At this point, we’re all tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” But clichés are clichés for a reason, and 2020 has certainly been an unprecedented year. Many of us would like nothing more than to leave this difficult year in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, the events of 2020 seem likely to stretch into the new year.
At this point, we’re all tired of hearing the word “unprecedented.” But clichés are clichés for a reason, and 2020 has certainly been an unprecedented year. Many of us would like nothing more than to leave this difficult year in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, the events of 2020 seem likely to stretch into the new year. That’s especially true in education, as several of the biggest issues in 2021 will have a pandemic-related tinge.
Here’s five predictions about what’s in store for Ohio education in 2021.
5. Ohio will continue to focus on career and technical education
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, often referred to as, was signed into federal law with overwhelming bipartisan support approximately two years ago. Since then, states have been hard at work for how to implement the law. . In fact, the Buckeye State was part of to improve career training and readiness long before the reauthorization of Perkins, and an are earning industry-recognized credentials. Governor DeWine’s contained several CTE initiatives, and it’s expected that his upcoming budget will do the same. As one of the few remaining education policies with bipartisan support, look for Ohio to continue expanding and refining CTE in 2021.
4. State and local leaders will look for creative ways to catch kids up academically
One of the big headlines of 2020 was that school closures and remote learning efforts led to, especially for . To address unfinished learning and prevent it from becoming permanent, schools will need to get creative about intervention efforts. indicates that increasing instructional time can narrow achievement gaps, so expect leaders to call for schools to offer a plethora of additional learning opportunities outside of regular school hours, such as or .
3. State testing will return, but accountability consequences will remain on pause
For intervention and remediation efforts to work, schools will need to know where students are academically. This means testing is. The type of testing matters, too. , but so are state assessments that offer leaders and the general public a big picture look at how students are doing—especially low-income and minority students who were probably hit hardest by the pandemic. Although some Ohio lawmakers—with the backing of traditional education groups—have to eliminate state testing for the 2020–21 school year, administering these tests is a federal requirement. That means Ohio can’t lawfully skip them unless it’s granted a waiver by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will grant such a waiver, but and have expressed their support for state testing in 2021. If the vaccine rollout goes smoothly, and the majority of schools are able to safely reopen in person by the spring, it’s reasonable to assume that the feds will tell states to go forward with administering state exams. Regardless of what occurs with state assessment, though, it’s a safe bet that school ratings and other accountability consequences will remain paused for the 2020–21 school year (as back in June).
2. Resuming in-person school will be contentious and complicated
Speaking of schools operating in person, the early days of 2021 will probably be a redux of this fall, when reopening conversations were. , , . Experts predict that the next three months—including when students are set to return to school after holiday breaks—could be “ .” The fact that we’ll soon have vaccines available for essential workers such as teachers is good news, but it’s important to be realistic. Vaccines won’t make things safe overnight, and families with high-risk members may prefer to keep their students home for longer periods of time. The vast majority of schools are going to be facing tough questions early in the new year related to in-person learning and reopening, and those questions may linger into the spring. With any luck, however, the start to the 2021–22 school year will mark a very welcome return to normalcy.
1. Debates about the school funding formula will dominate the budget cycle
When thewas introduced in the spring of 2019, Ohio’s long-standing school funding debate took on new life. A pair of companion bills appeared before the during their lame duck sessions, but nothing was signed into law. That means that, as budget talks gear up next year, debates over the school funding formula are going to be hotter than ever—especially since budget season will occur in the backdrop of an economic downturn, and the Cupp-Patterson plan would add (if not more) to state spending.
There you have it, folks. Things are looking up—yay vaccines!—but for better or worse, 2021 will likely retain some of 2020’s drama.
Happy New Year!
Only a glutton for punishment would want a rehash of the biggest K–12 education stories of 2020. They are no secret—and frankly depressing: widespread school closures, predictions about massive learning losses, and students going M.I.A. from remote learning. In the world of policy, states including Ohio pressed pause on state exams and standard accountability measures, trimmed education budgets due to the economic turmoil, and dealt with fraught debates over whether to re-open schools.
