Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 2, Number 26
November 19, 2008
Lessons of Charter School Sponsorship
The Year in Review: Big changes in Fordham's charter-school profile
Gadfly Readers Write...
about the Obamas' school choices
News and Analysis
Former top teacher offers Ed Trust meeting ideas for better teaching
Reviews and Analysis
The Financial Crisis and State/Local Defined Benefit Plans
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation became a charter-school sponsor in September 2004 when we signed a sponsorship agreement with the Ohio State Board of Education to serve as a sponsor of no more than 30 schools statewide. We are the only think tank in the country that has assumed this role (see Education Week's early look into Fordham sponsorship here), and during the last four years we have learned a lot and our education is certainly not finished.
Sharing these lessons is important-one reason we devote time, energy, and money to tracking what works and what doesn't work in the schools we sponsor. We want to help others understand the complexities of charter schools and appreciate the hard work of teachers, school leaders, and board members. (For more, see Climbing to Quality: 2007-08 Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report here.)
Ohio has 300-plus charter schools enrolling more than 80,000 students-the sixth-highest number of students enrolled in charters in America. Five percent of Ohio's public-school students attend a public charter school. With 28 percent of its public-school students enrolled in charter schools, Fordham's hometown of Dayton has the third-highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools of any American city (see here). In addition to Dayton, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown are also among the top-ten cities with the largest percentage of charter students.
The last 12 months have been a year of momentous change for Fordham's sponsorship program. We worked with governing authorities
November 19, 2008
Chad Aldis, executive director of School Choice Ohio, has some thoughts on the Obama family's considerations concerning where to send their daughters to school in Washington, D.C. (Aldis is in good company opining on the future first family's decisions, see here and here.)
The country appears enthralled with the Obama family's upcoming big decision-what kind of dog should they bring to the White House? Animal rights supporters have urged the President-Elect to adopt a dog from an animal shelter. Senator Obama has stated he wants to adopt a dog, but he has revealed one of his daughters has allergies requiring a hypoallergenic breed. Seems reasonable to me, he has to do what is best for his family.
The next family decision will be even more telling. He and his wife also have to pick a school for his daughters. No doubt he will again be pressured to make a decision that will please his supporters-namely, choosing a public school. As a parent myself, I am convinced he will put those pressures aside and make whatever decision is best for his daughters' education. Why wouldn't he?
If the best educational environment for his daughters ends up being a private school then I am sure we will be given a list of reasons for it. The school might best meet their academic needs, be safer, or just be a better fit. The Obama family will be exercising a decision that most families in
Emmy L. Partin / November 19, 2008
Ohio's worsening economy and powerful teacher unions make tough the prospect of reforming how teachers are trained, hired, paid, and fired in this state. If policymakers are serious about improving teacher quality, however, they'd do well to follow the advice of Jason Kamras. Kamras is a former Washington, D.C., middle-school teacher and National Teacher of the Year who now works as D.C. Public Schools' director of human capital strategy for teachers. Speaking to the Education Trust's 19th national conference last week, Kamras offered five keys to getting a high-quality teacher in every classroom:
- A great principal in every school. Great teachers want to work for great principals who are instructional leaders first and share the passion and drive to help all kids learn.
- Make it easier to remove low-performing teachers. Great teachers want to work with other great teachers so the profession must become passionate about quality and not accepting mediocrity.
- Provide support commensurate with accountability. Start with continuous professional development in the classroom that is differentiated by need.
- Create new opportunities for high-performing teachers. Allow them to stay in the classroom while still taking on new roles and trying new things (think robust career ladders and lattices).
- Radically rethink compensation. Reward high-performing teachers with significantly more money. Kamras noted that simply paying teachers more, even a whole lot more, won't necessarily ratchet up their performance. Rewards for performance would fundamentally change the perception of the profession and thus increase the quality and quantity
Mike Lafferty / November 19, 2008
Center for Retirement Research, Boston College
It seems likely that some form of bailout for the Big Three automakers is going to occur. It's just as likely that American automakers won't change their ways (and neither will the auto-workers' unions). They will burn through any government bailout money and will still face bankruptcy by summer. American car companies have been consistently out-thought by their competitors for decades. The companies also are saddled with completely unrealistic, hugely expensive pension and benefit plans. The crisis has brought the day of reckoning for those plans much closer, maybe next year. The federal government probably won't force the companies or their unions to change these agreements.
Taxpayer dollars, or worse, money the government has borrowed and taxpayers must repay with interest, will simply be poured down a rat hole.
The auto industry fiasco, which most American policymakers have been satisfied to ignore for years, is also helping bring attention to another potential disaster. With tens of millions of Americans having lost good chunks of their life savings, with hundreds of thousands out of work, it increasingly looks like they also might be on the hook to make good the future pension plans for hundreds of thousands of public employees. The numbers in a new report by researchers at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College make for scary reading. The current crisis cost retirement plans covering American workers $4 trillion between October 2007 and