Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 2
January 23, 2008
Gadfly Readers Write...
Selected comments from our readers
The Education Mayor: Improving America's Schools
General Assembly gets in gear
News and Analysis
Good work in Cincinnati but reform has only just begun
News and Analysis
Ohio's charter-school law under the microscope
From the Front Lines
Two school districts decide to tango with one superintendent
Terry Ryan / January 23, 2008
Bringing long-term positive change to the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) and reversing the district's decades-long slide means not only beefing up test scores but also closing poorly performing schools while opening innovative new ones that will give the district the edge in pushing change.
That's why the new Office of New Schools, created with a $1.65 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation, is so important. The office, charged with opening new schools and ensuring their success, represents the board of education's huge stake in this new direction.
This public-private partnership in educational reform will be watched closely in Ohio and beyond. The good news for CMSD leaders, however, is that this is not uncharted territory. There are lessons to be learned from Chicago, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, and other cities where high-quality schools have been successfully opened and operated. There also are lessons to be learned on what works, and what doesn't, from the charter experience right here in Ohio.
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has sponsored nine charter schools since the summer of 2005 and we expect to sponsor two new schools in 2008 (the state's first KIPP school and a Building Excellent Schools school, both in Columbus). We've learned many lessons, beginning with the tremendous challenge of successfully educating acutely disadvantaged children. While we certainly have not figured it all out, here are five lessons that the CMSD Office of New Schools should consider:
January 23, 2008
Jane Shaw, of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, writes to let us know of a new report:
George Cunningham has just written a report on education schools in North Carolina (which are a lot like education schools across the country!). His findings have serious implications for K-12 education. Most education schools are imbued with the culture of progressivist/constructivist theory. He lays this out--and the damaging effects--in his paper, "UNC Education Schools: Helping or Hindering Potential Teachers?" published by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. View the paper online here.
If you have something to say about The Ohio Education Gadfly, say it in an e-mail to an article author or to the editor, Mike Lafferty, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Correspondence may be edited for clarity and length.
Emmy L. Partin / January 23, 2008
Kenneth K. Wong, Francis X. Shen, Dorothea Anagnostopoulos, Stacey Rutledge
Georgetown University Press
It seems like every state chief executive is a self-proclaimed "education governor," and now more and more mayors are getting into the education game. Just in time comes The Education Mayor: Improving America's Schools, an examination of mayoral control of urban schools through quantitative data and case studies of mayor-run districts across the country. The authors set out to learn the impact of mayoral control on student achievement and classroom practices, what school governance looks like when a mayor is at the helm, and what factors contribute to the success or failure of this school-governance structure. In the end, they make a pretty good case for marrying the schoolhouse and city hall, particularly that this move clarifies who is ultimately responsible for reform and results. But they warn that a host of factors play into whether this strategy sinks or swims.
Of particular interest to Buckeye State readers should be the sections pertaining to the Cleveland Municipal School District, which has been under mayoral control for about 10 years and where 70 percent of voters voiced their support of this governance structure in a 2002 referendum. Cleveland's mayor-led system is an anomaly in Ohio, making it difficult to evaluate the district's governance and administration compared to the state's other big urban districts. This book provides a look at Cleveland in the company of its peers across the country.
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / January 23, 2008
The Statehouse is bustling with activity as the legislature ramps up for 2008. A slew of bills are being debated in the education committees. One proposes doing away with paddling, a longstanding tradition in some schools. Another bill would ban teacher strikes and a third would curtail some teacher collective-bargaining rights.
Picket signs outside of schools might become a thing of the past. The Senate education committee is debating the merits of S.B. 264 that would prohibit teachers from striking. The legislation would require binding arbitration to settle collective bargaining disputes. Teachers would be treated like police, firefighters, and EMS workers, all of whom are prohibited from striking because the services they provide are far too important to go without during a work stoppage. This bill deserves serious debate. While strikes are not terribly common in Ohio, when they do occur they are incredibly disruptive to students, parents, and the entire educational process (see here and here).
A bill (H.B. 423) proposed by Representative Arlene Setzer would no longer allow collective bargaining in policies surrounding paying teachers wage-rate differentials, the length of the school's instructional year, and the length of the school's instructional day - all essential freedoms that should be determined at the school level. If passed, these decisions would be left up to the school administration and/or the school board.
And, misbehaving students will no longer be subject to in-school paddling (ouch!) if
The spotlight has been shining brightly on the Cincinnati Public Schools' (CPS) reform efforts, including a segment January 15 on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight that highlighted the changes at Withrow University High School. CPS has embarked on real reform in its high schools and has school leaders and educators--including Withrow principal Sharon Johnson and her team--who are producing big results. The district's improving graduation rate is an example. At the same time, it must be said that the district's work is far from over:
- The district didn't meet the state level for proficiency on a single one of the state's 18 achievement tests last year.
- Achievement gaps in the early and middle grades are large and persistent.
- Leadership limbo (as it seeks its fourth superintendent in 10 years) and a looming financial crisis (see here) have some experts calling the front office "dysfunctional" (see here).
With these handicaps, it is impressive that the district has posted such tangible achievements in its high schools, and these improvements are reflective of much hard work by administrators, principals, teachers, and students. It is also reflective of serious philanthropic investment by KnowledgeWorks, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others who are dedicated to high-school reform in the Queen City.
However, the Cincinnati Public Schools cannot afford to rest and must now figure out how to expand its reforms and improvements throughout the entire K-12 system. (The district's recent move to replace the entire staff
January 23, 2008
Charter opponents often claim that charter schools in Ohio are unaccountable. But this claim is wrong and utterly indefensible. To see why, check out the PowerPoint presentation put together this month for charter-school board members and operators by the law firm Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur (see here). This presentation details in painful specificity Ohio's charter-school law, showing that Ohio's charter-school program is highly regulated and that charter schools are held accountable for their academic performance, business operations, and fiscal probity. In fact, Ohio's charter law is strong, even if it isn't perfect. What's less clear is whether all charter-school sponsors--the organizations responsible for ensuring charter school accountability-- are actually enforcing the charter law (see here).
Mike Lafferty / January 23, 2008
Two Wayne County school districts that have decided to stretch budgets by sharing a superintendent. Orrville City Schools and the neighboring Rittman Exempted Villiage Schools estimate that both districts will each save about $100,000 now and even more down the road by sharing Orrville Superintendent John Ritchie and several other officials.
"It was my idea. I looked at how business and industry does things, how they streamline," Ritchie told The Gadfly. "We have to make the effort to be creative to make money last longer."
While several Ohio districts share treasurers, it's believed sharing a superintendent is a first, at least in Ohio. In addition, the two districts will double up on an assistant superintendent and treasurer as well as EMIS, operations, and business-services directors.
Ritchie, 40, is a 1986 graduate of Rittman and the arrangement became possible when Rittman's superintendent retired.
Running just one district is a full-time job, he said, yet there is lots of duplication. "If I attend a county superintendents' meeting it's not like I can't listen for both districts," Ritchie said. The most challenging task may be attending plays, sports, and other events in both districts. While Ritchie said he is ready to attend more events there will be some nights when he will be unable to be in two places at once.
The two districts will maintain two school boards and separate budgets. Under the deal, which began January 1, Ritchie will continue to make $99,000 a year. The