Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 16
August 20, 2008
Is a high-school diploma worth the paper it's written on?
News and Analysis
Autism scholarship program hits 1,000-student milestone
News and Analysis
Writing skills lagging for young STEM kids
Commission: We are all responsible for the education of our children
Reviews and Analysis
Don't blame unions, blame the legislature
Reviews and Analysis
Studies provide insight into the concept of longer school days
Next week the state will release its school-district report cards-although districts are leaking their data already (see here), detailing how well Ohio's public schools are meeting academic standards, including how many high-school students passed the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) last year. Unfortunately for college-bound students, passing the OGT and getting a high-school diploma are not indicators of college readiness. In fact, more and more evidence shows that many of our state's high-school graduates are neither college-ready nor work-ready. Perhaps we should print those diplomas on sheepskin after all-at least grads could use them as hand warmers while they wait in the unemployment line.
In its annual college-readiness report released last week, testing giant ACT said that only 26 percent of the members of the Ohio graduating class of 2008 who took the ACT scored well enough to be considered ready for college-level coursework (see here). The ACT national readiness average is 22 percent, although this is hardly cause for Buckeye breast beating. Consider the ACT report from the other end-the bitter end. An incredible 74 percent of Ohio high-school graduates taking the ACT are not ready for college. And there's more. The Ohio Board of Regents has found that far too many high-school graduates need remedial coursework when they do arrive at college. According to the Regents, in autumn 2006-the last year for which data are available-39 percent of Ohio students entering an Ohio public college needed a
August 20, 2008
More than 1,000 preschool and K-12 students with Autism are now using an Ohio state-sponsored scholarship program that provides an educational option for parents dissatisfied with the services their child is receiving in a traditional public school.
The Autism Scholarship Program-worth up to $20,000 per student per year-was created by the Ohio General Assembly in 2003. It allows parents to enroll their child with Autism in private-education programs focusing on the social and academic needs of the students, particularly critical, early intervention therapies.
The Autism Scholarship has made a huge difference for Lori Walter's 11-year-old daughter, Chenedi. "Honestly, I don't know where she would be without this scholarship," said Walter, of Elyria. "Because of the scholarship, we have seen a 90- percent turnaround in her behaviors, without medication. For the first time, we believe that she will eventually be able to live on her own and we couldn't be happier."
Rep. Jon Peterson (R-Delaware), who sponsored the legislation creating the scholarships, said this 1,000-scholarship milestone (see chart below) confirms the importance of alternative-education programs. Peterson is also sponsoring legislation expanding the scholarship option to all students with learning disabilities or other special needs. The Senate version of the bill, S.B. 57, has been recommended by the House Education Committee and is awaiting a vote by the full House. But the bill is controversial. Gov. Strickland has promised to veto it in its current form, although supporters are urging a change of heart and
Mike Lafferty / August 20, 2008
Writing is the most difficult challenge for students participating in a two-year, pilot, after-school science program being conducted in nine schools in central and north-central Ohio.
According to an interim report not one teacher in the Young Buckeye STEM Scholars Program said writing went well last year. Overall, activities for the 227 students in the program, fairly evenly divided between boys and girls, were on target. However, communication, specifically in the form of writing summaries of scientific articles or news stories of scientific discoveries, was inadequate.
"All are struggling with writing but that's no surprise to us," said Lynn Elfner, executive director of the Ohio Academy of Science, which organized the program. Elfner noted that participation was not limited to the academically strongest students. In the evaluation prepared for the Ohio General Assembly, one superintendent stressed the value of including at-risk students to create learning chances for kids who would not ordinarily get them. Learn more about the program here.
As part of the $700,000 program, which incorporates hands-on scientific inquiry, technology design, teamwork, communications, and leadership development, students are expected to read, study, and submit 36 reports on research articles and news stories of scientific discoveries over 18 months.
As far as the students are concerned, their top-two activities were working with an oozy, squishy, stretchy polymer called "glubber," which 58 percent rated tops. Activities concerning flight and space-fizzy rockets came in a close second, at 57 percent.
The schools participating in the
Terry Ryan / August 20, 2008
The Public-Private Collaborative Commission delivered this week its report, Supporting Student Success: A New Learning Day in Ohio (see here). Led by Nationwide CEO Jerry Jurgensen and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene Harris, the commission recommended how to prepare Ohio's students, families, schools, and communities to meet the raised expectations of the Ohio Core curriculum. The commission's advice: it takes a village and all residents must be involved.
The commission calls for moving responsibility for public education out of schools and into the community. "In our vision, accountability for learning and student success will no longer be fixed only on schools; rather responsibility for accelerating every student's learning will be shared by the community," according to the report.
The commission's call echoes the position of the national initiative "Broader, Bolder Approach to Education" (see here). The ideas of that group have now apparently become the ideas of the commission in Ohio. These ideas are not new to America or to the Buckeye State. Fordham board member Chester E. Finn, Jr. debated fellow Fordham board member Diane Ravitch and the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, (see here) on these very issues in recent weeks. Some of what was said is relevant here. According to Finn, the pleas of the "broader, bolder" group downplay "basic academic skills and cognitive growth" and "learning that occurs in formal school settings during the years from kindergarten through high school."
Emmy L. Partin / August 20, 2008
Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining: Why Key Issues are Not Addressed
National Council on Teacher Quality
Who is to blame for the ironclad and sometimes silly rules under which most of our nation's public school teachers work? Not collective-bargaining contracts, says the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) in "Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining: Why Key Issues are Not Addressed." The teacher contract "is by no means the monolithic authority that many presume it to be." Instead, NCTQ argues in this new paper, it is the state that dictates much of how the teaching profession is governed.
The NCTQ came to this conclusion during the process of creating its TR3 (Teacher Rules, Roles, and Rights) website, which it launched in 2007 (see here). TR3 houses a searchable database of all state laws and regulations pertaining to teachers and the contract provisions of 100 school districts (including Columbus and Cleveland). Invisible Ink explains what you won't find in these local teacher contracts and why.
The state's role starts with deciding whether teachers may collectively bargain and, if so, what issues are allowed on the table. Terminology is often vague and seemingly all-encompassing. In Ohio, for example, public-sector unions may negotiate "all matters pertaining to wages, hours, or terms and other conditions of employment and the continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing provision of a collective-bargaining agreement..." (see here). Differences in interpretation abound between teacher unions and district leadership and
August 20, 2008
Expanded Learning Time in Action
Taking Stock of the Fiscal Costs of Expanded Learning Time
Center for American Progress
Last month, the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning, political policy research and advocacy organization that supports more time in school, released a pair of reports addressing the benefits of adding at least 30 percent to class time in low-income, high-minority schools as well as the financial challenges confronting school districts introducing the changes.
More class time allows schools to add instruction blocks in key academic areas such as 90-minute periods for reading, math and science, according to the first report, Expanded Learning Time in Action. Good charter schools, like KIPP (see here), add about 360 extra hours of instruction a year. They hire teachers and tell them they are expected to work 50 percent longer than traditional teachers. In return, teachers will receive 20 or 30 percent more in salary. The teachers buy into this because they see higher student achievement. Traditional public schools are also lengthening learning time, but usually by lesser amounts.
The second report, Taking Stock of the Fiscal Costs of Expanded Learning Time, looks at the financial considerations involved in lengthening teaching time. Because most districts have strict salary schedules, paying for a longer day is more complicated than just boosting everyone's paycheck a set percentage. Increasing salaries for experienced, higher-paid teachers, for example, costs more than for lower-paid, new teachers. Also, if retirement benefits depend