Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 12
May 10, 2006
By Kristina Phillips-Schwartz
Creating Education Options for Ohio Parents
D.C.'s Federal Scholarship Program Offers Lessons for Ohio
Anticipating School Vouchers in Ohio - with Great Doubt
Ohio's High School Challenge
Trends in Charter School Authorizing
Charter School Financial Drain May Be all Clogged Up
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / May 10, 2006
The current wave of Latino protests in the streets over immigration, and the policy debates over this issue in the halls of Congress will go on, but the hard task of blending millions of immigrants (legal or not) into American society marches on daily, at least in the nation’s schools. Ohio is no exception.
In 2003, Latinos accounted for nearly nine million students in the nation’s K-12 public schools, or 19 percent of total enrollment, according to an issue brief by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank examining Hispanic issues.
Statewide, Ohio’s immigrant population has risen 31 percent since 1990. In Franklin County (the Columbus-area), the foreign-born population increased by nearly 39 percent over the same period. The newcomers are not only Hispanic. Ohio’s immigrants also come from Somalia, Vietnam, China, Portugal, France and Central America. They work in the fields, they work in the expanding Honda auto plants, and in some cases, they have no work at all.
This fact of contemporary life in America’s schools presents a new array of challenges, as Ohio and other states are coming to grips with the No Child Left Behind law. Hispanic groups have pushed the federal government to include first-time English Language Learners (ELL) in state assessment and accountability systems. However, some school administrators around the country are pushing for modifications in NCLB to give schools with high numbers of ELL a break when
May 10, 2006
Gov. Taft signed the Ohio Education Choice Scholarship Program into law on June 30, 2005 (and the law was slightly modified in the recent budget corrections bill HB 530). Under the program, students who attend a district or charter school that has been rated in Academic Emergency or Academic Watch categories, the state’s two lowest ratings, for three consecutive years are eligible for school vouchers in the following amounts:
- Kindergarten through 8th grade - $4,250 per academic year
- Ninth through 12th grade - $5,000 per academic year
There are 14,000 scholarships available. If more than 14,000 eligible students apply, the state will hold a lottery.
The program is the largest of its kind in the nation and raises many questions. Three players in the debate—Speaker of the House Jon Husted, executive director of School Choice Ohio Susan Zanner, and University of Dayton education professor Dr. Carolyn Ridenour—share their views with our readers.
May 10, 2006
Jon Husted (R-Kettering) has long fought for school choice. He played pivotal roles both in developing the state’s charter school program and in creating the Ohio Education Choice Scholarship Program. In an interview on May 2, Election Day, with the Gadfly, Speaker Husted explained why he believes in school choice, and what he believes will result from the state’s newly enacted school voucher program.
Gadfly: What’s the status of school choice in the Buckeye State, and how will this program affect it?
Husted: School choice is here to stay in Ohio…. I think we are at a point … in Ohio where we now need to focus on quality growth. I hope that with the Choice Scholarship Program, and other reforms that we are undertaking in the state’s education marketplace, that we create a broader venue of options for parents and children, so that we can ensure that the educational offerings we provide families meet the unique needs of every child
Gadfly: What are the potential pitfalls facing the Choice Scholarship Program?
Husted: Not getting enough schools that are willing to participate in the program … could lead to a situation where there aren’t enough quality school options for all participating children.
Gadfly: The program requires participating schools to take state achievement tests. What’s the benefit?
Husted: We want to ensure that all children who utilize vouchers are making sufficient academic progress
Gadfly: Do you expect opposition to the program?
Husted: There certainly could
May 10, 2006
The new Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program faces challenging days ahead—educating parents and students who would receive the vouchers is one of the most obvious problems. As the new executive director of School Choice Ohio, I attended a recent conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Alliance for School Choice and the Friedman Foundation. I learned from other school choice program directors across the country that, while challenging, the problems of implementation are not insurmountable. I think it important to consider some of these programs as we prepare to enroll our first voucher students in Ohio.
Washington, D.C., home to the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF)—a program that allows students to use public money to leave failing schools—is a good case study. I visited the offices of WSF president Sally Sachar and her staff, recently, where they shared their early successes, along with the hurdles of marketing, implementing and participating in the research study of D.C.’s federally-funded voucher program. They also took me to see first-hand how the scholarship program worked for children.
Accompanied by WSF Outreach Coordinator Alicia Robinson, I visited Rock Creek International School, which enrolled 33 WSF recipients. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) elementary and secondary program, the school is committed to diversity, but even that caused difficulties.
The socioeconomic gaps in their student population, for example, meant that even simple things, like celebrating birthdays, were no simple matter. After all, some children arrived at school via limos while others
May 10, 2006
On the eve of implementing the Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program, unanswered questions remain. Can Ohio promise eligible families that their children who are now enrolled in schools rated in “Academic Emergency” or “Academic Watch” will be better served in private, religious, or alternative public schools? And, further, what about those children who will be left behind in these failing schools? In short, will Ohioans be well served by vouchers?
