Who’s Really Failing?  The Ohio Department of Education or Ohio Schools?

By Scott Pullins


Last fall the Ohio Department of Education released its latest report card on Ohio schools.  


The results sent shockwaves throughout Ohio’s political and educational establishments.  


A full 84% of Ohio schools were failing, according to the report.  


According to the most recent enrollment data, there are approximately 1.8 million students in Ohio K-12 public schools.  This means that approximately 1.5 million Ohio students go to school every day in a classroom that is failing, based upon the report cards.


Likewise, a plethora of reports show that Ohio’s national rankings are also falling.  In 2010, before the implementation of Common Core, Education Week ranked Ohio schools as the 5th best in the nation.  In 2012, as Common Core was taking hold, we dropped to number 12.  And in 2016, after years of Common Core and so called higher standards, Ohio was ranked 23rd.  


The Center for Education Reform showed Ohio dropping from 14th to 24th in a recent survey.  And the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council dropped Ohio to 29th place in the nation, down from 21st in 2011. 


The data becomes even bleaker when we look at projected graduation statistics.  


Public school superintendents have projected that nearly one-third or more of their students may not graduate under the new graduation standards.   The projection for Cleveland Public Schools is at crisis level with nearly 50 percent of their students on track to fail to graduate.


Clearly, something negative is happening in Ohio classrooms.  But what is it really?  Let’s ask ourselves some questions.


First, what exactly has changed since 2010 in education policy in Ohio?  


The answer is simple.  In 2010, the State of Ohio had not yet implemented Common Core and the plethora of curriculum changes that went with it.  Additionally, Ohio students were still being tested under the old Ohio Graduation Test.


And then it all changed.


What happened at what was once the top rated Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, reported just days ago by Cincinnati’s City Beat, helps illustrate this point.  


From 2006 until 2014, the Taft Technology High School was a national success story.  


95 to 100 percent of its students were passing the Ohio Graduation Tests.  ODE rated it “excellent” in 2010 and the U.S. Department of Education named it a National Blue Ribbon School.  


And then the bottom fell out.


Over the last two years, scores at the high school have plummeted to 70% and their most recent report card showed F’s across the board.  


How could so much, go so wrong, over just two short years?


Cincinnati Public School Officials don’t have a clue and refused to give a reason to the Cincinnati City Beat reporter.  


But the answer is staring right in our faces.  


What has changed in these years are the tests and the curriculum.  


And maybe that’s the problem.  


What if the vaunted Ohio School Report Cards aren’t worth the paper and ink that they are printed on?  What if the only entity in Ohio failing our students, parents, and taxpayers is the Ohio Department of Education policies put forward by Senate Education Chairwoman, Peggy Lehner?  


And if so, how do we fix it?


Here are some modest suggestions.


We could start by giving all schools in Ohio, government run and charter, a safe harbor.  No punishment or other consequences should be incurred, whatsoever, based upon these flawed rankings, ratings, and scores.


Next, we could put the original Ohio Graduation Test back into effect.  It wasn’t broke and it certainly never needed fixing.


And lastly, we could once and for all, eliminate Common Core.  Restore the curriculum that was taught in 2010 in Ohio or go back to the Massachusetts standard, whichever makes the most sense; but either way, mail this failed, flawed, ridiculous policy, supported by Senator Lehner back to Bill Gates in Seattle.


Senator Lehner you own this Failure.