My colleague Mike Petrilli has written a fantastic book in The Diverse Schools Dilemma. It chronicles the struggles, tensions, and emotions that he and his wife experienced in trying to find diverse, yet high-performing, elementary schools for their two boys in the D.C. metro area. Mike’s dilemma is one shared by many socially-conscious middle-class parents: How can we provide a great education for our own kids while at the same time supporting schools that serve a diverse (economically, socially, and racially) group of students? And the greatest show of support you can give a school is to deliberately entrust your own children to it.
As Mike documents, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve; sometimes the chosen path is filled with doubt, even regrets.
As I read Mike’s book, I kept thinking to myself how I wished all parents gave as much thought and concern to choosing where to send their kids to school as did he and his wife. If this were the case, there would be little need for education reformers—which brings me to the cognitive dissonance I have been feeling lately.
Mike’s book came out the same week that my colleagues and I in Ohio released a new report on Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. For that report, researchers from the Columbus-based
In this post, originally published on our new Ohio Gadfly Daily blog, Terry Ryan explains the implications of Fordham's latest publication, The Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State.
Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms. Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.
But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency (F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively, these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225. In these schools fewer than half of the children attain basic proficiency in reading and mathematics by the time they leave eighth grade. Yet, these
Ohio teachers and administrators work tirelessly to deliver an excellent education to the state’s 1.8 million students, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner at the annual Ohio School Boards Association’s conference earlier this week. So why are fewer than one in three of Ohio’s fourth graders reading at a proficient level (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress)? Worse, why are achievement scores unimpressive among not only the Buckeye State’s urban districts, but even among wealthier suburban districts, especially in contrast to students internationally?
Heffner argued lackluster performance in K-12 isn’t a product of laziness, ineffectiveness, or incompetence on the part of educators and leaders. Rather it results from an outdated system that “traps them in mediocrity,” and has everyone working to the lowest common denominator. But this wasn’t just a hollow declaration, or a convenient way for Ohio’s school chief to shift blame away from demoralized educators and cast it vaguely on “the system.”
Ohio’s educational framework quite literally is the problem. Namely academic standards, expectations, accountability structures, proficiency cut-offs, and the fact that the “system” shields us from brutal realities rather than serving as a true yardstick of how our schools and children are doing. According to Heffner, student performance in Ohio is middling because academic expectations for students are set too low. Ohio’s education system focuses on getting students over a threshold of “minimum competence” instead of expecting excellence. As a result student
For the last two weeks we've been doing various analyses of school performance in Ohio's Big 8 district schools and charter schools. Today we dive in a little deeper and look at what happened to low- and high- performing schools over time. Ohio's reporting system makes it possible to look at both a school's academic achievement and growth. The highest performing schools make above expected growth (more than a year's worth of gains) and achieve a performance index score above 100 (out of 120), the state's goal, while the lowest performing schools make below expected growth, and achieve a performance index score below 80.
Looking back two years and using 2008-09 as our baseline year, Chart 1 below looks at how high-performers from 2008-09 faired in the most recent release of achievement data.
CHART 1: 2010-11 Performance Index and Growth in Reading and Math for 2008-09's High-Performing, High-Growth Schools, Ohio 8 Charter Schools vs. Ohio 8 District Schools
As seen in the chart, a majority of those high-performers in 2008-09 only demonstrated expected growth in 2010-11, instead of above expected growth (remember that the highest performing schools are located in the upper right corner of the matrix). It should be noted though the decrease in the number of schools making above expected growth may be a result of the changes to the state's value-added system. As
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
May 16, 2013
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