Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 26
January 10, 2007
Focus on Instructional Time, Not School Days
Turning Brick-and-Mortar to Gold
Reviews and Analysis
From the Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education from Birth through Adulthood
National School Safety Expert to Speak at Dayton Seminar
KIPP Columbus Executive Director Position
Terry Ryan / January 10, 2007
In one of his last official acts as Ohio’s top executive, Governor Taft used a line-item veto to purge a provision added to the Ohio Core legislation that would have affected the school calendar. Taft vetoed language allowing schools to operate for a minimum number of hours instead of days for fear that some school districts would move to a four-day week. The provision’s champion, Representative Thom Collier (R-Mount Vernon), has nevertheless promised to push the measure again later this year--believing it offers districts the flexibility to make up time when schools miss more than their allotted five calamity days.
To be sure, rethinking Ohio’s school calendar and how schools are ultimately funded is an effort worth pursuing. But if Ohio moves from funding school days to school hours, it should do so to increase the amount of time students actually spend learning, not simply to make it easier for districts to recoup “snow days” or shorten the school week.
Most states require somewhere around 180 days of school a year. Yet when these school days are broken down by hours, the disparity in time spent in school across districts can be dramatic (see here). For instance, Cleveland Municipal has a 178-day school calendar, and a school day lasting 6 hours and 40 minutes long. Houston, in contrast, has a 180-day school calendar, but students are in school 7 hours a day. In a typical school year,
Quentin Suffren / January 10, 2007
Ohio’s large urban districts are undergoing a painful transition, similar to the one already experienced by many of the state’s big manufacturers, from sprawling organizations with a corner on the market to shrinking systems struggling to compete for fewer and fewer customers.
Like the majority of the cities they serve, the “Big Eight” school districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) are suffering from heavy population losses. The Big Eight districts hemorrhaged over 64,000 students combined from 1995-96 to 2005-06. As a result, some urban districts are treading water just to avoid potentially devastating fiscal crises. Consider a few recent examples:
- Dayton Public Schools must pare staff and programs this year to the tune of $9.4 million. And without passage of a new tax levy in May, Dayton Public faces a $24 million deficit in 2007-08 (see here).
- To avoid forecasted deficits in 07-08, Cleveland Municipal Schools has made $6 million in budget cuts and is scouring district books for any overlooked revenue (see here).
- Youngstown City Schools racked up a $2 million deficit in 2005-06 and is staring down a $10.7 million deficit this year (see here).
- And Toledo Public Schools, after purging hundreds of teachers from its payroll and closing a handful of schools over the past few years, must still reckon with a $12.7 million deficit in 2007-08, a predicted $37.8 million in 2008-09,
January 10, 2007
Collective bargaining agreements between school districts and teacher unions have rarely made it into the public spotlight—at least until now. The Washington-based National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently launched its new online database bursting with details about union collective bargaining agreements, school board policies and teacher handbooks for the country’s 50 biggest school districts. NCTQ director Kate Walsh contends the site will help stakeholders--from parents and taxpayers to lawmakers--understand teacher contracts and working conditions, including salary and benefits information. The one Ohio district featured is Cleveland Municipal Schools (CMS), which turns out to be a wonderful place for the sick and ailing. Teachers receive 18 sick days per year under their collective bargaining agreement (and unused days carry over to subsequent years). Union leaders are understandably disconcerted by the new database. National Education Association’s Bill Raabe is concerned folks could draw “erroneous conclusions” from the information (for instance, CMS teachers may not be sickly, just easily fatigued). “The contract is really just a piece of the picture,” he added. Perhaps, but for taxpayers (especially Ohioans facing perennial school tax levy votes), any piece of the picture is better than none at all.
“Online Database Opens a Window for Parents to Compare Schools,” by Greg Toppo, USA Today, January 3, 2007.
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / January 10, 2007
Members of the 126th Ohio General Assembly recently packed up their bags and went home—some of them for good. But not before a flurry of activity, sometimes extending late into the night, with Republican legislators scrambling to take full advantage of the final weeks of Governor Taft’s tenure.
Perhaps the most noteworthy, and certainly the most publicized, accomplishment of this lame duck session was passage of the Ohio Core (see here and here), which toughens curriculum standards for Ohio’s high school students to better prepare them for work or college. But with so much of the spotlight on the Core, several intriguing pieces of legislation have gone largely unnoticed. Take House Bill 276 and House Bill 79, parts of which should help improve the oversight of Ohio’s charter schools. House Bill 79, among other things, established academic criteria under which the poorest performing charter schools must permanently close by July 2008. The criteria are primarily based on report card ratings of individual school performance, but factor in value-added assessment whenever possible. Such bold legislative action (much of it prompted here) was long overdue; charter schools failing to deliver academic results need to be held accountable. (Were that public schools also so held accountable.) Unfortunately, the law does not grant sponsors the ability to make a final judgment about the fate of their schools’ performances by looking at a richer
Quentin Suffren / January 10, 2007
This year’s Quality Counts evaluates state efforts to create education systems whose curricula are aligned from preschool to adulthood. The result is a host of state rankings, many of them tied to the report’s Chance-for-Success Index, which includes 13 indicators spanning a student’s lifetime.
Ohio earns a “C”, ranking 27th overall on the index. High marks were awarded in K-12 academic achievement (the Buckeye State ranked 10th among the 50 states), mainly due to fourth- and eighth-graders’ achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)--as well as the state’s average graduation rate, 76.5 percent, as computed by EPE. And Ohio’s 25 percentage point gap in performance between poor students and their more affluent peers on the 2005 eighth-grade NAEP math assessment was slightly smaller than (but equally appalling as) the national average of 26.7.
Cited areas of weakness include the state’s achievement gap, early-childhood education and adult educational attainment. Ohio ranked 37th for its percentage of three- and four-year olds enrolled in preschools (40.6 percent), and 48th for the percentage of eligible students enrolled in kindergarten (69.7 percent). Meanwhile, just 33.4 percent of Ohioans hold a two- or four-year degree, while only 49.2 percent of adults earn an income at or above the national median.
Absent from the report is some inkling as to where states should score on such indicators (perhaps that’s asking for too much). Yet EPE’s report offers a useful snapshot of the educational
January 10, 2007
Kenneth S. Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services and author of Classroom Killers? Hallway Hostages? How Schools Can Prevent and Manage School Crises will speak at a school safety seminar hosted by Fordham and the University of Dayton’s School of Allied Education Professions. Mr. Trump will highlight best practices in school safety, security, and violence prevention. The seminar will be held in the East Ballroom of the Kennedy Union (on the University of Dayton campus) from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm on January 16, 2007. To register, please email Beth Blanks at firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions, please call 937-229-3076.
January 10, 2007
The KIPP Foundation is seeking an accomplished leader to create a cluster of KIPP schools in Columbus, Ohio. The 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 (the first set to open in 2008-09) serving approximately 1500 students in grades K-12. See here for details.