Ohio

Eye on Education

Fordham: This Ed Reform Thing Could Blow Up in Our Face

Source: Thomas B. Fordham Institute/FDR Group report

Ohio schools aren’t ready for major changes the state has mandated, according to the results of a survey of superintendents conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

And the rapid pace of school reform may mean Ohio policymakers risk the failure of ambitious efforts to improve schools if the pace doesn’t slow, said Fordham’s Terry Ryan.


Fordham supports many of the reforms superintendents are balking at, like a new way of evaluating teachers and a law requiring third graders to pass the state reading test to move to fourth grade.

Still, “when it comes to Ohio’s reform agenda, are we pushing too hard, too fast? Should we think about slowing it down a bit?” Ryan asked.

“The resistance in the field [to the reforms] is such that a lot of them are going to be blown up.”

About the Survey

The Fordham Institute, an Ohio education advocacy group, released today the results of a survey of Ohio school district superintendents. The results reflect the responses of 344 of Ohio’s 614 school superintendents surveyed online from March 21–April 9. The respondents and their districts were representative of the demographics of superintendents and districts statewide, said Steve Farkas, who conducted the survey for the FDR Group.

The survey results have a margin of error of about 3.5 percent.

The Fordham survey asked superintendents about their views on and their districts’ responses to major state policy changes.

It found that many superintendents viewed some changes — like the shift to the new Common Core standards — positively but were not prepared to actually implement those policies in their schools.

And in other cases, superintendents said their districts hadn’t put certain reforms in place. They believed the state is likely to repeal those reforms eventually anyway, according to the survey.

Common Core

About 68 percent of superintendents said they thought the Common Core, a new set of standards for what students should know and be able to do in English and math, will improve Ohio schools.

Ohio schools are supposed to start teaching the Common Core this fall and give new Common Core tests in the spring of 2014.

As of this spring, just 12 percent of superintendents said their schools were completely ready to teach the Common Core.

Teacher Evaluations

By July 2014, schools have to measure just how much teachers taught students over the course of a year and incorporate that information into teachers’ job evaluations.

Source: Thomas B. Fordham Institute/FDR Group report

That’s a big change for many teachers whose evaluations now are based only on their principal observing them teach class.

About 42 percent of superintendents said the change is a good thing.

But only about 17 percent said their districts had already put the new kinds of evaluations in place.

And about 39 percent said they thought the state would scrap the move to the new evaluations entirely.

“Superintendents are being super-careful. They’re waiting to see how seriously they should go after it and whether this policy will hold on in the coming years,” said Steve Farkas, who conducted the survey for the FDR Group.

Third Grade Reading Guarantee

Starting this year, Ohio schools began operating under a new state law called the third grade reading guarantee. It basically requires third graders to pass the state reading test in order to advance to fourth grade.

Most superintendents — about 80 percent — said the law imposed unnecessary requirements on schools already doing the best they could.

But at the same time, nearly half said the new law had pushed their districts to do more to ensure students were learning to read.

That included efforts like notifying parents more quickly when students struggled and ensuring teachers of younger students have specialized training in teaching reading.

Pace of Change

In some cases, lawmakers and Ohio Department of Education officials have listened to superintendents’ complaints about the rapid pace of reform.

“In the legal profession, we would never make major changes without involving lawyers very very intensively. We would not be making major change in medicine without involving doctors in a big way. But everybody kind of thinks they’re an expert in education because they all went through K through 12.”

–Ohio School Boards Association President Charlie Wilson

A bill to ease some of the requirements of the third grade reading guarantee has passed the state Senate and House and is likely to head to the governor’s desk soon, for example.

But in many areas — such as the implementation of the Common Core — lawmakers aren’t budging.

“We’ve worked too hard to get to this point. We’re not going to back up,” House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton told StateImpact Ohio earlier this month about the new standards.

Charlie Wilson, president of the Ohio School Boards Association, said lawmakers need to spend more time listening to teachers and getting their support for reforms.

“In the legal profession, we would never make major changes without involving lawyers very, very intensively. We would not be making major change in medicine without involving doctors in a big way. But everybody kind of thinks they’re an expert in education because they all went through K through 12,” he said.

Comments

  • duckmonkeyman

    Wow. Someone forgot to ask the teachers.

  • Parent

    I find it odd that this “That included efforts like notifying parents more quickly when students struggled ” is considered part of reform. If I’m helping my kids every night with homework I should know if they struggle.

  • Teacher Turned Principal.

    Yes, they did forget to ask the teachers. One wonders what effect the idea of a patriarchal male dominated Ohio Assembly and Senate feel they can impose their will on a female dominated profession. Like in business and industry, if the company isn’t successful, management is the first place that gets scrutinized. But in education, the male dominate management is not held accountable. If the expectation is that many teachers are unqualified, then the question has to be asked, who gave them their credentials, and who hired them? Shouldn’t those questions be the focus of this debate?

  • Arnold

    Fordham and more specifically, Ryan has been in the forefront of charters and school change in Ohio. His dismal record of success should disqualify him from commenting on the most recent changes.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education