Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 19
June 24, 2009
Ohio undergrads tell state leaders what's on their minds
By Mike Lafferty
Why We're Behind: What Top Nations Teach Their Students But We Don't
News and Analysis
Ohio's catch-22 on standards
Mike Lafferty / June 24, 2009
The Fordham Institute's latest report on how young Ohioans view their state-it's really nice but they are looking for jobs and Ohio is hurting on this front-has received an astounding reception. The report, Losing Ohio's Future: Why college graduates flee the Buckeye State and what might be done about it (see here), struck a chord with lawmakers, business leaders, higher education officials, citizens, and the news media because it gives some hard numbers to a problem that everyone recognizes but can't quite put their fingers on.
From Cleveland to Cincinnati, Toledo to Columbus, major and minor newspapers and dozens of television and radio stations carried reports for several days (see here, here, and here) after the survey was released June 15. Fordham officials and the survey's analyst Steve Farkas were extensively quoted (see here) and the story was picked up nationally in Detroit, New York City, Hartford, and other places.
Fordham contracted with the New York City-based FDR Group to conduct the survey, which is believed to be the first to utilize an Internet social-networking site to reach respondents where they spend much of their time. Using Facebook and random samples provided by colleges, the FDR Group interviewed 811 sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, Miami University, Oberlin College, Ohio State University, Ohio University, and University of Dayton. The results, however, could probably be extended to graduates of all of Ohio's
On the Front Lines of Schools: Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem
July 29, 2009
John M. Bridgeland, John J. Dilulio, Jr., and Robert Balfanz, Civic Enterprises with Peter D. Hart Research Associates
Civic Enterprises, in The Silent Epidemic, surveyed dropouts to understand the reasons large numbers of students decided to leave high school before graduation (see here). This 2006 report demonstrated that students cite boredom and not being challenged as reasons for dropping out. In On the Front Lines of Schools, the focus turns to surveying public school principals and teachers across America to learn their perceptions of the high-school dropout problem. Predictably, the survey found that principals and teachers have a different view of the problem than students. This gap can be seen in the principals' and teachers' refusal to believe boredom in school was a credible excuse for dropping out, and they were more likely to blame unprepared students and lack of parental involvement.
The study also reveals differences between principals and teachers, particularly on the tracking of college-bound and non-college-bound students. While 59 percent of teachers thought a separate track should be made, only 41 percent of principals wanted this. The study's authors disagreed with the teachers' idea here and soundly rejected a separate track, explaining that all children should be prepared for college.
As about one-third of public high school students do not graduate, the authors tackle an important issue in this report. Unfortunately, the findings show that teachers, principals, and students all have a tendency to blame
June 24, 2009
Are you smarter than a 5th grader? In Hong Kong, probably not.
Common Core's report on international standards, Why We're Behind: What Top Nations Teach Their Students, But We Don't, compiles tests and curricula from nine nations that receive consistently high scores on PISA (an international assessment). It's tempting to take the tests they provide to see if you can do the work of a twelfth grader in Canada or the fifth grader in Hong Kong. And that's the point, really. Could you do that? Can we do that? And by we, of course, I mean America.
This overview of high-scoring countries with rich standards does not include the United States, which continually occupies a distinctly less-admirable spot on the rankings. The countries it does include, however, are Finland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In three essays interspersed between primary documents outlining standards from each of the nations, Common Core addresses how these countries are different and what American can do to improve.
The first essay, by Martin West, an assistant professor of education, political science, and public policy at Brown University, notes how the highlighted countries have a wide spectrum for their standards. Students are primarily tested on reading, math, and science (as are students in the United States per NCLB), but their standards, by and large, include equally weighted requirements for history, literature, art, and music. The second
June 24, 2009
Policies aimed at creating and implementing better academic standards are spreading across the nation like a firestorm. Ohio is no exception to these winds of change. In the Buckeye State, the governor's budget proposal and the House-passed version of H.B. 1-the state's biennial budget bill-call for overhauling the state's academic standards by adding new standards that focus on "21st Century Skills." In contrast, the Senate-passed version of H.B. 1 would require the State Board of Education and superintendent to study and make recommendations by July 1, 2010 to: 1) address the necessity of implementing changes to the standard and assessment system, 2) develop a timeline that would be required for implementation, 3) estimate implementation costs, and 4) formulate necessary legislative changes. The Senate version also removes mention of standards for 21st Century Skills. As the House and Senate battle over these competing proposals in conference committee, the national discussion is just getting stoked.
Over the last year, the national standards movement-or what many refer to as "common standards" - has gathered momentum and energy with the release of several high-profile reports. In July 2008, Achieve released Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up (see here). The National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve followed in December with Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring US Students Receive a World-class Education (see here). In April, the Broad and Gates