Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM
StateImpact Ohio launched in June 2011 as your source for Ohio education news and analysis from NPR and Ohio public media. It's been a big year for us, and for education in Ohio.
How big? Let us count the ways:
Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 in March 2011. And the successful campaign to repeal it began. (A referendum on SB 5 was on the November 2011 ballot as Issue 2.) The law would have limited collective bargaining for public employee unions and changed how schools operate.
In 2011, state lawmakers scrapped the existing formula for distributing state dollars to public schools. They handed out state funding under what they called a temporary model, resulting in funding cuts for many districts. Gov. John Kasich had said he would introduce a new, permanent school funding plan by the end of 2011, but has now postponed that indefinitely. In other funding news, although voter turnout for the November 2011 election was relatively high, there was little support for new school district taxes.
About 95,000 of Ohio's 1.8 million students attend charter schools. In 2011, legislators gave school operators permission to open more schools. And for the first time charter school sponsors -- the non-profit organizations or public entities responsible for overseeing charter schools -- were held accountable for schools that weren't performing academically.
In 2011, state legislators doubled the number of vouchers available. Vouchers are publicly funded scholarships for private schools. Currently, only students who live in the state's worst-performing school districts are eligible for them. A bill that would have expanded the state voucher program to every Ohio school district -- and potentially redistributed local, as well as state funding -- faltered in the face of school-district opposition.
The budget bill enacted in June 2011 required the Ohio Department of Education to rank Ohio schools in all sorts of ways. Schools got ranked by standardized test results. Charter-school sponsors got ranked by their schools' academic performance. And still more rankings will roll out in 2012.
Teachers are using technologies new and old in the classroom, and online schools are some of Ohio's largest charter schools. Ohio's Digital Learning Task Force began meeting in 2011 to develop recommendations on how to expand digital learning.
In 2011, the state developed a new way to evaluate teachers. Under this new model, at least half of a teacher's evaluation must be based on his or her students' academic performance. And some districts receiving federal Race to the Top money will soon have to base teachers' pay at least partly on their evaluations.
In January 2011, Ohio was awarded a $400 million, four-year grant from the federal Race to the Top program. Ohio is supposed to use the money to improve student performance and graduation rates, decrease the achievement gap between white and non-white students and increase postsecondary enrollment. In December 2011, the feds announced that Ohio would receive another $70 million to improve early childhood education.