Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 17
June 10, 2009
Have we seen the "golden age" of school funding?
News and Analysis
Columbus Collegiate overcomes the worst of times and is set to move on
Conference Committee can pick good ideas from both sides
By , ,
Terry Ryan / June 10, 2009
Last week, the Ohio Senate largely dismantled Gov. Strickland's Evidence-Based Model of school funding, which had called for new spending on public education of $2.7 billion over the next decade. The Senate has been roundly criticized by the governor, Democrats in the House and Senate and many in the state's educational establishment.
Following are two quotes from Democratic senators that capture their collective mood:
"I'm very concerned about the direction of education in Ohio in these historic times," said Sen. Teresa Fedor, of Toledo. "Education is an investment in our economy. We don't have a transformative education plan. It's not innovative. It's the status quo."
"We simply cannot go back to the status quo," said Rep. Dale Miller, of Cleveland, the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance & Financial Institutions Committee. "We need visionary and transformational improvement in the way that we fund schools in Ohio. We have been waiting 12 long years to correct many of the deficiencies highlighted in the DeRolph case."
The fact is, however, that we may very well come to see the last decade as a "golden age" for funding Ohio public schools. Consider figure 1 that shows per-pupil funding in the state rising, using inflation-adjusted dollars, by nearly 30 percent in the last decade. This does not include the billions spent by the state and local districts on new facilities for school since the late 1990s.
Figure 1: Inflation-adjusted Per-Pupil Revenue for K-12
Mike Lafferty / June 10, 2009
Andy Boy received lessons in persistence, patience, and how government can operate in working up to his first day as founder and executive director of the Columbus Collegiate Academy last August.
Boy runs the 48-student, North Side charter school (see here). The school is affiliated with the Building Excellent Schools program (see here) and Boy is a BES fellow. Nine months ago he was worried there wouldn't be a school at all. Instead, he is celebrating the completion of CCA's first year-a triumph over a series of seemingly endless hurdles, from problems of finding a suitable facility, to last-minute transportation snafus, to the loss of nearly half the original student body.
CCA has survived and, if not flourishing yet, has triumphed over adversity. Students are getting the academics. "We just finished Romeo and Juliet. We never would have been able to do that at the beginning of the year," said reading teacher Jennifer Burdine.
Although the result of the state academic achievement tests are not back, the nationally normed Northwest Evaluation Association assessment - given in the autumn and again in the spring - shows the students in the school - all sixth graders - improved more than would be expected in both reading and math. In math, students entered the year performing 10 points below the average American sixth grader. When retested in the spring, they scored higher than average.
The power of the assessment is that it adapts to
The Senate passed its version of the fiscal years 2010-2011 biennial budget last week. In K-12 education, it largely maintained the status quo. A legislative conference committee must now marry the House and Senate versions to produce a budget that also plugs at least a $2 billion revenue shortfall by June 30.
In our view, the Senate version of the budget is generally superior to both the Governor's version and the House version because: 1) it is cognizant of the fiscal challenges facing the state; 2) it provides more adequate funding for charter schools, early college academies, and STEM schools; 3) it slows the state's headlong plunge into development of new standards driven by nebulous and hard to define 21st century skills; 4) it does not overwhelm an underfunded and understaffed Ohio Department of Education with new and costly responsibilities; and 5) it doesn't provide districts and schools with a heavy burden of new unfunded mandates.
That said, in some areas the Governor/House's version is superior and can be married with the Senate version to improve education policy in Ohio in a cost effective fashion. Following are several areas that are ripe for compromise and improvement, based on the Fordham Institute's analyses of the education portion of both versions of Sub. H.B. 1 (see here):
The Governor/House's budget would mortally wound the state's charter-school sector by drastically reducing funding and adding burdensome regulations. The Senate wisely rejected these changes. However,
Analysis Shows Ohio's 8 Largest Urban Districts and Charter Schools Rank Higher on Educational Progress Than on Absolute Test Scores
June 10, 2009
KidsOhio has produced a timely report that examines urban public charter schools and the public district schools in Ohio's eight largest cities. By evaluating data from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the study finds that the Big Eight and public charters have similar demographic make-ups. Specifically, the proportions of economically disadvantaged students, those with special education needs, and minorities are remarkably parallel.
