Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ohio's Education Rank Slips Again Under Kasich

I really try to avoid being political here. But politicians tend to tout their educational bona fides on the campaign trail. A lot. So when Education Week's national Quality Counts rankings come out, politicians trumpet their height or pooh-pooh their depth, depending on where the rankings land.

Well, in Ohio, under John Kasich, Ohio has gone from the 5th best rated education system in 2010 to the 23th best this year -- the only state rated in the top 5 in 2010 to have fallen more than 10 spots, and the only state in the top 5 to now rate outside the top 12.

In 2010, Ohio could crow about its education policy achievements. The state had just passed a landmark education reform plan that won the Frank Newman Award from the Education Commission of the States, reserved for the country's most "bold, courageous, non-partisan" education reform of the year. That package included a new school funding system that the folks who sued the state over its old funding system said put us on the path to constitutionality.

Within months of that passing, we got our 5th place rating -- the state's highest rank ever on the Ed Week report.

Fast forward to this year. 

The state has ditched that award-winning finance system and reforms. In its place, the current governor tried to replace it with one that was so panned in 2013 that the legislature essentially dropped it and adopted a funding scheme from 2005. The state's charter school system has become a national embarrassment. And now, Ohio's education system ranks below Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Rhode Island, Maine, North Dakota, Delaware, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Washington, Alaska and Indiana. 

In 2010, that list only included Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York.

Now there are issues with Ed Week's rankings, as there are with any rankings. But the Quality Counts report is put out by a serious publication and impartial journalists who look at many measures of success and struggle. It's about as unbiased and quality an overall assessment of the country's education system as you could find.

What could account for the drop? Any one of a number of things have played a part, including a nationally ridiculed charter school system or the state's continued failure to adequately fund education. 

I also have to point this out to all the Evidence Based Model critics I've dealt with over the years. When Ohio passed the Evidence Based Model in 2009, only one other state had it -- Wyoming. But while Ohio dropped the EBM once Kasich took office, Wyoming did not. Today, Wyoming is the country's 8th rated system -- its improvement from 34th in 2010 representing the second-largest rating gain. Meanwhile, Ohio's performance drop is the country's 10th greatest.

Either way, Ohio's leaders have overseen a precipitous drop in Ohio's education system -- a drop that our kids simply can't afford. We simply must do better.

While much of Ohio's education policy air has been sucked up by the debate over charter schools, their efficacy and what to do about them, I hope legislators and leaders take note of our precipitous drop in these rankings. Many of Ohio's education policy struggles stem from our state's charter school disaster. But these rankings indicate that perhaps there's more going on and simply fixing charters is only a small part of what needs done here -- starting with constitutionally funding all our schools.