In an era of “fake news,” political division, and rampant civic illiteracy, one might think smart policymakers would want to ensure that young people exit high school with a solid grasp of American history and government—the foundations of responsible citizenship.
In an era of “fake news,” political division, and rampant civic illiteracy, one might think smart policymakers would want to ensure that young people exit high school with a solid grasp of American history and government—the foundations of responsible citizenship. But recent, backed by this state’s , would jeopardize this goal by scrapping Ohio’s end-of-course exams (EOCs) in U.S. history and government. These EOCs have been in place since 2014–15 when the state first implemented its new high-school assessments that replaced the Ohio Graduation Tests, which also included a social studies exam. Proponents cite the need for more relief from state testing, despite legislators having already dumped the a couple years ago, and a possibility that the high school English I and geometry tests may soon be eliminated under new .
Jettisoning the history and government exams would be a grievous mistake. We know, of course, that testing alone can’t force students to drink deep from the well of our nation’s rich history or fully appreciate its remarkable form of self-government. Yet becauseon these exams is included on state report cards and used in the graduation requirement , high schools are held more accountable for instruction on topics like the Revolutionary War, the Northwest Ordinance, checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights—which would be less assured in the absence of this form of statewide audit.
Perhaps all would be different if historical knowledge and civic literacy were widespread. Sadly, however, Americans’ grasp of these key realms is almost comically weak. In his “” , late-night comedian Jay Leno would sometimes poke fun of people’s ignorance of history and government. (Q: “How many branches of government are there?” A: “Uh … I think there’s several … the Republican, the Democrat.”) One could easily dismiss these blockhead responses as cherry-picked for chuckles, but surveys by the Annenberg Public Policy Center show that they are no laughing matter.
In its, Annenberg found that two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name all three branches of government—a percentage that tracked with previous years—and about two in five wrongly thought that both the House and Senate need to confirm Supreme Court justices. Meanwhile, a recent from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that a paltry one in three Americans would be able to pass the citizenship test, with the lowest passage rates—less than 20 percent—among younger citizens.
National exams confirm young adults’ muddled understanding of the basics of American history and government. In the most recent round of the(2010), just 24 percent of U.S. students were deemed proficient, and a vanishingly small 4 percent met NAEP’s advanced target. Also troubling is that NAEP found declining trends in civics instruction. For instance, 72 percent of 2006 examinees said they had studied the Constitution, but that slipped to 67 percent in 2010.
This woeful picture of civic literacy should make us rethink the elimination of state exams in this subject. But do Ohio’s history and government tests actually cover content that high school students should know? Consider a few of the questions from the spring 2018 end-of-course exams—and clickto see some of the more complex “critical thinking” problems that ask students to interpret historical documents or apply principles of democratic government.
The legislative, executive and judicial branches of the federal government each have specific powers. Which power belongs to the judicial branch? (a) enforcing laws; (b) interpreting laws; (c) passing resolutions; (d) recognizing foreign nations
How did the adoption of the Ohio Constitution of 1851 weaken the power of the General Assembly? (a) by creating district courts throughout the state; (b) by banning the use of poll taxes during elections; (c) by allowing people to begin voting for the office of governor; (d) by establishing that major executive officials would be directly elected by the people
How did the space race between the United States and Soviet Union impact U.S. society? (a) The U.S. government nationalized most large industries; (b) science education was given renewed emphasis in the nation’s schools; (c) public protest grew as opposition against the U.S. space program mounted; (d) defense spending was decreased as tensions between the United States and Soviet Union lessened
Which precedent was set by the Northwest Ordinance and later included in the U.S. Constitution? (a) the guarantee of a right to trial by jury; (b) the creation of a federal system of government; (c) the establishment of full voting rights for women; (d) the denial of property rights to American Indians
Straightforward as they may be, two of these items require an understanding of topics of national significance: the separation of powers and the Cold War. The other two touch on matters that should be near and dear to Ohioans, namely the Northwest Ordinance and the Ohio Constitution.
