Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 10
May 7, 2008
Lessons of Charter School Sponsorship
Electronic compliance saves time, although it will never replace a ruler
By Kathryn Mullen Upton
Dr. Z: We'll miss you, whenever you go
Reviews and Analysis
KIPP's 2007 report card good reading
Reviews and Analysis
Study says voucher competition helps special-ed kids
Kathryn Mullen Upton / May 7, 2008
A major job for Ohio's charter school sponsors is keeping track of stuff, the kind of stuff that, if a school doesn't have it, means serious problems. Not only does a sponsor have to show up and check out schools and classrooms, but a good sponsor also needs to keep track of all the state and federally required compliance data.
Sponsors need to track and compile required paperwork and other documents covering a gamut of school functions ranging from the school academic calendar, attendance policy, blood-borne pathogen training, the lease or deed for the facility, the fixed-assets policy, academics, and governance. Sponsors also have to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and even whip out a tape measure to make sure that the American flag is not less than five feet long. They must vouch for all this to the state of Ohio and they must inform the Ohio Department of Education when something is wrong.
Fordham, which currently sponsors eight charter schools, could never have enough staff to do all that on-site combing of files, folders, and binders. Instead, we track school paperwork electronically using a computer system specifically designed to track school documents and information. Called the Authorizer Oversight Information System (AOIS), the system allows Fordham's sponsorship staff to review the documents online and report back to the schools if the paperwork or documentation is not correct. AOIS was developed by the Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / May 7, 2008
After months of jockeying with control-freak Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Tave Zelman is on her way out, perhaps to the University of Oregon as ed-school dean (see here).
She toughed it out for a while but the handwriting went onto the wall for her once key members of the State Board of Education decided that placating the governor was more important than retaining Dr. Z, as she is known at the Ohio Department of Education. It must also be said that Zelman didn't try very hard to placate him herself, seemingly more determined to demonstrate independence than to make nice with Bob Taft's successor and his agenda. She can, in truth, be ornery, strong-willed, and mercurial, in addition to very bright, boundlessly energetic, and quite creative. But there was no way that a principled educator with her track record could have accommodated the Strickland education agenda, such as it is. Much of it, alas, simply involves seizing control of the system, reorganizing the deck chairs rather than repositioning the ship (see here).
Strickland has recommended changes that Dr. Z could not and should not be expected to stomach, much less preside over. Ohio's standards and accountability system leaves much to be desired -- but the governor's goal is to weaken it, not strengthen it. The state's charter-school and voucher programs also have their flaws -- but the governor's goal is to kill them, not fix
Terry Ryan / May 7, 2008
Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is right. Ohio is engaged in an "economic development arms race" with other states and nations for investment and jobs. But the state is also in an arms race to educate its children to compete successfully with young people in other states and countries. Yet, we are struggling and Ohio, like the rest of the United States, has no chance of winning the economic development race if we don't at least win a silver medal in the education race. This point was hammered home in the highly regarded Achieve, Inc. report Creating a World-Class Education System in Ohio (see here).
Considering the scale of the challenge, it is frustrating that Governor Strickland and his allies in the Statehouse and in the professional education lobby groups seek to kill the state's voucher program outright while freezing charter schools in their tracks.
The governor recently told the Columbus Education Association's Voice newsletter (see here) that, "I believe the court of public opinion regarding vouchers is beginning to change. They're destructive to our students and wasteful of our tax dollars." The governor also challenged charter schools when he referenced his first State of the State address, "I wanted a lull in the for-profit management charter companies and a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools." The governor has promised to veto the Special Education Scholarship Program currently working its way through the Senate.
Comments that vouchers are "destructive"
State Senator Tom Roberts Tuesday introduced three bills he said were designed to strengthen transparency and accountability standards in charter schools (S.B. 331, S.B. 332, and S.B. 333). Roberts outlined the bills at a news conference, where he was flanked by representatives of the Ohio Education Association, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, and Buckeye Association of School Administrators.
