Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 4
February 18, 2009
State board likes the governor's plans even without the details
From the Front Lines
Cincinnati Catholic schools are beginning to tout test scores
Terry Ryan / February 18, 2009
Gov. Ted Strickland's education plan calls for "modernizing" Ohio's K-12 education system, but perversely his "evidence-based" approach to school funding would likely scuttle his efforts to pull Ohio primary-secondary education into the 21st century.
According to an analysis (see here) released Tuesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Strickland plan "would prop up an outdated system of school finance that establishes funding levels based on convention rather than need, sustains institutions whether they work or not, spends money with little regard for results, holds adults accountable for compliance not results."
Author Paul T. Hill, Corbally Professor at the University of Washington, director of that university's Center on Reinventing Public Education, Senior Fellow at Brookings, and former senior social scientist at RAND, puts it this way: "though Governor Strickland asserts that his school-funding model is evidence-based, in fact there is no proven link between what's proposed and what's effective in schools-or, for that matter, what Ohio's schools and children actually need."
This is serious criticism from an analyst who knows what he is talking about. An Ohio State University graduate, Hill was lead author of a six-year, $6 million, nationwide assessment of school finance completed in December. Funded by the Gates Foundation, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools (see here) is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted and presents some of the best-grounded findings about the links between state spending and school performance.
The Strickland plan, however, flies in
Emmy L. Partin / February 18, 2009
The State Board of Education passed a resolution last week (15-2, with two members absent) commending Gov. Strickland's education reform plan (see here). The board put forth the resolution despite the fact that crucial information about the governor's plan-like legislative language, which isn't expected until later this month, and details about how the school-funding model calculates funding levels-are still not available. One board member voted against the resolution because she did not feel there was enough detailed information meant for her and her constituents to fully evaluate it (see here).
It is hard to understand all the pieces of Strickland's plan without more details, but at first blush many of the governor's proposals seem to butt up against major recommendations from two previous board-sanctioned reports-the August 2008 An Integrated Approach to School Funding Reform in Ohio (see here) and the February 2007 Creating a World-class Education System in Ohio (see here). Perhaps that's why the board didn't mention these reports in its recent resolution supporting the governor's plan. The resolution did indicate, however, that the governor's plan aligns with the board's July 2008 "vision document," Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century: A Vision for Transforming PK-12 Education in Ohio (see here). For the most part, the aims of the governor's plan and this state board document agree. However, the board's vision for public education in Ohio includes an important component that Strickland's does not: accountability
Mike Lafferty / February 18, 2009
More schools in the Cincinnati archdiocese, the nation's eighth-largest Catholic school system, are touting test scores to encourage enrollment.
And parents are using the scores students receive on annual nationally normed Terra Nova tests to help decide whether to enroll their children, according to Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Denise Smith Amos (see here).
The Terra Nova test measures student performance on subjects compared with students nationwide. The test also measures cognitive ability and natural learning strengths.
The archdiocesan attitude about not ballyhooing the scores is loosening, according to Smith Amos. Although school officials can show their scores to anyone, church officials don't want the numbers published on websites or used in marketing brochures because they fear parents would inappropriately compare schools.
Catholic schools can't be shy about test scores, especially in highly rated public school districts, said the principal of St. Vincent Ferrer in Kenwood.
"Our parents here are paying tuition. They've got a lot of money invested in their children's education. They want to see results. This is a way we share results," he said.
February 18, 2009
Center on Reinventing Public Education
State and local officials are starting to cut education dollars to get their budgets out of the red. Hiring freezes, retirement incentives, and trimming non-personnel expenditures are all ways to cut. Yet, another popular approach has been seniority-based layoffs. Seniority-based layoffs eliminate jobs across different classifications (such as teachers, aides, and custodians) for the most recently hired personnel, regardless of performance. Is "last hired, first fired" the best way to address budget woes? Probably not, according to the rapid response analysis conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. This concise and easy-to-read analysis assumes that recent hires make less money, so more recent hires need to be fired to make up for budget gaps. The result is that more school personnel are fired than needed. If cuts were made without considering seniority (meaning firing people across the pay scale spectrum), then there would need to be fewer cuts to make up for budget gaps. The analysis estimates, stunningly, that there are over 260,000 extra layoffs nationally than necessary because of seniority-based policies. And, of course, none of these dismissals are based on the performance of teachers, and so many let go may actually be some of the best instructors. Performance, or lack there of, should drive who stays and who goes, but last hired, first fired prevents this from happening. To read more details, see here.
February 18, 2009
California Charter Schools Association
A new report from the California Charter School Association indicates Oakland-area charter schools are out-performing their public district-school peers (see here).
The report, A Longitudinal Analysis of Charter School Performance in Oakland Unified School District, looks at the performance of the Oakland charter schools vs. traditional California public schools from 2006 to 2008. Each charter school's performance was compared to that of the three most similarly matched district schools within a five-mile radius. Nearly 69 percent of the charters outperformed their district counterparts. Minority students and high-poverty students in charters also surpassed their district-school peers. These results are even more impressive when you factor in that the charters are serving a higher percentage of Latino and high-poverty students and an equal number of African-American students as similarly matched district schools.
These charter schools are eliminating the commonly accepted and continually reinforced stigma that poor and minority students cannot be successful in public schools. The charters have used innovation, dedication, high standards, and quality authorizing to produce student success and achievement, which have been difficult for minority and poor students to attain in traditional public schools. They show that charter schooling done well can be an effective and powerful force for improving education. Read the report here.
The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School
February 18, 2009
This report from ACT (makers of the college entrance exam) seeks to explain the factors most related to college and career readiness. In other words, which variables make the biggest difference in whether high school seniors are ready to tackle credit-bearing college courses or land a decent-pay job? The study's authors considered a number of potential indicators including family background, students' coursework, high school GPAs and more. What mattered most, it turns out, is what students know and can do by the end of middle school (as conveniently measured by an eighth-grade assessment also offered by ACT). The study then examines student data from 24 middle schools and identifies factors related to strong eighth grade achievement, like disciplined study skills, good behavior in school, and positive relationships with school personnel. It's an easy read with an appendix offering all the technical detail that a card-carrying policy wonk could want. Find it here.