Granted, these end-of-course exams can’t possibly cover everything students ought to know, and they aren’t mandatory under federal law, as is the case with math, English, and science exams. But they still serve an important purpose that Ohioans should care about: to ensure that all students receive a well-rounded, quality education that includes U.S. history and government, so that they can participate as informed, responsible citizens in a vibrant democracy. That is, after all, one of the most important roles of public education.
Too many of the “workforce credentials” earned by high school students have no value in the labor market
Last month, , a report that examines the types of credentials high school students earn, how states collect data on attainment, employer demand, and whether supply and demand are aligned.and released
The report focuses mostly on national data, but the associatedoffers a wealth of interactive information, including state-specific data that can be disaggregated by credential type and career cluster. This information should be a must-read for Ohio leaders, who have been prioritizing , , and that emphasize the attainment of in-demand credentials. Here’s a look at a few big takeaways for the Buckeye State.
The current landscape
Ohio has tracked secondary credential attainment numbers since 2015, the same year that the General Assembly passed aallowing students to earn an industry credential as a . More than 49,000 credentials were earned by high school students during the 2017–18 school year, but fewer than 13,000 of them were considered in demand. To determine which credentials were in demand, Burning Glass used its proprietary dataset to search nearly 40,000 online job boards, newspapers, and employer sites for job postings that requested specific credentials or skills. While the report itself reflected all job postings collected in the U.S., the website makes it possible to localize those just to Ohio. (For more information on how the report’s authors determined whether a credential is considered in demand, see Appendix B of the .)
The report identifies five types of credentials students can earn. Certifications were the most commonly earned credential by Ohio’s students, with over 25,000 issued during the most recent school year. General career readiness credentials, which measure foundational workplace skills and are applicable across virtually all occupations, clocked in as the second most common with over 18,000. Software credentials and licenses were significantly smaller in size, with just over 3,000 and 1,600, respectively. Ohio had no credentials, per the report, earned via career and technical education (CTE) assessments.
Data on career clusters
Most credentials available to high school students are offered through CTE. Theis used by a majority of states— —as a means of structuring CTE pathways. The Credentials Matter website disaggregates data according to sixteen of these clusters.
In Ohio, the highest number of credentials—just over 7,000—was earned in the transportation, distribution, and logistics cluster. Over 93 percent of these credentials were considered in demand. Unfortunately, the four clusters that posted the next-highest numbers had significantly smaller percentages considered in demand. Take a look:
These data seem to suggest that while thousands of Ohio students are earning credentials, few of them are actually in demand by employers.
Other useful data around career clusters involve CTE concentrators. These are students who complete a substantial amount of coursework in one particular area. Interestingly, the cluster with the highest number of concentrators—agriculture, food, and natural resources, which had over 6,000 concentrators—had only 187 credentials earned, and none of them were considered in demand. Compare that to marketing, a cluster where there were only 1,600 concentrators and 255 earned credentials, but 100 percent were considered in demand.
Supply and demand alignment
Ohio is considered one of twelve states where supply and demand are “moderately aligned.” A brief look at the top ten credentials earned in the Buckeye State reveals that six of them are oversupplied, meaning the number earned outpaces employer demand. Three are labeled as very undersupplied, and only one—the Automotive Service Excellence Certification—has a supply that meets demand. The two most commonly earned credentials,and , are general career readiness identifications that like CPR, fire prevention, and the dangers of electrical hazards. Those skills can be important—sometimes even life-or-death—but they don’t put students on a clear pathway toward a well-paying job. And according to data from Burning Glass, there are zero employers who require them.
Meanwhile, of the ten credentials that are considered the most in demand, nine are identified as very undersupplied.
