The state’s first “conversion” charter school, Dayton’s World of Wonder (WOW), apparently decided it had been out in the cold for too long. After seven years as a stand-alone, or “mom and pop” charter, WOW will rejoin Dayton Public Schools (DPS) as a district sponsored “contract” school.
Some will see this as a defeat for the charter school movement. But it’s really a reflection of school funding in Ohio. WOW’s decision was a matter of economics. Dayton charter schools receive 30 percent less funding than traditional district schools—and not one penny for facilities. Thus, charter schools like WOW must educate students and finance building costs for a meager 70 cents on the dollar.
Make no mistake. This is a win, at least in the short-term, for both the district and WOW. DPS has been hemorrhaging students for years and its building plans have been threatened by lower enrollment numbers (see below). WOW will bring about 350 students back to DPS; in return, WOW’s students will likely benefit from a new school building in the coming years.
/ June 21, 2006
Many Ohio newspapers are reporting that the state’s new voucher program, EdChoice, which students begin benefiting from this fall, is faring poorly. They point to implementation problems and low interest on the part of students and parents.
To be fair, there have been numerous difficulties in implementation. The state education department had to create a new office to administer the program, private schools had to be educated about the program and its potential impact on their school cultures and budgets, and parents, many in the state’s toughest neighborhoods, had to be informed about the program.
For all the work, just 2,600 children trapped in Ohio’s lowest performing public schools will take advantage of the vouchers this fall. (Only students in schools rated in “academic emergency” or “academic watch,” the state’s two lowest ratings, for three consecutive years are eligible.) The state has provided funding for up to 14,000 vouchers.
But compared with other districts and states sporting similar programs, Ohio is well ahead of the game—and the future looks bright. Thanks to the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Department of Education, and nonprofit groups in cities such as Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati, 5.5 percent of 46,000 eligible students applied for a voucher. That number far surpasses the 0.7 percent of students in Milwaukee, the 1.7
/ June 21, 2006
This fall lawmakers will begin debate on the Ohio Core Curriculum, an initiative requiring high school students to take more math and science courses to graduate. If the legislation passes, district leaders will not have enough highly qualified teachers to cover the additional course load.
They can hardly fill their needs now. In 2004, there were 64 teaching vacancies in math and 60 in science. Teach for America (TFA)—a national teacher recruitment program that enlists young, idealistic college graduates much like the Peace Corps did two generations ago—could help fill the void. Their pool of applicants is up 20 percent, and these are hardly students from marginal schools. One-third of Notre Dame’s math, science, and engineering graduates applied to TFA, as did eight percent of Cal Tech’s class of 2006. By 2010, TFA wants to become the biggest employer of top college graduates in the nation.
Perfect timing? Nope. Unfortunately, strict state licensure requirements keep TFA out of our state.
Worse, we’re losing talented Ohioans. Since 2002, 196 graduates from some of our best universities have participated in TFA. These Buckeyes, literally some of the state’s best and brightest, are packing their bags to teach not in Columbus, Dayton, or Cleveland, but in high poverty schools in Philadelphia, the South Bronx, and Chicago.
/ June 21, 2006
According to preliminary test results for the 2005–06 school year, more Ohio students are reaching “proficiency” on state exams than ever before. So schools are doing a better job, right?
Wrong. Though state test scores are up, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s report card, are flat. Two Education Next editors argue that the discrepancy raises questions about whether Ohio’s test has gotten easier over the past two years. In 2003, the state earned a “C+” based on the gap between state and NAEP averages of proficient students. By 2005, that grade dropped to a “C”; Ohio was one of only six states to have lost ground.
Another study by Kevin Carey of Education Sector looks at how states get away with reporting wildly optimistic data across a range of indicators. Consider Wisconsin, which declares that 99.8 percent
of its districts met Average Yearly Progress(AYP) goals for 2004–05. Ohio earned 24th
place (out of 50 states and D.C.) on the report’s “Pangloss Index,” which ranks brazen optimists from top to bottom. While Ohio is not among the worst offenders, these two reports together suggest that the state’s standards might be slipping—and during a time when many state leaders are calling for more rigor (via the Ohio Core Curriculum), not less. Come August, when the state’s school and
/ June 21, 2006
Andrew J. Rotherham and Sara Mead
Education Sector, February, 2006
This report takes a hard look at what it means to make Newsweek’s recent list of best high schools in America. Newsweek’s rankings are generated using a fairly simple measure—the Challenge Index, which is determined by dividing the number of Advanced Placement (AP) tests and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken at a particular school by the number of graduating seniors. Rotherham and Mead argue the Challenge Index ignores key data on achievement gaps and overall graduation rates (i.e., the number of students who should have graduated). Consequently, schools with achievement gaps as high as 56 percentage points in reading between economically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers can still make the list. This explains why of the top schools making the Newsweek list, the average graduation rate for African American students was only a mediocre 71 percent. Couple these figures with the fact that AP and IB tests are often taken by a disproportionately small number of students and the list seems even more suspect. Rotherham and Mead recommend creating a more comprehensive metric that includes AYP data for student subgroups or even a panel of professionals to evaluate the rankings.
Jay Mathews, a Washington Post
columnist and creator of the Challenge Index, offers a rebuttal to the
June 21, 2006
On June 5, the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries announced grant awards of up to $5,000 for 206 schools across the nation to develop or expand their library collections. Two of the seven charter school recipients were Ohio’s very own Dayton View Academy and the Early Childhood Development Center in Cleveland. The Laura Bush Foundation supports education through the creation and growth of school libraries and has made over $3 million in contributions. Check out the full list of schools receiving grants at http://www.laurabushfoundation.org/