School funding has been front-and-center over the past month in Ohio with the high profile Cupp-Patterson plan driving media coverage.
School funding has been front-and-center over the past month in Ohio with thedriving media coverage. While the itself has merits and drawbacks, the news reports on school funding have unfortunately been riddled with errors and misconceptions. That’s a shame, as the topic is already so poorly understood by the general public. This piece is not meant to criticize the entire press corps—many journalists work hard to understand the issue and report it accurately—but to illustrate some common myths that continue to be filtered through the media.
First up, a the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The article opens with this line:in
“The Ohio House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would bring sweeping changes to how education is funded, since the current scheme was found unconstitutional 23 years ago.”
It’s true that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the school funding system in place at that time was unconstitutional. But to say that the “current scheme” was found unconstitutional is nonsense. As I show in a new, Ohio’s funding system is much different today than it was during the years in which the was being heard. Indeed, a reasonable reading of the data yields a conclusion that today’s system would probably pass constitutional muster with flying colors.
The article continues:
“HB 305 is the result of years of work and negotiations in the public education community, since it would change how much money the state’s 610 school districts receive from the state and raise locally for education.”
This bolded clause (emphasis mine) is an odd characterization of House Bill 305, the legislative version of the Cupp-Patterson plan. The sentence starts off well, correctly stating that the bill changes the amount of money districts receive from the state. But HB 305 wouldn’t necessarily change the amount of local funding received by districts. Under the plan, districts would, per continuing, still be required to levy a minimum local property tax rate of 2 percent to receive state funds. They would still be allowed to supplement funding by asking local voters to approve higher tax rates. In the end, the plan doesn’t call for any changes to the way local tax rates are set or property values assessed.
A sentence later, the piece allows advocates to misrepresent Ohio’s current funding system:
“Proponents argue that the current funding scheme isn’t a formula and what they’ve created in HB 305 is one that is logical and can be defended.”
The proponents of HB 305 wrongly suggest that Ohio doesn’t have a school funding formula. Though suspended for FYs 2020–21, the state does indeed have one, and state legislators could easily in the next biennium. Though it’s undermined by “caps and guarantees”—policies that work outside of the formula—the current model generally delivers state dollars, via formulas in state law, to the districts that need them the most. Unfortunately, only the proponents get their say about the current system. The article doesn’t include any comments from impartial sources ( ) or even those who might oppose the plan.
Finally, the article makes a hash of today’s funding model in this description:
“Currently, the state’s education funding scheme attempts to equalize learning for all Ohio children, regardless of how rich or poor their community is, by bifurcating districts into two categories: those that are guaranteed state funding because their local property taxes can’t generate enough to educate students—which is 336 districts, or most of them—and the remaining ones with higher property values, which caps off the level of state funding they receive.”
Ohio’s funding system does not attempt to “equalize learning” by bifurcating districts into two categories. In reality, the state attempts to equalize funding by accounting for districts’ property values and, in many cases, resident incomes through a mechanism known as the State Share Index. When this index is applied to state funding amounts, it ensures that less wealthy districts receive more state aid. The “bifurcation” that is referenced above refers to two policies—caps and guarantees—that exist outside of the state’s funding formula and have nothing to do with equalizing efforts.
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Sadly, substandard coverage of school funding is not limited to Cleveland. Consider several statements in a recentwritten by the Akron Beacon Journal’s editorial board.
“Not only would House Bill 305 help to gradually end what can be nasty community fights over school property tax levies, experts say the state would finally be in compliance with a 1997 Ohio Supreme Court ruling declaring the state’s school funding unconstitutional.”
Again, HB 305 does not change local property tax law and thus Ohio citizens would still be asked to vote on local taxes. Like most elections, they’ll probably remain contentious. The editorial also makes the obligatory reference to the “unconstitutional” funding system—again, as if nothing’s changed and the DeRolph decision holds for perpetuity.
The editorial then asserts that Ohio’s education system “has deteriorated” since 1997.
