Whether you call it reform, revolution, transformation or transmutation, the pace of change in the world of Ohio education continues to speed up.
As we move into what’s likely to be another year of change in Ohio schools, we’ve whittled things down to this list of the 10 biggest Ohio education stories of 2012.
1. Third Grade Reading Guarantee
Starting with students entering third grade in 2013-14, schools cannot promote on to fourth grade students who score below a certain level on the state reading test. For the 2012-13 school year, a gentler version of the third grade reading guarantee is in effect.
2. Report Card Revamp
Late in 2012, state lawmakers approved a new school report-card model for Ohio schools. The new report-card system grades schools on an “A-F” scale instead of using ratings like “Excellent” and “Academic Watch.” The new report cards will award schools and districts grades in each one of several areas. Starting in 2014-15, schools will get overall letter-grades too.
- HB 555: Ohio School Report Cards and More
- HB 555: What the New Ohio School Report Cards Could Look Like
- Read What’s in HB 555, Ohio’s New School Report Card, Etc. Bill
3. Voucher Expansion
Ohio voucher programs continued to expand in 2012, but voucher supply exceeds demand. Vouchers are publicly funded tuition subsidies for students attending private schools.
This year marked the start of a voucher program for special education students as well as the opening up of the Cleveland voucher program to include high school students for the first time. The number of statewide EdChoice vouchers available also roughly doubled this year to 60,000.
- New Special Ed Vouchers Give Parents Options, Worry Public Schools
- Ohio Has More Vouchers Than It Knows What to Do With
- How Ohio Spent $103 Million a Year on Private School Vouchers
4. Data-Rigging Investigation
After the Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus schools retroactively altered student-attendance records, state officials became highly concerned about the accuracy of the student data used to create school report cards and ratings and, in some cases, determine educators’ pay.
The statewide investigation (which still is not complete) delayed the release of school report cards. In Columbus, Superintendent Gene Harris announced her retirement in the midst of ongoing revelations about her school staff’s actions.
5. No Child Left Behind Waiver
Ohio got rid of the goal of having all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Instead the feds said Ohio could settle on a slightly lower set of expectations in exchange for making certain Obama administration-backed reforms.
- Ohio Wants to Nix No Child Left Behind 100-Percent Student Success Goal
- U.S. Department of Education Approves Ohio’s NCLB Waiver Application (Sort Of)
6. Stan Heffner’s Resignation
Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner resigned in August in the face of growing public criticism of his ethics violations. Heffner was appointed to his post in August 2011. A national search for a new state schools chief is currently under way.
- Ohio State Superintendent Stan Heffner Resigns Amid Ethics Charges, Attendance Rigging Investigation
- Prosecutors say Heffner Acted Inappropriately, Not Criminally
7. The Cleveland Plan
In July Gov. John Kasich signed into law a package of legislative changes that are intended to “transform” the Cleveland school district. The “Cleveland Plan” gives more weight to teacher performance during layoffs, introduces some limits on which new charter schools can open in Cleveland and was a big reason the district was able to pass a gigantic property tax levy in November.
- Kasich Signs Unusually Bipartisan Cleveland Plan Into Law
- Cleveland Voters Asked to Pass Gigantic School Levy
8. Teacher Evaluation Changes Continue
By the start of the 2013–14 school year, Ohio public school districts must adopt new ways of evaluating teachers. Charter schools that get federal Race to the Top funds must do the same. Schools across Ohio have begun taking steps to tie teacher evaluations to teacher pay.
9. Common Core Implementation
Ohio schools are switching over to new, national standards about what students should learn and be able to do. Much like teacher evaluations, districts across Ohio began working (and a few continued previous work) on planning to teach these new standards.
10. School Shootings
In February, three students were fatally shot in the cafeteria of Chardon High School in northeastern Ohio. A student, 18-year old T.J. Lane, is scheduled to face trial for the killings in January. The shootings prompted discussions in Ohio and nationwide about how to prevent future school shootings.
In December, a man shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The discussions continued.