Fordham Institute analyst comments on “papering over school failure”

We’ve long advocated for effective education standards, including competency-based graduation requirements, which remain in place following the 2019 legislative session. In our 2017 report, we said, for example,

The state should:

  • Enhance Supports and Accountability: The state must be able to identify low-performing schools and struggling students, and use a robust accountability system to target resources. Policymakers should strengthen support and intervention strategies, measure and report on progress, and set clear timelines for performance improvement with concrete consequences.

So we were pleased to come across this commentary from Fordham Institute Ohio research director Aaron Churchill on a strange flap in that state.

In a recent floor debate, Representative Phillip Robinson made an Orwellian “pro-business” case for eliminating state interventions in chronically low-performing districts, saying: “When businesses are looking to come to Ohio, they want to go into competitive communities where they can attract employees to bring their children [to schools] there.” Criticizing the state’s approach to school ratings, State Board of Education member Linda Haycock told the Lima News, “It’s like, ‘All of your schools are failing, why would I want to bring my business here?’” 

The argument is full of baloney. You simply can’t plaster schools with “A’s” and believe that companies will flock to areas where students—the future workforce—aren’t being well educated. Let’s not be naïve: Any responsible employer looking to invest millions in a community is going to get behind the façade and find out the truth.

He goes on to discuss the “importance of knowledge and skills—“human capital”—to economic flourishing.” And this:

…one recent analysis by a trio of researchers, including Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, merits special attention. Based on historical returns to K–12 education, they forecast economic gains if states improved students’ knowledge and skills.

The research is clear, as is employer awareness of the value of clear and transparent accountability standards to document and improve performance.

Research at the national, state (including here in Ohio), and city levels indicate that accountability can help drive the improvements needed for Ohio to reach the highest echelons of student achievement. Based on this and the principled conviction that accountability can improve outcomes, businessgroups and civil rights organizations have long fought for tough accountability policies…

So, no, accountability isn’t “bad for business.” Just the reverse: It’s a crucial check on student learning—and a necessary push when pupils are falling behind—that seeks to ensure that all young people exit high school ready to take their next steps in life. When that happens, it’s good for business, it’s good for communities—and it’s good for all Ohioans.

And all Washingtonians.