These data reinforce what the career clusters information showed—thousands of high school students are earning credentials that very few employers demand. Moreover, the credentials that employers do want are vastly undersupplied. In some cases, the misalignment could be due to age restrictions or the need for a high school diploma. For example, nearly 70,000 job postings requested workers with a commercial driver’s license, but only twelve of those credentials were earned last year. That’s a huge gap. But as is the case with traditional driver’s licenses, commercial drivers have to start with a learner’s permit, andto anyone under the age of eighteen. Even with that age restriction, though, the gap is still startlingly large—and there are other credentials that don’t have age restrictions but are still vastly undersupplied.
The upshot of all these data is that Ohio has some serious work to do. Tracking how many high schoolers earn credentials is a good starting point, but state leaders should also collect information on postsecondary attainment. They should also allow researchers to link attainment with long-term student wage outcomes. Expanding access to credentialing pathways and directing new funding toward programs that are actually in demand, as the recent state budget does, is also critical. But equally important is downsizing or phasing out programs that produce credentials that aren’t in high demand. The data show that there are many areas in which to do so.
Student wellness and success funding could make Ohio a national leader in providing wraparound services
It’s budget season in Ohio, and that means frenzied debate about a wide swath of policy proposals. In education, the debates have mostly centered on accountability:, , and in particular. What hasn’t been discussed—at least not at length and certainly not with as much intensity—is one of the largest new funding streams that Governor DeWine’s team has : student wellness and success funding (SWSF).
SWSF is intended to do exactly what its name implies—improve student wellness by addressing non-academic needs. The governor has proposed a $550 million pot of funds that would be available for all public schools and awarded on a per-pupil basis, based on the percentage of low-income children residing in a district. Districts with higher percentages would receive more funding. Districts and schools would be required to submit a report to the Ohio Department of Education that outlines how they used their funding. Spending is limited to the following ten areas:
- Mental health services
- Services for homeless youth
- Services for child welfare involved youth
- Community liaisons
- Physical health care services
- Mentoring programs
- Family engagement and support services
- programming, an that works to address non-cognitive barriers to student learning
- Professional development regarding trauma informed care
- Professional development regarding cultural competency
Unlike some of the governor’s other proposals, the House changed very little about SWSF in its version of the budget. In fact, thewas to increase funding by $25 million for FY 2020 and a whopping $100 million for FY 2021. This substantial funding increase, as well as for the policy, indicates that SWSF could become one of those rare education policy proposals that passes without inciting bitter debate. (Of course schools usually don’t object to more money!)
This lack of fanfare isn’t totally surprising. Funding for non-academic supports—also called wraparound services or integrated student supports, depending on whom you ask—is becoming increasingly popular. For many folks, it’s a moral issue. Millions of kids across the country, particularly those from low-income communities, have serious non-academic needs that aren’t being met. It feels wrong to just do nothing, and schools seem like a logical place to house supportive services. And lest one think that supportive services are outside the realm of a school’s mission, there’s an academic motivation, too: Successfully addressing outside-of-school factors that affect learning could lift academic achievement.
But research on whether that strategy actually works is mixed. Last year, Matt Barnum at Chalkbeatof whether wraparound services boost achievement. He wrote that the findings vary depending on the program that’s under the microscope, but overall results from nineteen rigorous studies show “a mix of positive and inconclusive findings.” Results for non-academic outcomes, such as attendance and behavior, are inconsistent. And it’s “frustratingly” unclear what makes a program actually work.
A morefrom Michael McShane comes to similar conclusions. While some studies show that students develop improved attitudes about school and better relationships with peers and adults, there is little to no evidence of improved achievement, attendance, or behavior. Evidence on what high-quality implementation looks like is incomplete. In total, “large-scale evaluations of wraparound programs to date have shown only small benefits to student achievement, at best.”
To be clear, asking what works in education isthan it seems. Rigorous research is important and should be taken seriously, but it would be unwise to ignore the outsized importance of local context and implementation efforts. That’s why Ohio’s SWSF proposal, which puts much of the spending power in the hands of local rather than state officials, could become a national model.
