Authorized in 2005, Academic Distress Commissions (ADCs) are the state’s mechanism for int
Authorized in, (ADCs) are the state’s mechanism for intervening in low-performing school districts. Youngstown was the first district to come under the thumb of the state back in , with Lorain added in , and finally East Cleveland in . Today, all three districts are under the supervision of an ADC—bodies comprising five members, three of whom are appointed by the state superintendent, one by the district school board, and one by the local mayor. Under , the ADCs hire a chief executive officer who is vested with managerial authority and charged with creating and implementing an improvement plan.
The rationale behind interventions like ADCs is fairly straightforward: Chronic underperformance isn’t acceptable, and states have an obligation to act when children are ill-served. But state interventions are also plenty controversialthey’ve been undertaken, with detractors largely decrying the loss or dilution of local governance. Ohio is no different, with ADCs sparking endless criticism, especially after 2015 —supported by former Governor Kasich—that greatly strengthened this intervention model. Last year, a amendment was introduced to suspend ADCs, though the effort failed when Kasich threatened to veto it.
ADCs are likely to come under even stronger fire this year as opponents of the policy will hope that Governor DeWine’s administration will be less supportive than its predecessor. Should Ohio persevere? Give up? Change course?
While it won’t win popularity contests in today’s anti-accountability climate, Ohio should stand firm in its efforts to improve student learning in low-performing districts. In this post, I take a look at key data indicating that districts under the auspices of an ADC are indeed troubled—and that the state is right in taking action to improve student outcomes. Note that in a few cases—for example, Youngstown’s recent test scores—the data reflect post-ADC performance. But most of the data discussed below reflect pre-ADC performance, and the vast majority of it predates the 2015 reforms to the ADC model.
One important yardstick of districts’ health is whether there is demand for their schools. Families can voice their dissatisfaction and vote with their feet by moving elsewhere or choosing other schooling options. Though enrollment declines don’t necessarily indicate that districts are doing a poor job educating children—shrinking districts can deliver a great education, just the same as expanding ones—large enrollment declines likely suggest problems with educational quality.
On this count, it’s clear that the districts now under ADC oversight have been ailing for decades. Consider the figure below: Enrollment in Youngstown has plummeted from over 16,000 in 1980 to under 5,000 today. Similarly, Lorain is less than half the size it was in 1980, and East Cleveland enrolls a mere 1,800 students, compared to 8,000 during the Reagan era. The slide in enrollment is the result of families leaving these districts for better opportunities elsewhere, parents opting for other educational options (notably, charters or vouchers starting in the 2000s), and perhaps decliningas well.
Figure 1: Enrollment of ADC school districts, 1980 to 2019 (selected years)
Source: Ohio Department of Education,
Enrollments, of course don’t tell the entire story, so let’s dig into pupil outcomes, which are the primary goal of districts. Since districts go into state receivership due to poor student results, the achievement data are sure to be bleak. But figures 2 and 3 remind us that the vast majority of students attending these districts struggle mightily to meet state academic standards. In 2017–18, a mere 30 to 35 percent of students attending East Cleveland, Lorain, and Youngstown districts met reading proficiency standards, slightly lower than the average proficiency rate of the Big Eight districts, and far below the statewide average.  A similar story emerges in math: Just 20 to 33 percent of the district students met math proficiency standards, while 63 percent statewide did so.
Figure 2: Proficiency rates on state reading exams, 2015–16 to 2017–18
Figure 3: Proficiency rates on state math exams, 2015–16 to 2017–18
Source: Ohio Department of Education,(District AMO Calculations files). Note: Due to transitions in state exams, proficiency trends can be tracked only to 2015–16. As one of the Big Eight districts, Youngstown is included in the Big Eight district average (the same applies for figures 4 and 5).
Maybe test scores aren’t your cup of tea. So let’s look at college completion rates—earning two- or four-year degrees—one of the few post-secondary data points available. (We don’t have information on things like employment or wages to complete the picture; legislators, pleasethat!) We observe dismal completion rates: For the class of 2011, completion rates ranged from a meager 7 percent in East Cleveland to 16 percent in Lorain. Like state exam scores, these completion rates fall well below the statewide average of 33 percent and track more closely with the Big Eight average of just 13 percent for the class of 2011.
