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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ohio Falls from 5th to 18th in EdWeek Rankings

In 2010, Ohio, for once, could crow about its education achievements. The state had just passed a landmark education reform plan that won the Frank Newman Award from the Education Commission of the States, denoting 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.

About this same time, Education Week put out its annual Quality Counts report and rated Ohio's education system as the country's 5th best overall -- the state's highest rank ever on that report.

Fast forward to this year. The state 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 then today, EdWeek released its Quality Counts report. And now, Ohio's education system ranks 18th in the country.

Now there are issues with EdWeek'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.

In 2010, only Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York rated ahead of Ohio. Now it's those four plus Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, North Dakota, Maine, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Delaware. Only 13 states had a bigger dip in rank during that time period.

What could account for the drop? Any one of a number of things have played a part. But suffice to say, Ohio's leaders have overseen a precipitous drop in Ohio's education system -- a drop that our kids simply can't afford. As a parent of two school-aged children, I want action.

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.

Remember that 90 percent of our state's children do not attend charter schools. Let's not, I pray, forget their needs. For we do at our peril.