The annual ???????Quality Counts??????? report by Education Week, out today, ranks Ohio's education system as the 5th best in the nation. Some of their ratings are overly generous and it's easy to rank high among a low-to mediocre-performing pack, but all in all the Buckeye State should be proud of the improvements it's made to its public schools over the past 10 or 15 years. The report is based on the education provisions in place this school year, not the yet-to-be-implemented components of Governor Strickland's education reform plan, which makes me wonder, once again, why the governor felt compelled to completely overhaul an already decent school system (instead of following our advice to build on what was already in place)?
The Dayton Public Schools, in Fordham's hometown, rang out 2009 with an announcement that it faces a $5 million budget shortfall caused by rising home foreclosures and delinquent property taxes.
A mere two weeks later the head of the Dayton Education Association announced that she couldn't support the district's participation in the state's "Race to the Top" application. Her logic, "The requirements of the grant itself ask for too much???????.Too many strings."
Thus, the teachers union vetoed (as both the superintendent and the school board president supported Dayton's participation) the district's chances of garnering millions in federal dollars to help meet the educational needs of the very students those teachers are paid to educate, while also encouraging some needed reforms. Dayton is perennially one of the state's lowest performing school districts.
This is like a starving man refusing a steak because he is asked to cook it for himself.
To appreciate how truly bizarre this decision is, consider the following:
-The state's other big urban districts (and their teachers unions) supported Ohio's application. It is worth???? noting who joined Dayton in opting out ???????? Youngstown, the state's lowest academic performing district and the first one to be placed under the watch of the state's newly formed Academic Distress Commission.
-Both the head of the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers have been downright effusive in their support of the state's application for the money. "This is
Did you know? Ohio district and charter students have different odds of seeing Race to the Top funds
To be eligible for a portion of $200 to $400 million in Race to the Top money (that is, if Ohio wins ??? and we have doubts), Local Education Agencies (LEAs) were required to submit memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to the Department of Education by last week.
Emmy speculated awhile ago that Ohio, unlike states with more contentious applications, might see hundreds of LEAs signing up. This might threaten to diminish the intention of Race to the Top, as spreading funds far and wide across the state would result in very few dollars with which districts could make any real changes.
With the list of participating LEAs finalized this week, these fears are warranted. Over a third (250) of Ohio's 613 districts signed the MOU, including many large urban districts -- Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Akron. (It's a shame that Dayton and Youngstown, two of the poorest and lowest-performing districts in the state, decided to sit this one out.) Of 332 charter schools, 187 signed on to the provisions of Race to the Top.
In terms of student enrollment, the discrepancy between districts and charters schools is stark. If Ohio wins a portion of Race to the Top funding, 46 percent of students enrolled in district public schools will attend a school eligible for the money, compared to 72 percent of students enrolled in charter schools.
After the release last month of The New Teacher Project's Cincinnati-focused human capital reform report (see Jamie's take here), both district and union leadership seemed genuinely intent on using their upcoming contract negotiations to work together toward improving the district's schools.???? Education-reform-wise, things seemed to be looking up in the Queen City, a place where I've long been optimistic about the potential for improving education, given the city's dynamic school choice market and the fact that the district is one of the few in the Buckeye State to actually shut down persistently failing schools. But now with district-union contract negotiations just around the corner, my optimism is waning.????
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Ben Fischer reports that in the first few months of the school year, the union filed 51 grievances against the district for low-level contract violations and asked the State Employee Relations Board to investigate an unfair labor practice charge related to the superintendent's plan for addressing persistently failing schools. The number of grievances isn't unusually high, but the unfair labor practice charge puts at risk the district's attempt to close and redesign its worst schools. If the district can't do that, and if the new collective bargaining agreement is more of the same-old, same-old and not informed much by TNTP's findings, Cincinnati's education reform efforts might be doomed to suffer the same fate as its beloved Bengals.????????
- Emmy Partin
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.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Core Knowledge Blog
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- Education Next Blog
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- Jay P. Greene
- Joanne Jacobs
- NACSA's Chartering Quality
- National Journal Education Blog
- NCTQ Pretty Darn Quick
- NCTQ Teacher Quality Bulletin
- Ohio Education Gadfly
- Politics K-12
- Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- The Corner
- The Hechinger Report
- Top Performers