Figure 4: College completion rates, class of 2009 to 2011
Source: Ohio Department of Education,(District Prepared for Success files). Note: This chart displays the percentage of students in the high school classes of 2009 to 2011 (including non-graduates) who completed an associate degree or higher six years after high school.
Proficiency and degree attainment rates partly reflect the high poverty rates of East Cleveland, Lorain, and Youngstown. Ohio’scontrols for students’ prior state test scores and produces that are less tied to poverty. But even on this more poverty-neutral measure, these districts still fare poorly. Table 1 displays their overall value-added ratings since 2012–13, the first year in which the state assigned an A–F rating on the measure. Save for a couple A’s in Lorain and one in East Cleveland, they’ve received almost all F’s, indicating that students typically fail to make expected growth over time. These low ratings are especially troubling given students’ already low achievement levels. In short, they remain stuck in the lowest portion of the achievement distribution. Moreover, because poor value-added ratings can’t be easily dismissed as reflections of poverty, they are much better indicators of educational ineffectiveness.
Table 1: Overall value-added ratings for ADC school districts, 2012–13 to 2017–18
Source: Ohio Department of Education,.
To round out this picture, it’s worth examining whether underfunding might be a problem. Figure 5 displays the per-pupil expenditures for the three districts in comparison to the statewide and Big Eight averages. In fiscal year 2018, East Cleveland spent a whopping $19,100 per pupil and Youngstown spent $18,300—far above the state average of $11,900, and even surpassing the Big Eight district average of $15,200 per pupil. Lorain spent a more modest $13,700 per student, an amount still above the state average, but below the Big Eight. Overall, the funding data do not generally indicate shortfalls; in fact, the districts receive fairly generous funding, primarily from the state revenue sources.
Figure 5: Per pupil spending, FY 2016 to 2018
Source: Ohio Department of Education,. Note: The data reflect only operational expenditures and don’t include capital spending.
The data on the districts under ADC oversight are grim—faltering enrollments, dismal achievement, low college completion rates, and weak academic growth. And there is no shortage of taxpayer support. Based on these data, the state is right to intervene on behalf of the 13,000 students attending these districts. Yes, Ohio could wash its hands of these troubled districts and hand back control to the school boards; no one in D.C. is forcing Ohio to undertake this type of intervention. But surrender is unlikely to drive the improvements that children in these districts deserve. That being said, there could be ways to improve the ADC model, to make it likelier that reform will reverse these troubling trends. Stay tuned for a follow-up post that considers the possibilities.
 The Big Eight refers to Ohio’s high-poverty urban districts: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown.
In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, pundits and analysts were hyper-focused on rural communities. NPRthat voters there played a “big part” in the election, and The New York Times that the election “highlighted a growing rural-urban split.” Many in the education sphere predicted that all this attention might convince policymakers to finally focus in on rural schools and their unique struggles.
Yet two years later, the majority of education debates continue to revolve around urban and suburban communities—at least in Ohio. That’s mostly a function of size. According to, the Buckeye State has 229 rural school districts serving over 250,000 students—15 percent of the state’s student population. Urban districts comprise over 28 percent of the population, and suburban districts over 33 percent. Together, they make up the majority of the state’s students. It’s understandable that they would dominate policy discussions.
But even considering their small size, rural districts should get more attention than they do. More than half are considered high poverty, and almost half of their students are economically disadvantaged. In places with steep poverty rates, rural schools face many of the same issues as urban districts, including lower rates of student achievement, post-secondary readiness, and completion. For example, although 50 percent of rural studentsin two or four year colleges after high school, only 28 percent earn at least an associate degree within six years of leaving high school. Only 3 percent of rural students earned a passing AP score during the 2017–18 school year—the lowest percentage of any district in the state.
