May 17, 2013
A survey of more than half of Ohio school superintendents revealed, with few exceptions, a wide gap between themselves and legislators regarding what policies will have the most impact.
Fewer than 10 percent of superintendents say new state-issued A-F report cards for districts and individual schools will boost student learning.
And only 1 in 5 believes Ohio’s new third-grade reading guarantee will improve schools. It requires schools to provide assistance to struggling readers and hold back students not reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
More than 80 percent agreed that the new law “imposes unnecessary burdens on most districts that were already doing all they could.”
The superintendents also questioned politicians’ motives.
Nine in 10 said they believe that, “Too often, Ohio’s elected officials make education policy to score political points.”
Terry Ryan, vice president of Ohio policy and programs for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said the survey, released today, underscores the need for more dialogue between lawmakers who enact the polices and educators who must implement them.
“Reformers have not done a good job of explaining why they’ve done these reforms,” he said.
Fordham conducted the survey with the New York-based FDR Group.
Steve Farkas, of the FDR Group, said superintendents raised several “yellow flags” for lawmakers about potential hazards down the road.
For example, 93 percent of superintendents warned of widespread legal challenges to the use of student progress in the state’s new teacher-evaluation system.
The most highly rated initiative was Common Core standards for math and English-language arts, which have been adopted by Ohio and 44 other states.
More than two-thirds of superintendents said the rigorous curriculum guidelines will improve the education system. Common Core has come under fire recently by conservatives who fear federal intrusion.
However, superintendents cautioned that they face many hurdles preparing for Common Core. They overwhelmingly agreed that with corresponding assessments still not available and not enough computers to administer the online tests, implementation could be delayed.
Farkas said districts seem most supportive of initiatives they have the most say and control over but superintendents also seem a bit overwhelmed.
“Ohio is trying a lot of things, and a lot of things at the same time,” Farkas said.
“There is a little reform fatigue.”
Superintendents of 344 of Ohio’s 614 school districts participated in the survey.