Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 3
February 4, 2009
Education voucher data misleading
News and Analysis
Energy, economy, and STEM concerns top state science survey
News and Analysis
Fordham's national Flypaper blog
Governor's education plan: great politics/mixed policies
Terry Ryan / February 4, 2009
In 1975, the United States went metric with the signing of the Metric Conversion Act by President Gerald Ford. Despite this federal law and millions of dollars spent on conversion efforts, Americans never bought into the metric system. More than 30 years later we still use miles per hour as opposed to kilometers per hour. The reason the effort to go metric failed was because it created more confusion than clarity.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's recent story "Voucher students doing poorly" (see here), reprinted in the Columbus Dispatch, was like America's experiment with the metric system. It created more mystification than enlightenment. The story reported that almost 3,000 EdChoice students-students who opt out of a failing public school to attend a private school of their choice on a state funded voucher-had received test scores from the Ohio Department of Education showing a sizable portion of these students failing various sections of the state's standardized achievement tests. The story purported to show that these poor results were evidence that the state's EdChoice program might not be getting "bang for the buck" for taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, the connection between private school quality and state assessment data is tenuous to make. Here's why.
In 1997, Ohio moved public education toward a system of standards and accountability. The idea was straightforward-set academic standards at the level for what all public school students should be learning, and then hold them and their teachers accountable for seeing that
Mike Lafferty / February 4, 2009
Alternative energy, the economy, and STEM education are the three top science-and-technology-related worries according to an Ohio Academy of Science survey of state and local public officials, including those in the governor's office (see here).
Energy use, energy production, and related environmental issues; the aging of baby boomers; and transportation also were high priorities cited by public officials.
The 2009 worries are different from those listed when the academy last conducted the survey in 2000. Then, biotechnology, cancer prevention, and education reform were chief concerns. Biotechnology and cancer prevention were still listed in the latest survey but they were well down the list.
STEM education was the third-most cited concern. The alignment of education with economic development, education reform, critical thinking skills, K-12 science education, and engineering education were among other education-related concerns cited.
The anonymous, mail-response survey was conducted between Dec. 17, 2008, and Jan. 12, 2009. The academy surveyed 81 public officials (a 9.5 percent survey response).
Alternative energy was cited 26 times compared with the economy and STEM education at 11 times each. When closely related topics were included, energy was listed as a concern 65 times compared with STEM education and other specific education issues 52 times and economic-related issues 19 times.
"The results of the 2009 survey are important because of leadership transitions at the local, state, and national levels and because of Ohio's scientific, technological, and educational challenges and opportunities in an unstable economy," said Lynn Elfner, the
February 4, 2009
In the last week, on Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog (see here), Terry Ryan blogged about front-loading compensation for new teachers; Emmy Partin discussed Gov. Strickland's "clarification" of his view toward charter schools; Kathryn Mullen Upton talked about figuring out what new teachers to hire now that it's time for schools to start that process; and Emmy Partin got down on what exactly "overhauling" a failing school really means.
Terry Ryan / February 4, 2009
Gov. Ted Strickland's hot-off-the-presses education-reform plan is nothing if not audacious. Gutsy, even, in its way, and wider-ranging than most people expected, it tackles a multitude of topics-sometimes in incompatible and contradictory ways-and picks up on dozens of ideas, some of them sound. It is also sure to be expensive, as others have already pointed out (see here).
Some of the promising ideas include moving away from the current statewide high-school graduation test toward the ACT and some combination of end-of-course exams; improving teacher quality (in part by shifting tenure decisions from three to nine years); lengthening the school year; making funding more transparent; and encouraging innovations such as STEM programs and "early college" academies.
Strickland certainly deserves credit for raising education high on Ohio's policy agenda. On balance, though, his plan raises at least three serious concerns that legislators and others should ponder long and hard.
First, what exactly will Ohio use for academic standards for its students, schools, and teachers, and how exactly will the state hold them to account for their results? Getting the standards right-specifying the knowledge and skills that teachers should teach and children should learn-is at the heart of just about everything else that matters in K-12 education, at least in terms of state policy. Here, unfortunately, the governor seems to have thrown into the hopper just about every trendy education notion that he and his advisers have ever encountered. He yearns for standards that incorporate
Kathryn Mullen Upton, Esq. / February 4, 2009
Ohio Department of Education
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has released its 2007-2008 Annual Report on Community Schools (see here). The report gives a rundown on the academic, financial, operational, and governance components of each of Ohio's charter schools, as well as information related to the schools' sponsors.
At the outset, ODE should be commended for enhancing the quality and content of the report over previous years. The 2007-2008 report includes information, by school, on demographics, academics, enrollment, and finances, as well as a nice legislative history on the evolution of the charter school program in Ohio. The report also includes information on the 73 active sponsors currently providing monitoring, oversight, and technical assistance to 323 charter schools throughout the state. There also are links to each sponsor's annual report-a document that all sponsors are required to submit to ODE annually.
While the ODE report continues to improve in quality and content, here are a few ideas that would strengthen future reports and bring additional transparency and accountability to Ohio's charter school program.
First, all sponsors should be subject to the department's sponsor evaluation. Currently, just 17 (those who hold sponsorship agreements with the Ohio Department of Education) of the 73 active sponsors are required to undergo the annual sponsor evaluation. In other words, 56 sponsors of Ohio charter schools do not have to have their monitoring, oversight, or technical assistance to charter schools evaluated by ODE. This transparency would
February 4, 2009
Without fail, our nation is continuing to focus on remedying its chronic literacy troubles. Given that we've learned about the importance of children's early literacy predicting later reading success, as well as the fact that 5.5 million (of 21 million) children ages from birth to five years old are enrolled in some form of preschool, the time was right for the National Institute for Literacy in 2002 to convene a panel on literacy instruction as it relates to young children. Only now in 2009 Developing Early Literacy has come out, expanding work done by the 2000 National Reading Panel. It identifies teaching practices to effective promote children's literacy skills- some which are real common sense- such as teaching the alphabet and reading books. Despite the rigor and care taken to generate its findings, there are some notes some concerns- such as too much of an emphasis on teaching children a narrow set of skills. There are also concerns about how easily the report can be understood by practitioners. Fortunately, it's expected that user-friendly guides will be coming out to translate this research for teachers and parents, and this will be helpful to spread the word of this work quite reliably for years to come.
Note: This article was revised on February 5 to correct an editing error.