“That’s impressive considering Ohio’s system—if you can call it that—has deteriorated since the 1997 ruling.”
Ah, the myth of the deteriorating education system. In reality, more is spent today on K–12 education than two decades ago. Adjusted for inflation, Ohio schools spent $9,074 per pupil in 1997. In 2017, spending stood at $12,569 per pupil. How is that a deterioration? Moreover, Ohio’s higher-poverty districts currently spend more than the average district statewide, something that my recentand a from EdBuild show. One could, of course, look beyond dollars and cents to gauge progress. In terms of educational standards, Ohio, in the 1990s, largely relied on check-box compliance standards in an effort to ensure that children were receiving a decent education. Today, the state relies primarily on academic outcomes to hold schools accountable for delivering results. It goes without saying that more needs to be done to increase educational opportunities for all, but the casual assertion that the education system is in decline ignores years of progress.
The editorial then goes for the crowd-pleasing slam on “private” charter schools.
“Another key provision would require Ohio to pay private charter schools directly for their students, instead of taking money from public districts, including local taxpayer funds.”
Charter schools are non-profit, tuition-free, open enrollment public schools. They are not private schools. The editorial also parrots critics’ refrain that charters’ “take” money from public districts. In truth, charter schools aren’t taking, siphoning, or stealing money that is under the ownership of school districts. Students voluntarily choose to attend public charter schools, and the money designated for their education rightly moves to the school in which they attend. To round out the urban legend, the ABJ editorial falsely states that charters “take” local taxpayer funds. Charter schools receive state and federal funding, but no local dollars (here’s aabout how charter funding actually works).
Finally, the editorial wraps up with the “unfunded schools” allegation.
“In this case, it’s taken 23 years for lawmakers and school leaders to build and agree to a plan that fixes a system that’s consistently underfunded Ohio’s schools.”
Whether schools are “underfunded” is certainly a matter of opinion, and many may well reach this conclusion. But the opinion should at least be informed by the. The average Ohio school district today expends upwards of $12,500 per student. That amount is just above the national average and comparable to the spending levels of neighboring Great Lakes states. Unfortunately, the editorialists omit those critical facts.
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School funding is complicated and difficult to explain to lay readers. But botching the facts and distorting reality doesn’t benefit Ohioans. On school funding, Ohio’s Fourth Estate can do much better.
It’s been a busy lame duck session in Ohio. Now thathas been , the big point of debate in education circles is Ohio’s school funding formula. The most discussed proposal, known as the , was initially put forward in the spring of 2019. It has undergone plenty of revisions since then, and the latest iteration has been introduced in a pair of companion bills currently before the and . While it’s that funding reform will pass , the proposal will almost certainly remain on the table when Ohio begins the budget process next year.
But the state’s school funding formula isn’t the only important fiscal issue. The upcoming budget season will occur in the backdrop of an economic downturn that will force lawmakers to carefully consider their priorities. In the education realm, three critical initiatives introduced by Governor DeWine duringshould remain high priorities: the , the , and . Let’s take a look at the purpose behind each of these initiatives and examine why lawmakers should continue to support them.
Quality Community Schools Support Fund
Despitewith similar student populations, public charter schools in Ohio continually receive the short end of the funding stick. A last year found that charters in the received approximately $4,000 less per pupil than their district counterparts. This funding gap severely of schools, networks, and the entire charter sector, which serves a large population of low-income and minority students. The previous budget attempted to reduce these funding gaps by creating the , which provided in state aid distributed to charters that meet and enroll at least 50 percent economically disadvantaged students. While the measure provides an additional $1,000 for each pupil, it offers even more dollars for low-income students (up to $1,750 per student). In January, the Ohio Department of Education that sixty-three of Ohio’s just over 300 charter schools met the criteria and would be awarded funds.
