Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 38
August 29, 2007
Why not get what you deserve?
Third Frontier is doomed without a school system to match
From the Front Lines
Not so fast: real research must supplant shell-game analyses
Turn your vision for public education into reality
Emmy L. Partin / August 29, 2007
Executives get bonuses when their companies excel, so why not give teachers a bump in pay when their students do the same?
Support for teacher merit pay has traditionally existed in business circles, but a new cadre of educators and policy makers are opening up to financial incentives for teacher performance. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama advocated for it when speaking at the National Education Association's annual convention last month; a bipartisan trio of senators has introduced legislation that would include incentives (federal grant funding) for states to look at performance-pay programs to attract teachers to low-performing schools (see here); and a reform-minded coalition of local teachers unions-which includes Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo in the Buckeye State-advocates for alternative models of teacher compensation, including merit pay (see here).
But as with most education reform efforts, the devil is in the details. The design and implementation of a performance-rewards system is vital to its success.
Florida's failed STAR (Special Teachers are Rewarded) plan and withering MAP (Merit Award Pay) program failed to get teacher buy in during the planning process and were hastily enacted. On the other hand, a pilot merit-pay program in Austin, Texas is being rolled out slowly and evaluated along the way, and the teachers' union there sees it as a way for great teachers to earn what they deserve. In Minnesota, districts are taking advantage of their state's official encouragement to consider teacher merit-pay
Terry Ryan / August 29, 2007
Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to mandate increased state public-education funding failed to get the 402,000 signatures needed to get their proposal on the November ballot. Yet, the debate about adequacy in educational funding is sure to go on and the group pushing the effort, Campaign for Ohio's Future, may very well try again in 2008.
An important question that is overdue for serious scrutiny is the efficacy of making educational policy through voter initiative. Does whittling down a complex issue like school funding into a paragraph on which voters then cast a "yes" or "no" vote lead to good public policy?
The Founding Fathers didn't think so. They saw such "direct democracy" leading to anarchy, replacing a government of laws with the chaos of laws without government. In the Federalist 10, James Madison warned, "It may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction."
In place of direct democracy the Constitution created a republic which derives its powers from "the consent of the governed." We elect lawmakers to make laws and if they do something we don't approve of-or they don't do something we want-we elect someone else to take their place.
In Ohio, as in states like California, Oregon, Florida, and Michigan, public frustration with politicians and the political process has resulted
Mike Lafferty / August 29, 2007
In 2005, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to spend an extra $1.6 billion in bond money (increasing the program to $2 billion over 10 years) to support high-tech science research and industries in the state (see here).
But it makes no sense to spend billions of dollars of state funds to boost technology if Ohio's education system is not up to producing the educated workforce needed to power the innovations in medicine, nanotechnology, computers, fuel cells, and energy that the Third Frontier is already fueling.
Now fast forward to 2007 when the Ohio Board of Education began mulling recommendations by Achieve Inc. and the McKinsey Group to overhaul Ohio schools and make them "world class."
Every industrialized nation is emphasizing education, especially math and science education. In the United States, a reform coalition in Delaware wants to transform its schools and has come up with six recommendations (see here) that cover much of the same ground as the Achieve report. Delaware's plan recognizes that its children will have to be educated to compete with top graduates from China, Germany, Japan, and Russia. One idea is to increase class time by 140 hours a year, part of a proposal to boost standards and graduation requirements.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Achieve/McKinsey study recognizes progress the state has made and presents a set of common-sense initiatives (see here) such as boosting standards and assessments,
The debate over charter schools in the Buckeye State continued last week when the Coalition for Public Education (CPE)-a group that has filed numerous lawsuits against charters and the charter school program over the years-held a news conference to unveil its analysis of Ohio's school report-card data. CPE called Ohio's charter school program a failure, boasting that 10 years into the "experiment," district schools are far outperforming charters on the state's achievement tests.
Gadfly readers will remember that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's own analysis of this data showed that, by and large, charter schools and district schools perform relatively evenly on state achievement tests. Both types of schools in urban areas struggle to help children meet the state proficiency standards. Unlike CPE, Fordham provided a weighted comparison of charter school performance to district school performance in the same cities and charter school performance to the Big Eight district schools where the vast majority of charters operate.
While one might debate the methodologies used in these studies, the truth is that both analyses-and most other charter school "studies" available in Ohio-are limited in their usefulness to policy makers because they lack any information on student growth over time and are merely "snapshots" of student performance at a single point in time.
Unfortunately, really good studies of school performance-charter or district-are hard to come by. Fortunately, however, we are learning a lot more about what constitutes quality
August 29, 2007
The Mind Trust-a non-profit group supporting education innovation in Indianapolis-is offering Education Entrepreneur Fellowships to extraordinary individuals to develop strategies and launch initiatives that will transform public education. Learn more here.