Sunnier times hopefully await Ohioans in the coming year, but amidst the gloom of 2020, there were still a few things to celebrate. What were the education stories that made last year merry and bright? Here’s my top five:
5. Charter school performance on the upswing. Recognizing the potential of a model that gives educational leaders freedom from red tape and offers parents more school options, Fordham has long advocated for public charter schools. At the same time, we’ve also insisted that charters provide quality options for the students who attend them. While Ohio has long been home to some excellent charter schools, the historical performance of the sector as a whole has tended to be spotty. But in October, a new Fordham éphane Lavertu of the Ohio State University brought good tidings about charter performance. His analysis reveals significant improvements in the sector in recent years, and he finds that brick-and-mortar charters today are making a big impact on student achievement, especially for pupils from less-advantaged backgrounds. These results should give charter advocates a reason to cheer. For open-minded skeptics, we hope these results will encourage them to reexamine their presuppositions.by St
4. Expanded private school opportunities for middle-income Ohioans. Going into 2020, the hottest topic of debate in education was the future of Ohio’s. School district officials around the state were lambasting the impending “explosion” of voucher eligibility, while private school advocates argued that rolling back eligibility would pull the rug out from parents. Through the early months of the year, lawmakers were knee-deep in negotiations trying to resolve the issue. But with the pandemic bearing down on the state, those debates were wisely put on hold. In November, legislators quickly took care of this bit of unfinished business by enacting much-needed to the EdChoice programs. One of the key reforms now permits households with incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline to apply for a voucher ($65,500 for a family of four). By raising the income threshold (it was previously set at 200 percent), private school opportunities will soon be within the reach of more middle-income Ohioans.
3. Innovative educators using the lessons of the pandemic to rethink education. It’s cliché, but the saying that “every cloud has a silver lining” is an age-old truism. While the pandemic has caused tremendous disruption to education, one possible upside is that it could be encouraging educational leaders to rethink how teaching and learning is done. To their credit, Ohio’s brightest and most innovative educators are already thinking about how they can leverage the lessons of the pandemic to improve education. In his local paper, Hilliard City Schools’ superintendent “Every event, even a crisis, provides opportunities for improvement.” With any luck, all of Ohio’s educators will adopt just that mindset as we move forward.recently discussed how the new norm of video conferencing could help forge stronger and more parent-centric relationships between school and home. On the Ohio Gadfly blog, charter school leaders and of the United Schools Network shared a number of lessons they’ve learned during the pandemic. The practices and lessons of the Breakthrough Schools in Cleveland and KIPP Columbus were also featured in a from Bellwether Education Partners and Teach For America. As Marschhausen writes,
2. Communities stepping up to lend a hand. Legions of stories could be told about how communities and citizens helped their neighbors during this turbulent year. To give but a small sampling: First up, a story from , where just after the pandemic shuttered schools in that city, General Electric and Staples teamed up to ensure that parents were able to print take-home learning packets for free. Also in the realm of supporting students in the shift to at-home instruction, stories from the , , and areas illustrate the generosity of community members who recognized the technological needs and took action to help. Last, kudos to the nonprofit groups, community centers, and churches that have stepped up to provide space for students to learn. Stories from and offer terrific examples of civic organizations pinch-hitting to meet student needs during the health crisis.
1. Parents taking the initiative to ensure continuity of learning. The dedication of Ohio parents who were thrust into an even greater role in their children’s education deserves the top spot on this list. Much of their work went unseen. The countless moms, dads, grandparents, and other caretakers who labored to help the children they love stay on track didn’t make too many headlines. Yet there were stories about parents taking initiative that did garner attention. As schools moved to online learning for the longer term, some parents banded together to create “. One Lakewood Parents, they’re kind of stressed out trying to figure this out. I think we all are. A little bit of normal for them, that’s what motivates me to do it.” explained the rationale, “,” where a parent or tutor could fill in the learning gaps
The past year in education has been one for the record books. The pandemic has unfortunately led to a constant stream of disheartening stories. But in the midst of such tumult, it’s also worth reflecting on and giving thanks for the tireless work that Ohio educators, community leaders, policymakers, and parents did on behalf of students. Onwards to 2021!
It’s that time of year again when we at Fordham are forced to ask ourselves, “What were they thinking?” The “they” in question is you, our readers and subscribers. And we’re asking the question not to take issue with your level of discernment (as a loyal Gadfly reader, your good taste is a given!), but because we are genuinely interested in what subjects interested you this past year.
We are happy to know which of our opinion pieces and short reviews caught readers’ attention over the last twelve jam-packed months, although the “why” is always the most valuable question.
Here are the top five most-read pieces published on thein 2020—excluding some of our perennial hits like and published in previous years and remaining popular—along with our best guess as to the reason they resonated with you.
5.(Jessica Poiner, 6/4/20).
Four out of five of our most-read pieces this year were related to the coronavirus pandemic, which makes sense, given that it dominated every other aspect of our lives. As the 2019–20 school year limped to a close and the economic effects of pandemic-mitigation shutdowns were starting to be felt, Jessica Poiner looked at the possible implications for private schools. Tuition collection and charitable support were both expected to take a hit, with potential ripple effects into the public school sector as families faced with financial challenges could well be forced to move their children from a private to a district or charter option. In a state with a widespread private school community and popular voucher programs, this discussion clearly was of interest to readers.
Honorable mention:(Jessica Poiner, 4/7/20). Another prescient piece, almost tied for readership with our official number five entrant, this looked at Ohio’s options for using testing waivers and CARES Act funding to best serve students.
