Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 12
June 4, 2008
Lessons of Charter School Sponsorship
Closing a charter is painful, difficult work
News and Analysis
Ohio's proficiency standards far from "world-class"
Out with the education czar?
From the Front Lines
Cell phones help kids' writing, at least if they're writing in Canadian
Fordham has learned a lot about sponsoring charter schools in the last three years. Now we've gained experience in the unfortunate task of closing some schools. The Omega School of Excellence, and East End Community School, in Dayton, and Veritas Cesar Chavez Academy, in Cincinnati, will not reopen next year. All three closed for different reasons, and in none of the three were the governing boards in opposition with the sponsor about the need to close. Even done amicably, however, the experience provides lessons along the way that apply to charter school closures generally:
1. Theory collides with reality. Closing a school seems pretty straightforward: parents will send their children to good charter schools, and the poor ones will close for lack of enrollment because parents won't send their children to a bad school. This premise doesn't necessarily hold true. And, when a school does close, the reality is a complicated, confusing, painful, and expensive process for all concerned. What makes it tough is that you're dealing with stakeholders who are emotionally and financially attached to the school. For example, parents made a conscious decision to send their child to the school and the choice is being taken away from them. Teachers lose their jobs and are tossed into a tough labor market. You're forcing people to participate in the death of something about which they care deeply.
2. School closure is costly. This is true not just in terms of extra
Emmy L. Partin / June 4, 2008
Ohio is bracing for an exodus of baby boomers from classrooms as experts sound alarms about whether there will be enough teachers to staff our public schools.
Nationwide, some 200,000 teaching vacancies are expected annually (see here), the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week. Addressing Ohio's specific needs will mean tossing out current teacher-hiring and pay schemes and embracing market realities, especially to fill teaching positions in high-demand subjects.
In 2005, 36 percent of Ohio public school teachers were age 50 or older. Because of incentives in the state's teacher-pension system (see here), this means that more than one-third of the teaching force could retire by 2015. Still, the state is in a little better shape than many others because our colleges already produce more teachers than our schools can hire, although the surplus is mostly primary grade teachers. Future demand also will be tempered by the state's changing demographics. The number of Ohio high-school graduates is expected to peak next school year at about 124,000 and then decline by more than 9 percent over the following six years (see here).
Though Ohio may not see the large increase in overall demand for teachers that high-population-growth states like Florida and Arizona will experience, the Buckeye State does anticipate an increased demand for teachers in math, science, foreign languages, and special education just as experienced teachers are retiring in droves. In Columbus alone, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene
Terry Ryan / June 4, 2008
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about Dayton Public Schools during the last year. Seldom does a week pass without a front-page article or an editorial describing the profound challenges facing the district.
With the defeat of last May's levy, the district confronts serious financial problems. The uncertainty and sense of alarm are exacerbated by the void created by the looming departure of popular Superintendent Percy Mack to South Carolina (see here). The district's future is unsettled and things could get worse before they get any better for its 16,000 students.
Less noticed, however, is what's happening with Dayton's charter schools. The lack of attention is surprising, as Dayton's charter schools now serve more than 7,000 students. (If all Dayton charter students were in one school district, it would be Montgomery County's fifth-largest district).
Just as with Dayton Public Schools, Dayton's charter schools serve the area's neediest children, and they are undergoing their own shake-up. For the first time since charter schools opened in 1998, Dayton will have fewer charter schools operating at the start of the new school year than it had at the close of the previous one. At least four small, independently operated charters have closed or will close this year.
The Rhea Academy and the Colin Powell Leadership Academy are already closed, and the Omega School of Excellence and the East End Community School will close in June. One new school is expected to open during
Emmy L. Partin / June 4, 2008
A recent evaluation of proficiency standards asks how well states are doing at setting "world-class" academic expectations (see here). The answer: not great, unless you live in South Carolina, Massachusetts, Missouri, and maybe Hawaii.
The analysis, appearing in the summer 2008 issue of Education Next, holds state achievement tests up against the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Also called the nation's report card, the NAEP measures fourth and eighth graders' proficiency in reading and math. Standards are rigorous and comparable to those of international achievement tests. A state's performance on the NAEP is a good indicator of how that state would fare globally.
Ohio's proficiency standards earned a middle-of-the-pack C-, worse than 27 other states and down from a C+ four years ago. This finding shouldn't surprise Gadfly readers. Fordham drew a similar conclusion last year in The Proficiency Illusion (see here). That report also found that Ohio's math achievement tests aren't calibrated across grades, meaning that it's harder to pass the math test in some grades than it is in others.
"World-class" schools seem to be on everyone's agenda (see here and here). Ohio has much work to reach this goal and increasing the rigor of the state's achievement tests would be a good place to start (see here).
Emmy L. Partin / June 4, 2008
Gov. Ted Strickland may not have formal control of the Ohio Department of Education, but he got half of what he wanted last week when Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman announced her resignation (see here). The news wasn't a surprise. Zelman had been actively seeking a new job and the State Board of Education had already started working to replace her. Given changing dynamics within the board and the anticipated turnover of members this winter, Strickland may not need a cabinet-level education overseer after all.
Members who have long been prominent voices and leaders on the board now seem less influential. Broad policy positions agreed to months ago now appear up for debate. Heather Heslop Licata, Strickland's sole appointee on the board and who previously was reticent to weigh in during policy discussions, now has strong opinions and takes an active role in guiding the panel's work.
There is speculation that the governor is exerting power over the department and state education policy via select board members, including some that were meeting privately with him and his staff in recent months (see here). The current board has granted the governor a significant role in choosing the next superintendent by allowing his chief of staff to participate in the selection process. Also, seven board seats are up for election in November, and the governor will appoint four board members in December. That newly comprised board elects its president in January. The
Mike Lafferty / June 4, 2008
The explosion of cell-phone text-messaging, especially among young people, has ignited a debate about what the practice means to the skill of writing.
University of Toronto researchers say it's time to chill the worries. Derek Denis and Sali Tagliamonte studied instant messages and spoken communication of 72 people between the ages of 15 and 20 and found messaging actually helped communication enough to label it "an expansive new linguistic renaissance." The study group, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer, possessed a good command of language, whether they were speaking, texting, or writing a formal paper.
Whoa, not a bit of it, says author and teacher Jacquie Ream. "We have a whole generation being raised without communications skills," said Ream, according to Plain Dealer reporter Scott Stephens (see here). "Kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn't even a complete thought."
Ream, of Seattle, believes that the shorthand and clichés of text-messaging and the Internet destroy the way youngsters read, think, write, and spell. As evidence, she pointed to a current National Center for Education Statistics study that suggested only one in four high school seniors is a proficient writer.
Who knows what to believe? There is, at least, this to consider. We began worrying about the communications skills of our children long before cell phones and the Internet were invented.
If you have an opinion for The Ohio Education Gadfly, contact Editor Mike Lafferty at email@example.com. Letters may be edited for content and clarity.