Charter schools are often a contentious topic in Ohio, and some may view this program as cut-worthy. But that would be a serious mistake. Eliminating a funding source that was needed even before the economic fallout of the pandemic would be grossly unfair, particularly since those funds are awarded to schools who enroll significant numbers of economically-disadvantaged students and serve them well. It’s no secret that school closures and remote learning have and will continue to cause, especially for . Brick-and-mortar charter schools in Ohio have that they serve these students well. To help them mitigate pandemic-related learning losses, they need all the funding and support they can get—and that means maintaining the Quality Community Schools Support Fund.
Thewas in the previous state budget, but guidelines for how to implement the program were established in , separate legislation that passed in the fall of 2019 with bipartisan support. The is to help Ohioans earn credentials and both current and potential employees. The General Assembly allocated per year for two years to reimburse employers for bearing the cost of credential training for employees. are eligible for reimbursement. They must be industry-recognized, able to be completed in no more than one year, approved by the chancellor of higher education, and technology-focused. The approved list currently contains over in the areas of business, healthcare, cybersecurity, manufacturing, and information technology.
There are several reasons why lawmakers should continue funding TechCred. For starters, the program has been a hit. After five application periods, 983 different Ohio employers have been awarded funding, resulting in 11,941 credentials earned. The program has also received theof the and individual employers, who have a “game changer” and an example of the state “putting their money where their mouth is.” Given the record and the shift to virtual-everything caused by Covid-19, a program that helps Ohioans earn technology-focused credentials is arguably even more important now than it was when TechCred was first created. It’s in the state’s best interest to help businesses upskill workers and to help job seekers get more and better training. That means it would be wise to keep TechCred in the mix.
Student Wellness and Success Funding
was in an effort to help public schools improve student wellness by addressing non-academic needs. The state allocated a total of $675 million for all public schools (district and charter) over the course of two fiscal years, awarded on a per-pupil basis according to the percentage of low-income children residing in a district. By law, schools , such as mental health services, mentoring programs, or professional development for staff related to trauma-informed care or cultural competency.
The evidence that student wellness services can impact academic outcomes is. But supporting student health and wellness for its own sake is commendable. And in light of the mental and emotional toll of the health and economic crises, school closures, and remote schooling, it’s become imperative. Without a doubt, maintaining this funding is going to be the hardest lift for lawmakers. That’s because the price tag is so hefty. The two-year student wellness allocation is more than sixteen times larger than the combined total amount allocated to TechCred and the Quality Community Schools Support Fund. But to deal with unprecedented loss and disruption, schools will need an unprecedented amount of support. Lawmakers could certainly pare down the total allocation amount. However, maintaining some level of funding is in students’ best interest.
All three of these programs target critical needs exacerbated by the pandemic. The Quality Community Schools Support Fund has allowed high-performing charter schools serving low-income and minority students—the populations most impacted by the pandemic—to expand their reach and increase their capacity. The TechCred program is improving statewidenumbers and helping employers and employees in the midst of a difficult economy. The Student Wellness and Success initiative, meanwhile, has provided dollars that can be used to address the mental and emotional costs of school closures. To maintain and increase their impacts, these programs must continue uninterrupted. Yes, money is tight right now. But these programs are a crucial part of the state’s efforts to serve all students well.
Correction (12/17/20): A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that the income-based EdChoice program was renamed the Buckeye Opportunity Scholarship.
This time, school district officials were up in arms over the looming expansion of Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program. If you recall, their grievance was the “ ” of the list of low-performing public schools in which students would be eligible for state-funded, private-school scholarships. Due to a combination of policy changes in the and the state’s report cards, roughly 1,200 of Ohio’s 3,000 public schools were to be designated as “low-performing” for the 2020–21 school year. A raucous debate ensued, with state legislators seeking a that would alleviate district concerns while also respecting parents’ right to choose schools. The talks, however, fell apart. And with the pandemic bearing down on Ohio, the legislature the designated school list in March, effectively tabling the conversation about the future of EdChoice for another day.
