Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 31
March 28, 2007
Modest Proposals, Greater Possibilities
By Quentin Suffren
Wolves Crying "Wolf"
Lessons of Charter School Sponsorship
The Sponsor's Dilemma - Are You a Cop or a Social Worker?
Going in Reverse
Charter School Truth-Telling
Calling All Charter School Board Members
Quentin Suffren / March 28, 2007
Governor Strickland’s budget (introduced as House Bill 119) may not offer any carrots to supporters of school choice in Ohio (see here), but his proposals to expand access to pre-kindergarten options for low-income children deserve some serious attention. They could also benefit from a little more imaginative thought.
In his State of the State speech, Governor Strickland declared, “We must recognize the facts: we have a readiness gap that leads to an achievement gap that results in an outcome gap.” His words are borne out by an abundance of national and state academic achievement data. A recent report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranked Ohio 20th (out of 38 states with state-supported initiatives) for access to preschool programs for three-year-olds, and 33rd for access to programs for four-year-olds (see here). Consider that just one percent of Ohio’s three-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program in 2006, and only four percent of four-year-olds (together that amounts to just 8,100 children).
House Bill 119 includes several proposals to expand parent access to quality pre-kindergarten opportunities for their children. Particularly praise-worthy are the governor’s efforts to make the state’s Early Learning Initiative (ELI) more user-friendly for low-income parents. Launched in July 2005, ELI uses federal funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to subsidize quality child care and preschool programs for low-income children. All ELI providers are required
March 28, 2007
Angry at recent announcements heralding $39 million in district budget cuts, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) is fighting back. CFT launched an advertising campaign against the board of the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), alleging gross mishandling of the district’s budget by board members. “We believe there are serious questions that need to be raised about the competence of the majority of the school board members to handle the current budget crisis,” said Sue Taylor, CFT’s president (and now president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers). Taylor acknowledges the cuts stem, in part, from falling enrollment numbers, but she argues potential layoffs of teachers and staff would harm the district’s ability to “meet the educational needs of [its] students.” Board members see the union’s ad campaign another way. CFT is currently in contract negotiations with CPS board members. Board president Eileen Cooper noted, “That’s the way negotiations are sometimes played.” Gadfly is certainly no apologist for CPS’s fiscal decisions, but it’s hard to take union members’ plaints seriously. According to their current collective bargaining agreement (see here), CPS teachers are required to work just 6.5 hours a day, 183 days a year; get 8 paid holidays, 3 personal days, and 11 sick days; and pay as little as $9 per-month for family health care insurance (see here). Surely, none of this figures into the current budget crisis--pshaw. CFT may want to dismantle its campaign before
Terry Ryan / March 28, 2007
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have generously supported Fordham’s charter school sponsorship efforts in Ohio. In doing so, the Gates Foundation requested that we share some of our experiences and the knowledge gained monitoring nine charter schools. Below is the first installment in a series of articles examining lessons learned about quality sponsorship.
The March 2, 2007 Columbus Dispatch headline read, “Sponsor to run charter schools.” It sent shivers down my spine. Sponsors (a.k.a. authorizers), of which the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is one, are the organizations that “license” charter schools to operate and ultimately hold them responsible for their results. Charter schools are, by intention and design, supposed to be free of many regulations and rules that burden traditional public schools. In return for these essential freedoms, however, charters are to be held accountable for their academic, fiscal and operational results. That’s the sponsor’s most solemn responsibility. Indeed, for the charter-school theory to work in practice, sponsors must hold “their” schools accountable for results.
Sponsors are not “operators,” however. Leading and managing a charter school, selecting its teachers and curriculum, dealing with its students and parents, managing its finances, making it succeed academically--these are the most solemn responsibilities of the non-profit governing boards that get “licensed” by sponsors. Sometimes those organizations “outsource” school operations to other groups, non-profit or for-profit, but they remain responsible for the school’s success. Responsible to the parents and communities, of
When it comes to reforming and improving Ohio’s education system, there is more than enough drama in Columbus--as well as a fair share of proposals aimed at moving our education system backward. Two bills, in particular, are prime examples of the latter.
Representative Wolpert’s Condition
House Bill 27, sponsored by Representative Larry Wolpert (R-Hilliard), proposes changing Ohio’s method of determining district/school performance ratings by reducing the penalty for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) for more than two consecutive years. Thus districts meeting the needs of the majority of children could continue to fail subpopulations of students--such as economically disadvantaged children--without significantly impacting their state academic rating. In the case of Hilliard City School District (Rep. Wolpert’s district), 58.2 percent of African American children are performing at or above the AYP proficiency goal in math, while 87.1 percent of white students have met this goal. Under the current rating system, this district can be rated no higher than “Continuous Improvement” until they improve the performance of their African American students--and other subgroups as well. Yet Rep. Wolpert’s proposal would allow them to be rated “Excellent-Conditional” (our italics). Thus, a district could still boast a high rating despite its failure to meet the educational needs of all students. This might be a swell proposition for superintendents, principals, and even realtors in the area, but it would do a monumental disservice to low-income and minority students. (It
March 28, 2007
With so much rhetoric (some of it misleading, and much of it espoused by the state’s teacher unions) surrounding Ohio’s charter school program, it’s easy to overlook key elements of both the program and the 300+ schools that comprise it. Not to mention the profound and positive impact many are having on the reform efforts of traditional school districts, particularly those in urban areas. Editorials in both the Dayton Daily News (see here) and Columbus Dispatch (see here) have justly noted the latter--as well as the expanded opportunities parents have to select schools and programs that best fit the needs of their children. But to help parents, lawmakers and taxpayers further separate fact from fiction about charter schools, we’ve put together “Essential Facts about Ohio’s Charter School Program.” This brief, informative presentation gets to the bottom of Ohio’s charter school program--and, unlike much that is being said about charters, not by scraping it.
March 28, 2007
Overseeing the academic, fiscal and operational components of a charter school is a significant responsibility for individuals who serve as governing authority members. To assist them in their efforts, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Ohio Department of Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the Educational Service Center of Franklin County are hosting "Charter School Board Governance 101," to be held Friday, May 4, 2007 in Columbus.
Experts will offer governing board members critical information about their roles and responsibilities related to charter school law, Ohio's academic accountability system and compliance issues related to special education. This event is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Attendance is free, but registration is required no later than April 27, 2007. Complete details can be found here--and a registration form is available here.