There is insubstantial data to support the theory that vouchers raise student achievement. Even if the data did link vouchers to higher test scores, choice schemes are, by design, limited in number. Even voucher proponents hesitate to assert that choice will be universal across all communities in the country, including Ohio.
More troubling is the fact that advocates have too easily moved from tentative research conclusions to comprehensive policy recommendations. Even conservative policy wonks, such as Frederick Hess, have cautioned that vouchers have “too often been trumpeted uncritically by choice proponents rather than used to encourage rigorous policy considerations.”
A large-scale 2001 RAND study suggested that other policy options (such as smaller class sizes in public schools) might hold greater promise for more children. Attempts at improving Ohio’s public schools by indirectly supporting Ohio’s private schools through choice initiatives may ultimately fail both. Desperate urban schools serving poor families require substantially increased, not decreased, financial support. Families with the least access to data about school quality are likely those left behind if the choice
Terry Ryan / May 10, 2006
Ohio’s high school students are ill-prepared for college level work. Evidence of this abounds. In December, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) reported, “41 percent of Ohio’s high school graduates took at least one college remedial class in math, reading or writing in the fall of 2003…. That’s up from 38 percent in fall 2000.” This number is particularly surprising when one considers that nearly 20 percent of Ohio students drop out before completing high school. The numbers are worse for minorities—only 59 percent of blacks high school seniors and 57 percent of the state’s Latinos high school seniors received a high school diploma in 2003.
Such bleak statistics were once excused because it was believed that workplace skills were less demanding than the skills required at college. A new study just released by ACT, producer of America’s most widely accepted college entrance exam, debunks this argument. ACT’s “Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different?” provides empirical evidence that “whether planning to enter college or workforce training programs after graduation, high school students need to be educated to a comparable level of readiness in reading and mathematics.”
If Ohioans want education to provide all young people with the opportunity to live meaningful and productive lives, then this report makes clear that high schools must do two things it has failed to do. First, keep students from dropping out. Second, educate all high school students to a common academic expectation, one that prepares them
Terry Ryan / May 10, 2006
As Ohio now has over 60 organizations sponsoring close to 300 charter schools, this new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute should be of interest to all anyone concerned about the state’s charter program.
Among the report’s findings:
1) sponsors do not renew charter school contracts because of poor
2) sponsors are growing choosier about the schools they approve (in part
because of the cost of sponsoring troubled schools);
3) half of all sponsors, especially smaller and district sponsors, exercise limited
oversight of their schools.
4) sponsors are underfunded, and the vast majority say they would use
additional funds to hire staff to monitor schools’ academic performance; and
5) sponsoring is still new and dominated by small-scale, school-district sponsors.
Of Ohio’s 60 plus sponsoring organizations, a full 75 percent are traditional districts that sponsor only one or two schools. These district sponsors tend to operate in the shadows, while other types of sponsors—higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, independent chartering boards, state education agencies, municipal offices and county education agencies—operate under the continual scrutiny of charter critics.
This report is a good first step in examining what types of sponsors do the best work, and how state policy can support the development of more and better sponsors.
To read the report, surf here.
May 10, 2006
The popular notion that public school districts are losing money because of charter school enrollment is now considered nonsense by many. The April 27 edition of The Columbus Dispatch shows that even though charter enrollment has risen in the past five years, so has funding for traditional school districts. Columbus is now receiving $20 million more than in 1998-1999, and Cleveland is receiving $67 million more. Many school treasurers still look at charter schools as a drain of resources; however, the Dispatch points out that the financial burden may be because the schools are unwilling to downsize to match lower enrollments.
“Schools Have More Money Despite Charter Drain,” by Jennifer Smith Richards, The Columbus Dispatch, April 27, 2006.
“Money Mangers Needed,” Editorial, The Columbus Dispatch, May 4, 2006.
May 10, 2006
In 1970, half of the engineers in the world were American. Many were in Ohio, where much of the early technology that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon was developed. Flash forward to 2006. This year China will graduate over 600,000 new engineers. India, 300,000. The U.S. will graduate just over 70,000 new engineers, nearly half of these will be foreigners.
Those are just some of the findings in this troubling report.
Ohio, a once-proud home to inventors, engineers and manufacturers, fares even worse than the nation as a whole. The state has slipped to 32nd in the nation in the number of bachelor degrees in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics awarded per 100,000 residents.
Businesses are aware of this lack of preparation. And students know it as well. The report found that 62 percent of college students wished they had taken more challenging courses in core areas in high school. Of the students who didn’t go on to college, 72 percent wish they had tougher courses in high school as well.
The report, in an urgent plea to policy-makers and business leaders, says, “This is no small challenge. And the clock is ticking.” To learn more surf here.
“Taft’s $13.2M Proposal to Boost Ohio’s Math, Science Education,” by William Hershey, The Dayton Daily News, May 9, 2006.