Eight months later, legislators have at last arrived at athat should ease political tensions, continue to empower families, and put the state’s voucher programs on a sturdier path going forward. The recently passed amendments to (SB 89) make two significant improvements to EdChoice policy.
First, it decouples EdChoice voucher eligibility from report card ratings. From the program’s outset, eligibility for performance-based EdChoice vouchers has been tied directly to report card ratings, the idea being that no student should be trapped in a failing public school. That rationale—indeed, a moral imperative—was right then, and it’s certainly still right today. However, due to a series of intricate policy changes, many made years ago, the list of designated public schools recently began to balloon. For instance, a number of schools found themselves on the list due solely to F’s on the state’s value-added measure (previously this rating was used in combination with others), and more elementary schools were included by way of a new K–3 literacy rating. In sum, the growing list included schools in some well-respected districts, sparking pushback against the voucher program and putting the report card itself in the crosshairs.
The SB 89 amendments move away from the school ratings approach to determine eligibility. Beginning in the 2021–22 school year, children are eligible for the EdChoice voucher if they are slated to attend a public school that meets both of the following conditions: (1) it is in a district with a of at least 20 percent (this generally refers to the U.S. Census Bureau’s childhood poverty rate), and (2) the school falls in the bottom 20 percent of statewide scores, a measure of student achievement (not the overall report card grade or other report card ratings). Under these updated criteria, students slated to attend 473 public schools will be eligible for EdChoice in the coming year—down from the 1,227 schools that would have been identified had current law continued.
The revamped EdChoice eligibility criteria represent a step forward in a couple ways. First, the new criteria should reduce the political incentives to undermine the school report card in an effort to reduce the list of voucher-eligible schools. Rather, the decoupling of voucher eligibility from the report card could potentially clear the way for importantto it, as policymakers won’t have to worry about impacting choice opportunities. Second, the new framework continues to ensure that parents have options when their children are assigned to schools where achievement is lower than what most policymakers would likely accept from their own children’s schools.
Second, it expands voucher eligibility to more middle-income Ohioans. Lawmakers also raised the income threshold to be eligible for the state’s income-based EdChoice voucher program. Under former rules, any student in grades K–12 whose family income was less than 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline—$52,400 or less per year for a family of four—was eligible for a scholarship. In a move that Fordham has long , SB 89 expands eligibility for this program by allowing any Ohio student whose household income is less than 250 percent of the poverty guideline to apply for a scholarship ($65,500 or less for a family of four). This expansion will open opportunities for thousands more children with working-class parents—e.g., mechanics, nurses, and first-responders—and allow them to attend a school that meets their educational expectations and more closely corresponds to their values and beliefs.
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With these changes in hand, roughlyare now eligible for private-school scholarships. This is a significant development within a policy framework that has historically privileged traditional school districts in everything from school funding to their “ .” Of course, nowhere near this number will actually avail themselves of these voucher opportunities, any more than during previous expansions. And that’s okay. Private schools, just like public schools, aren’t for everyone. Yet having more educational options is for everyone, regardless of zip code or income, and the recent voucher reforms get us one step closer to that goal.
 Provided that they meet certain conditions under continuing law, returning performance-based EdChoice participants remain eligible until they graduate.
Earlier this week, the Senate Education committee passed, legislation that would extend temporary waivers from state laws that were granted earlier this year in response to the pandemic and school building closures. For the current school year (2020–21), the bill would waive—among a few other things—standard third-grade reading and graduation requirements, report card ratings, and charter sponsor ratings.
Extending some of those waivers is probably necessary given the ongoing disruptions to K–12 education. But as the legislation heads to the Senate floor, lawmakers should think twice about how the committee handles two important issues: state assessments and academic distress commissions.
State assessments for spring 2021
Anof and a raft of useful but still suggest that many students have fallen off-track during the past eight months. Yet absent statewide assessment data, the extent of these impacts remains unknown. How many Ohio students fell way behind academically? Which groups of students suffered most? Did students lose more ground in certain subjects—as one recent suggests? Are there students who actually fared well in spite of all the disruptions? And why might that be?
