Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 48
December 12, 2007
Strong Results, High Demand: A Four-Year Study of Boston's Pilot High Schools
Lesson of Charter School Sponsorship
Voices of experience help charter-school board members
Gadfly Readers Write...
Selected comments from our readers
School-funding ideas could force Strickland's hand
From the Front Lines
The Cincinnati promise?
Terry Ryan / December 12, 2007
Center for Collaborative Education
Ohio is a hotbed of high-school reform initiatives, including:
the KnowledgeWorks- and Gates-funded Early College High Schools like DECA in Dayton (see here);
- up to five new STEM high schools to be birthed in the next two years (see here);
- a number of charter high school efforts underway, like the Charles School in Columbus (see here); and
- myriad district high-school reform efforts.
These efforts, and others like them, can all benefit from studying Boston's Pilot high schools. This study is made easier by the new report, Strong Results, High Demand: A Four-Year Study of Boston's Pilot High Schools, which is the first longitudinal study of outcomes of Boston Pilot high schools. The study by the Center for Collaborative Education has found that youngsters in Pilot high schools outperform their peers in traditional Boston high schools in every category studied--state test scores, attendance rates, promotion rates, and graduation rates.
Pilot schools have autonomy over their budgets, staff, curriculum, governance, instruction, assessments, and schedules. But there's a tradeoff. Like charters in Ohio, in exchange for more operational freedoms, Pilot schools have increased accountability. The schools, 10 serving about 3,000 students, use these essential freedoms to create vision-driven smaller high schools that have a singular focus on student achievement.
Ohio can learn a lot from this report, which shows it is possible for a district to embrace a cohesive reform strategy that welcomes choice and operational freedoms in return
Mike Lafferty / December 12, 2007
On November 30, the Fordham Foundation, in partnership with the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Ohio Department of Education, the Franklin County Education Service Center, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, sponsored a charter-school board governance training program for about 85 charter school board members, operators, and sponsors. (Materials from the event can be found here.) Following is a report on a panel discussion that stressed the importance of hiring good leaders and teachers and getting parents involved in schools.
Unfortunately, as we have come to learn (see the editorial above), calling a school a charter doesn't automatically mean it is a good school. That's a shock to many novice charter-school board members who think that just about anybody can govern schools better than traditional public school boards.
The key to success, according to veteran charter-school board members, is to find and keep "roll-up-your-sleeves" leaders and teachers who can manage a classroom well and really know their subject matter, said Luther Brown, board chair for the Phoenix Community Learning Center in Cincinnati. Brown was puzzled why the poor, black children attending his school weren't doing better when he first helped to open the Cincinnati school in 2001. Good leadership and teachers may seem a no-brainer but experience has taught Brown over the years that teachers and principals are not effective teachers and principals just because they say so.
"It comes down to finding high-quality teachers," said Richard
December 12, 2007
Regarding a November 28 review by Emmy L. Partin:
If I were writing your article, I would have to have called it, "Schools Are Worse than You Can Imagine!" And it would apply to publicly-funded schools nationwide along with many of the private schools.
I am a retired Air Force research engineer and I have spent the last six years doing research at Richard Allen Schools in Dayton, Ohio, and developing what they call their E-Curriculum.
One recent article sort of sums it up for me. In the September 12, 2006, edition of the Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled, "Arithmetic Problem: New Report Urges Return to Basics in Teaching Math." This article says that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) now admits that they got it wrong when they pushed what has been derisively called "Fuzzy Math" back in 1989. And that now the NCTM wants to return to teaching the "Basics." The "Basics" would include memorizing math tables instead of giving calculators to kindergarteners.
I have no confidence (the NCTM) would be able to define...the "basics," or that they would easily jettison all the bad ideas that they have pushed for almost 20 years.
The same problem of no longer teaching the "Basics" that exists in math also exists in English language arts, science, and social studies... How can public schools be any good when their state academic content standards, their textbooks, their tests, and ultimately their
Emmy L. Partin / December 12, 2007
Ted Strickland has hung his success or failure as governor on fixing Ohio's school funding system. A quarter of the way through his term, he has yet to announce a timeline for his fix, let alone the specifics of a plan. Republican state Sen. Kirk Schuring jumped into the funding-fix fray last week with a joint resolution that would dedicate specific percentages of revenue from certain taxes to K-12 and higher education.
Schuring's proposal and Strickland's lack of one have received a lot of attention. Flying under the radar, however, is the State Board of Education's thoughtful and deliberate approach to developing recommendations for improving the state's school funding. While their colleagues in the General Assembly have been criticized for inaction over the past year (see here), the board is busy with real work toward mending Ohio's ailing school-funding system. Its school-funding subcommittee is considering novel approaches to relieving the state's reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education. All ideas are on the table, from capping property taxes and opening the door for sales and income education taxes, to the regionalization of school funding.
Still unclear is whether the State Board of Education will make recommendations on modernizing how education dollars are spent. Funding inequities between schools within districts are as dramatic as, sometimes more so than, funding inequities between districts. As in the rest of the country, Ohio's current method of calculating per-pupil funding (the exception
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / December 12, 2007
More than a year ago, the Strive education partnership was formed with much fanfare in the Queen City to create a scholarship program much like the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan. The Kalamazoo Promise is a four-year, full-ride scholarship to any public college in the state for all high school graduates who receive their elementary and secondary education in the city's public schools.
It takes big bucks to get such an ambitious program off the ground. In Cincinnati, the initial announcement has been followed mostly with wishful thinking and more publicity than money. In fact, the Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported that Strive is revising its goals and is wondering whether the organization will have enough money to pay for the scholarships.
Such difficulties also occurred in Kalamazoo. Janice Brown, superintendent of the Kalamazoo public schools, said that it took five years of conversations and a lot of faith to get donors on board. Eventually, a few anonymous donors jump-started the program's endowment that helps generate $12 million a year to fund the scholarships. Even more will be needed in Cincinnati, where the public schools serve about 35,000 students, more than three times the number in Kalamazoo. It could cost more than $36 million annually to pay for a "Cincinnati Promise." Raising that kind of cash doesn't happen overnight and it's no surprise Strive organizers are still working to determine if it is in fact doable.
In Kalamazoo, the