It is absolutely critical for schools and districts to have full control over how they spend this funding. Students in urban districts have different needs than those who attend rural or suburban schools, and varying age groups need different types of support. Local leaders and educators know their students and their needs far better than anyone in state government does. But teachers and administrators already struggle with overfull plates. Even if they opt to use service providers and existing organizations rather than providing services in-house, identifying the right organizations and coordinating with multiple providers could be difficult at best and a disastrous waste of money at worst.
There are a few ways the state can help. First, the Senate should add a provision to the budget bill that would allow districts to hire site coordinators to oversee SWSF efforts. Hiring a coordinator shouldn’t be mandatory. Some schools may already have the right personnel in place, or they may have existing relationships with service providers that would make a coordinator unnecessary. But schools that are starting from scratch should be explicitly permitted to use their funds to hire a full-time staff person to ensure that implementation efforts are successful.
Second, lawmakers should call for the department to do more than just collect reports from schools on how funds were spent. The state should be evaluating whether these funds succeeded in improving student wellness and achievement. Determining which programs and initiatives improved student outcomes and in what context they were successful is critical, something that a previously acclaimed initiative, the, failed to do. Evaluating schools’ wellness programs will enable educators to identify which make the biggest difference and hold the most potential for replication elsewhere—and those that seem to have no effects.
Third, lawmakers should direct the department to create a list of quality service providers and programs based on the information they gather from districts. This list should include a brief overview of which services an organization offers, how those services are offered, and where and when they can be offered. It should also include any available data on student outcomes. This list should not be used as an accountability mechanism for providers. And schools shouldn’t be limited to working with only those providers on the list. Instead, it should function as a resource that makes it easier for schools to track down high quality partners who will help them implement SWSF plans with fidelity.
All in all, Ohio’s got a pretty big opportunity before it. The evidence that integrated support services can impact academic outcomes is mixed. But it makes sense for schools to support student health and wellness for their own sake, and Governor DeWine and his team should be praised for proposing a bold plan with an eye toward maximum student benefit. With just a few tweaks, this ambitious plan could prove transformative for students—and make Ohio a leader for the rest of the nation.
Teach For America (TFA) has been recruiting and placing college graduates into underserved classrooms since 1989. Throughout this thirty-year tenure, the program’s teacher-training methods and recruitment strategies have evolved. Some of the most significant changes occurred around 2005, when the organization refined its training curriculum, completed a substantial expansion, and began incorporating student data into analyses of performance.
TFA corps members make up only a small fraction of teachers in America’s classrooms, but there is no shortage of research on their impact. Early evidence was mixed and inconclusive, but a number of more recent studies find positive effects in various subjects and grade levels. Very few of these studies, however, take into account the dynamic nature of TFA over time, opting instead to view the organization as a static intervention. This new study by Emily Penner of the University of California, Irvine, attempts to fill that gap by examining the relationship between TFA, student achievement, and observable teacher qualifications over time.
The report analyzes data from classrooms in two of the three TFA regions that currently operate in North Carolina: Eastern North Carolina, which was founded in 1999, and Charlotte, which was founded in 2004. (The third region, North Carolina Piedmont Triad, was founded in 2015 and thus not included in this study.) The North Carolina Educational Research Data Center at Duke University (NCERDC) provided student records that were matched to their teachers, and TFA assisted in identifying teachers who joined the corps between 1999 and 2010. They matched 1,304 corps members with NCERDC data—699 in Eastern North Carolina, and 605 in Charlotte. Between both regions, 904 were assigned to teach a tested subject.
The author focuses on schools, grades, and years that had at least one TFA and one non-TFA teacher placed in tested subjects. Achievement is based on end-of-grade or end-of-course student test scores beginning in fourth grade. In elementary and middle school that includes math and reading, but four subjects are included for high school: math, English, science, and social studies. The study controls for several student variables, including gender, race/ethnicity, parent education, English proficiency, special education status, and gifted status.
