Disappointing science standards, costly teacher pensions, and other notes

How do Ohio’s science standards stack up, in comparison to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? What is the cost of teacher pensions? What’s your teachers’ value-added rating? And, what’s the latest on the Columbus reform plan? For answers to these questions, read the short notes below:

  • Fordham issued a “C” grade to the recently released Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS are the result of a two-year effort by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve to develop world-class K-12 academic standards in the sciences. NGSS’ “C” grade is clearly inferior to those awarded to twelve states (including Ohio, whose standards received a “B”), as well as the NAEP and TIMSS frameworks, as rated in Fordham’s State of State Science Standards 2012. Nevertheless, the NGSS grade is clearly superior to grades given to the woeful science standards of sixteen states—and the PISA framework. In this video, Checker Finn provides a two minute break down of why Fordham does not support the implementation of the NGSS standards.

 

  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District will save about $1,200 per pupil in pension costs by 2020 as a result of the Buckeye State’s recent changes to state law (Senate Bill 341 and 342, which passed in fall 2012). This is a key conclusion of Fordham’s recent report The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School-District Budgets, in which the district-level costs of teacher pension obligations were dissected. The analysis, conducted by Robert Costrell and Larry Maloney, looked at the retirement costs in three urban districts: Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. Costrell and Maloney found that, without substantial pension reform, teacher pensions will put a major squeeze on Philadelphia’s budget—forcing either painful cuts in classroom expenditures or tax increases. According to our analysts, Philadelphia could find itself spending a whopping $2,361 per pupil on teacher pensions by 2020. Meanwhile, Milwaukee and Cleveland have for now escaped a fiscal meltdown, as both the Wisconsin and Ohio state legislatures have recently enacted pension-reform legislation—though both districts’ per-pupil pensions costs will clock in at over $1,000 per pupil by 2020.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer and StateImpact Ohio have released the value-added ratings for 4,200 Ohio teachers who teach English Language Arts and mathematics in grades 4 through 8. Based on standardized test scores, “value-added” is a statistical model that estimates how much academic growth teachers produce for their students. Value-added is one part of how Ohio will evaluate the effectiveness of its public school teachers. Publicizing teachers’ value-added ratings has been controversial: The Los Angeles Times, for example, disclosed teachers’ ratings after suing the Los Angeles Unified School District to obtain teachers’ names and their value-added ratings. The Los Angeles teachers union has pushed back. To head off criticism of the Plain Dealer’s public release of teacher ratings, Chris Quinn, assistant managing editor for the newspaper, contends that the release “seems like common sense . . . any parent sending a child off to school wants to know everything possible about what is ahead for that child. If public information exists about the quality of a teacher, who are we to deny that information to the parent?”
  • It has been one year since the Columbus Dispatch began reporting on the data scrubbing scandal in Columbus City Schools, even though both internal and external knowledge of “scrubbing” goes back at least two years prior. The scandal has set into motion a major house-cleaning effort: superintendent Gene Harris has less than two weeks left before her forced retirement on July 1st and legislation is speeding through the Ohio General Assembly that will require the district to place a historic levy on the ballot by November (a portion of the levy will be shared with qualifying charter schools). In addition, if passed, the legislation would also enable Columbus to be one of just two cities in the country—Indianapolis being the other—to have its mayor authorize charter schools. Despite these upheavals, some on Columbus City Schools’ school board seem unconvinced of the need for wholesale reform. Said board member Mike Wiles recently in the Dispatch, “It was smooth seas, and all of a sudden the water got rough." Instead of ducking reform, however, Mr. Wiles and others ought to lead the reform efforts, or get out of the way of leaders who can accomplish the goal of reforming a broken school district. 

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