Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 25
December 13, 2006
House Bill 695: Admirable Ends, Redundant Means
From the Front Lines
The Future of Educational Leadership
Reviews and Analysis
Education for Ohio's Future
Reviews and Analysis
Hopes, Fears, and Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2006
The General Assembly is now debating House Bill 695, which would create a new system of secondary schools dedicated to stronger science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. Texas has a similar program, it’s on the National Governors Association agenda, and it’s being promoted nationally by business leaders and major foundations such as Dell and Gates.
The goals of the STEM initiative are laudable: to prepare young people for college and employment in a new economy centered on STEM-related fields, and thereby to promote Ohio as a center of high-tech innovation, enterprise and prosperity, powered by a highly-skilled workforce.
Bravo, we say, to worthy goals that have elicited keen legislative and gubernatorial interest in Columbus. Where we stop clapping is when we inspect the mechanism for creating and operating such schools. House Bill 695 proponents would, in effect, create a third species of public schools in Ohio. That part is neither necessary nor desirable.
Apparently seeking to elude both the rigidities of the regular district-operated system and the embarrassments of the charter-school system, House Bill 695 would create a new structure of schooling answerable to a new governing authority appointed by the Governor with members chosen for expertise in business, science and technology. Like charter schools, STEM schools could be “converted” from existing public schools or created from scratch, but high quality charters can’t convert to STEM status. Like charters, STEM schools would be free from certain
December 13, 2006
Internet schools or “e-schools” are a rapidly expanding sector of Ohio’s charter schools. Taking their inspiration from myriad distance learning programs across the country, the state’s e-schools provide parents another viable option for educating their children. Currently, there are seven statewide e-schools serving 21,000 students--and another 35 intra-district programs offering online courses to hundreds more.
Because instruction takes place in a “virtual” classroom and students often work from home, many people have only a vague notion about what e-schools are, who enrolls in them, and how they operate. To shed some light on Ohio’s e-school programs, Gadfly asked Susan Stagner, Head of School at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), to answer a few questions about the Buckeye State’s newest--and fastest growing--type of school.
Gadfly: Describe a typical day in the life of an e-school student and teacher.
Stagner: An e-school student spends, on average, five dedicated hours to academic work each day--with some flexibility regarding when they complete their work. For instance, students may work for four hours on some days and seven hours on others. Each day, a student may be introduced to new material through a variety of mediums including traditional textbooks, online courses, live web courses, face-to-face tutoring sessions, or a combination of these. Students may also join their peers on a field trip to a museum or outdoor metro park.
A typical day for an e-school teacher is spent
Terry Ryan / December 13, 2006
With so many voices singing KIPP’s praises over the last few months (see here, here, and here), it bears asking what impact KIPP might have on numerous other education systems. One answer may be found in KIPP’s School Leadership Program. And if this program offers a glimpse of the next generation of educational leadership in America, the future seems promising both for KIPP students and for those in any other schools willing to foster a similar ethos of education.
Readers of the Ohio Gadfly will know that Fordham plans to sponsor a KIPP charter school (or schools) in Columbus starting in 2008 (see here ). As part of this effort, I was invited by the KIPP Foundation to Houston to meet 22 finalists (culled from over 300 initial applicants) for slots in their 2007 Fisher’s Fellowship Class. Candidates selected to be Fisher Fellows will open new KIPP schools in 2008 in identified communities across the United States.
Exactly who applies to be a KIPP school leader? The 22 candidates that gathered in Houston for this three-day weekend hailed from a variety of backgrounds. Some were senior Teach for America members teaching in places like the Mississippi Delta or the toughest neighborhoods of New York City; some were vice-principals in traditional district schools or charter schools; some were former teachers, now working in business or government, yearning to return to education; and
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / December 13, 2006
Educational philanthropists spend about $300 million each year on education initiatives--yet too little of this investment is aimed at reshaping education policy. The Ohio Grantmakers Forum (OGF), at least, is trying to change that with Education for Ohio's Future.
The goals pushed by OGF’s report are both noble and timely: mandate a seamless P-16 system with clear priorities, create world-class standards and stronger accountability measures, guarantee quality teachers and principals in every classroom and school, accelerate innovations and options available throughout the system, and ensure adequate funding tied to results.
The report presents some compelling data that Ohio’s current education system is failing to prepare all students to compete in a new global economy. For instance, only one-third of Ohio’s eighth-graders met National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standards in reading and math; achievement gaps on state tests as large as 33 percentage points exist between white and African American third-, sixth-, and eighth-graders in reading and math; and only 25 percent of Ohio’s residents hold a four-year degree.
Recognizing state charters as one means for combating such dismal figures, OGF recommends some long overdue measures (first suggested here) for improving Ohio’s charter school program. Chief among them are shuttering chronically low-performing charter schools; holding all community school sponsors accountable through performance contracts (78 percent of sponsors are currently exempt from state evaluation); lifting geographic restrictions and caps on the number of charter schools allowed
Quentin Suffren / December 13, 2006
Though many critics continue to decry them, charters are not only here to stay, but expanding rapidly (to over 3600 nationwide in 2005-06). And this year’s National Charter School Research Project (NCSRP) report explores, among other topics, the impact they are having on parents, districts, and other education stakeholders.
The news is mostly good. NCSRP’s survey of low- and moderate-income parents of charter school students in three major cities found that charter parents were more likely to select options outside their neighborhoods than other parents (85 percent versus 60 percent); more likely than their private school cohorts to choose schools based on academic factors (71 percent versus 58 percent); and more likely to be satisfied with their chosen schools than parents who selected other public schools (97 percent satisfied as opposed to 84 percent). Such findings debunk the myth that charter parents are ill-informed and easily duped by “flashy” new school programs.
In choice-abundant cities like Dayton (where 25 percent of students attend charters), school districts are improving their programs to compete with charter schools. Dayton Public Schools, in addition to raising its test scores last year, has created some attractive program options and ramped up efforts to communicate its strengths to choice-savvy parents. And amidst stiff competition for dwindling numbers of area students, Dayton Public will likely be forced to think more creatively and efficiently about its finances, facilities, and transportation services.
Yet successful charter schools require