Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 37
August 15, 2007
Welcome to the Ohio Education Gadfly
Back from summer break
Analysis of Ohio report-card data shows improvement lagging in big-city schools
By Mike Lafferty ,
Road to effective change eludes public schools
From the Front Lines
Economists respond to the STRS's attack on pension-system report
Despite a decade of school reform efforts in Ohio, students in the state's largest cities still struggle to meet basic academic standards and are nowhere close to achieving the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to an analysis of the latest Ohio school report-card data.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute found forty-six percent of 183,000 public and charter school students in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton are attending schools graded either D or F (officially, academic watch or academic emergency). That compares to about 75,000 students in D or F schools in the entire rest of the state. (These figures do not include a few thousand students attending online e-schools or in schools that did not receive academic ratings.)
This figure is frightening. There are literally thousands of children in Ohio whose futures are at serious risk. The urban results are in stark contrast to student performance in most Ohio school districts where the majority of children meet state standards and attend schools rated Excellent or Effective. Ohio's best schools are getting better, leaving many urban children behind. This fact raises profound questions about the impact of poverty on student achievement, and Ohio's move toward measuring individual student progress over time should provide better data on this issue in coming years.
It's not all bleak in the state's big cities. Reading and math student achievement scores continue long-term improvement in Ohio's eight largest cities, according to the state data,
Terry Ryan / August 15, 2007
The powerful forces bearing down on Ohio and public education here were nicely encapsulated in two recent Dayton Daily News articles.
The first was headlined "Newly laid-off Dayton teachers may have to leave Ohio to find jobs" (June 24th), while the second simply read "Report: Delphi to offer buyouts" (June 25th). These are two completely different industries, yet the same forces are at work.
Two industrial-age enterprises-public education and automobile manufacturing-both burdened by powerful and self-interested, industrial-style union work forces, are painfully and involuntarily finding themselves being restructured for the 21st century. How they deal with these changes will profoundly affect the future economic and social health of the Buckeye State.
Judging by recent developments in Dayton, early signs in public education are not encouraging. Urban schools particularly seem to be in denial, struggling mightily even to picture what it would mean to do things differently.
In Dayton, management is struggling to keep the ship afloat, while labor clings to all it can-seniority above all else-even as the vessel threatens to sink. At Delphi, by contrast, part of an industry that has been buffeted longer than public education by job losses, automation, and competition, the United Auto Workers union (UAW) is working with management to restructure the labor force so Delphi can compete anew.
This collaboration is hard, but it's driven by the blunt reality that Delphi is bankrupt and lost $5.5 billion in 2006. Seeking to survive, one key move is to offer early
Mike Lafferty / August 29, 2007
In June, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a study of Ohio's teacher pension system entitled Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs: Rethinking Ohio's Teacher Pension System. This report has triggered much overdue public debate in Ohio and beyond regarding teacher pension systems and their interaction with school-improvement efforts. The report, however, was not well-received by the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS), which attacked the authors of the report.
The study, authored by Dr. Robert M. Costrell, of the University of Arkansas, and Dr. Michael J. Podgursky, of the University of Missouri, identified four major shortcomings in Ohio's existing "defined-benefit" teacher pension system:
- It encourages early retirement. Over time, the pattern of pension wealth accrual built into Ohio's teacher pension system has created powerful incentives for teachers to retire in their fifties. The average retirement age for Ohio teachers is fifty eight, which is well below the current minimum age for regular retirement in the Social Security system (age sixty five, but soon rising to age sixty seven), and below the private sector generally. With rising life expectancies, the cost of Ohio's defined benefit system will continue to rise as increasing numbers of teachers retire relatively young. Early retirement also creates a heightened demand for health insurance, because Medicare coverage does not begin until age sixty five, putting increasing strain on Ohio's already severely under-funded teacher retiree health insurance fund.
- It's a disincentive
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / August 15, 2007
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), schools have ramped up instructional time in reading and math but are spending less time teaching things like history, social studies, science, and the arts-subjects not tested under the federal law (see here and here). Unfortunately, this narrowing of the curriculum is happening at the same time employers all over the world are seeking the most competent, creative, and innovative people on the planet with a very high level of preparation in reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, science, literature, and the arts-as was highlighted in a recent presentation on Capitol Square by Marc Tucker of the National Center for Education and the Economy (see here).
Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children examines the need to restore the liberal arts to the K-12 curriculum through a volume of papers-most presented last December at a conference in Washington, D.C.-assembled by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Diane Ravitch (both Fordham Institute board members). It stresses the need to ensure productive and responsible citizens who can think critically and are prepared for work and a satisfying life. There has been an age-old calling for a "broad, liberal arts education"-Aristotle said it is necessary for one to act "nobly" and Benjamin Franklin said it is needed to cultivate "the best capacities" in humans. Finn and Ravitch call for its revival in the context of
August 15, 2007
The Charter School Growth Fund is seeking charter management and support organizations to participate in a six-month project to develop strategic business plans, financial models, and implementation plans for expansion. At the conclusion of the project, selected organizations will receive multi-year grants and loan packages to help with the costs associated with expansion.
Applicant organizations must demonstrate that they:
have run one or more exemplary charter schools,
have sustained strong achievement gains with underserved youth, and
are dedicated to expanding a network of high-performing schools.
Visit the Charter School Growth Fund's website for more information, but don't delay-the application window ends September 21.
The Charter School Growth Fund is a philanthropic venture firm founded to make early-stage grants and loans for the development and expansion of charter management and support organizations that provide a quality education option to underserved students nationwide.