Sunday, November 13, 2011


Not a new sub-Saharan country that sprouted over the weekend, or a Welsh railway station:  The cryptic acronym stands for “what you should know about Ohio’s elementary and secondary public education system but were hesitant to ask.”

State data predominate.

In a prior SQUINTS, the issue was raised of limited, comparable K-12 school data in the US, especially for local systems.  The post prompted a deeper review of US school data, concentrated in the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), with some additional data from the National Education Association (NEA) and US News.  These data, however, are primarily either US totals or averages, or are only broken out by state.

Not fully satisfying if the quest is for local school assessments, but the state data are still revealing of our states’ propensities in promoting education, and their overall performance versus the US averages.  To test the utility of the data to portray a state’s education tendencies, this SQUINTS reports on Ohio’s public K-12 positions vis-à-vis the US and a reference state's performances.

All of the data reported are based on the most recent statistics, usually either 2009 or 2010 information.  For positioning, Ohio’s results are compared with two benchmarks:  US means or composites; and with the state that consistently leads the US in public K-12 performance and in school system operating data collected, Massachusetts.

Because of the lack of comparability of states’ alleged standardized test results, only the latest NAEP test performances were employed.

Rating schema.

A total of 35 properties of K-12 schools were identified in the data available, where the US or a state’s values indicated directionality, favorable or unfavorable for advancing the education mission.

Ohio’s performance was first compared with the US averages or a composite.  Simple counts were used, indicating cases where Ohio did better or worse than, or tied the US, and except as noted below factors were unweighted.  There is some unknown automatic weighting because of concomitance among factors employed, but the extent of the weighting couldn’t be determined for the present analysis.

In the next step, Ohio’s results were compared with Massachusetts using the same rubric for scoring; counts indicating where Massachusetts did better or worse than, or tied Ohio.  A single comparative exception was Colorado as a surrogate for Massachusetts because of the low proportion of Ohio graduates taking SATs, and a state with a low comparable SAT participation rate was necessary.  That was required because there is a high negative correlation between the percent of a state’s graduates taking the SAT and subsequent scores; the higher the participation, the lower the mean SAT scores.



Where Ohio’s K-12 schools were compared to the US:  Ohio scored below the US average or composite on 22 out of the 35 factors (63 percent), tied on three items, and bettered the US norm on ten factors.  Compared to Massachusetts’ schools (with one surrogate for SAT results), Ohio scored lower on 32 of the 35 factors (91 percent), tied on three, and performed better than Massachusetts on no factor.
Self-evidently these comparative results, though based on a simple methodology, are not a ringing endorsement for Ohio’s pursuit of K-12 educational excellence.  Had the metrics of each factor been employed to create, pardon the irony, a standardized quantitative score, Ohio might have displayed even greater deficits.
Ohio's overall K-12 school performance suggests:  Dollar-eating bureaucracy in redundant superintendents, redundant school administration, and a system of redundant and corruption-prone Education Service Centers; overspending on facilities, underspending on instruction; deployment of misdirected to obsolete education technology; weak academic performance along with low state education department support for quality of resources and performance; and belief systems that fail to hold local systems accountable for genuine learning as well as integrity and public transparency.
In perspective, the data provide one inference why Ohio appears seriously challenged in its pursuit of economic development that in part hinges on an educated workforce.


Conclusion – US education diagnostic deficits.

An argument in a prior SQUINTS was the need for a national census of individual public, private and charter K-12 school systems, to establish a valid diagnostic baseline for reform efforts. 

The question is:  Why failure of both the White House and Congress to recognize or acknowledge the harm being caused by forced and simplistic standardized testing, pushing the wrong learning buttons, and threatening to further disrupt and degrade genuine public K-12 education?  Both power centers appear clueless about the properties of the full US population of over 88,000 public schools being impacted, irresponsibility rivaling the failures in seeking US jobs' recovery.

At the opposite pole from NCLB, the recent Republican debates have multiple candidates advocating from ideology, for elimination of the US Department of Education, or scaling back its role, to returning all aspects of PreK-12 education function to our states and their present support and control structures.

The latter proposal might be viewed, metaphorically, as the equivalent of making Texas' legislature the national advocate for evolution, and its governor our national advocate for excellence in math.

There are two overarching arguments for veering away from the referenced proposals:  There is nothing remotely "local" remaining in creating the learning needed by the US through this century, arguments spanning the universality of contemporary knowledge, to employing human resources that now count the world as the relevant domain; and second, left to the isolated and uneven oversight of individual states, PreK-12 education systemically can never be equilibrated across the US.

A different model.

One model, to challenge conventional wisdom, and provoke debate, combines a change in USDOE roles, with a new institutional mechanism that respects states' rights but creates one US PreK-12 educational game plan.

It suggests NCLB set the goals as national standards but eschew enforcement; and entails USDOE roles being scaled to focus only on Title 1 enforcement and any subsequent Congressional mandates meeting similar standards, funding and doing research on topics applicable to improving learning at the functional level, and non-partisan data generation that would fully inform all states of their systems' properties and performance using common definitions and data collection.  Policies on curricula, standards of learning, knowledge based on our accepted national academies' oversight of rigor, and common preparation and certification standards of both teaching and administrative human resources, would vest in a new function.

The above would have to be created by Congress (yes, an immense stretch) but might be viewed as a national consortium for PreK-12 education, representing and governed by the 50 states and the District, reflecting independence similar to the Federal Reserve or other quasi-federal programs that avoid some of the biased consequences and temporal volatility of present politically-driven departmental control.

Heretical, perhaps; but given the present morphology of NCLB and reform misdirection and gaffes, one variant to reform a system that in all likelihood cannot be materially changed much less improved as institutionally constituted.