The findings indicate that the relationship between TFA teachers and student achievement—what the author refers to as the “TFA effect”—is positive in every subject and grade except elementary reading, where the results were negative but not significant. Effects are the largest in high school science, but are also substantial in math. Having a TFA teacher is also associated with significantly higher achievement in high school social studies, elementary and middle school math, and at a more marginally significant level, high school English.
The report also examines whether the relationship between TFA teachers and student achievement can be explained by observable teacher qualifications, such as years of experience, the selectivity of the individual’s undergraduate program, Praxis licensure exam scores, and whether a teacher was fully certified or had a master’s degree. There are large differences in these qualifications between TFA and non-TFA teachers: TFA corps members are much less experienced, and less likely to be fully certified or hold a master’s degree. But their average Praxis scores are 0.4 standard deviations higher than teachers in the same school, subject/grade, and year. This suggests that TFA teachers have a stronger grasp of the material than non-TFA teachers, even though they lack experience and formal credentials. The data also show that Praxis scores are the only observable characteristic that partly explains the relationship between TFA and student achievement for nearly all subjects.
In terms of trends in TFA impacts over time, the report compares the effects of TFA prior to and after the 2005 organizational changes. Results from elementary math and middle school math and reading are “indicative of an improvement” pre- and post-change. Three of the four high school subjects—English, science, and social studies—also indicate improvements. In high school math, the positive association between a TFA teacher and achievement was sustained, though effects in the earlier period were slightly larger than in the latter.
Overall, the findings of this study indicate that, in many subjects, TFA teachers have been “associated with improved academic performance over more than a decade.” Importantly, their impact has increased over time in several subjects, at least among those working in North Carolina. These improvements cannot be accounted for by teacher qualifications, and they did not occur immediately after TFA’s substantial reform efforts in 2005. Instead, the positive trends suggest “gradual improvements over time,” which could be an indication that TFA’s reforms took several years to make an appreciable impact. So far, there is no research that isolates which specific reforms led to improvements—but perhaps in the future there may be.
SOURCE: Emily K. Penner, “,” SAGE Journals (May 2019).
Editor’s Note: Back in September 2018, awaiting the election of our next governor, we at the Fordham Institute began developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is one of those policy proposals.
With Mike DeWine sworn in as Ohio’s 70th governor, and with his administration now well underway, we are proud to roll out the full set of our education policy proposals. You can download the full document, titled Fulfilling the Readiness Promise: Twenty-five education policy ideas for Ohio, at this link, or you can access the individual policy proposals from the links provided here.
Proposal: Provide brick-and-mortar charters with additional operational and facilities support. There are several ways to bolster operational funding, including adding a multiplier to their base funding amounts, tying their state funding to the state and local per-pupil funding of the nearest district, or requiring districts to share locally generated funds with charters. As for facilities, Ohio should boost the state reimbursement from the current $200 to $1,000 per pupil, an amount that more accurately reflects schools’ average facilities costs. This proposal does not pertain to online charter schools, which are and should be funded slightly differently than site-based charters.
Background: Most brick-and-mortar charters are located in high-poverty communities and educate primarily low-income and minority students. Despite teaching significant numbers of Ohio’s disadvantaged children, charters remain severely underfunded. Under state law, they cannot levy local taxes (unless it occurs in conjunction with the local district), which denies them a major source of public funding that all districts can and do access. Only a few Cleveland charters receive even a small share of local taxpayer support via a unique agreement with the district. Charters instead rely on state revenues and, to a lesser extent, federal and philanthropic dollars. Together, these funding sources do not fully compensate for the absence of local funds that provide billions for districts. Making matters worse is that the state provides little to help charters cover capital expenses—$200 per student for facilities although the average facility costs for charters and districts are close to $1,000 per pupil per year. The overall result is an unequal system in which charters receive less in total funding than nearby districts, even though they educate pupils with similar needs. An analysis of funding data from FY 2015-17 finds that Ohio’s urban “Big Eight” brick-and-mortar charters receive $4,092 per pupil less than their district counterparts, a 28 percent funding shortfall.
