Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 23
November 8, 2006
Creating New Leaders in the Charter Sector
School Buildings in Need of Children (and Vice Versa)
Reviews and Analysis
School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When?
Reviews and Analysis
Reclaiming the American Dream
KIPP Columbus Seeks Founding Cluster Executive Director
Making the Grade (or Not)
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / November 8, 2006
The charter community in the Buckeye State recently received some welcome news (see here and here ). After costly, long-drawn-out litigation, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the teacher unions' multiple challenges to the constitutionality of the state's charter school program in a sweeping and powerful opinion. The ruling clears the way for some long-overdue changes to Ohio's charter school policies, many of which we've spelled out in a report (see here) requested by the governor, key legislators, and state education leaders.
Yet what is more difficult to tackle--and impossible to legislate--is the issue of leadership in the K-12 education field itself, particularly in the charter sector.
All kinds of charter schools are beset by leadership problems, four of which are ubiquitous enough to mention here. First, the paucity of training systems and career paths. Like explorers in the wilderness, charters are still cutting new paths through the scrub, and nowhere more than in regard to personnel. Where does one learn to become a successful charter-school leader? Where does one study? Apprentice? Find a mentor?
Second, American public education, for reasons that are understandable yet lamentable, has not cultivated many entrepreneurial people in its ranks. It's fair to say that the more entrepreneurial their temperament and aspirations, the less likely they are to enter or remain in public education. Entrepreneurs simply do not thrive in so heavily regulated and standardized an environment. So when entrepreneurial opportunities arise, as
Quentin Suffren / November 8, 2006
It's no secret that Ohio's school funding system is deeply troubled (see here and here). But when it comes to ensuring its youngsters attend gleaming new district schools, Ohio is delivering. The state has dedicated almost $5 billion toward facilities construction since 1997--not counting local contributions from levy and bond issues. By the end of 2005, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), which oversees and disburses state funds for school facilities projects, had completed 411 buildings across the state, and well over 250 more projects are in design or currently under construction (see here).
There is good reason to be sanguine about such a flurry of activity. Beyond signaling an investment in future generations, new school construction or renovation--when coupled with a good instructional program--can pay dividends for student learning by providing suitable learning environments, deterring absenteeism, and keeping good teachers in classrooms (see here).
Yet too many students in Ohio's urban areas are not reaping the benefits of the state's ambitious school construction project.
Part of the problem stems from steep declines in enrollment in many urban districts as more and more students leave troubled district schools to attend charter schools or families relocate to homes in suburban districts. From 1997 to 2006, the five major urban districts (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo) lost over 52,000 students. Of the five districts, Cleveland lost 16,630 students over the nine year span, Cincinnati
Jack M. Fletcher / November 8, 2006
Organizational restructuring is common practice for many private businesses, but few in public education have tried it (one exception can be found in Dayton--see here). That may soon change. The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates restructuring for schools failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for five years in a row. (AYP requires that all student subgroups--economically disadvantaged, ethnic/minority, special education, etc.--also meet proficiency levels set by the state.)
So how to go about it? School Restructuring Under No Child Left Behind: What Works When? describes the available options. Under NCLB, school restructuring can take five forms: a turnaround, whereby the principal, the curriculum, and some staff are replaced in hopes of better results; chartering and contracting, whereby districts can outsource school operations to an outside entity; a state takeover, whereby the district turns a troubled school over to the state; and "other," which encompasses all remaining restructuring arrangements aimed at fundamental reforms.
What Works When? offers a step-by-step guide to each restructuring option (or at least the first four, as "other" remains a challenge simply to define)--complete with worksheets, checklists, and decision trees. Turnarounds are often the easiest route for many districts, provided a change-minded principal is available. Both chartering and contracting (depending on state charter laws) offer the benefits of using educational management organizations with track records of raising student achievement quickly.
Central to any restructuring efforts, regardless of the chosen
Jane Schreier Jones / November 8, 2006
Few can argue that college completion rates are depressingly low. Just 35 percent of the 4.1 million students entering high school will go on to earn a college degree. Luckily, pursuing a rigorous academic curriculum in high school (as set forth in Governor Taft's Ohio Core plan) greatly increases the likelihood high school students will obtain a college degree.
Yet it still may not be enough for low-income children. While over 60 percent of academically prepared higher-income students finish college, just 20 percent of similarly prepared low-income earn a bachelor's degree. And those that graduate do so at less selective colleges with less support and fewer prospects for academic success.
The Bridgespan Group's new report examines key factors that, when coupled with rigorous academic preparation, improve low-income students' prospects for finishing college. First among them is a student's expectation that he or she must attend college to pursue a planned career. Consider that low-income students who make the connection between college and career goals are six times more likely to finish college than those who don't. Other important factors are student peer cultures and knowledge of college requirements, including long-term financial commitments.
Sadly, college access supports, especially those supporting academic preparedness, are not widespread among low-income youth. While 52 percent of surveyed low-income eighth-graders expected to go to college, only 23 percent intended to pursue a college-prep curriculum in high school.
In addition to adopting and implementing a college-ready
November 8, 2006
Passionate about increasing excellent schooling options for all children? Here's a chance to work with one of the leading charter school networks in the nation. The KIPP Foundation is seeking an accomplished leader to create a cluster of KIPP schools in Columbus, Ohio. The Founding Cluster Executive Director will be responsible for the execution of KIPP's strategic plan, which includes ensuring the start-up and successful growth of a cluster of at least five schools serving approximately 1500 students in grades K-12. See here for a full description of this opportunity.
November 8, 2006
Too many of America's youngsters--Ohioans among them--are still being left behind. So says The Fordham Report: How Well Are States Educating Our Neediest Children?, which evaluates state education efforts in three major categories: student achievement for low-income, African American, and Hispanic students; achievement trends for these same groups over the last 10-15 years; and the state's track record in bold education reform. Ohio's record is decidedly mixed. While the Buckeye State received high marks for its improved state testing program and school choice programs, Ohio falls short (earning a "D") in minority and low-income student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Access the full report, complete with Ohio's evaluation, here.