Forget accusations of terrorism, it seems wise to shy away from involvement with Bill Ayers if only because his ideas on public education reform are, well ??? pretty awful.
Last weekend I went to Midtown Scholar, a used bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in search of chai tea. I wound up sitting in on a lecture on American public education delivered by Ayers ??? aka a giant helping of the Jonathan Kozol-esque public education can only be fixed with more money argument, complete with a side of cynicism toward ???right wing??? reform ideas and hoards of misinformation.
I'm not certain of the point of the discussion (to promote his books?), but Ayers' talk floated around three main points: first, the notion that poor children shouldn't receive less funding than their wealthier peers; second, the importance of teaching kids to ask ???why???? in the classroom ??? e.g. intellectualizing questions of social justice and inequality; and third, a poorly constructed argument that education policy debates should be driven primarily by the question ???are we giving poor children what we'd want our own children to have???? He cited Kozol a lot, peppered in romantic ideas about educating the whole child, and even recited a poem. (All of which is fine.) For a random audience of leftist types (not necessarily education experts) in the middle of Pennsylvania, who's to argue with that?
But Ayers quickly moved from sentimental to misleading.
Spurred by a new report and the looming state financial crisis, the time may be right for school district consolidation for Ohio.?? According to the recent report by the Brookings Institute and The Greater Ohio Policy Center, the Buckeye State drastically needs to scale down its overabundance of local school districts.
Consider the numbers:
??? Ohio has 611 school districts, almost half of which (49 percent) serve fewer than 1,700 students each.
??? Ohio ranks 47th in the U.S. in actual K-12 dollars going into classroom instruction.
??? Ohio ranks 9th in spending on administrative overhead.
??? Ohio's administrative overhead costs are 49 percent above the national average.
Faced with such staggering figures, both Governor Ted Strickland and his Republican challenger John Kasich gave measured statements of approval to the notion of consolidation in a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal. Said Strickland:
''I think some of the administrative functions perhaps could be consolidated in a way that would be a cost saving, while at the same time allow the individual schools to maintain their colors, their mascots, their individuality,''
In the same article, Kasich called consolidation of services ''a very good starting point.''
Their cautioned responses reflect how thorny the idea of consolidation is in the local mindset. The Beacon Journal article went so far as to refer to school district consolidation as Ohio's ???third rail' of politics. Community identities are deeply rooted in local school districts here in Ohio, and,
It's no surprise that Ohio's economy is in crisis, but you might be amazed at the price tag for some of Gov. Strickland's new education mandates. Terry points out the implications of decreasing class size in grades K-3 alone (to 15:1), which will cost $784 million per year by 2014. If you're wondering how, where, and when Ohio plans to come up with that money while facing an upcoming $8 billion deficit, join the club.
Meanwhile, Kathryn (the Fordham Foundation's director of charter school sponsorship) discusses Fordham's new contract with its charter schools. We're proud of Fordham's strict sponsorship (authorizing) contract, which allows schools maximum operational freedoms but requires that schools be held to high standards of operational and academic excellence. Be sure to check this piece out to learn what types of provisions are necessary for a high-quality contract between schools and their authorizers.
Also on the lineup is Emmy's response to the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), which recently asked why the district would want to utilize charter schools as part of its transformation plan. Emmy says, ???For starters, how about better-educated students???? and points out that six of the top ten schools in Cleveland are charters. As CTU moves to unionize charters, find out what's at stake.
And don't miss several great reviews and Editor's Extras, including Teach for America alum Jamie's review of TFA'S new book, Teaching as Leadership, which outlines six principles embodied by TFA's
???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.
Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher
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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