Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 42
October 4, 2007
The last Achieve report's impact may temper expectations for the new one
From the Front Lines
Let them eat carrot cake
From the Front Lines
Good teaching knows no boundary
Michael J. Petrilli / October 4, 2007
Here's a question making the rounds of Ohio education policymakers: What's this "PIE Network" we keep hearing about? No, it's not a recipe bank for your favorite blueberry, rhubarb, or apple pie, but rather the Policy Innovation in Education (PIE) Network, a new national, nonpartisan forum for policymakers and civic leaders to access innovative ideas that advance equity and achievement in education.
Four national education organizations launched the PIE Network late last year: the Center for American Progress; the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Education Sector, and the national arm of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Together, these organizations span the ideological spectrum-with officials from the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations among their leaders. Yet, they find consensus on most of the pressing issues in education. It is the hope of the four organizations that a national network can provide cover for policymakers on both sides of the legislative aisle to forge solutions to our educational problems. It is piloting this idea in five states, including Ohio.
Earlier this year, the PIE Network hosted a daylong symposium in Columbus on education reform in partnership with the Ohio Grantmakers Forum. Last month it held its first national "summit" in Chicago, focusing on transforming low-performing schools. Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan and former Blair Administration official Sir Michael Barber keynoted the event, which also featured roundtable discussions on teacher quality, school funding and interventions for failing schools.
The PIE Network is now planning
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / October 4, 2007
When it comes to student success, Ohio is kidding itself. Our state's precipitously low academic expectations leave students ill-prepared to compete in the global economy. This is the disturbing conclusion of several major, in-depth assessments of our students' academic performance.
Consider recently released data for Ohio on the Nation's Report Card (2007) that reports the scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-often considered the "gold standard" for what students should know and be able to do in each grade level. There are striking differences between the levels of proficiency on Ohio's annual assessment and the NAEP. In fourth-grade reading, for example, 80 percent of students passed Ohio's Achievement Test but a meager 36 percent passed the national assessment. The findings were similar in fourth-grade math where 76 percent of students passed the Ohio test and only 46 percent passed the national assessment. While we may be performing relatively well on state accountability measures, we are failing to prepare students to meet national standards.
Also, consider recent findings from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's The Proficiency Illusion report released today that ranked the "proficiency cut scores" in 26 states-including the Buckeye State-in reading and math to determine how difficult it is to pass Ohio tests in comparison to other states. (A "proficiency cut score" is the minimum score a student must achieve in order to be considered proficient.) This report found that the difficulty of Ohio's proficiency cut scores in reading
Emmy L. Partin / October 4, 2007
Buckeye state policymakers are currently mulling over recommendations from Achieve, Inc. to create a "world-class education system in Ohio" (see here). As we have a new governor and many new lawmakers, it may be worth reminding our state leaders that this isn't the first time Achieve has made recommendations for reforming Ohio's public education system. In fact, there are still lessons to be learned from the first Achieve report.
In March 1999, the governor and state superintendent were new to their jobs and the General Assembly was in its last session before major turnover due to term limits. Achieve released a report to provide these leaders with a candid assessment of Ohio's reform strategy and to identify those components that "must receive high priority if Ohio's ambitious education goals are going to be realized." And, for the most part, leadership stepped up to the plate.
The recommendations that Ohio has adopted from the 1999 report include:
- establishing clear and measurable academic content standards;
- requiring a more rigorous academic curriculum for all students;
- putting in place an accountability system that links curriculum with assessment (although Fordham's report on state proficiency testing, released today, shows that Ohio still has work to do on this front as the state has set the bar far too low on its annual assessments);
- disaggregating student data; and
- joining the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
It was no small task to make these changes. But for the progress made, one
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / October 4, 2007
There is no question that an obesity epidemic is running rampant among Ohio school children-nearly 21 percent of Ohio's third graders are overweight. But what role, if any, should schools have in curbing this disturbing trend? There is a bill in the General Assembly that would restrict the sale of certain food and beverages in schools (see here)-pushing for milk, juice, and water-which is sure to irk the soft drink companies and many cash-strapped districts that bring in hundreds of thousand of dollars by signing exclusive contracts with them (see here). Others have successfully lobbied to have the state Board of Education adopt physical education standards by the end of the year, although schools aren't required to adopt them (see here). Now some schools are setting guidelines for party treats, asking parents to send carrots or stickers instead of cupcakes for birthdays (see here). Now if we could just get other schools to stop serving Doritos and Oreo Delight for lunch (see here).
Mike Lafferty / October 4, 2007
Many students get a little queasy walking into math class so Granville schools are especially happy to have Sue Hoben on the high school teaching staff. Students actually seek out her algebra and trigonometry classes.
"It takes a lot of patience to teach math. It takes hearing it again and again and again. Once you get their confidence up, it's amazing what they can do," the 23-year veteran teacher told The Gadfly. "Kids who walk in thinking they're lousy, walk out thinking, ‘I finally got it.'"
Good teaching is transferable, even to students in the toughest and lowest-achieving districts, said Hoben, who taught in a low-performing district in Michigan early in her career. "Once (students) feel like they can do it, they behave better, they want to do it. That part doesn't have to take a lot of money," she said.
Terry Ryan / October 4, 2007
Ohio can learn a lot from the United Kingdom. Both are former industrial powerhouses that are experiencing, firsthand, the pain of a shrinking manufacturing-based economy. Both see education as the key to navigating this change and in preparing all children for success in a globe-spanning knowledge- and innovation-based economy. Sir Michael Barber's book, Instruction to Deliver, offers many helpful insights for educators, policymakers, and lawmakers in the Buckeye State. Barber spent four years in the heart of Tony Blair's government. He played a pivotal role in redesigning the delivery of education in the U.K.
Barber also was the lead author of the recent Achieve, Inc. study "Creating a World-Class Education System in Ohio" (see here) and many of his most important insights are customized for Ohio in that report.
But his book goes further and offers some additional lessons for Ohio. The first is that radical reformers, and often the most successful, many times come from within the establishment. Barber began his career in education working for the National Union of Teachers but broke with the union when it boycotted the National Curriculum (standards) and national testing (accountability) in 1994. Barber lamented, "The union I worked for chose to turn back when it could have led the way forward."
Barber found a powerful ally for his standards and accountability agenda in Tony Blair. He also found a political leader who believed in the power of choice. Barber writes that