This is our third in a series exploring the new school ranking system created by Governor John Kasich and the Republican legislature.  In our first post, we explained how Kasich cut funding to the Ohio Department of Education while adding major new requirements to the agency, a decision that undercuts the likelihood of the ranking system ever being implemented.  We also detailed the simplistic ignorance in pretending to use the Performance Index Scores in an objective ranking system.  Our second post broke down Kasich’s choice to include value-added data, highlighting the inequity across schools and cost-prohibitive nature of the Governor’s decision.  We recommend you read those posts before jumping into this one.

In this post we will investigate the erroneous inclusion of item #3 in the list of ranking criteria.

Again, the six criteria that were adopted in the final bill as follows [bold added for emphasis]:

  1. Performance index score for each school district, community school, and STEM school and for each separate building of a district, community school, or STEM school. For districts, schools, or buildings to which the performance index score does not apply, the superintendent of public instruction shall develop another measure of student academic performance and use that measure to include those buildings in the ranking so that all districts, schools, and buildings may be reliably compared to each other.
  2. Student performance growth from year to year, using the value-added progress dimension, if applicable, and other measures of student performance growth designated by the superintendent of public instruction for subjects and grades not covered by the value-added progress dimension;
  3. Performance measures required for career-technical education under 20 U.S.C. 2323, if applicable. If a school district is a “VEPD” or “lead district” as those terms are defined in section 3317.023 of the Revised Code, the district’s ranking shall be based on the performance of career-technical students from that district and all other districts served by that district, and such fact, including the identity of the other districts served by that district, shall be noted on the report required by division (B) of this section.
  4. Current operating expenditures per pupil;
  5. Of total current operating expenditures, percentage spent for classroom instruction as determined under standards adopted by the state board of education;
  6. Performance of, and opportunities provided to, students identified as gifted using value-added progress dimensions, if applicable, and other relevant measures as designated by the superintendent of public instruction.

The department shall rank each district, community school, and STEM school annually in accordance with the system developed under this section.

#3 – Performance measures required for career-technical education.  At the core of this criterion’s failing is the fact that Ohio Career-Technical Education (CTE) performance reports are not generated by individual public school districts.  Instead, a report exists for each of the state’s 91 Career-Technical Planning Districts (CTPD) that lists its member school districts’ combined performance.

While the ranking system includes a total of 1,002 districts, the state of Ohio only produces 91 reports comprised of CTE data, of which only 25 represent a single school district.  In addition, the Ohio Department of Education reports either 48 or 51 community schools (out of over 300 statewide) with CTE program offerings, depending on whether you look at the top or bottom half of their 2010 Fact Sheet.  Regardless of which set of numbers is accurate, it is obvious that not all schools or districts have the capacity to implement a CTE program, including many community schools that only offer an education to students in the younger grades.  Unless Newt Gingrich gets his way and we enter our elementary children into the workforce early, many schools will never have any data that is remotely equivalent to CTE data.

The criterion references 20 U.S.C. § 2323, a section of U.S. law whose purpose is to establish a state performance accountability system to assess the effectiveness of the state in achieving statewide progress in vocational and technical education in order to optimize the return of investment of federal funds in vocational and technical education activities.  This federal law proceeds to detail the state requirements for reporting student achievement, including academic factors.

In Ohio, the indicators can be found in the Secondary Statewide Workforce Development Performance Report, ODE's tool for accountability and continuous improvement.  Among the components of this report are:
  • Academic Attainment—Reading/Language Arts (1S1) – Scored at or above the proficient level on the Ohio Graduation Reading Test.
  • Academic Attainment—Mathematics (1S2) – Scored at or above the proficient level on the Ohio Graduation Mathematics Test.

With criteria like these included in the CTE reports, schools that do have CTE programs will be double-counted on these student test results.  Ohio Graduation Test results have already been counted in the Performance Index Score (#1), so including the results a second time would either unfairly help or hurt the accountable district.

According to ODE, in 2011-2012, there are 97 CTE programs that span 16 career fields, meaning that even within the required ranking and comparison of districts that actually do have reported data, Governor Kasich wants us to believe that our children are replaceable cogs without unique minds talents across career paths as diverse as:

  • horticulture,
  • performing arts,
  • medical management and support,
  • carpentry,
  • early childhood education,
  • financial services.
  • dental assistant,
  • pharmacy technician,
  • culinary and food service operations,
  • cosmetology,
  • network systems,
  • criminal justice,
  • welding and cutting,
  • auto technology,
  • and 83 other unique programs.

Beyond it being unreasonable to attempt to compare the individual successes of these programs, it is simply ignorant to believe that our children should also be required to demonstrate uniform and arbitrary success measures at a time when we are supposedly encouraging them to hone their unique talents in a career path of their own choosing.

Going back to the number of districts involved, if we believe the ODE fact sheet to be relatively accurate, and if ODE is somehow able to separate the data by individual school district, we must then overlook the likely scenario that district programs will not include enough students to provide statistically reliable results.  But even if we can get past that flaw too, we still only have results for 562 of the 1,002 districts in the rankings, leaving us with a category that would only include 56% of the state’s districts.

There’s also the problem of the uniqueness of CTE programming, described as:

organized educational activities that include competency-based applied learning that contributes to the academic knowledge, higher-order reasoning and problem-solving skills, work attitudes, general employability skills, technical skills, and occupation-specific skills, and knowledge of all aspects of an industry, including entrepreneurship, of an individual.

In the end, we are again left questioning how, in his infinite wisdom, Governor Kasich expects the Ohio Department of Education to find this item comparable to the other criteria Ohio will use to scrutinize the performance of schools that only serve children in grades K-5.

This is simply one more half-baked idea hatched up by Kasich and his self-absorbed education adviser, Robert Sommers.  Sommers, infamous liar, must have been too busy running for state superintendent and pushing his teacher testing provision to have stopped Kasich from adding this component.  As you can see from his resume for State Superintendent from May, Sommers is a former Vocational Education teacher (agriscience certificate now expired), and with his 10 years of experience in leading a career and technical focused district, he absolutely must have known the flaws in attempting to rank these districts and their individual programmatic needs against all of the other Ohio districts and their standardized curricula.  Perhaps Sommers doesn’t care about the students and their schools, either.

In our next post in this series, we will tackle the two criteria directly related to school finances.  We’ll offer you a Kasich promise and try to keep it concise.  And by a “Kasich promise” we mean that we’ll actually do whatever the hell we want.