As we discussed yesterday, Ohio’s private schools are exempt from administering Ohio’s standardized tests with two exceptions – they must administer the state’s graduation tests (OGT) and the must administer the tests to all students on taxpayer-funded scholarships.  Ohio’s scholarships are vouchers that pay the tuition to the private school for qualifying students (low-income families).

The largest of these voucher programs is the EdChoice program, described by the Ohio Department of Education as follows:

The Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program was created to provide students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools. The program provides up to 60,000 EdChoice scholarships to eligible students.

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, up to 2,000 EdChoice Scholarships were provided to incoming kindergartners whose family income fell at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  The application will open February 1 of each year.

While all EdChoice recipients must take the state’s standardized tests, the schools and the students are exempt from any of the consequences that would arise from the results.  The schools don’t receive letter grades from the state labeling them as failing and, as a key part of yesterday’s post pointed out, the third grade students are not subject to being retained based on Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee law.  And it’s a good thing, too, because students using vouchers to attend private schools are performing worse than their public school counterparts.

The Ohio Department of Education publishes the results of all EdChoice students’ tests based on the school district where they would normally attend.  And while the Columbus Dispatch was rolling with the story about large numbers of third graders in danger of being retained by not achieving a high enough score on Ohio’s 3rd grade reading OAA, another reality is that the private schools in Columbus are putting up even worse numbers while completely ignored by the law and therefore having no concern for implementing intervention plans, summer tutoring programs, or even retention plans for students who don’t achieve the proper arbitrary cut score.

In 2012, the most recent year that the Ohio Dept of Education has published EdChoice test results, Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, and Youngstown all had higher rates of proficiency than their private school counterparts:


While the urban districts are getting the headlines and the scrutiny, Ohio’s private schools are quietly performing at a lower level with these students with neither scrutiny nor accountability for the results.  The urbans are being criticized as Ohio’s private schools continue to siphon away taxpayer dollars while being allowed to turn a blind eye to their test results — just as the state legislature has designed it in order to favor privatized educational options over the public school system.

Ohio’s large urbans are under attack for the test results of their students and Governor Kasich and Republican legislators are using that narrative to expand their voucher program, they’ve exempted that program from the same accountability rules and they’re turning a  blind eye to the fact that students who leave the public system to attend these schools are actually putting up lower test scores than the students in the public districts from which they were enticed to leave with the promise of free tuition.

And to be clear, lower test results are not limited to third grade reading — that’s just a recent hot topic of discussion that illustrates how Ohio’s legislators have set up different rules to help punish the public school systems and provide an out for those supporting privatized education.  A look at the 2011-2012 test results across all grades and tests shows that the urban districts are outperforming their private school competitors consistently.  The charts below show the number of students scoring at the proficient level or above for 6 of the 8 large urbans (Canton has small number of EdChoice students and Cleveland has their own separate voucher program for the city) from the 11-12 school year for each grade and test as compared to the results of district students on EdChoice vouchers attending private schools.  The cells in green indicate the higher percentage of students scoring proficient or above on the assessment.







In every single case, the public school district outperformed the private schools in more categories.  In Cincinnati and Toledo, the districts absolutely demolished the test results of the schools taking EdChoice dollars.  If you were truly evaluating the EdChoice voucher program’s impact on improving student achievement in Ohio, what type of grade would you give it?

And still, these private schools and these students are shielded from the state’s new accountability system and grade report cards, they are exempt from Ohio’s school improvement measures, and they are completely untouched by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee despite the fact that every single one of these students is fully funded by Ohio taxpayer dollars.  Why is it that the tax dollars going to public schools are under the highest degree of scrutiny while the tax dollars going elsewhere are being swept under the rug?

Still think it’s about improving education across the state?  No, it’s about politics.  Our children are pawns in a political game that is driving the privatization of education in Ohio.  

These are Kasich-driven policies that are being eagerly passed by Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly.  They have set up a system that shines an enormous spotlight on public schools while allowing private schools to slide by with no accountability for the performance of their students, including those taking public tax dollars.  If they were serious about holding everyone accountable for the education of Ohio’s children, then we wouldn’t have so many different sets of rules.

Kasich & Company must be voted out.