4.(Aaron Churchill, 3/19/20)
Readers looking for answers to difficult questions about state testing and report cards due to uncertain times ahead gravitated to this blog. On March 12, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine announced that all Ohio schools would close for three weeks in the face of the oncoming Covid-19 wave. Aaron Churchill shared the governor’s optimism at the time that in-person school could potentially resume before the scheduled end of the 2019–20 school year. Aaron posited in this piece that a modicum of normalcy could be retained by having students sit for state tests at some point before the year ended, provided improving health conditions. Needless to say, that did not come to pass, as the crisis has persisted for month after agonizing month. Here’s hoping the optimism remains for more normalcy and collection of vital student achievement data in 2021.
3.(Aaron Churchill, 2/24/20)
The only non-Covid piece in our top five this year was this short review (a staple of Fordham’s analysis and commentary work for many years) of a RAND Corporation study looking at implementation of a social-emotional learning (SEL) program at a large school district in Mississippi. The downbeat findings—that no significant differences in SEL outcomes, school climate, attendance, suspensions, or test scores were observed after multiple years of implementation—coupled with national interest in SEL likely drove readers to this piece. Whether readers were looking to validate their perspectives or to pick a fight with the evaluation is unknown.
2.(Jessica Poiner, 7/1/20)
No such national interest can be attributed to this piece. Honestly, it is surprising that anyone outside of the city of Dayton would have an interest in the ongoing struggles the district has had with transporting its own students, as well as resident students attending private and charter schools. But readers came in droves to this look at Dayton’s years-long saga, including three different schemes in the preceding twelve months. The latest plan this summer, ultimately scuttled by the pandemic, was rolled out with minimal and conflicting information mere days before the scheduled start of the school year, leaving charter school leaders and their families with more questions than answers. Perhaps transportation struggles are so widespread among families utilizing school choice that this localized fiasco struck a deeper nerve than Jessica expected.
1.(Aaron Churchill, 3/27/20)
Our most-read blog of the year hails from a few weeks into the pandemic, when families were reeling from school closures and they, along with policymakers and the education establishment, were realizing that three weeks would not constitute the end of the upheaval. It is prescient in that Aaron was quick to equate the spring’s “remote learning” effort to old-fashioned homeschooling, a fact which had perhaps not come into general awareness yet. But as those final months of the 2019–20 school year wore on, the onus of educating millions of students seemed to shift from schools and teachers to parents and “pods” for the longer term. Aaron laid out the steps required for any Ohio parent to utilize homeschooling—formally taking on the compulsory education of their children from the “education system.” “Out of necessity,” he wrote, “millions of Ohio parents are experiencing first-hand what homeschooling would be like.” Many, he concluded, will likely “come to a deeper appreciation of the hard work their local schools do to serve children. But some might just find themselves attracted to a form of schooling they would’ve never otherwise considered.” Readers continued to find and visit this piece as spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall. When the pandemic disruption to education is over—February? March? June?—perhaps we will finally see just how predictive it was.
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There you have it: The blogs and reviews that you, our audience, read the most during the last twelve months. In case you didn’t know, we also had a robust research slate this year that complements our blogging. Here’s hoping for a less turbulent, more “normal” (for lack of a better word) year in 2021. We hope you’ll stay with us for more analysis, reviews, and commentary on the issues impacting Ohio schools.
- Closing out the year with a further discussion of graduation rates, the Dispatch settled on the topic of charter school grad rates, finding them to be far lower than for traditional district schools. The theme seems to be that charter high schools are obviously worse than traditional district high schools, but Fordham’s Aaron Churchill raises the issue that students who move between school types during their high school career can cause a data hiccup that tends to “disguise” just which school gets credited or debited with “success” or “failure” on behalf of that student. No one asked me, of course, but I might also suggest that some cooking of the books on grad rates (the deuce you say!) might be happening as well. And if so, the putative cooks are probably not the folks whose books look less good. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/26/17)
- A bill has been promised for the new year which would make changes in the state’s school and district report cards. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/28/17) Fordham’s report on the topic of state report cards from earlier this year is alluded to in the Gongwer piece. It is mentioned specifically in this year end education news review courtesy of central Ohio public radio. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 12/29/17)
- In something of a year-end understatement, Jeremy Kelley says that 2017 was a “wild year” in education news in Dayton, and provides a harrowing list. Worse yet, very few of those particularly troublesome chickens have come home to roost. Bring on 2018, amiright?! (Dayton Daily News, 12/27/17)
- Soup labels, soda tabs, and box tops are all, apparently, heading for the last roundup as means for schools to raise money. Participation is dwindling in all of them and the first two have actually already ended. The third is retrenching for the 21st Century. Is nothing sacred, I ask you? A sad note to end the year of news clips. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/29/17)