow Model, charter schools, on average, actually spent
$360 $1,654 more less per pupil than school districts ( $11,819 vs $11,459 $10,300 vs. $11,954).
This significant charter disparity at the statewide level in FY 18 tracks with conclusions from my paper for FYs 15–17.
Unfortunately, absent also from Phillis’s statement is an acknowledgement of the vast differences in the student backgrounds of Ohio charters versus districts statewide, rendering it an apples-to-oranges comparison. Because charters serve more disadvantaged students than the average district, they ought to receive more funds to support the greater needs of their students. Sadly, however, they receive less.
When one conducts an apples-to-apples comparison of Ohio’s urban Big Eight charters versus Big Eight districts, a much larger funding disparity appears. In these cities, charters receive a staggering $4,092 less per pupil, a funding gap of 28 percent. Disparities of this magnitude limit children’s educational opportunities and result in an unhealthy environment for charters to grow.
Aside from playing fast and loose with the data, Phillis also misfires in his comments about the regulatory framework for charter schools. He writes:
The only way to secure accountability, transparency, and credibility in the charter industry is to subject charters to the same laws and regulations as school districts. Thus far the reforms in charter law have merely nibbled at the edges of the defects.
And he adds:
Charters are exempt from scores of laws and regulations, which should reduce their costs dramatically. These factors argue for less, not more money for charters.
Notwithstanding the bizarre notion that charters should be regulated in the same way as districts—the very idea of charters is to allow schools to do things differently!—there are other holes to this argument.
First, it asserts that charters are freed from all sorts of regulations that burden districts and drive up costs. But let’s put this to the test: The Legislative Service Commission (LSC) produces a helpful catalogue of charters’ exemptions and non-exemptions from state law. What you’ll notice is that the exemptions are largely due to inherent differences in governing and funding arrangements. For instance, a raft of exemptions relate to district board elections and local tax laws that simply don’t apply to charters. The challenge to critics is be more specific: What exemptions are so worrisome? And if indeed they have a legitimate beef about a burdensome regulation from which charters are freed, they should ask legislators to remove that regulation for districts too. (I hear some legislators are interested in deregulation.)
Second, it fails to mention that a key difference between districts and charters lies not in the amount of regulation, but rather their approaches to staffing and employment. Though not required under state law, all districts bargain with local teachers’ unions around wages, hours, and the “terms and conditions” of employment. Covering numerous topics, these elaborate collective bargaining agreements limit what district schools can do with their time, talent, and money. Nearly all charters don’t bargain with a local union, offering them greater flexibility to meet students’ needs or pursue innovative programs. Though sure to rankle union interest groups, some see charters’ ability to work outside of the collective bargaining model as a core strength.
Third, it elides critical laws and regulations that charters are subject to in the same way as districts—and even some that are distinctive to the charter model. Returning again to the LSC catalogue, it lists dozens of statutes from which charters are not exempt, including laws on public ethics and meetings, state assessment and accountability, financial reporting, health and safety, and teacher licensing. Among these, the state’s report cards, with their clear A–F ratings, are the most important tool for holding charters accountable for performance in the same way as districts. On key report card measures, charters perform similarly, if not better, than comparable district schools. Furthermore, charter schools are also subject to a unique oversight system that includes sponsors, entities that have the authority to close schools for underperformance. And unlike districts, charter schools also face an automatic closure penalty under state law when they receive poor report-card ratings.
It’s a shame that Sunday’s readers received such a distorted view of Ohio charters. Perhaps that’s par for the course in a world where pundits can say just about anything and get away with it. As we think how the charter model can drive student learning for more Ohio students, here’s hoping for a more fact-based debate.
Elaborate(CBAs) have for decades enshrined the “factory model” into public education. Negotiated by district boards and teachers’ unions, these lengthy contracts dictate numerous aspects of school life—anything from compensation to employee retention to lunch-room duties. In the early part of this decade, some states enacted reforms to CBA laws that limited what could be in these contracts in the hopes of providing greater flexibility to schools.
A newled by Katharine Strunk, a leading expert on CBAs in the U.S., examines how legislative reforms in Michigan and Washington affected district CBAs. In 2011, Michigan passed sweeping changes to its CBA law that prohibited dozens of topics from negotiation, including things like teacher placement and transfers, classroom observation protocols, and disciplinary and dismissal procedures. Instead of being hamstrung by contract language, district leaders were given the discretion to make these HR decisions. Also around that same time, the Michigan legislature enacted statewide teacher evaluation policies, including the incorporation of student achievement measures. Washington’s reforms, on the other hand, were less extensive: Although legislators enacted a statewide teacher evaluation system in 2012—removing the issue from local bargaining—they did not adopt other reforms that narrowed its scope.
Common sense predicts that these reforms would reduce the restrictiveness of CBAs, thus providing greater flexibility. However, the researchers note that by eliminating some topics of negotiation, others could become more restrictive as they receive more attention at the bargaining table. To gauge changes in districts’ CBAs in Michigan and Washington, researchers examine eighty-eight topics of negotiation, both pre- and post-reform. They create measures for the overall restrictiveness of CBAs and in four subareas: association rights, teacher evaluation, teacher transfers, and leave policies. The CBA changes in Michigan and Washington are then compared to those in California, a state that did not undertake similar reforms. This provides stronger evidence on whether the reforms themselves led to changes in restrictiveness, though the researchers acknowledge that other non-observed factors could still play a role. Hence, they call their analyses “descriptive comparisons” of the pre- and post-reform CBAs in these two states.
Now to the results. Michigan CBAs became much less restrictive overall and in each of the four subareas. Washington CBAs also became less restrictive overall, though less so than in Michigan—not surprising given Washington’s less aggressive reforms. Interestingly, Washington CBAs became less restrictive in two areas (association rights and evaluation) but more restrictive in the others (leave and transfers). This suggests a tradeoff when eliminating topics of negotiation, as unions seem to have concentrated on winning stronger limitations in the areas in which they could still bargain. Due to the major changes in Michigan CBAs, the authors conclude: “It is in Michigan therefore that we might expect to see more substantial impacts on other district outcomes such as teacher staffing and ultimately student achievement.”
Two final thoughts: First, readers should peruse the laundry list of items that districts and unions haggle over in CBAs in the report’s Appendix Table 2. It’s yet another reminder of how much CBAs can constrict school operations and deployment of resources. Second—and this is for state lawmakers, especially those interested in deregulation—this study illustrates that, yes, you can make a difference.
SOURCE: Katharine O. Strunk, et al.,, CALDER Working Paper (December 2018).