Proposal rationale: Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charters have long been forced to make do with insufficient resources. Though some schools are able to overcome such obstacles, there are systematic consequences to underfunding charters: They have to pay their teachers less than those working in districts, creating barriers to attracting and retaining talented educators. Inadequate operational and facilities support also makes Ohio a poor location for topnotch national charter organizations looking to expand, and it fails to encourage excellent home-grown charters to replicate. Lastly—and most troublingly—underfunding charters shortchanges tens of thousands of low-income children of the resources needed to gain a world-class education.
Cost: Increasing funding for brick-and-mortar charters would require additional state investments. For example, adding a multiplier of 1.10 to the base amount for charters would increase state funding by approximately $60 million per year. An increase from the current $200 per student for facilities to $1,000 would cost an additional $80 million per year.
Resources: For a detailed analysis of charter funding in Ohio, see Aaron Churchill, , Thomas B. Fordham Institute (2018); for information on teacher salaries, see the 2013 report by Jay Zagorsky, et al., published by the Ohio Education Research Center; for data on charter facilities, see the 2017 report by Kevin Hesla and colleagues, published by the U.S. Department of Education; and for examples of states that have recently boosted charter funding significantly, see Parker Baxter, Todd L. Ely, and Paul Teske’s article “ ” in Education Next (2018) and Andrew Broy’s article “ ” in Flypaper (2017).
Editor’s Note: Back in September 2018, awaiting the election of our next governor, we at the Fordham Institute began developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is one of those policy proposals.
With Mike DeWine sworn in as Ohio’s 70th governor, and with his administration now well underway, we are proud to roll out the full set of our education policy proposals. You can download the full document, titled Fulfilling the Readiness Promise: Twenty-five education policy ideas for Ohio, at
, or you can access the individual policy proposals from the links provided .
Proposal: Repeal statutory provisions that require districts to implement teacher-salary schedules based on years of service and training, and repeal the outdated statute related to teacher-salary policies for districts receiving the now-expired federal Race to the Top funds.
Background: Based on seniority, master’s degrees, and other courses taken, “step-and-lane” salary schedules have traditionally determined teacher pay in district-operated schools. Yet research has consistently found little connection between student learning and this approach to compensating teachers. Meanwhile, such rigid salary schedules thwart effective management of the educator workforce. Because they often prescribe low starting pay, schools face difficulties attracting and retaining younger teachers. And because they don’t differentiate pay based on individuals’ skills and abilities—or their subject specialties and outside job prospects—schools cannot adjust salaries in efforts to keep talented teachers in the classroom. As a result, analysts and reformers have long urged schools to move toward more flexible arrangements that base pay on educator performance and abilities, subject-matter expertise, working conditions, or professional responsibilities. Despite the common sense—and policy wisdom—of such alternative approaches, most districts still rely on step-and-lane salary schedules. In Ohio, part of the reason can be traced to state law (ORC 3317.14) that requires districts to annually adopt salary schedules based on training (such as master’s degrees or graduate credits earned) and years of service. The only exception is the Cleveland school district, which is allowed to adopt a differentiated salary schedule (as were districts that used to receive funds under the now-defunct Race to the Top program).
Proposal rationale: Repealing salary-schedule requirements—which don’t exist for most charter and private schools—would better empower local districts to determine how best to pay their instructional teams, whether based on classroom effectiveness, employment in higher-need schools, teaching in more demanding subject areas, greater responsibility, and other factors that might legitimately affect pay, along with experience and educational background. With greater flexibility in the realm of compensation, which is by far the largest item in their budgets, school leaders could allocate funds more strategically so that their best educators are rewarded and encouraged to remain in the classroom. The critical decision on how to compensate educators would rest with districts and allow for innovative pay practices that today are severely restricted by statute.
Cost: No fiscal impact on the state budget.
