By guest blogger and Fordham's Director of Charter School Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton
The Columbus Dispatch writes today that "the truth about Columbus middle schools is brutal." More than 70 percent of the district's middle schools are rated "D" or "F" by the state and none of them met federal Adequate Yearly Progress targets.
A bright spot in this urban education landscape is the new Columbus Collegiate Academy (which the Fordham Foundation authorizes ). In 2008-09 (the school's first year), CCA was the highest performing middle school in Columbus. Of its inaugural class of sixth graders, most of who were performing well below grade level when school started in August 2008, 74 percent met reading proficiency and 82 percent met math proficiency on the state achievement tests. These are amazing results, especially for a first year start-up, ??and are not an aberration: NWEA MAP data (a nationally-norm referenced assessment) corroborate CCA's stellar state test results. (You can watch a video about Columbus Collegiate Academy's first official day of school in 2009.)
But it's been a brutal ride for CCA and other start-up charter schools in Ohio, including the Buckeye State's first KIPP school, KIPP Journey Academy (which is also authorized by Fordham). On top of the usual charter school start-up challenges, both CCA and KIPP have faced serious external challenges.
Ohio's charter schools only receive about 70 percent of the funding of district schools, yet the governor and
Education policy wonks (and I can speak as an outsider, having come to Fordham after a long career in journalism) can get so wrapped up in their great ideas for saving the nation's schools that it's easy to forget there are other people with ideas that are far removed from the most timely education reform debates. These usually have nothing to do with the NEA, Democrats, Republicans, reading, writing, or NAEP scores for that matter. For example, last week, Fordham's Terry Ryan and others showed up at the Ohio Senate Education Committee to argue forcefully for a bill that would mandate much-needed changes in Ohio education law, including making it easier for Teach for America alumni to gain teaching licenses in the state.????
But before that testimony could begin, a couple from Middletown, Ohio, spoke in support of another bill. The man and his wife had their own ideas about what schools should be doing, arguing gracefully and poignantly to require schools to include dating violence awareness education in school health classes. In 1992, their daughter was tragically murdered by an estranged boyfriend. In the years since they have been passionate about spreading the word among teenagers of the problem of dating violence and what can be done about it. The couple founded Citizens Against Domestic Violence and has devoted their retirement years to it. Now they want to bring their message statewide and into every public
Ohio education policymakers seem to have a split personality when it comes to what they say they care about and what they fund. The frequency and impact of this disconnect make it all the more frightening.????????
This Jekyll-and-Hyde contrast was evident today when education experts gathered ????in Dayton to discuss the state of the state's schools at a discussion sponsored by the Ohio Grantmakers Forum (our Terry Ryan was a panelist).
Tom Lasley, dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton, pointed out that Ohio now requires all-day kindergarten, yet the same piece of legislation which mandated that devastated early learning funds that help prepare children for school. ????Meanwhile Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Stanic pointed out that children are entering Dayton schools and they're already two years behind.
Lasley complained equally about the other end of the K-12 continuum - the state decimated funding for its nine early college academies that have produced good results for inner city high schoolers. ????It's the same with the "Seniors to Sophomores" program in which high school students could earn college credit, cut ????a year out of college, and save thousands in tuition and room-and-board money. ????Despite Ohio's commitment to get 270,000 more people through our colleges and universities, "Seniors to Sophomores" was abandoned as well.
Notice a trend here?
While Ohio's leaders talk a lot about wanting to implement certain reforms, when the
A bill has been proposed in the Ohio House of Representatives (HB 319) that would require parents of students who attend school districts rated Continuous Improvement (a "C" rating) or lower to attend a parent-teacher conference.
That's right, require. If you're thinking that Ohio districts rating "C" or lower tend to be those districts that are poorer, and whose families/parents tend to be lower-income, that's an accurate generalization. And if you think that's a confusing thing for House Democrats to rally behind (among all of the exciting education ideas floating around), I agree. But it's less confusing given the track record of Ohio Democrats and the political context that can confuse any Democrat that sets foot onto Ohio soil.??
On the one hand, it seems that the House Democrats who sponsored this bill have been listening to President Obama's remarks about parents' responsibility over their students' education:
"Parents, if you don't parent, we can't improve our schools. You've got to parent. You've got to turn off the television set in your house once in a while, you've got to put the video game away once in a while...You should have a curfew in your house so your children aren't out in the streets all night. You should meet with the teacher and find out what the homework is and help that child with the homework. "
However, when it comes to a majority of the reforms Obama and Duncan talk
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.
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