Ohio Gadfly Daily

Summer vacation is over for many of Ohio’s students. As they head off to class, you may find yourself with some extra time to catch up on reading. Looking for suggestions? The Fordham staff is here to help you find some good reads.

Private Enterprise and Public Education: Strange Bedfellows or Natural Allies?

Angel Gonzalez

Everyone take a breath. For-profit providers in education have value.

Before we get squeamish about the potential “business takeover of our schools”, it may be a good idea to read this piece from the American Enterprise Institute. The article discusses the symbiosis that can exist between public schools and for-profit providers. In the report, the authors candidly discuss the role, as well as the pros and cons, of for-profit engagement in the education sector. On the one hand, Hess et al. argue that for-profit entities can be “exceedingly responsive to customer desires.” The authors argue that for-profits are motivated to attract the broadest base of public school “customers” using the most cost-effective methods. For-profits can also be driven to develop innovative education delivery programs to expand their consumer base and attract individuals with strong academic credentials. These innovations, in turn, can be adopted by public schools and refined to serve an even wider base of students. On the other hand, the authors find that for-profit customer responsiveness is a potential threat to delivering quality educational services. Hess et al. cite Abt Associates’ Todd Grindal who shares that many pre-K for-profit schools focus on...

You’ve seen the films—Waiting for “Superman”, The Lottery—you’ve heard the stories about parents anxiously filling out request forms months in advance in New York City or camping out for the “magnet school scramble” in Cincinnati. And you’ve even heard me talking about it on this very blog. Sometimes winning the lottery is the only thing you as a parent care about. That school is the best thing you can find for your child and there’s very little you yourself can do to access it aside from being lucky. If you don’t get in, do you have a Plan B and are you really willing to put yourselves through this again next year when the outcome could be the same?

Through luck and providence, we had a very good Plan B put together: another private school. More tuition, more religion, applying for the lottery again next year, another decision to be made for high school in just a couple of years. But it would work.

It turns out that several weeks after our first-round disappointment, more seats were opened in that popular “holy grail” school I told you about and one of my children won the second round lottery and got in.

Yep. Just one of the two.

We were then faced with several dilemmas: undoing Plan B for one, tackling the quick turnaround of admissions paperwork, figuring out how logistically to send our twins to two different schools in different parts of town—one Catholic and Montessori, the other...

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City-County Council members in Indianapolis convened a panel of experts yesterday evening to discuss the impact of charter authorizers on school quality. The Council invited Fordham’s Terry Ryan, Mind Trust’s Dave Harris, radio personality Amos Brown, Indianapolis Public School Board member Caitlin Hannon, and National Association of Charter School Authorizer’s (NACSA) Amanda Fenton to share their advice and experience in charter authorizing. Currently, Indianapolis’ 31 charter schools are authorized by Ball State University, the newly formed Indiana Charter School Board, and the Indianapolis Mayor’s office. The discussion was intended to help city leaders understand what charter authorizers do, as well as the pros and cons of having multiple authorizers within one city or state.

The background to this meeting was the passage of House Bill 1002 in 2011, which has increased the number of authorizers in the Hoosier State. The legislation granted the Indiana Charter School Board and private universities the ability to become authorizers of schools, in the hope that it would broaden the amount of charter schools serving students. Dave Harris, however, argued that expanding the authorizer market was a “solution to a nonexistent problem” for Indiana. Harris, who helped create the Indianapolis mayor’s authorization office, stated that authorizers in Indianapolis have not reached capacity and that including more authorizers in the city would allow low-performing charters to “shop around” for an authorizer, in order to stay open.

Drawing on his experience here in the Buckeye State (Fordham authorizes 11 charters...

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute today announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

“Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Ohio and Fordham—and the education-reform cause more broadly—have benefited hugely from his labors these past dozen years. We will miss him and wish him the very best in Idaho.”

“Terry can, however, be ‘succeeded,’ and in Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen-Upton, we have been fortunate to find...

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In 2011-12, Cleveland’s public school system (traditional district and charter) had 80 schools rated a D or F. Over 30,000 students enrolled in these buildings. Given these numbers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s headline is remarkable: “Hundreds of Spots Remain in Cleveland's Top-Rated Public Schools this Fall.” 

The article goes on to describe how the city’s top-rated schools still have the capacity to serve more students this coming school year. These are both district and charter schools, and all produce solid academic results, while serving some of Ohio’s most needy students.

Among the district schools with open slots: The top-rated John Hay Academies, three so-called “exam schools,” had nearly 150 available seats; MC2 STEM school had 56; and Whitney Young Leadership Academy had 227 open seats. Among the charter schools, Cleveland’s E-Prep School—part of the Breakthrough Schools, one of the nation’s highest-performing charter school networks—had 60 empty seats. Two ICAN charter schools, a high-performing charter network based in Cleveland, had 70 open seats.

By my calculation, the total number of open seats on the PD’s distinguished list of schools—17 schools were listed in all—came to 1,105.

It’s a shame that there are any open seats in high-quality Cleveland schools, much less over 1,000. The city has a staggering number of low-performing schools, whether one measures performance by state rating, or by value-added growth or achievement scores. And with so many poor-performing schools, it’s no surprise then that Cleveland’s school system has the second-worst NAEP scores—the so-called “Nation’s Report Card”—in the U.S. (only...

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Small-town Ohio and its “good old days” is the subject of a New York Times article by Robert Putnam, published this week. In it, he describes the Shangri-La of the late 1950s in Northwestern Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. Quite how he makes it from this to his usual conclusion that the collective “we” is a key missing element of today’s society – in terms of economic attainment, educational outcomes and the weave of the entire social fabric – is beyond my powers to understand.

