Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 44
October 31, 2007
Public district graduation rates deserve closer look
By Emmy L. Partin ,
Brave new world: Right and left flip-flop on testing
News and Analysis
World's best school systems look for the best and brightest to teach
News and Analysis
Ohioans continue to beat feet to charter schools
FREE charter school board member training November 30
A version of this analysis appeared October 28, 2007, as an op-ed in the Dayton Daily News (see here).
Charter schools in Ohio are the black sheep of public education. The governor made clear he doesn't like them with his inaugural state budget that sought to wipe out charters by loading on new regulations and cutting funding. Using an oddball legal strategy, the state attorney general has filed lawsuits to close three charters in Dayton and he promises action against as many as 30 others. Charter schools are badmouthed by many district officials and blamed for the financial woes facing urban school districts. Teacher unions spend much time and money plotting the demise of these schools and applauding any setbacks they face.
So, when evidence emerges that charters have actually helped districts and benefited needy students, it is not surprising that this news goes largely unreported. But this is exactly what has happened when it comes to rising graduation rates in urban school districts. Charters have played a critical role in helping some urban districts improve their high school graduation rates. Consider the numbers.
Dropout recovery charter schools first opened in the Buckeye State in the 1999-2000 school year. These schools serve students aged 16 to 22 who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out. When a student enrolls in one of these dropout recovery schools, that student is not considered a "dropout" in his/her
Michael J. Petrilli / October 31, 2007
This commentary originally appeared in slightly different form in the October 21, 2007, Washington Times.
A decade ago, when President Bill Clinton's "voluntary national test" proposal was crashing on the rocky shores of a Republican-controlled Congress, scholar Chester E. Finn, Jr. quipped that national testing was doomed because conservatives hate "national" and liberals hate "testing."
That may have been true then, but it doesn't appear true now. Consider the results of a recent national survey by Education Next, a journal published by Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Among other things, it asked a representative sample of 2,000 Americans, "Under No Child Left Behind, should there be a single national standard and a single national test for all students in the United States? Or do you think that there should be different standards and tests in different states?"
It wasn't even close; national testing won by a landslide. A whopping 73 percent of respondents wanted a single test (a Fordham Institute survey in early 2007 showed 57 percent of Ohioans want a single national test, see here). What's even more surprising, though, is that Republicans were more likely to support this idea than Democrats--77 percent to 69 percent. As for ideology, those self-identifying as "extremely conservative" were by far the most enthusiastic about national testing: an incredible 88 percent of these adults voiced their support, versus 64 percent of liberals.
National testing has become a conservative position. Yet the conventional wisdom in Washington is
Mike Lafferty / October 31, 2007
The Ohio teacher misconduct scandal is moving forward in predictable ways with the governor and the General Assembly scrambling to do something, the state teacher unions asking them not to go too far, and the Ohio Department of Education and various local school boards looking befuddled at best.
Once the state resolves the current mess over tracking teacher child molesters, however, we need to learn a lot more about the other 99.99 percent of the Buckeye State's 150,000+ teachers. For example, exactly how well do they teach? How much do they actually affect their students' learning? We've got no real quantifiable evidence in Ohio to answer these questions. But, we know that teachers are the key to a better education system, a goal that seems to have eluded the educational policy in most industrialized countries, according to a new survey searching for common threads in the world's most effective school systems.
The British publication The Economist (see here) reports on a new survey by McKinsey & Company, an internationally renowned consulting group, that examines top-of-the-heap school systems like those in Canada, Finland, Singapore, and South Korea. McKinsey reports schools in these countries do three things right: attract the best and brightest into teaching, get the best out of teachers, and intervene when students start falling behind. This isn't rocket science but most of the world's school systems don't do it. Studies in Tennessee and Dallas, according to The Economist, also
Mike Lafferty / October 31, 2007
Ohioans continue to vote for charter schools with their feet. Ohio had 76,500 students--4 percent of the state's public school population and the sixth-largest number in nation--enrolled in charter schools, according to the latest rankings from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (see here).
Note: the Ohio Department of Education counts a few more students--76,966 last year and 77,223 in the current school year. Both figures compare with about 60,000 students just two years ago.
The first charter school opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1992 and this year about 1.2 million students are enrolled in 4,200 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia. That is up from 1.16 million in about 3,900 schools in the 2006-2007 school year.
Five Ohio cities made the top-10 list of cities with the highest charter-school enrollment. Those cities, with enrollment percentages, are Dayton (27 percent), Youngstown (23 percent), Toledo (18 percent), Cleveland and Cincinnati (17 percent), and Columbus (13 percent).
Enrollment has grown rapidly and reports this year of violence in Cleveland and Toledo and among rival students at Columbus high schools don't help parental unease with public district schools. In Columbus, an estimated 4 percent of public school students attended charters just four years ago.
In Cincinnati, however, school leaders indicate that, while public schools continue to lose students, the drop is not as fast as in previous years because of a leveling off of students moving to charters
Emmy L. Partin / October 31, 2007
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
Two findings in a new report commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute probably will not--sadly--come as much of a surprise: 1) many parents just aren't that engaged in their children's education, for reasons ranging from illness and job demands to lack of literacy skills and just plain apathy, and 2) parents who utilize school choice in urban areas usually do so for reasons other than academics. A third finding is more unexpected: parental involvement has not driven the substantive education reform that many had hoped for and the capacity for parent-driven reform is more limited than previously predicted, at least in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district.
The study by David Dodenhoff included parents who exercised choice to select a school within Milwaukee Public Schools or a neighboring public district, not parents who select charter schools or use vouchers for private school. Although parent-driven reform did not produce the expected academic results, Dodenhoff does not call for the abandonment of open enrollment policies or intra-district choice efforts. Instead, he calls on the district to realize the full potential of parental involvement by getting more families involved in education choice and improving the information and resources available to parents. The report also suggests that MPS should embrace more radical reforms to achieve the changes it wants and needs--but does not identify what those reforms might be.
There is an underlying message in this report that
October 31, 2007
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Educational Service Center of Franklin County, and the Ohio Department of Education are presenting "Charter School Board Governance 101" in Columbus on Friday, November 30. This training session will provide critical, in-depth information about charter school law and potential legal liabilities, Ohio's academic accountability system, special education law, and compliance issues. The training is offered free of charge and open to all Ohio charter school board members.
For more information and to register, visit the Alliance's website, www.oapcs.org.