Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 5
February 27, 2008
Fordham study shows how labor agreements can thwart innovation
KIDS COUNT data center valuable source of info
Gadfly Readers Write...
about the Gem City
News and Analysis
Strickland's long-time advisor says the guv has jump-started debate
By Mike Lafferty
February 27, 2008
Collective-bargaining agreements can have a tremendous impact on virtually all aspects of school-district operations, yet they pass under the public radar in many communities.
Fordham's most recent report, The Leadership Limbo, nudges the contracts of the nation's 50-largest school districts into the spotlight, analyzing how restrictive these labor agreements actually are and finding that not all contracts are created equal.
The report has sparked debate across the country and in northeast Ohio, where the Cleveland teacher contract came in for criticism. The report raised important questions about whether contracts need to be more flexible, the causes of contract inflexibility, and if it is finally time to move from the traditional salary schedule to a performance-based pay system (see here and here).
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District was found to have the second-most-restrictive teacher contract in the country. But rather than admit that there is room for improvement within its contract with the district, the Cleveland Teachers Union attempted to discredit the study, noting that the union is "open to reform" and pointing to a new program that rewards schools (not individual teachers or even groups of teachers within specific schools) for meeting improvement goals (see here). The Cleveland Plain Dealer responded with a critical editorial of the union's response, noting that this "feather in the union's cap seems beside the point." The contract is out of sync with working Americans, the Plain Dealer opined, and
February 27, 2008
For a reliable, user-friendly source of data about the lives of children outside the schoolhouse, look no further than the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT data center.
KIDS COUNT houses state- and local-level data about "factors that affect the lives of children and families"-including statistics about the number of children in foster care, living in poverty, enrolled in public- health programs, and some 90-odd other data indicators of children's health and welfare. In the Buckeye State, KIDS COUNT provides data for the state as a whole, for the cities of Cleveland and Columbus, and for all 88 counties, although there is more data available for the state and cities than for the counties.
Novice users can easily pull up state and local profiles. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can create graphs showing trends over time and make color-coded maps to illustrate differences across the state or country. Serious data-miners can even download the raw numbers.
KIDS COUNT clearly defines the data and names its sources. The prominent drawback to the database is the lag in time before data is available (the most recent county-level information available for Ohio dates back to 2004 and 2005, depending on the category), but this delay is necessary when collecting and vetting information in 50 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and hundreds of localities from a variety of sources. Access the database here.
February 27, 2008
Fordham's Vice President for Ohio Programs and Policy, Terry Ryan, wrote an op-ed piece for the Dayton Daily News that also ran in the last Gadfly contrasting the "two Daytons" (see here). This piece has garnered much reaction and following is one example of the many thoughtful responses we received:
I'm a five-year Dayton resident and read your editorial with interest. I agree with you regarding the "two Daytons" and was wondering if you'd consider answering a question. Your general tone conveys optimism. What would you say to a five-year Daytonian that's considering moving out of the city? I'm trying to find reasons to not sell out and move to the suburbs but repeatedly I'm coming up empty. I have two young children that attend public school and am part of a select group of educated urban parents that support it and embrace its diversity, even despite its reputation; I also work in Dayton and belong to our neighborhood association and consider myself an active and involved individual. But I am troubled by the immediate neighborhood, drive past boarded-up houses every day, and see blight and decay, and witness downtrodden people on a daily basis. I can't get past it, and it's incredibly depressing to live in this environment. What's even more troubling is that I have seen no improvement since I've lived here. If anything, East Dayton in particular has gotten much worse. Now they are even closing the area's last decent grocery store,
Mike Lafferty / February 27, 2008
First Lady Frances Strickland is one of Governor Ted Strickland's closest education advisors. The Ohio Education Gadfly interviewed Mrs. Strickland in the wake of her husband's State of the State address, in which he proposed revamping the state's educational bureaucracy. The "over-emphasis" on standardized testing is harming public education, she argues. On the other hand, good charters have a place in Ohio and bad ones don't. For the wide-ranging, 4,000-word interview, see here. And for Mrs. Strickland's website see here. Following is a summary of some of the First Lady's key points from the interview:
While Republicans are unlikely to trust a Democratic governor's attempt to appoint an education czar answerable directly to the governor, Frances Strickland believes her husband's State of the State address has pushed Ohioans to at least consider change.
"Regardless of how it comes out, there is a conversation going on about K-12 education that has not been going on before," she said. "There is a fight over education, over who should have accountability for it. And it raises the whole view of education. I think that's a positive thing."
Many pundits saw meaning in Strickland's appointment of Eric Fingerhut to head the Ohio Board of Regents and, Mrs. Strickland said, that was prescient.
"Ted had to find some way to be personally accountable," she said. "This was a signal he really means it when he says education is the key to our economic future.
Senate bill could boost charter schools' effectiveness, but opponents prefer killing charters altogether
Improvements have been made to Ohio's charter-school law over the past several years and some in the Senate are considering further changes to strengthen charter accountability. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives legislators are seeking to kill charters completely.
As currently drafted, Sub. S.B. 141 would tighten rules about who can serve on and work for charter-school governing authorities and sponsors, prevent schools from paying sponsors more than the maximum 3-percent sponsorship fee, and give the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) oversight of all charter-school sponsors. These proposals may sound familiar to Gadfly readers as they were also recommended in late 2006 by the Fordham Institute, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) in our joint report, Turning the Corner to Quality (see here).
Fordham, NACSA, and NAPCS offered support for Sub. S.B. 141-and additional recommendations for strengthening Ohio's charter program-to the bill's sponsors in a letter they requested last month (see here). Our support has some strange bedfellows, including the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and League of Women Voters of Ohio. Both groups are also supporting the legislation.
Unfortunately, the OEA wants to go further and has sought changes to the bill that would add costs and bureaucracy without doing anything to ensure improved school performance and accountability. The OEA's recommendations are largely about decreasing the freedom of charters while increasing the influence of traditional school districts over