One bill would extend public-records and public-audit laws to charter-school sponsors and operators and would prohibit charter sponsors from renewing contracts with schools owing money to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. A second bill would repeal the requirement that gives community schools the right of first refusal on unused school buildings, while a third bill would require that community schools and public district schools hire teachers using the same teacher-qualification standards. The bill also would require school districts to learn why students, formerly enrolled in charter schools, switch back to district public schools.
The Dayton Democrat, in response to a question from The Gadfly, said it also would be nice to know why students left the district schools for charters in the first place. He said the bill would be changed to reflect that. He also said he does not know how many charter schools may be in arrears for workers compensation payments.
Separately, in the House two bills to entice Ohioans to live in the state's urban areas
Mike Lafferty / May 7, 2008
Governor Ted Strickland is gathering ideas from businesses, academics, various interest groups, and even some ordinary Ohioans on K-12 education reform. At a recent regional Northeast Ohio "shareholder" meeting, everything from a single, uniform statewide property tax to making teachers work 12 months a year was suggested.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on some of the ideas:
- Have property owners, statewide, pay a uniform 22-mills school tax instead of the range of taxes set by voters in each school district.
- Use median income to determine local school taxes or a combination of median income and property valuation to determine the local share. This would affect cities like Cleveland (and presumably all large and medium-sized cities in the state), where the average income of residents may be lower but the number of businesses makes the school district seem wealthier.
- Eliminate the Ohio Graduation Test and base graduation on a combination of ACT test scores, high school grades, a senior project, and a community service project.
- Create a statewide teacher-pay regime scaled to new, mid-career, and senior teachers.
- Make teachers work year-round teaching, tutoring, and taking summer and professional development classes.
It's unclear whether the regional meetings are intended to gather real input or whether they are window dressing. But, there is no doubt he is serious about pushing his education agenda, the details of which we still wait to see.
Alex Karas / May 7, 2008
KIPP's 2007 report card is a good way to get to know the Knowledge is Power Program, which is scheduled to open its first Ohio charter school in Columbus in August.
Here are a few samples from the report card:
- 43 out of KIPP's 49 featured schools met Annual Yearly Progress goals.
- National tests show a near-doubling of scores by students completing fifth through eighth grades in KIPP schools.
- 67 percent of KIPP fifth-grade classes outperformed their local districts on state reading and English exams and 63 percent on mathematics exams. Every eighth-grade class outperformed its local districts in both reading/English and mathematics. There were similar impressive results for seventh- and eighth-grade KIPP students.
- On Algebra I tests, 93 percent of KIPP classes outperformed local district classes.
KIPP, and its many supporters in Ohio, are committed to passing on these substantial academic results to children in Columbus. In early August, 96 fifth-graders in Columbus will pack backpacks, lace up tennis shoes, and head to the KIPP Journey Academy, which will open in the former Linden Park Elementary school building. An additional grade level will be added each year until it becomes a fifth-through-eighth-grade middle school, and it is expected that other KIPP schools will open in Columbus and elsewhere in Ohio.
Founded in 1994 by two Teach for America alumni, KIPP operates public, open-enrollment schools serving mostly African-American and Hispanic students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Since the first KIPP school opened in Houston, the program has expanded
Sarah Pechan / May 7, 2008
Showing again that competition is a tide that lifts all boats, the Manhattan Institute released a study last week that shows public school special-education students perform better when they attend public schools that are exposed to competition with voucher programs (see here).
The researchers conducted a statistical analysis of student achievement of all special- education students in Florida's public schools. As it turns out, those whose public schools were closest to private-school options available through the statewide McKay Scholarship were significantly more likely to see their test scores rise.
This study solidly corroborates existing research on how the availability of scholarships promotes better performance in the public school and benefits even those public school students who don't use the scholarship.
As the Ohio General Assembly considers whether to create a scholarship for students with special needs (S.B. 57 and H.B. 348), this study should remind us of the scholarship's broader impacts. The scholarship would not only allow some parents to send their children to schools and programs that better serve their child's individual needs but it would also encourage improvements at traditional schools.
And that's good news for all 200,000 Ohio students with special learning needs.