Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 39
September 12, 2007
Are naive market-based ideas killing charters?
The board ultimatum
Education needs the same know-how as retooling the economy
By Kristina Phillips-Schwartz ,
From the Front Lines
KIPP Columbus seeks executive director
September 12, 2007
Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point looks at "social epidemics"-when popular ideas and behavior "tip" quickly (and often unexpectedly) then die out as fast as they started. Early supporters of school choice hoped parental options in education would do the former and transform public education into a world of choice, accountability, and transparency focused on students' needs and student achievement.
More than a decade into the school choice movement in America, though, the "tip" hasn't happened and school choice is spreading slowly. In some states, like Ohio, it faces the real threat of going backwards. Paul Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, explains why the choice movement, despite its tremendous potential, is still fragile in the latest issue of Education Week. Provocatively, Hill shows how "naïve market-based initiatives encounter unexpected problems and produce meager results."
Hill's piece is mandatory reading for anyone who believes school choice plays a critical role in driving education reform in America. As Hill notes, "Choice can make parents full partners in education and drive innovation. Without it, public education is frozen in place by laws, contracts, and adult entitlements." Hill depicts in bullet-point fashion the many hurdles and challenges (many self-inflicted) facing choice programs and he calls on all reform-minded educators to stop waiting for the "tipping point" to happen. He urges action and provides useful guidance on what steps need to be taken.
As school choice
September 12, 2007
The Ohio Department of Education's recent state report card illuminated continuing academic problems in both public district and charter schools. The report card comes on the heels of newspaper stories highlighting auditing and recordkeeping difficulties in some charter schools. Brian L. Carpenter, chief executive officer of the National Charter Schools Institute, offers some insights into both issues.
For the three people reading this column that haven't seen The Bourne Ultimatum, erstwhile CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back in theaters this summer, more determined than ever to uncover his true identity and the purpose of the nefarious people who brainwashed him.
The storyline and action are as riveting as the first two movies in the Robert Ludlum series, but for some inexplicable reason, I no sooner left the theater when, "the board ultimatum" popped into my head. As titles go, this is admittedly thin for a pun, but here goes.
Somewhat like the Bourne character, charter-school boards need to understand their identities. Our opponents don't use guns, but the political climate in education sometimes makes opening and operating a charter school feel about as perilous as being fished out of the storm-tossed Mediterranean Sea. Like Jason Bourne, charter schools have enemies. To prevail, charter-school boards must figure out their identities and then discover their reasons for living.
As defined by board expert Dr. John Carver, the board's identity should always be as a representative of the organization's owners. For charter schools, this identity
Fisher also wears the hat of Director of Development and as such is the state's leader in the effort to retain, attract, and create jobs in Ohio. He aptly addressed Ohio's pressing need to deal with its shrinking manufacturing economy, urging that the state embrace innovation and opportunity in high-growth sectors like health care, nanotechnology, computer technologies, and alternative energy. Fisher made clear that manufacturing still matters and that it's vital to keep auto manufacturing and other traditional industries working here even if they aren't growing industries. But, more importantly, the future means helping new businesses grow and attracting emerging industries to the Buckeye State. According to Fisher, Ohio is engaged in an "economic development arms race" with other states and nations for about 400 projects worth approximately $16 to $20 billion.
To snag its fair share, the lieutenant governor said, Ohio must entice new businesses with financial incentives, friendly tax policies, top-notch educational and scientific resources, and talent. These are all areas in which, he said, the Strickland administration is being proactive. Fisher has even created a Rapid Outreach Response team to create a sense of urgency in state government while encouraging collaboration across state agencies.
The lieutenant governor deserves kudos for his dogged efforts at improving Ohio's economic competitiveness. But, it must
Emmy L. Partin / September 12, 2007
The case against the archaic, seniority-before-all-else system of teacher retention in Ohio's schools was never made clearer than with the July "riffing" of Dayton Public Schools teacher Homer Knightstep.
After retiring from the Army Rangers and raising a family with his wife, Knightstep went back to college and became a primary school teacher. In his second year at Kemp Elementary, Knightstep was recognized as Dayton's Teacher of the Year at a "big banquet with a tux and everything." Two weeks later, however, the district let Knightstep go because of rigid and obsolete seniority rules in the district's collective bargaining agreement. He was one of about 300 teachers cut after the district's levy failed.
Knightstep has found a new home as a third-grade teacher at Five Points East Elementary in Springboro (see here) where last year's third graders achieved a whopping 99 percent passage rate on the reading achievement test and 95.8 percent on the math test. The Gadfly knows Knightstep will continue to be an outstanding educator and an inspiration and role model to a generation of youngsters in Warren County.
But what of the students at Kemp Elementary-where 100 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged and the school is in academic emergency? Couldn't they use Homer Knightstep, too?
Envisioning New Public Education Systems for the 21st Century: A Report on the Eighth Annual NewSchools Summit
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / September 12, 2007
The NewSchools Venture Fund recently released a report highlighting key insights from its May meeting in New Orleans, now the epicenter of educational reform efforts in America.
This quick read offers something for all educational innovators (from teachers to policymakers)-status-quo keepers beware! Read the summary from the Summit here.
The report provides summaries of panel discussions on a range of topics, including:
- Governance. Whether mayoral control or other forms of governance can improve schools and student performance.
- State Policy. Does creating an environment for academic success translate into improving public school quality?
- Education 2.0. Re-envisioning public education in a way that meets the needs of 21st century students.
- School Turnarounds. Conditions necessary to turn around failing schools.
- Buying time. Developing policies and funding models that encourage the expansion of the school day and school year. What do successful schools do with this extra time to improve student achievement?
Among the many groups and individuals engaged in the struggle to revive the Big Easy and its schools, NewSchools Venture Fund is one of the most prominent. The organization is a nonprofit venture philanthropy supporting the efforts of high-impact educational entrepreneurs to transform American education.
At the meeting, NewsSchools CEO Ted Mitchell reminded the 1,000 participants that, "It need not take a disaster to cast a sharp light on a school system that's been failing its children for decades, nor should it take a flood to enable us to think bold thoughts or to act on them."