These issues are exacerbated by the unique challenges facing rural communities. Some places still lack widely available high speed internet access, and reliable public transportation is virtually non-existent. As a result, many of the school choice and course access options that urban and suburban areas offer are difficult to replicate. Rural districts alsoper pupil then suburban and urban schools and often have a weaker tax base.
are lower than those offered to their peers in suburban, urban, and small-town areas, too. On average, teachers in rural areas make around $53,000 a year compared to the statewide average of $62,000. The cost of living in rural communities is significantly lower than it is in other areas, so lower average salaries don’t necessarily indicate serious problems. After all, teacher shortages are than most headlines indicate. But do show that states consistently report having trouble staffing subjects like special education, math, science, and career and technical education. Because they have less money to spend and offer lower-than-average salaries, Ohio’s rural districts may have a harder time competing for talent in harder to staff subjects.
In short, Ohio’s rural districts face a ton of complicated problems. The good news is that, despite the lack of media coverage and an only-occasional seat at the policy and advocacy table, there are plenty of innovative programs and organizations doing really good work.
Consider the , a national organization that aims to strengthen the bonds between rural schools and communities through rural philanthropy, developing teacher-leaders, and , a learning model that focuses on personalized learning and competency-based assessment, among other things. Their work with teachers includes the , a that recruit, prepare, develop, and retain effective rural educators. The Buckeye State is home to one such program, a recently established between Graham Local Schools, Urbana University, and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in the western part of the state. The program is tailored toward students who are interested in pursuing a career in education, and it allows them to earn credit from Urbana University via . The ultimate goal of the program is for students to “return to Graham or other local districts in the region to bring their teaching talents back to Ohio’s rural places.” Going forward, state leaders should invest in far more of these programs. A aimed at serving a group of rural communities would be a good place to start, and so would to help rural areas attract and develop high-performing teachers.
College Credit Plus in particular has proven to be especially valuable for rural districts. statewide skyrocketed from around 54,000 students in 2015–16 to more than 71,000 during the 2017–18 school year, but it’s rural students who earn the highest rate of credits. Twenty-five percent earned three or more college credits during the 2017–18 school year, compared to the state average of just 19 percent. Rural schools are also taking advantage of Ohio’s growing career and technical education sector: 7 percent of rural students earned an industry-recognized credential last year, compared to the state average of 4 percent. That number isn’t huge, but it is larger than any other district typology. By continuing to support the growth and improvement of both College Credit Plus and career and technical education, Ohio lawmakers can ensure that rural students continue to have access to rigorous opportunities.
Another promising organization is the (OAC), which was established in 2010 as a partnership between Battelle for Kids and rural Appalachian districts centered in southeastern Ohio. As of 2016, the OAC included 27 districts serving around 48,000 students, over half of whom live in poverty. While the OAC on several initiatives, its work with personalized learning is particularly interesting. Using grants from the , OAC and over two dozen districts created that outline personalized learning routes for students that are aligned to Ohio’s , are focused on sectors that have a direct link to Ohio’s Appalachian region, and include dual enrollment classes, work-based learning opportunities, and career advising and counseling.
Unfortunately, the Straight A Fund . That’s a shame because, with just a few , the fund could have inspired even more initiatives like OAC’s model pathways. If lawmakers want to lend a helping hand to rural districts looking to problem-solve in creative ways, they could create a newer, better version of Straight A that supports initiatives in rural schools.
Overall, Ohio’s rural districts have plenty to be proud of. But there’s a lot of work ahead, too. Policymakers should continue to invest in what’s already working and inthat can support further improvement. But they should also commit to creating even more opportunities; aimed specifically at rural communities, expanding school choice options like and , and supporting changes to are all good places to start.
As Ohio’s high schoolerode in value, there will be a growing need for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills through other means. For many young Ohioans, earning a college degree will continue to be their passport to good-paying jobs. But with rates hovering just above 30 percent, that leaves countless thousands without credentials that open doors to rewarding careers.
Industry-recognized credentials can help fill this void. Around the nation, states are starting to see the value of credentials to both young people and employers. A jointfrom the CCSSO, Advance CTE, and New Skills for Youth highlights how three states are working to identify high-quality industry credentials and encouraging their accumulation. Florida, for instance, provides schools when students earn credentials, with amounts varying based on the type of certificate. states also include industry credentials in their accountability systems, giving schools all the more reason to help students earn them.