KidsOhio studied the state's value-added numbers, which gauge student progress and are available for grades four through eight. After analyzing 2,688 Ohio public schools, they conclude that by including value-added data, the Big Eight schools and public charters are improving. In fact, these schools tend to not achieve high student performance scores but they rank in the middle of the pack when the focus shifts to value added from one year to the next. The study demonstrates the importance of focusing on yearly progress as well as simple student test scores when evaluating schools. Read the report here.
June 10, 2009
Edited by Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff
Teachers College Press
Michael Rebell, the executive director, and Jessica Wolff, the policy director, for the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, have produced a thorough assessment of the No Child Left Behind Act. The book, a compilation of chapters by individual education scholars, examines the act's emphasis on proficiency and accountability, using schools to relieve social inequality, reducing the black-white achievement gap, helping students with disabilities, and other issues.
A chapter by Robert Schwartz, the academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, delves into NCLB's muddled accountability standards and highlights the Fordham Institute's own reports, The Proficiency Illusion (here) and To Dream the Impossible Dream: Four approaches to national standards and tests for America's schools (here).
Rebell and Wolff also present their own recommendations for improving NCLB. For example, they urge content-based learning standards for all students. But the most important lesson in the book is that No Child Left Behind is worth reforming and its historic spotlight on equity and accountability is necessary now more than ever as we move forward in trying to find better ways to educate Americans. You can order the book here.
Paying Teachers for Results: A Summary of Research to Inform the Design of Pay-for-Performance Programs for High-Poverty Schools
June 10, 2009
Robin Chait and Raegen Miller
Center for American Progress
This report offers timely suggestions for redesigning teacher pay programs at a time when the public is showing interest in paying better teachers more money. Robin Chait and Raegen Miller see paying for performance as crucial to recruiting and retaining the best teachers, although they argue it is not a step to be taken without consensus, since the idea is highly contentious politically. To ensure such plans succeed, they believe teachers must help design them.
The authors' desires to find ways to create performance-pay programs that are widely supported led them to draw ideas from school-district designs that have worked, such as one in North Carolina that gave an annual $1,800 bonus to math and science teachers. The result was a 12-percent drop in teacher turnover rates. They also offer compromises that could be palatable to pay-for-performance opponents while still achieving the objective of using pay to reward the best teachers and to spur other teachers to improve. For the report, see here.
June 10, 2009
Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb
John Wiley & Sons
In their latest book, Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb complain about the slow pace of promoting technology in America's schools and they lay the blame solely at the feet of teacher union leaders.
By studying existing cyber schools, Moe and Chubb refute many of the traditional arguments against bringing technology into schools. The authors demonstrate that states have already begun embracing computerized databases and utilizing computer-based instruction. Further, K-12 cyber schools, both state and private sponsored, have emerged throughout the United States. These institutions provide alternatives to students who attend schools that do not serve their needs. School districts also are increasingly using computerized databases to collect and analyze student test scores and other information. Moe and Chubb, however, believe the opposition of teacher unions has delayed the utilization of technology.
Unions, the authors claim, engage in what they term the "politics of blocking," including stalling legislation that might hurt their members. Using campaign contributions and the threat of not endorsing a candidate, these special interests have impeded the technology movement, and Moe and Chubb estimate it may be 20 years until technology reaches its potential in education.
Moe and Chubb admit that technology has limits. For example, it fails to teach children interpersonal communication skills necessary for everyday business. Additionally, online learning is susceptible to student cheating.
Despite union foot-dragging, K-12 cyber schools, both state and private sponsored, are emerging.