The “American Dream” that Putnam describes leaves out women (unmarried ones for sure and by insinuation any married woman who harbored any ambition outside of homemaking), most black students (except perhaps the two from Port Clinton who “encountered racial prejudice in town” yet still managed to get into graduate school through education and effort) and all of the unmentionables from the era (homosexuals, mixed-race families, Italians, Poles, the disabled and the mentally ill) for whom the 1950s did no favors at all.

Any sense of a collective “we” from that era is largely male, wholly straight, mostly white, and solidly middle- and upper- class although those last two terms have definitely acquired a variety of definitions over time. As someone without any recollections of how great it was in the 1950s (as it would have been for me and my family once the WOP had been bred out of us), and for someone who experienced the "changes of the 70s" as a...

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This spring, we promised to talk to some educators about the implementation for the Common Core Curriculum and PARCC assessments. What we asked was how they and their schools have prepared and what could potentially hinder a smooth transition.

Dr. Judy Hennessey is the superintendent of Deca Prep, a K-6 elementary school in its second year. Judy is also the superintendent of Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), Ohio’s first early college high school, serving grades 7-12. Judy is a Dayton native and alum of Dayton Public Schools.

Through her work at DECA, she saw the need to have better preparation for her students and the mission of Deca Prep is to ready first generation college students in a rigorous curriculum including academics and character education. The focus of Deca Prep and DECA is sending students to college.

Below are the questions and excerpts from our conversation.

Q: What's your biggest worry? 

A: Will the assessments be aligned in time. We’ve been working on preparing the instructional side for a few years.

Q: What do you need to put in place before this all starts?

A: Making sure new staff coming in are ready and on the same page. They need to understand and practice techniques that are needed to teach close reading.  In practice this means they (teachers) will be going deeper into a content-rich curriculum.

Q: Do you have all the technology needed for testing?

A: We are close. We will have it.

Q: What skills do your teachers...

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During my travels on Interstate 70, I have discovered Union Local School District. The district is located near the Ohio-West Virginia border, right at exit 208. Its high school isn’t hard to spot—a boxy two-story building that sits atop a knoll overlooking truck-stop fast food joints and gas stations.

I’ve learned a bit about Union Local and have come to think of it as a quintessential rural district. It enrolls 1,500 or so students, 99 percent of whom are white. A modest portion of its students are impoverished (42 percent). They play football on Fridays, and last I heard on the radio, a local car dealership donates $20 to the football team, if you test-drive their cars. The school district has a nature trail and an American flag etched into its high school lawn, as a reminder of 9/11.

Union Local is one of Ohio’s 231 rural districts that together serve 280,000 or so K-12 students—roughly equal the student population of Nebraska. But besides serving truck-stop communities and partnering with mom-and-pop car dealerships, what is known about rural schools? Specifically, what about the academics of Union Local and Ohio’s rural schools? Do they effectively prepare their kids to attend college? Can their graduates compete academically with their brethren from Ohio’s (often, high-powered) suburban districts? Is it likely that their graduates will eventually attain jobs in an increasingly competitive labor market?

If we start and finish with the state’s academic rating system, we find that nearly all rural districts perform quite...

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As states and schools get ready for Common Core implementation, they had better prepare for higher quality education for both students and teachers. The Center for American Progress recently released a report by Jenny DeMonte that reviews teachers’ attitudes toward their professional learning experiences and Common Core State Standards preparation. The report cites a study that found the majority of teachers welcomed the Common Core and believed it would improve their teaching, but worried that they needed additional standards-related professional development. With many states introducing new teacher evaluation systems, the report recognizes the connection between effective teacher evaluations and personalized professional development. Schools should be utilizing these systems to provide teachers with the feedback and support necessary to improve instruction, especially as teachers begin to fully align Common Core standards with curriculum. With Common Core in mind, DeMonte observes, “The nascent changes to education all require educators to learn new and better ways to do their jobs.”  The Common Core State Standards will only be effective if teachers are prepared for these changes, making the standards adoption truly “a classroom-level school reform.” As such, teachers must be experts on these standards, ready to provide students with the rigorous and relevant education called for by the Common Core. This will only be feasible through meaningful professional development. DeMonte recommends administrators and education policymakers advocate for the following as they prepare teachers for Common Core: (1) provide needed support for professional development activities, (2) share resources with educators throughout the United...

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State representative Andy Thompson today introduced House Bill 237, which seeks to void the State Board of Education’s June 2010 decision to adopt the Common Core academic standards in English language arts and math. The bill would effectively prevent any Ohio public school from implementing the Common Core, standards that offer a clear description of the skills and knowledge that students should acquire at each grade level to stay on course toward college or gainful employment. The bill has 13 co-sponsors—all Republican—whom it appears have caved into the political charms of tea-party-like interest groups who have vociferously criticized the Common Core standards in the recent months, not on the basis of the standards’ content but on the basis of politics and ideology.

As House Bill 237 is debated in the legislature, members of both parties ought to cut to the chase and judge the Common Core by its merits. And, here are but a few of the Common Core’s merits: In Fordham’s 2010 comparison of the Common Core against Ohio’s outgoing standards, the Common Core was rated superior in both English and math. In another study of the math content of Common Core, William Schmidt of Michigan State University found that the Common Core was closely aligned with the math standards of the highest-performing countries in grades K-8. And, if the members of the legislature want to listen to their own local educational professionals, they should know that two out of three Ohio district superintendents believe that the Common...

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