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Ohio

Ohio Report Card

(Click on the table names to see the 50-state tables; click on grades to see the data behind them.)

Student Achievement
(NAEP exams)

4th graders "proficient"
in reading (1998)

?

8th graders "proficient"
in reading (1998)

?

8th graders "proficient"
in writing (1998)

?

4th graders "proficient"
in math (1996)

?

8th graders "proficient"
in math (1996)

?

Standards and Accountability

B+

Improving
Teacher Quality
*

C

School Climate

?

Resources

Adequacy

B+

Allocation

D

Equity

D+

Comment: School finance and voucher rulings dominated the debate last year, but that didn't keep Ohio from pressing forward on teacher quality. A new licensing system, scheduled to be in place by 2002, includes mentors for novice teachers and classroom-performance evaluations to earn a license. Ohio raised per-pupil spending 5.7 percent from 1997 to 1998 and boosted spending on its finance formula another 7 percent last year. But a state court found its system unconstitutional. The state supreme court is expected to rule on the issue soon.

* NOTE: State grades for "improving teacher quality" declined this year because of changes to the indicators.

? indicates the state did not participate in national assessment or survey.

Legal and political obstacles captured the headlines in Ohio last year, but state legislators still pushed forward with the school choice, finance, and teaching measures they had already agreed on.

When a state court ruled in February of last year that a 1998 school finance plan had failed to satisfy the terms of a previous court ruling, lawmakers remained unswayed. They simply appealed the verdict and boosted their spending on the finance system by almost 7 percent.

On another front, the legislature sought to revive Cleveland's much-watched private-school-voucher program after the Ohio Supreme Court disallowed it on largely technical grounds in a ruling last May. Unbowed, lawmakers passed new voucher language that they hoped would fix the problem.

Outside the glare of publicity, the state's continuing efforts to improve its teacher-credentialing process appeared to move forward without a hitch in 1999. Thanks to guidelines drawn up by the state board of education and approved by the legislature in 1996, Ohio expects to fully replace its teacher- certification system with a more comprehensive licensure process by 2002.

On the school finance front, much remains unresolved. In 1997, the state supreme court deemed the finance system unconstitutional, citing district-to-district funding inequities created by its heavy reliance on property taxes. Lawmakers eventually poured more money into the system, but a lower court ruled last year that they had failed to change the program sufficiently.

"Even those school districts that have gained substantially are looking for a permanent solution" to the finance problem, says William L. Phillis, the executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, the group that filed the original lawsuit against the state in 1991.

But members of the legislature say their persistence in increasing the bottom line for schools should speak for itself.

"From A to Z, lawmakers have set their sights on excellence, and not merely adequacy," says Jeffrey S. Sutton, a lawyer representing the state.

The state supreme court is expected to render a verdict early this year on whether the 1998 finance changes meet the court's requirements for a "thorough and efficient" funding system.

Voucher Challenges

Vital Statistics
611 Public school districts
3,841 Public schools
1.8 million K-12 enrollment
18% Minority students
19% Children in poverty
12% Students with disabilities
$11.4 billion Annual K-12 expenditures (all revenue sources)
(See "Sources.")
Adding to the Buckeye State's legal woes, voucher opponents are continuing their legal challenges to the 4-year-old Cleveland voucher program in both state and federal court.

Last June, lawmakers passed a first-ever education-only budget that revived the 3,800-student program the Ohio Supreme Court had invalidated just weeks before. In a May 27 decision, the court said the legislature acted unconstitutionally when it created the voucher program through a provision in the 1995 state budget rather than through separate legislation.

But because the justices rejected arguments that the program violated federal and state prohibitions against government aid to religion, voucher supporters downplayed the ruling as addressing a technicality. Legislators then re-established the program through the education budget for fiscal 2000 rather than through the state budget as a whole, and in so doing, contend that the program now passes state constitutional muster.

But a coalition of groups, including the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is challenging the program anew, and last July filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cleveland charging that the program violates the federal constitutional prohibition on a government establishment of religion. The group won a round in the ongoing legal dispute last August when U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. issued a temporary injunction suspending the entire program. But after a series of legal twists and turns, all 3,800 students in the program were allowed to continue attending religious schools at government expense until the court renders its final decision.

Meanwhile, Ohio continues to move on teacher- training issues. All of the state's teacher-candidates who graduate in 2002 will be given veteran teachers as mentors and be required to undergo classroom-performance evaluations to qualify for professional licenses.

New teachers must then work with newly formed professional-development committees in their districts to craft specially tailored plans for continued professional study that meet the needs of the teachers, as well as those of their schools and districts.

The plans must be renewed every five years along with teachers' licenses; Ohio's permanent teaching certificates will be done away with by September 2003. Teachers who now have permanent certification, however, will not be required to meet the new guidelines. Also starting in 2002, all incoming teachers will be required to earn master's degrees in their subject areas, or obtain the equivalent number of credit hours, within 10 years.

Because Ohio annually graduates thousands more teacher-candidates than it has jobs for, the state has more flexibility to push for highly qualified teachers, says Ron Marec, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. "It's critical that we have well-qualified teachers with subject-matter experience," Marec says.

National Certification

Last year, the legislature also budgeted enough money to pay the application fees of more than 600 teachers who wish to seek certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. For teachers who eventually become certified by the board, the state offers $2,500 annual stipends for the length of their licensures.

The state is second only to North Carolina in its production of nationally certified teachers, and officials hope to preserve Ohio's reputation or improve it, says Warren Russell, the director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association.

This year, state leaders also may look at softening the impact of the state's "4th Grade Reading Guarantee," which would require that all 4th graders score at the "proficient" level on the state reading test by 2002 to advance to the 5th grade. Education department officials point out that the proficiency test was designed before the passage of the 1997 reading guarantee, and they contend that the tests were not intended to be used to hold students back. The department is waiting for the results of a study that will pinpoint a score that could be used fairly for retention purposes, says Lee Ann Rogers, a spokeswoman for the state education department. Any change to the proficiency level would have to be approved by the legislature.

óJessica L. Sandham

 

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© 2000 Editorial Projects in Education Vol. 19, number 18, page 145