The state budget bill signed into law in June raises the stakes for low-performing public schools.
Under one of the budget bill’s provisions, for the first time Ohio’s traditional public schools could be closed for poor performance, a sanction that previously only applied to Ohio charter schools.
Instead of closing, schools could fire and replace their entire staffs, be converted to charter schools, or have their operations farmed out to another organization or school district. Districts will likely choose options besides closure, but even the other options are stricter than the ones now applied to low-performing traditional public schools.
The change could spur districts to speed up school-improvement efforts, and possibly lead to students getting better educations. But in other states that have used similar sanctions, and in Ohio schools that have tried to turn themselves around, the results are mixed.
A lot depends on the people running—and teaching at—the school, said Jamie O’Leary, a senior policy analyst at the Ohio and Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a non-profit education policy think tank (whose affiliated foundation is also a charter school sponsor) which has advocated for more accountability for all types of schools. She said:
“We’re under no illusion that it’s some kind of magic fix. Turning around chronically low-performing schools is incredibly difficult work that few states and districts are doing well.”
The provision will start being applied to schools starting with the August 2012 school report cards, so no schools are targets for closure or the other sanctions now. But we’ve put together a list of which schools could be on the “bottom five percent” list if the provision were in effect now. (Full list after the jump.)
Bottom 5 Percenters
|Starting with the August 2012 school report cards, traditional public schools that rank in the bottom 5 percent of all schools based on their performance index for three years running AND receive one of the state’s two lowest ratings must choose one of four options: Close, convert to a charter, contract with another entity to operate the school, or replace the school’s principal and teaching staff and give its new principal more control over school operations.|
|Important Note: This list shows the schools that would likely be on the list IF the law was in effect now based on the guidelines set out in state law. It is provided to illustrate the types of schools likely to be affected by the change. However, the Ohio Department of Education will determine the method used to rank schools and publish an official list of affected schools.|
|Keifer Alternative Center||Springfield City||Clark|
|Akron Opportunity Center||Akron City||Summit|
|Choices Alternative School||Canton City||Stark|
|George Hays-Jennie Porter Elementary||Cincinnati City||Hamilton|
|Woodland Hills School||Cleveland Municipal||Cuyahoga|
|Patrick Henry School||Cleveland Municipal||Cuyahoga|
|Genesis Academy||Cleveland Municipal||Cuyahoga|
|Franklin D. Roosevelt||Cleveland Municipal||Cuyahoga|
|Columbus Global Academy||Columbus City School District||Franklin|
|E. J. Brown PreK-8 School||Dayton City||Montgomery|
|Lorain Pace Academy||Lorain City||Lorain|
|Spring Elementary School||Toledo City||Lucas|
|Bella Academy of Excellence||Charter School||Cuyahoga|
|Life Skills Of Northeast Ohio||Charter School||Cuyahoga|
|Cleveland Academy for Scholarship Technology and Leadership||Charter School||Cuyahoga|
|Lion of Judah Academy||Charter School||Cuyahoga|
|Providence Academy for Student Success||Charter School||Franklin|
|C.M. Grant Leadership Academy||Charter School||Franklin|
|Sullivant Avenue Community School||Charter School||Franklin|
|Focus Learning Academy of Southwest Columbus||Charter School||Franklin|
|Crittenton Community School||Charter School||Franklin|
|Summit Academy Columbus||Charter School||Franklin|
|Life Skills Center Of Cincinnati||Charter School||Hamilton|
|Dohn Community||Charter School||Hamilton|
|Summit Academy Middle School – Lorain||Charter School||Lorain|
|Achieve Career Preparatory Academy||Charter School||Lucas|
|Eagle Learning Center||Charter School||Lucas|
|Star Academy of Toledo||Charter School||Lucas|
|George A. Phillips Academy||Charter School||Lucas|
|Victory Academy of Toledo||Charter School||Lucas|
|Summit Academy-Youngstown||Charter School||Mahoning|
|Klepinger Community School||Charter School||Montgomery|
|Tech Con Institute||Charter School||Montgomery|
|Summit Academy Dayton||Charter School||Montgomery|
|Life Skills Center of Dayton||Charter School||Montgomery|
|Goal Digital Academy||Charter School||Morrow|
|Summit Academy-Canton||Charter School||Stark|
The new law requires Ohio’s Department of Education to rank all schools based on student performance on standardized tests using a measure called a performance index. The performance index is a weighted average of all subjects and grades tested that gives schools more credit for students who score higher on state tests.
District-operated schools that rank in the bottom 5 percent for three years running based on their performance index—and are also rated the equivalent of a D or F under the state’s school-rating system—must be “restructured.”
(Those state ratings of F, D, and above are based on how well students do on standardized tests—through the performance index ranking—and other factors including graduation rates, attendance rates, whether a school met federal standards under No Child Left Behind and how much its students learned year-to-year.)
Restructuring means the district must pick one of four options for the school:
- Close the school and reassign students to other schools with higher academic achievement;
- Contract with another school district or a nonprofit or for-profit entity “with a record of effectiveness” to operate the school;
- Replace the school’s principal and teaching staff, exempt the school from specific district regulations regarding curriculum and instruction at the request of the new principal, and allocate at least the per-pupil amount of state and local (meaning non-federal) revenues to the school for each of its students; or
- Reopen the school as a charter school.
The choice is up to the district. But all of the choices would require schools to make changes even more sweeping than those currently required of low-performing schools.
Currently, there are no sanctions tied to a traditional public school’s state rating. (Things work differently for charter schools, which already face closure for repeatedly getting low grades from the state.) Traditional public schools that fail to make progress towards federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act for two years in a row must make some changes, such as offering tutoring, giving teachers more professional development, using a different curriculum or replacing some teachers.
School districts and the state Department of Education are grappling with questions about how the new law will work. (More on those questions next week.) But here’s the big question: Will these harsher consequences get Ohio students a better education?
Some schools have successfully turned around after years of poor academic performance. Taft High School in Cincinnati, for example, went from being one of the worst schools in the state to a state rating of Excellent, the equivalent of an “A.” The school has been held up as a national model of education improvement. How did they do it? Cincinnati Enquirer education reporter Jennifer Brown explains:
“Those who’ve lived it say they’re not magicians, they just had some good leadership, a good plan, good partners and a bit of luck. Some say there was another factor, something less tangible: People started caring.”
But overall, the results are less promising. In 2009, William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado and a former Vermont superintendent, took a broad look at research on efforts to improve schools by replacing staff or taking other similarly dramatic steps. (The National Education Policy Center receives some funding from the teacher’s union, the National Education Association.) Here’s what he found:
“The research on ultimate school restructuring measures is simply stated: There is no clear body of evidence that any of them will result in significantly improved education. When test score changes are the measure, the differences are small and are as likely to be negative as positive.”
Looking at schools in six different states that were restructured, after repeatedly failing to meet federal standards for academic performance, Center on Education Policy researchers found that even if schools improved, it often took years of work and continued assistance to keep test scores high. Center on Education Policy President and CEO Jack Jennings:
“A troubling finding was that many schools did all the same things as schools that improved but did not have the same success. Sometimes, teachers had left, or funding was cut, or there simply was not time to work through all the problems. Our research also found that successful schools sometimes lost ground. When test scores dropped, these schools were again labeled as needing improvement.”