In a Senate hearing on February 20, the Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers presented progress the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has made in the past six months on various initiatives. In what he deemed a “crash course,” Sawyers shared the changes being made to the state and district report cards distributed to schools, assessments required for students, and evaluations given to teachers. The superintendent seemed optimistic about the changes related to the Common Core. Sawyers, moreover, paid special attention to the introduction of new Common Core learning standards which he believes will “put the art back into teaching.”
In response to No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, ODE was required to write academic standards that required teachers to follow specific guidelines. Sawyers then compared the 2001 standards against the new Common Core standards.
SOURCE: Michael Sawyers, “Education Reform Update: Presented to the Senate Education Committee,” PowerPoint presentation, February 20, 2013.
Sawyers explained that changing the language allows the Common Core standards to be “fewer, deeper, and clearer.” By wrapping these standards into clusters, teachers are able to creatively unpack what lessons they can teach their students, bucking the checklist of requirements that they had to consider before the Common Core. The new standards also ask the students to delve deeper into material, providing teachers the opportunity to create instruction that digs into
Lima, Ohio, recently named the nation’s ninth saddest city, received some cheer earlier this week when Governor John Kasich strode into town for his annual state of the state address. Among the myriad of topics the governor touched upon was K-12 education reform, and the residents of Lima—and many more across the Buckeye State—should be heartened by the education reforms he proposes.
Among the boldest and most exciting reforms the governor proposes, is his overhaul of the state’s school funding formula. The funding proposal the governor has laid forth levels the playing field for all Ohio students. It ensures that youngsters who attend a public school system with less local wealth—measured by property value and income—receive more state aid. For example, according to the governor’s preliminary FY 2014 estimates, the property and income-rich Upper Arlington schools near Columbus would receive no state aid for its regular students. (It would receive aid for its special education, economically disadvantaged, gifted, and English language learner students.) The state assumes, correctly, that Upper Arlington’s local residents can and will raise sufficient revenue to educate their children. This is sensible public finance—furnishing limited state funds to Upper Arlington is like giving Donald Trump social security. They simply don’t need it.
Meanwhile, the governor’s proposal provides generous state aid to students who reside in poorer, hard-scrabble communities such as Lima. Lima doesn’t have five-bedroom homes that generate large amounts of school tax revenue, and additionally,
On Monday CEE-Trust’s Ethan Gray and I provided ideas to the Columbus Education Commission on ways that city could improve its schools. The following provides more details for some of the recommendations offered at that time.
Like much of urban America, Columbus urgently needs more high performing schools for its children, especially its poor and minority children. In 2011-12, nearly 30,000 (just under 50 percent) of all Columbus students attended failing schools (D or F on the state rating system). Within the Columbus City Schools, 60 of 117 buildings have been designated by the state as “persistently low-performing” – meaning they had been rated “academic emergency” or “academic watch” for at least two of the last three years. The city’s charter schools are equally troubled with 28 out of 59 being rated D or F by the state in 2012. In contrast, only 3,500 students attended schools with grades of A or A+.
Yet, turning around failed schools is nearly impossible, despite the best of intentions. Both charter and traditional district schools are stubbornly resistant to significant change—the kind that might actually make a difference, which generally entails replacing the entire staff and program.
Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost today reported that nine school districts manipulated student attendance data, in order to improve their school performance results. The auditor’s seven-month, $443,000 investigation found Campbell City, Canton City, Cincinnati City, Cleveland Municipal, Columbus City, Marion City, Northridge Local (Montgomery County), Toledo City, and Winton Woods City guilty of scrubbing data.
The investigation examined student records in 331 school buildings in 137 districts. The auditor’s investigation is complete for all districts except Columbus City Schools, which remains under an ongoing “special audit.” The investigation found iniquities ranging from intentional noncompliance with ODE reporting rules (Cincinnati City), retroactively withdrawing students (Columbus City), and jettisoning students to an online school without parental initiation or approval (Marion City).
In response to these findings, Yost presented thirteen recommendations for reforming Ohio’s system of reporting student enrollment. At his press conference this afternoon, the auditor focused sharply on his first recommendation: Reforming how traditional district’s report student enrollment.
Kids count every day, all year long
Under Ohio’s current law, district schools report their student enrollment once, during “count week” in October (see, October 2012 newsletter). This enrollment figure determines the district’s level of funding for the rest of the school year. Instead of a one-time count, the auditor recommended that traditional districts track student attendance in “more or less real time.” (Ohio requires charter schools to report student enrollment monthly.)
The auditor’s report explains how frequent attendance tracking would dis-incentivize improper enrollment