Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 46
November 14, 2007
Gadfly Readers Write...
Selected comments from our readers
In charter-school league scores, it's Michigan 24, Ohio 7
Labor makes school board gains, but big city districts face money problems
An upset in Indy
From the Front Lines
Classroom cell phones land unwary teachers online
Check out the What Works Clearinghouse
November 14, 2007
Regarding an article in the October 31 issue regarding the shooting incident in a Cleveland public school, Rick Boss writes:
"I agree with your analysis of public school issues. But I wonder how you could not mention (according to news reports) that the shooter wore a dog collar and so-called Goth clothing to school. What hope is there for a positive learning environment when kids are allowed to dress this way? That kid was sending a message with the way he dressed and probably his behavior also. The kid I understand; the administrators and teachers, I don't."
Ann Bischoff, of KidsOhio.org, writes concerning an October 31 article on how dropout recovery charter schools improve the graduation rates for public district schools:
"I just wanted to say great article about dropout recovery charter schools and the impact these programs have on urban grad rates. The influence of these schools is widely unknown inside and outside of districts."
Finally, in connection with an October 31 piece on teacher quality, State Board of Education member Colleen Grady writes:
"I read your editorial regarding teacher quality with interest this morning. I had the opportunity...to testify before the Ohio House Education Committee regarding training and assessment of beginning teachers (HB 347). One of the provisions in the bill that attracted my interest was the lengthening of the entry year program for Ohio teachers to two years instead of the current one. I attached a copy of the article from The
Anti-charter-school wolves are circling in Ohio, howling about low test scores but ignoring the fact that the same low scores are shared by many district schools (see here). Yet, retreating to the failed one-size-fits-all philosophy of the past, while popular in some quarters, won't get the state's neediest children far. School choice, a family's ability to chose a school they believe works best for them, remains a popular option in Ohio (see here) and the state's charter schools can still get it right. Achieving long-term success, however, might require studying the playbook in Michigan, where charters have made far more progress against institutional opposition that has been just as fierce as in Ohio.
To learn why, The Ohio Education Gadfly buzzed to Detroit November 1 and 2 for the 10th Annual Michigan Charter Schools Conference. We were impressed, starting with the Michigan Association of Public Charter Academies (MAPSA) President Dan Quisenberry's opening remark that, in Michigan, charter school "excellence is not an option, it is an expectation."
Quisenberry had the stats to back the boast. Michigan has higher quality charter schools than Ohio. Charter public schools in Detroit exceeded their home district on 24 of 27 state achievement tests in 2006-07-up from 20 the year before. They tied on two assessment categories and were within one point on the remaining assessment. Charters in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Lansing experienced similar success (see here). And, more than
Labor-backed candidates made gains in several school board races last week, notably in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus. Voters also rejected a $327 million property tax levy in Cincinnati, giving the new board there something to think about. This defeat, and the recent levy defeat in Dayton, should give pause to other big districts seeking new spending for their schools. Taxpayers are feeling stressed and they don't believe more money will fix what ails Ohio's urban public schools. Not surprisingly, Fordham's 2007 survey of Ohioan's attitudes toward public education and new spending showed the public's conviction that extra money won't make a difference-fully 71 percent of Ohioans think if districts were to spend more money it "would actually get lost along the way" (see here). The taxpayers are skeptical and they are most skeptical in the big urban districts.
These levy defeats and the election of union-backed school boards in the big cities will also surely result in more pressure on Governor Ted Strickland to "solve" school-funding problems. This is proving a tough sell, and no doubt the fact that the state's poorest districts already get upwards of 80 percent of their student funding from the state and feds makes it harder still.
In discussing his district's levy defeat, Michael Tefs, superintendent of the North Ridgeville district in Summit County, commented to a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter that voters are frustrated with funding of schools through property taxes (see
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / November 14, 2007
To the west, in Indianapolis the Democratic mayor often referred to as the "Peyton Manning of charter schools" was defeated by Republican Greg Ballard in what some are calling the "biggest upset in Indiana political history" (see here). Mayor Bart Peterson changed the face of education in Indianapolis during his eight years in office. He was the only mayor in the country to serve as a charter school authorizer. In 2006, his office was authorizing 16 charter schools that served over 3,800 students. He instituted a rigorous application process for opening schools, required transparency in academic and fiscal performance of all his sponsored schools, and held schools accountable for results and closed those that failed academically. Crime and rising taxes cost Mayor Peterson his office, but his impact on school reform efforts will be felt for years to come in Indy and beyond. Mayor-elect Ballard has promised to continue the charter school program.
Mike Lafferty / November 14, 2007
There's a whole new meaning to the idea of a teacher being on his or her game when teaching. Now, in front of a class, or anywhere else in school, teachers may be on camera. Last week, Education Week reported how some students are using camera phones to secretly videotape their teachers (see here). Students post the files online at social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace. Images of teachers being angry or happy, clowning around, and singing or dancing are being captured and distributed widely. I mean, what's with that? Education is in crisis, right? What's to dance about?
Some teachers also may be disturbing the educational process with their own personal web postings. It's unclear how many Ohio teachers have posted online profiles at social networking sites, according to The Columbus Dispatch (see here). But the issue poses risks for teachers, James Miller, director of the Office of Professional Conduct at the Ohio Department of Education, told the newspaper.
A Dispatch MySpace search yielded three profiles of people who say they are teachers, one of whom described herself as an animal in bed, another has taken drugs and likes to party. Pranksters could post the files or they could be legitimate.
If genuine, such postings could get a teacher fired.
As far as students secretly recording their teachers, well it's not reality TV. Students edit the files and add soundtracks to poke fun at teachers or to try
Emmy L. Partin / November 14, 2007
Pacific Research Institute
For anyone who has purchased a home in California or just watched one of the many home-improvement shows featuring modest yet high-priced houses in the Golden State this new release from the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) is sobering. PRI asked just how good the schools really are in those well-heeled California neighborhoods where parents flock-and dole out a lot of cash for houses because of the "quality" of the local schools. The answer: not as good as you think.
The book opens with an overview of student achievement nationally and a quick primer on school choice. Then, PRI gets to the work of examining student achievement in middle-class California school districts, those districts where less than one third of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, that is, where two thirds of families have incomes of at least 185 percent of the state poverty level. The results are mixed. Most of the schools are mediocre and some are just plain bad.
PRI next looks beyond student achievement with case studies in fiscal mismanagement in affluent districts and analyses of the impact of union contracts, school-board policies, and administrative regulations in the schools. The book also debunks myths about school choice and makes the case for improved accountability systems and expanded school choice.
So what does a book about California's schools mean for Ohio, where middle-class families can still afford homes in good neighborhoods? After all, families here are
November 14, 2007
In search of scientific education research, up-to-date school statistics, and evaluations of federal education efforts? Then look no further than the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). Both have been available for awhile now-they were formed by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002-but have improved noticeably in recent months. WWC, in the hands of a new contractor, is striving to be more relevant and accessible to teachers and non-wonks. IES has improved its search feature and is a good starting point when looking for education research and information. These sites are worth visiting now and on a regular basis to keep up with the latest in education research.