Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 36
June 13, 2007
Weeds Have STEMs, Too
By , ,
Survey Do's and Survey Don'ts
Reviews and Analysis
Gem City Blues
Reviews and Analysis
Slipping Standards, Serious Consequences
Ohio's education system has reached a crossroads--at which it can either transition to a dramatically different and more productive model (as outlined in the recent McKinsey/ACHIEVE report here), or it can continue to tinker with incremental adjustments that render the system more complex and costly without producing substantial improvements in student learning.
Incrementalists, such as the well-entrenched adult interest groups backing the proposed school-funding amendment to Ohio's constitution, would have one believe that more money will cure the state's education ills. This despite the reality that Ohio is growing ever poorer, as evidenced by sobering new budget figures (see here). Serious reformers, on the other hand, acknowledge that Ohio needs a dramatically more effective education system than it has; that today's school results are dismal; that it's results that matter at day's end, not inputs; and that boosting them calls for a new education model. Such a model will be more efficient, with higher standards, enhanced transparency, universal results-based accountability, wider schooling options, and greater flexibility for educators to meet the varied needs of children.
Sadly, recent news from Columbus (and Dayton--see here and below) doesn't bode well for the serious reform crowd. Consider the legislation being drafted at the Statehouse to create a new set of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) schools. This effort comes on the heels of December's failure to reach consensus on another STEM bill (HB 695), and a $20 million
Steve Farkas / June 13, 2007
Last month, Fordham published its biennial survey of Ohioans' views on education (see here). Who knew it would be the start of a trend? Two other surveys followed close on its heels--one from KnowledgeWorks (see here) and a second conducted by Baldwin-Wallace College (see here). In light of their diverse and--in some instances, inconsistent--findings, we asked Steve Farkas, president of the FDR Group (which conducted our survey,) to provide some tips for interpreting survey results. ___________________________________________________
Ohio has long been an epicenter for conflict around education reform--be it schemes to "fix" school funding, efforts to expand school choice, or attempts to ratchet up the level of rigor in Ohio's classrooms. Such conflict is reflected in the sheer number of surveys of Ohioans popping up lately, some of which report different, even contradictory, results. For rank and file Ohioans, inconsistent reports of what they "favor" or "oppose" may simply breed confusion and further pessimism about the chances for substantially improving education in the Buckeye State. Yet it is possible to draw some commonsense conclusions--and precautions--about where the Ohio public really stands. Here are some "do's" and "don'ts" to help make sense of all those data.
Don't believe surveys that show Ohioans are critical only of other people's schools, not their own. Buckeye residents don't think their local public schools are doing a great job. As the 2007 survey conducted by the FDR Group for the
Quentin Suffren / June 13, 2007
As schools across Ohio adjourn for summer vacation, officials at the Dayton Public Schools (DPS) still face some tough decisions and serious challenges before they can enjoy it. In May, the district failed to pass a 15-mill levy, forcing $30 million in cuts. As a result, over 200 instructional staff will be furloughed (and be further penalized by Ohio's regressive teacher pension system if they move to another field--see here); two district schools will be shuttered; and numerous programs will be merged, drastically curtailed or eliminated (even successful and popular ones like Stivers School for the Arts).
The dire fiscal crisis at DPS has even merited national attention. Two recent New York Times articles (see here and here) chronicled the drama surrounding one of DPS's more innovative programs, the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), which graduated its first senior class this spring. Under the district's contract with the local union, DECA's hand-picked staff (consisting of mainly younger teachers) was in danger of being replaced with teachers with more seniority but little knowledge of or aptitude for delivering the school's academic program. Fortunately, DPS allowed DECA to leave the district and become a district sponsored charter school--a move that took foresight and some courage on the part of district board members. (At this point, DPS will still remain its sponsor even though this is sure to irritate the teachers union).
Meanwhile, in response to
Quentin Suffren / June 13, 2007
The growing number of students scoring "proficient" on Ohio's battery of K-12 state assessments (and a slew of tests in other states) may, in part, be attributed to some weak-kneed tests and low cut scores for passage. A new report from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (see here) compared student scores in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)--considered the "gold standard" of assessments by many--with those on myriad state tests across the nation. The results suggest that too many state accountability policies--Ohio's included--pay only lip service to claims of high standards and rigor.
When 32 state proficiency standards for fourth-grade reading were placed on the NAEP scale, none met the NAEP's minimum proficient cut score. A whopping 24 failed to meet even the NAEP's "Basic" cut score. Eighth-grade reading fared only slightly better. Again, none of the 34 state proficiency standards matched up to the NAEP's (only Wyoming's and South Carolina's came close)--and 13 fell below the NAEP's "Basic" standard. In fourth-grade math, two of the 33 states analyzed met or exceeded the NAEP's proficiency standard--Wyoming and Massachusetts. The eighth-grade math analysis saw three out of 36 states meet or exceed the NAEP standard. Yet in both math comparisons, most states hovered between NAEP's "Basic" and "Proficiency" standards, and more than a few languished in the nether regions below "Basic."
Count Ohio's proficiency standards in fourth- and