Despite all these critical questions and the clear need for information, SB 358 wrongly seeks to cancel state assessments for the current school year. To be sure, the legislation doesn’t outright cancel tests but instead gives the state superintendent discretionary power to seek a testing waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (almost all state exams are required under federal law). If granted by the agency, the spring 2021 round of state assessment would be cancelled—and Ohio would continue to fly blind regarding the academic fallout from the pandemic.
Ohio must diagnose, as soon as possible, where students stand after months of disruption. Rather than creating a bureaucratic pathway to cancel tests, lawmakers should remain firm onthis coming spring. Yes, Ohio may not achieve universal test participation. And the crisis may persist into the spring making test administration impracticable (just like earlier this year, lawmakers could cancel at that time). However, the information yielded from next spring’s assessments would offer state and local leaders a much clearer picture of achievement in the midst of tremendous turmoil and uncertainty, enabling them to start developing solutions targeted to student needs. The Education Trust and other civil-rights organizations put it this way in a supporting assessments this year: “The truth is that we cannot address the gaps we cannot see.” That’s exactly right. Without information, Ohio will either flail in the dark trying to figure out how to help students, or simply bury its head in the sand and fail to act.
Academic distress commissions (ADCs)
Predating the pandemic, one of the long-simmering policy debates in Columbus has been the state’s district-intervention model known as Academic Distress Commissions (ADCs). ADCs currently oversee three school districts that have struggled academically: East Cleveland, Lorain, and Youngstown. While the policy has good intentions—the state should intervene on behalf of students in certain situations—the ADC model has bred much frustration and contempt. Over the past year, legislators have mulled a wide range of ideas to address concerns—anything from outright repeal to restructuring the framework.
Even though this policy has little if anything to do with the pandemic, SB 358 simply dissolves Lorain’s ADC and it charts a ridiculously easy pathway for the other districts to get out from underneath the state’s thumb. For East Cleveland and Youngstown, the bill proposes the following steps: (1) their school boards submit a proposal to the Ohio Department of Education to transition out of the ADC; (2) a three-person committee—the governor or his designee and the Senate and House Education chairs—reviews the proposal and recommends to the state superintendent whether to approve it; and (3) the state superintendent makes a final decision about whether to dissolve the ADC. Of note, while SB 358 addresses existing ADCs, it doesn’t fully repeal the law; districts could still face intervention in future years.
As my colleague Chad Aldis and Iearlier this year, moving away permanently from ADCs would better position Ohio for a successful “reset” of its school accountability system, post-pandemic. But SB 358 is neither the right approach nor the right vehicle for disbanding the ADCs. The Senate committee errs in two ways:
- First, dissolving existing ADCs should be done by legislative decree—not punted to a single, unelected state official who, while unlikely to overrule the three-person committee, is given breathtaking authority to decide whether a commission continues to exist (or not). If they are intent on eliminating ADCs, lawmakers should bear full responsibility for that decision.
- Second, letting poor-performing districts off the hook without any compensatory accountability measure being added is a recipe for more of the same. In our paper, Chad and I discuss that could hold districts accountable in the absence of formal state sanctions. This could include expanded choice opportunities. For instance, requiring in all Ohio districts, subject to capacity, might open incredible opportunities for children stranded in districts like Youngstown or East Cleveland where students have struggled year after year. (Indeed, a number of Mahoning and Cuyahoga county districts are regrettably closed to non-resident pupils.) Legislators could also demand closer scrutiny of—and possibly a beefing-up of—the state’s existing efforts that are mandated under federal law. Unfortunately, none of this is part of SB 358.
In the debates over ADCs, Governor DeWine hasthat, even if the state moves away from ADCs, Ohio still has a “moral obligation to help intervene on behalf of students stuck in failing schools.” He’s right. Unfortunately, throwing in the towel—what SB 358 does—falls short of the standard articulated by the governor.
