Dear Groundwork Team:
As you know, we have been closely following the work of the Ohio House Taskforce on Poverty and Education as they learn about the achievement gap and identify policies to help close it. We know that high quality early childhood education has to be included in the solution because the data shows that it is narrowing the gap early by increasing kindergarten readiness for Ohio's most at-risk kids. Dr. Howard Fleeter, an economics PhD and resident Statehouse education policy analyst, elevated this message in his presentation to the Taskforce yesterday and touted Groundwork as the go to resource for Ohio early childhood policy and data.
Dr. Fleeter's presentation focused on his evaluation of the 2017 Report Card data which underscored the pervasive correlation between a school’s performance index and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students they serve. Not surprisingly, the more poor kids a school serves, the lower their performance. Dr. Fleeter acknowledged that the K-12 system is the consumer of Ohio's early childhood education system and part of closing the gap is intervening early to help level the playing field for poor children even before they enter Kindergarten, citing the "Heckman curve" as a guide for investments. Even more concerning was the racially disaggregated data he shared which tells a parallel, but more harrowing, story for poor minority students on every measure. While it’s hard to pick just one iteration, I will highlight that 87% of African American public school students in Ohio are economically disadvantaged. Groundwork looks forward to exploring this racial inequity as we evaluate and prioritize investments in Ohio's early childhood system.
Dr. Howard Fleeter with Lynanne Wolf, Groundwork's Policy & Advocacy Associate
Dr. Fleeter's presentation was preceded by a presentation from Superintendent Paolo DeMaria which reflected on the challenges poverty presents in the context of the latest school report card. He offered hope by sharing how some schools are beating the odds. Unfortunately, these examples are truly the exception. Groundwork was also encouraged that Superintendent DeMaria promoted expanding early childhood programs as a way to address the achievement gap. We continue to have opportunities to elevate our early childhood agenda at the Statehouse and appreciate your support as we work towards making early childhood education a priority for Ohio's policymakers. Shannon Jones Executive Director