Ohio, too, has implemented a framework for industry credentials in  Ohio assigns points to each credential—ranging from one to twelve—based on the rigor and time needed to obtain it. Completing an apprenticeship also yields twelve points in this system.career-and-technical career fields. Some credentials verify in-demand skills in , , , , and . Yet others, such as or certifications, likely have less value. A , appointed by the state superintendent, approves the credentials students may earn.
Earning credentials is also one of the state’s mainto high school graduation students must earn twelve points in the same career field, finish standard coursework requirements, and pass the exam. Similarly, students accruing twelve points allows schools to earn credit on the component of their state report cards.
Given the increasing importance of industry credentials, it’s worth diving into what we know about students’ attainment of them. Figure 1 below offers a birds-eye view, showing that a paltry 4 percent—that’s right, 4 percent—of Ohio students meet the twelve-point credentialing mark before they exit high school. The chart also shows that rural students are most likely to earn credentials (7 percent), possibly reflecting the fact thatis the most popular career-technical field in Ohio. Meanwhile, in suburban and urban areas, rates fall below the statewide average.
Figure 1: Industry credentialing rates in Ohio, statewide and by district typologies
Source: Ohio Department of Education,(District Prepared for Success file). Note: The rates in this chart indicate the percentage of classes of 2016 and 2017 (including non-graduates) who earned twelve or more points in Ohio’s . The chart displays data broken out by the of the district that students attended.
Another way to slice the data is to examine how many career-and-technical education (CTE)are earning credentials. The figure below displays the credentialing rates—referring again to meeting the twelve-point threshold—for such students. There’s some good and bad news. First the bad: We see that only 21 percent of CTE concentrators earn industry credentials. That seems low. But the good news is that rates are on the upswing in recent years. Note that while we can see the overall credentialing rates by typology (figure 1), we can’t do the same thing for concentrators because their data is reported on the of career-and-technical planning districts which are not assigned a .
Figure 2: Credentialing rates among Ohio CTE concentrators, 2015–16 to 2017–18
Source: Ohio Department of Education:(CTPD Ratings files). Note: The data notes under figure 1 apply to this chart, except that this figure displays the percentage of CTE “concentrators”—students who have completed at least 50 percent of the required coursework in a CTE field—who meet the twelve-point credentialing mark.
This analysis raises the question: Why aren’t more students—especially more CTE concentrators—earning credentials? Part of the answer is that some CTE fields don’t lead directly to a credential. Though it’s not clear how many career pathways this applies to, thecluster is an example of fields in which professional certifications are generally inaccessible to high school students. Still, many fields do have aligned credentials, so let’s consider a few more theories.
Lack of awareness. Students may not know much about credentialing opportunities, or the value of earning them. While not speaking directly to the topic of credentials, a 2016 Ohio Department of Educationsuggests that this may be a problem, writing: “The number one reason students cite for not engaging in career-focused coursework is that they don't know enough about these options.”
Cost of credentialing exams. Credentialing programs usually require students to pass an exam, some of which are expensive to take. For instance, the Cisco routing and switchingcost $300 and welding certification top $500. Fortunately, the state covers exam costs for low-income students, but fees might discourage others from earning a credential.
Students are unprepared. Another possibility is that students are not ready for rigorous credentialing programs and struggle to complete the course of study or fall short on exams. Unfortunately, there are no available data about program persistence or exam passage rates, so we don’t know how many students pursued but did not ultimately earn a credential. Still, a lack of readiness may contribute to low credentialing rates.
Limited capacity among schools and employers. It takes instructors with special backgrounds, along with financial resources, to adequately prepare and train students to earn credentials. Due to these constraints, career-tech centers and school districts typically offer a limited number of. This likely leaves some students without access to credentialing opportunities. In a similar vein, employers or trade associations may not have the excess capacity needed to offer students robust apprenticeships.
The time is ripe for Ohio to promote industry credentialing to more students. But policymakers also need to clear barriers that may be getting in the way. A few ideas to prime the pump could include incentive funding for schools that help students earn high-value credentials (à la Florida and ); financial aid to cover all students’ credentialing exam fees; and tax credits for employers when students complete an . Boosting industry credentials is a great opportunity for Ohio. Let’s not let it slip by.