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The public health crisis has brought on all sorts of challenges for schools, policymakers, and Ohio’s parents and students. Flexibility is key and giving schools some leeway in how they operate is essential. At the same time, however, we must not forget that every Ohio student still needs to achieve the knowledge and skills necessary for success after high school. Prematurely seeking to cancel state tests and repealing an accountability measure, with no plan to expand or improve educational opportunities, won’t empower students with the education they need and deserve.
Afrom Portland State University sociologist Dara Shifrer digs into the value-added data of thousands of teachers who switched schools and concludes that value-added measures reflect the socio-economic status of students and thus cannot be used to accurately assess teachers or their ability. She likewise argues that poor-performing schools can drag down the performance of previously high-flying teachers under the mass of students’ out-of-school realities. But the context provided by this analysis does not seem to support the full weight of those conclusions.
Shifrer’s study uses data on nearly 4,500 teachers in an unnamed large urban school district where the majority of students are non-White. The teachers are those in core subjects (math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies) in grades three through eight between 2007–08 and 2012–13. Teacher data comes from the district and from, and student data comes from the district and the state education agency, aggregated at the school level. Schools are classified as high- or low-performing based on average test scores on administered to third through eighth graders in math, reading, and language arts, and to fourth through eighth graders in science and social studies.
Using 2007–2008 data as a baseline, teachers are identified as working in either a high- or a low-performing school—a designation that was determined based solely on whether a school’s average test scores fell above or below the median. Teachers are placed in three categories—those who stay in the same type of school, those who switch school type in any of the three subsequent school years, and those who switch school type in either of the last two school years of the study. Teachers who switched schools more than once—in any direction—were excluded from the study.
Shifrer slices and dices the data several ways, but heris that a teacher’s value-added scores were higher in high-performing schools and lower in low-performing schools. If teachers moved from a high- to a low-performing school, their value-added scores instantly fell and never recovered. If they moved from a low- to a high-performing school, their value-added scores rose and stayed up. This tracks with showing that teachers in low-poverty schools (which are generally higher performing) tend to have slightly higher value-added scores than those in high-poverty schools.
However, neither of Shifrer’s conclusions—that value-added measures are inaccurate depictions of teacher quality and that poor-performing schools are somehow “teacher proof” due to the number of low income and minority students—are supported by these findings. Rigoroushas shown that robust value-added models tracked over several years can accurately determine the influence of teachers on student growth, with socio-economic status and other outside factors controlled for. So what gives this time? It is, indeed, a matter of context.
“Teacher quality” isn't something that you carry around in your pocket and deploy whenever needed. If a teacher finds herself in front of a classroom whose students are a good match for her skillset, it stands to reason that she would do well. The corollary is also a reasonable assumption. We know that there areand across the country that have and for students living in poverty. And while the “ ” may and , it is that at a high level when fully supported and truly taught by the best. policies for the youngest students who are and are part of that essential support. We have no idea what supports are available to students or teachers in the unnamed school district under study here, but value-added scores that refuse to budge indicate none of them are adequate.
Although this report wants to “contextualize educational disparities” and to discredit teacher evaluation schema utilizing value-added data, in the end all it really seems to do is reiterate the corrosive effect of factors that have already led to generations of students receiving unacceptable levels of school and teacher quality and to reinforce the fact that highly-effective teachers are still not working where they are needed the most. And the fact that teacher quality is context-specific doesn’t mean there’s no point in evaluating teachers in the context in which they happen to teach. And any teacher evaluation plan that results in a better match between classroom context and teacher ability has performed one of its intended functions is a winning formula for both adults and kids.
SOURCE: Dara Shifrer, “,” Social Problems (November 2020).
The pandemic has now disrupted two consecutive school years, and its effects are certain to linger for years to come. Unfortunately, some students will be more impacted than others. The long-standing achievement gaps facing low-income and minority students, as well as English language learners and students with disabilities, have likely been exacerbated by school closures and uneven remote learning opportunities. To close these gaps, schools will need solid data on how much students have—or haven’t—learned since the start of the pandemic.
