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Ohio must do better for its schools

It’s possible to look at data from the most recent Anne E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book and think Ohio’s schools are doing a pretty good job, compared with the rest of the country. But despite a higher percentage of Buckeye State eighth graders being deemed proficient in math than the national average, the figures are pretty grim.

Based on 2022 testing, 71% of Ohio eighth graders are not proficient in math, which is much worse than the 62% determined not to be proficient in 2019. The national average of American eighth graders who are not proficient in math is 74%.

Meanwhile, 65% of Ohio fourth graders were not proficient in reading in 2022 — slightly worse than in 2019, but still better than the 68% of fourth graders nationwide who are not proficient in reading.

Just a touch better than pathetic is nothing to brag about, and the fact that we are headed in the wrong direction should have education officials scrambling.

Perhaps the implementation of the science of reading will do the trick. Perhaps efforts to boost early childhood education will help. It seems unlikely the creation of another commission within our horrifically dysfunctional state education system will make much difference. But, according to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal, lawmakers’ answer is adding such a layer. Ohio House Bill 352 would create an Adverse Childhood Experiences Study Commission that would recommend legislative strategies to the General Assembly regarding the 40% of Ohio children who are affected by family economic hardship, divorce, parents spending time in jail and other factors.

Ohioans already know how quickly state commissions lose focus — or outright decide not to do their jobs.

Instead, perhaps the folks in Columbus could prioritize ways to diversify and expand the economy; provide training for those in job transition; work on affordable, accessible housing and health care; properly and fairly funding education and otherwise get out of teachers’ way.

Yes, our schools must do a better job for students. And Ohio must do a better job for its schools.

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