 The appointed committee began approving industry credentials in January 2018; previously, the State Board of Education approved credentials (House Bill 49 of the 132nd General Assembly required this change).
In the waning days of January,—a nonprofit, bipartisan network comprising state and district education chiefs, superintendent, Paolo DeMaria—issued a containing a series of recommendations on how to improve career and technical education (CTE).
The report presents a compelling case for why stronger CTE programs are necessary, namely that the United States lags behind other leading countries when it comes to quality career preparation during high school. In places like Germany, Finland, and Switzerland, students in grades ten through twelve take a “substantial, coherent course of study focused on a particular career area comprising five to six credits or more.” In the United States, only 6 percent of students do the same.
International differences in education models aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But the lack of adequate career preparation in America has led to some troubling consequences. The U.S. Department of Labora record-high 7.1 million job openings in October 2017, but they also reported approximately the same number of unemployed adults—an indication that the skills and preparation of job-seekers didn’t match the needs of employers. also show that there are shortages in middle-skill jobs that don’t require a college degree but do require training and industry credentials.
High-quality CTE could help fill these gaps. According to Chiefs for Change, there are already some districts and states in its network that are on the right track. In Denver Public Schools, for example, approximately 4,000 high school students participate in job shadowing, mentoring, internships, and apprenticeships. In Tennessee, state leaders have aligned industry credentials to improved career pathways that lead to locally available jobs, and have expanded dual enrollment so that CTE students can access technical programs.
The Chiefs for Change report doesn’t recognize Ohio as one of the model states, and no Ohio districts are mentioned either. But that doesn’t mean our CTE sector is not working. In fact, quite a few of the report’s recommendations are already in place in Ohio. For example, it suggests that states build a “truly seamless” transition between postsecondary education and career training by dovetailing CTE programs with higher education and dual-enrollment opportunities. Ohio does this already through, a policy that allows students to transfer technical-course credit to state institutions of higher education. Some of these transferable courses are available thanks to individual agreements between a secondary CTE program and a higher education institution. Others are available through statewide agreements that require all public colleges and universities in the state to award postsecondary credit to students who meet standards such as a specific class grade or a certain score on an end of course exam. In central Ohio, Columbus State is leading the way through a portfolio that includes grants, college and career pathway partnerships, and programs like . ( for a more in-depth look at all of Ohio’s dual-credit options.)
There are also recommendations that Ohio doesn’t currently follow but should. One such example is the call to expand work-based-learning (WBL) opportunities with local employers. The Ohio Department of Education has afor schools to use to grant high school credit to students who demonstrate subject competency through WBL, and there are various and programs across the state. That’s a good start. But finding WBL opportunities that count for credit to their districts and “discuss the opportunities for partnership.” That’s asking quite a lot of high school students who might not even realize they could benefit from work-based learning, let alone be aware of available opportunities. It’s likely that these and other barriers to entry—like transportation issues—are keeping participation numbers low.
There are several ways for state leaders to improve the current structure. For instance, Chiefs for Change advises states to work with the business community to “establish intermediary organizations” that could advocate for WBL opportunities and publicize their successes., a business-led nonprofit that a three-year apprenticeship program for high school students, is one example. Another option is an organization that makes students aware of the WBL opportunities already available in their area, just like does for Ohio’s voucher-eligible families. Legislators could also help by using and to create more opportunities, or by to participate through the strategic use of tax credits.
Another potential opportunity is for Ohio to do a better job of collecting, disseminating, and analyzing data on high quality career-readiness programs. Despite the thousands of students who participate in CTE, Ohio offersabout its programs or their students. For instance, we don’t know how many students currently participate in work-based learning, so there is no way to track progress in expanding such opportunities moving forward. should be a top priority for Ohio policymakers.
The Buckeye State has a vibrant and growing CTE sector, and it’s important to celebrate what’s working. But it’s also important for policymakers and advocates to continue to push for improvement—and the latest recommendations from Chiefs for Change are a great place to start.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." -- Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
That sentiment has never been more profound and applicable than it is today.
