Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 16
July 26, 2006
The Omega School of Excellence: Starting Fresh
Reviews and Analysis
Reviews and Analysis
The KIPP Factor
Reviews and Analysis
Gates in Ohio
Terry Ryan / July 26, 2006
The Omega School of Excellence, one of Dayton's first charter schools, is breaking new ground once again. From its inception in 2000, the school's goal was to teach predominantly African-American students in grades five through eight the academic skills and attitudes they needed to gain entrance to, and successfully compete at, some of the best high schools in Dayton and beyond. The school has realized some successes: dozens of their students have won scholarships to top local private schools, and some have moved on to the country's top prep schools.
Omega was founded by Daryl and Vanessa Ward--leaders of the Omega Baptist Church in west Dayton--and modeled on the hugely successful Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Early on, the school ran an intensive, 57-hour week program that emphasized academic achievement, leadership and self-discipline. All of its students wore uniforms.
Recently, though, the school has struggled. Daryl's serious health problems forced Vanessa to shoulder most of the church's work as a whole, at the expense of the school. Absent her critical leadership, teachers and parents alike turned against the extended school days and Saturday classes, central to Omega's early successes.
Declining enrollment brought financial difficulties. And less instructional time led to a poor academic showing in 2004 and 2005. That year, it was rated among Dayton's lowest performing schools, a fact not acceptable either to the school's board, or to the Wards. Omega's board decided in the spring
Quentin Suffren / July 26, 2006
Critics of voucher programs are positively swooning over a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which finds that public school students in 4th and 8th grades score as well or better than their private-school peers.
Based on results from the 2005 NAEP, the findings surprised many because average scores have historically shown private-school students performing far better. But adjust for student characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, and English language proficiency, and the gap between public and private almost disappears.
Fourth graders in both systems scored roughly the same in reading. In math, fourth graders in private schools actually did worse than public school students--by 4.5 points. Eighth graders in private schools still performed better in reading by 7.3 points, but ran neck-and-neck with public school students in math.
Teacher unions wasted no time embracing the study. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) web log cited the data as proof that vouchers programs, which give parents public dollars to send their kids to private schools, are a waste of taxpayer money. Ohio Federation of Teachers president Tom Mooney likewise stated, "The point is not to transfer a handful of students from public to private schools…This is further proof that that’s a dead end."
Hyperbole aside, the NCES’s report never addresses the effectiveness of voucher programs. As a broad comparison of public and private schools, it does not examine how voucher recipients perform
July 26, 2006
Among charter school networks having a profound impact on low-income student achievement, one stands out. The Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP.
Want proof? Eighty percent of its graduates go on to college--the national average for low-income students being just 20 percent. And on average, fifth graders who spend just one year at a KIPP school improve from the 38th to 68th percentile in math, and 27th to the 42nd percentile in reading on the Stanford Achievement Tests.
Ohioans have the opportunity to bring this high-powered school to the Buckeye State--but not unless current laws are changed.
With 52 schools nationwide, KIPP is looking to expand, seeking proposals from communities across the nation to open more. Our state’s charter cap, however, only allows charter school operators with proven track record of success that manage the “daily operations of a community school” to open here. KIPP doesn’t handle day-to-day operations. Instead, it pours its resources into training independent, highly qualified leaders and support staff who take on the task themselves.
And the school has the financial backing to do this. New KIPP schools come with hefty grants for start-up and professional development from the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($300,000 for high schools) and Walton Family Foundation ($400,000 for all new schools).
Ohio shouldn’t let this opportunity pass it by.
State policymakers should do what’s necessary to welcome KIPP to Ohio’s
Terry Ryan / July 26, 2006
While the philanthropy world was still reeling from Investor Warren Buffett's announcement to give the bulk of his fortune-$37 billion-to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the foundation's staff and a group of education leaders met in Seattle on July 17 and 18 for the foundation's EDU Summer Conference. On the agenda was the future of the Gates' Foundation's education program.
Should Ohioans be interested?
You bet. The Gates Foundation has already invested millions in Ohio to improve high school graduation rates and school quality by promoting the "three R's"--rigor, relevance, and relationships. Some of the foundation's work in Ohio include:
- Partnering with The KnowledgeWorks Foundation in Cincinnati to open three early college academies (with five more in the works), including the Dayton Early College Academy;
- Sponsoring the Charter School Conference on Quality in November 2005, hosted by Governor Bob Taft, Ohio Speaker of the House John Husted, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan T. Zelman;
- Supporting the efforts of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation to expand its charter school sponsorship activities throughout the state;
- Underwriting the creation of Keys to Improving Dayton Schools (k.i.d.s), a new charter management organization;
- Financing the start-up of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools;
- And supporting numerous district reform efforts in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton.
The foundation is also committed to preparing students for the demands of college and the workplace. Thus, it has become major backers of the Knowledge is
Jane Schreier Jones / July 26, 2006
As Dick Cheney and John Edwards squared off in their pre-election debate at Case Western in 2004, three billboards in Cleveland dared the moderator to ask the candidates why taxpayers "pay $1.5 billion to label our top schools failures." The billboards, a reference to grievances against No Child Left Behind (NCLB), were paid for by Communities for Quality Education--a group financed by the National Education Association (NEA).
This is just one example that Joe Williams details in his report of how the NEA subsidizes a host of organizations that "echo" the teacher union's criticisms of NCLB. From bankrolling advocacy groups and political organizations to funding union-friendly research, the NEA's efforts to sway public opinion of the law crisscross the country, Ohio included. For example, the nonprofit Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (which keeps tabs on Ohio) has commissioned numerous studies outlining "doomsday scenarios" for schools under NCLB, studies funded by the NEA and its affiliates.
The NEA rarely publicizes these relationships, nor does the press. The result is the appearance of many "impartial" voices united against NCLB--when, in fact, they are just echoes of the NEA's.
Is it working? Polls show opposition to the law has increased from 8 to 28 percent in just two years, while percentages favoring it have fallen from 40 to 36.
At least with this report, readers can "connect the dots" for themselves, provided they keep their pencils sharpened.
To read the report,