Below are the factors that could be scored, and the information used for scoring, based on available education data from the US Department of Education -- National Center for Education Statistics, the National Education Association, US News, and US Census’ American Community Survey.

Factors and scores:  

Best high schools, where 49 states were ranked, and metaphorical medals (bronze, silver or gold) were awarded:  US bronze or better = 9.3%; Ohio bronze or better = 5.6%; Massachusetts bronze or better = 10.7%.  Ohio ranked 39th out of the 49 states assessed, Massachusetts ranked 2nd.   (US News)

Average daily attendance as a percent of fall enrollment:; the US overall = 95%;  Massachusetts = 94.3%: Ohio = 86.9%.  (NEA)

Dropout factories – percent of schools with a promoting power ratio of 60% or less:  US = 1.6%; Massachusetts = 1.3%; Ohio = 1.7%.  (NCES)

Number of high school graduates as a percent of 9-12 enrollment:  US = 20.7%; Massachusetts = 21.8%; Ohio = 21.2%.  (NEA)

Average salaries of public school teachers, index where US = 100:  Massachusetts = 125.5; Ohio = 101.4.  (NEA)

Change in public school teacher salaries (in constant dollars) from 1999/2000 to 2009/2010:   US = +3.5%; Massachusetts = +16.6%; Ohio = +5.9%.  (NEA)

Public school revenue per student:  US = $11,841; Massachusetts = $16,150; Ohio = $9.889.  (NEA)

Percent of revenue for public schools from state government:  US = 45.3%; Massachusetts = 41.4%; Ohio = 45.1%.  (NEA)

Percent of revenue for public schools from the Federal sources:  US = 11.1%; Massachusetts = 7.6%; Ohio = 8.6%.  (NEA)

Current expenditures for public K-12 schools per student as a percent of the US average:  US = 100; Massachusetts = 139.5%; Ohio = 90.0%.  (NEA)

Per capita state and local capital sending for K-12 public schools:  US = $231; Massachusetts = $102; Ohio = $224.  (NEA)

K-12 teachers as a percent of the total instructional staff:  US = 87.1%; Massachusetts = 88.8%; Ohio = 80.3%.  (NEA)

K-12 administration as a percent of total instructional staff:  US = 5.5%; Massachusetts = 3.7%; Ohio = 5.7%.  (NEA)

Average percent of students at or above proficient in NAEP testing on math:   US = 35.5%; Massachusetts = 54.5%; Ohio = 40.5%.  (NCES)

Average percent of students at or above proficient in NAEP testing on reading:   US = 30.5%; Massachusetts = 46.0%; Ohio = 36.0%.  (NCES)

Average percent of students at or above proficient in NAEP testing on science:   US = 27.0%; Massachusetts = 39.5%; Ohio = 35.0%.  (NCES)

Average percent of students at or above proficient in NAEP testing on writing:   US = 29%; Massachusetts = 45%; Ohio = 35%.  (NCES)

Percent of free lunch eligible students:  US = 37.8%; Massachusetts = 27.4%; Ohio = 33.9%.  (NCES)

Pupil/teacher ratios across all grades as a percent of the US, where US = 100:  Massachusetts = 83%; Ohio = 106%.  (NCES)

Policy on use of state standards in selection of textbooks:  US – 15/50 states require; Massachusetts – no; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

State requires parental notification of out-of-field teachers:  US – 6/50 states require; Massachusetts – no; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

Percent of charter schools:  US = 5.0%; Massachusetts = 3.4%; Ohio = 8.5%.  (NCES)

Districts required to align professional development with local priorities and goals:  US – 31/50 states require; Massachusetts – yes; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

State provides incentives for teachers to earn National Board certification:  US – 31/50 states have provision6; Massachusetts – yes; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

Percent of a state’s graduates taking the SAT:  US = 47%; Massachusetts = 86%;Ohio = 21%.  (NCES)

Average SAT scores for Ohio versus Colorado, based on comparable participation from both states:  Colorado = 565; Ohio = 536.  (NCES)

State requires statewide social studies assessment:  US – 25/50 states require; Massachusetts – yes, at 5 and 10-11; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

Facilities acquisition and construction as a percent of total school expenditures:  US = 9.7%; Massachusetts = 5.2%; Ohio = 9.4%.  (NCES)

Teachers as a percent of total staff:  US = 50.5%; Massachusetts = 56.8%; Ohio = 45.7%.  (NCES)

Schools use unique student identifiers:  US – 43/50 do; Massachusetts – yes; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

Schools have the capacity to communicate with the state’s higher education systems:  US – 33/50 states do; Massachusetts – yes; Ohio – no.  (NCES)

Percent distribution of school expenditures to instruction:  US = 65.8%; Massachusetts = 69.8%; Ohio = 63.5%.  (NCES)

Percent distribution of school expenditures for administration:  US = 10.8%; Massachusetts = 7.7%; Ohio – 13.2%.  (NCES)

Percent of people who completed a most recent bachelors degree:  US = 26.7%; Massachusetts = 37.4% and ranked 2nd; Ohio = 23.3% and ranked 40th.  (NCES)

Note, not part of the rating scheme:  For the US, K-12 enrollments 2001-2011 are virtually flat, but expenditures per pupil enrolled has changed from approximately $7,500 in 2001 to $11,000 in 2011; classroom teachers changed from 2.95MM in 2001 to 3.25MM in 2011.  In turn, K-12 performance in the same period improved only marginally as measured by the NAEP.  (NEA and NECS)

Note, not part of the rating scheme:  Though 50/50 states have standards for technology, only 21/50 require some record of achievement for licensure for teachers, and only 10/50 require that for licensing administrators.  (NCES)

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