It is in that spirit that we are publishing the 2019 edition of Ohio Education by the Numbers. This book is meant to be a look at vital statistics about Ohio’s schools and the students they serve. It isn’t a call for policy change, and it isn't designed to be spin. We've worked hard to keep it strictly “by the numbers.”
It's our hope that the book will be a readily accessible resource that keeps education stats—with cites to original sources—at your fingertips. The key data points should prove valuable to policymakers, school leaders, journalists, parents, and others throughout the year.
For those preferring a web version, check out the companion website www.OhioByTheNumbers.com. While a PDF can be downloaded from this page, you can also email [email protected] for a booklet that's perfect for your desk or briefcase.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the new state legislature can score a major win for educational equality and opportunity by providing more funding for public charter school facilities.
A 2015of Ohio charter schools funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by the Charter School Facilities Initiative found that more than half of respondents’ schools are located in buildings that weren’t designed to be schools. Many of these facilities lack basic school features such as cafeterias, nurse’s offices, or science labs. A third of Ohio charter schools report having no outside space at all for playgrounds or athletic fields.
As with most education disparities, such deficiencies affect poor and minority students most. Theof Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charter schools are located in the state’s big eight urban cities, serving primarily black and Hispanic students. Despite the challenges around finding and paying for good learning spaces, low-income, black charter school students in Cleveland are on average than their district peers.
It’s this success — along with qualities like safety, innovation, and more time in class — that make charter schools so popular among parents. But while successful charter schools would like to expand to serve more students, the challenge of affording classroom space is the biggest hurdle holding them back.
The Ohio legislature has taken some steps to address the problem, but so far they’re inadequate. Charter schools currently receive just $200 per pupil for obtaining and maintaining school buildings. But they spend an average of $785 per pupil, an amount comparable to what districts spend. The difference is made up with funds from charters’ operating budgets — money that should be spent on teachers, books, and other critical student supports.
Ohio’s Community School Classroom Facility program enacted more than three years ago also provided a much-needed $25 million in facility grants for high-performing charter schools. This smart, innovative effort to help Ohio’s best charter schools expand is the right idea. Unfortunately, when the construction of a new school can cost upwards of $10 million, it’s too limited to assist with the growth of even the strongest schools like those in.
By contrast, the capital budget passed last year lavishes districts with $600 million in facilities funding over the next two years. Charter schools cannot access these funds. Some districts also have inventories of unused school buildings that taxpayers have already paid for. And when it’s necessary to construct a new building or renovate an existing one, school districts can ask local voters to contribute more in taxes. Cleveland’s top charter schools receive a small portion of taxes approved for the city’s public schools, but the charter schools can’t determine the amount, and the funds aren’t designated for facilities.
Fixing this problem will require action in Columbus and in Washington, D.C. One of the top priorities for DeWine and the legislature should be to increase the paltry $200 per-pupil facilities allotment that charter schools receive. Doubling the current payment, so that it more closely matches actual facility costs, would be a good start.
And while charter schools have the right of first refusal to buy or lease closed or underused public-school buildings, many districts don’t make these facilities available. The state should enforce the law that any unused school building should be made available to charters rather than sit vacant.
Hopefully, Ohio won’t have to go it alone in addressing charter school facility needs. Opportunity Zone tax incentives that were enacted in the federal tax reform law provide a way to leverage private capital to build new schools in many of the neighborhoods where students desperately need more high-quality options. Ohio has designated 320 tracts as Opportunity Zones.
And now with Democrats in control of the U.S. House, increased infrastructure spending may offer an opportunity for Democrats and President Donald Trump to work together. If school construction is included in an infrastructure bill, charter schools should have equal access to those funds. Congress should also strengthen other federal programs that help charter schools access credit markets on terms closer to those that district schools enjoy.
Together, the state and federal governments can give more students access to good public schools by helping charter schools secure facilities made for learning. This would be an easy win for the new governor and legislators looking to demonstrate their commitment to Ohio’s students, particularly its neediest ones. In a time of great political polarization, it would prove that Democrats and Republicans can work together to achieve worthy goals.
This piece originally appeared asin the Cleveland Plain Dealer.