Resources: For more information about teacher experience and effectiveness, see Teacher Experience: What Does the Research Say?, published by The New Teacher Project (2012); for evidence on the weak correlation between master’s degrees and instructional effectiveness, see Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson’s report Do Master’s Degrees Matter? Advanced Degrees, Career Paths, and the Effectiveness of Teachers, published by CALDER (2015); and for a review on the research and policy issues, see Michael Podgursky’s chapter in the Economics of Education, Volume 3 (2011), entitled “ .” An overview of states’ teacher-compensation policies can be found at the National Council on Teacher Quality’s web page “ ”
NOTE: Today the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 166, the state’s new biennial budget. Specifically, the committee heard testimony on a plan to alter the state’s current academic distress framework for consistently low-performing school districts. Fordham vice president Chad Aldis testified as a proponent of the plan. This is the written version his testimony.
Thank you Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Terhar, Ranking Member Fedor and Senate Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity today to provide testimony on the proposed amendment to Ohio’s academic distress commission (ADC) law.
My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.
As many of you know, Fordham has—while acknowledging changes are needed—been highly critical of recent efforts to repeal ADCs. We believe that this amendment, which creates a new process for intervening in persistently low performing districts and establishes school improvement commissions (where necessary), is a huge step in the right direction.
There are several reasons why we strongly urge you to include this amendment in the budget.
- It begins the intervention process after one year of an overall grade of F. Under current law, districts must receive three consecutive, overall F’s before they face intervention. While such a slow moving timeline might work well for adults, the students these schools serve deserve a more urgent solution. By designating districts as “in need of improvement” and requiring them to both undergo a root cause analysis and create an improvement plan after just one year of poor performance, the law will ensure that serious efforts to improve student learning begin as soon as student results indicate there might be a problem.
- Local school districts drive initial improvement efforts. One of the most common criticisms of ADCs is that they eliminate local control. This amendment would address those concerns by allowing struggling school districts to take the lead in crafting their own improvement plans. The plans themselves aid community participation by requiring the convening of community stakeholder groups in their development. These are important changes that should greatly improve the operational dynamics of Ohio’s school improvement efforts. Districts, unlike under the current system, have the option—but aren’t required—to contract with a school improvement organization with the state picking up the tab. This gives those districts who want help to improve, but lack either the necessary expertise or financial resources, the means to do it. At the end of the day, the goal has always been to help districts avoid more intensive intervention efforts. This amendment does that.
- There is clear accountability for districts that fail to improve. The ADC revisions included in the House’s version of the budget would allow persistently low performing districts to continue implementing locally created improvement plans indefinitely, regardless of whether the plans actually improve student learning. That’s a clear abdication of the state’s responsibility to students and families. This amendment is a far better option, as it would require districts that have failed to improve after five consecutive years—as well as districts that aren’t following their plans with fidelity—to transition to the more rigorous intervention of a school improvement commission. It’s also worth noting that this amendment outlines clear exit criteria from “in need of improvement” status for districts that improve.
- School improvement commissions are public entities that must engage with the stakeholders in a transparent way. Another common criticism of ADCs is that the CEO wasn’t accountable to or transparent with the local community. This amendment addresses that complaint in a variety of ways. First and foremost, all commission members must be residents of the county or an adjacent county to where the district is located. The amendment also requires the school improvement director—appointed by the commission—to appear before the district and give quarterly reports about the progress of the district. In addition, the commission is required to conduct an annual performance evaluation of the director and submit it to the local school board.
The debate over ADCs thus far has been contentious and intense. Improving low performing schools is hard work. When this body first indicated its desire to tackle the issues surrounding ADCs, I’ll admit that I was skeptical.
I’ve changed my mind. The principles exemplified by this amendment are sound, and the solutions offered are extremely promising. This is a smart, well-thought out response to some of the loudest criticisms of House Bill 70. I urge you to include this language in your finalized version of the budget.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have.