Back in April, NWEA used summer learning loss data to estimate the potential academic impacts of Covid-19 disruptions. Now that many schools have administered its fall 2020 diagnostic assessments, NWEA is back with additional research that sheds more light on student achievement and learning loss during the pandemic. Their dataset includes nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight who took NWEA’s MAP Growth assessments administered both remotely and in person this fall, as well as data from previous years. This testing sample represents just under one tenth of the approximately 50 million U.S. public school students. (For more on data and methodology, see the technical appendix.)
It’s important to acknowledge at the outset that there are some limitations to this brief. The authors note that “student groups especially vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic were more likely to be missing” from their data. As a result, the findings outlined below are not necessarily representative of American students at large. NWEA found that a larger fraction of missing students were racial minorities, students with lower achievement in the fall of 2019, and students who attended schools with higher concentrations of economically-disadvantaged students. In addition, students who were tested in the fall of 2020 demonstrated higher average baseline achievement scores and were demographically different, meaning they were racially less diverse and attended higher socioeconomic schools than students who did not take an assessment. Taken together, these findings indicate that a large chunk of vulnerable students weren’t tested this fall, aren’t included in NWEA’s data, and are very likely falling through cracks. As a result, the serious impacts of the pandemic on student achievement are potentially being underestimated.
All that being said, there is still plenty of useful data in NWEA’s study. To start, the authors compared how students in grades three through eight scored in fall 2019 compared to students in the same grades in fall 2020. Findings indicate that students scored 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math this fall. And while they performed similarly in reading—median percentiles for this fall were similar to those of students in the same grade last fall—there was also initial evidence of small declines that were disproportionately concentrated among Hispanic and Black students in upper elementary grades.
To determine if there have been learning gains since the pandemic started, the authors examined students who were tested in winter 2020—prior to the onset of Covid-19 shutdowns—and then tested again in the fall of 2020. They then compared the math and reading growth patterns they observed in 2020 to growth patterns in the same grade levels during winter and fall of 2019. On average, students grew in both subjects across all grade levels, with the exception of math in grades five and six. But a smaller proportion of students showed positive math growth in 2020 than in 2019. In fact, nearly twice as many students moved down a quintile in math achievement compared to the previous year. Reading growth was about the same in both years.
To close out the brief, the authors note that lower-than-average gains in math indicate that students are falling behind and need intervention. In addition, the lower reading scores for Hispanic and Black students in certain grades, along with the underrepresentation of these students in fall 2020 data, should make connecting with students and providing immediate support a top priority for schools. To aid in these efforts, state and federal governments will need to provide additional funding. Gathering more and better data will also be crucial. The authors recommend that districts and states collect and report data on learning opportunities, academic achievement, and students’ social and emotional well-being.
SOURCE: Megan Kuhfeld, Beth Tarasawa, Angela Johnson, Erik Ruzek, and Karyn Lewis, “Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth,” NWEA (November 2020).
Nearly a quarter century after the DeRolph v. Ohio decision, many still assume that the state’s school funding system is unconstitutional.
In fact, the much-discussed Cupp-Patterson school funding plan has been billed by some as the long-awaited constitutional system. But is the “unconstitutional” label still a fair characterization of Ohio’s current funding arrangements?
Our new analysis, Is Ohio’s School Funding System Still Unconstitutional? digs into the important questions that continue to be asked about school funding in Ohio:
- Is Ohio’s school funding system adequate?
- Does Ohio rely excessively on property taxes?
- Is Ohio’s school funding system equitable?
- Is school choice eroding district funding in Ohio?
We urge you to download the report and decide for yourself.
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On Thursday, December 10, 2020, we held a Zoom event with author Aaron Churchill. You can check out the full event, including a lively Q&A with Chad Aldis and our attendees, in the video below: