Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 5
March 4, 2009
21st century skills: an old familiar song
By Diane Ravitch
News and Analysis
School success under NCLB depends on the state
By Mike Lafferty
News and Analysis
Buckeye charter schools continue to shoot themselves in the foot
Special analysis of House Bill 1
Diane Ravitch / March 4, 2009
Diane Ravitch (see here) is a research professor and educational historian at New York University, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education, a nationally renowned education expert and author, and a Thomas B. Fordham Institute/Foundation board member. She has authored seven books, including The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Children Learn. This editorial was adapted from a presentation she gave Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C., as part of a panel discussion concerning the proper role of skills in the curriculum. The event was sponsored by Common Core (see here). Ravitch's concerns about 21st century skills are particularly relevant to Ohio where Gov. Ted Strickland is seeking to rewrite the state's standards (see above) to focus more on the acquisition of 21st century skills (see here).
In the land of American pedagogy, innovation is frequently confused with progress, and whatever is thought to be new is always embraced more readily than what is known to be true. Thus, policymakers, thought leaders, and elected officials in Ohio and other states are rushing to get aboard the 21st century skills express train, lest they appear to be old-fashioned or traditional.
So, I was not surprised, a few days ago, to receive an e-mail from Professor John Richard Schrock, director of biology education for Emporia State University in Kansas. He complained that a group of school superintendents in Kansas is pushing a
Mike Lafferty / March 4, 2009
Whether schools, including those in Ohio, make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under federal law is as much a product of inconsistent rules set by state education officials as of actual pupil achievement, according to a new study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The Accountability Illusion study (see here) analyzed the performance of 36 real schools in 28 states, then analyzed which would make AYP under the different No Child Left Behind rules set by each state. Of 18 elementary schools, 17 would make AYP in Wisconsin and 15 in Arizona, but only one would make the grade in Massachusetts and Nevada. In some states most of these elementary schools would "need improvement" while other states would give them passing marks.
"This study proves that the current AYP system under NCLB isn't truly working," said the study's lead author John Cronin, from the Kingsbury Center at NWEA, a national non-profit education research organization. "The current system doesn't help improve our schools."
The researchers found Ohio's proficiency standards are relatively easy. Most of Ohio's cut scores are below the 35th percentile. Looking across the 28 state accountability systems surveyed, the number of elementary schools that made AYP in Ohio was exceeded in just six other states. Within Ohio, ten of 18 elementary schools and 16 of 18 middle schools sampled failed to make AYP in 2008 under the state's accountability system. The data examined for Ohio came from 2005-2006, before the state included
Terry Ryan / March 4, 2009
Charter schools in Ohio are under serious threat. The governor has presented a state budget that would cut funding for charter schools to the point that most schools would have to close, while all would face increased regulation (see above).
Fighting to protect decent charter schools and the space for them to operate has been a tough road to hoe in the Buckeye State. The fact is that charters in Ohio have always faced tenacious opposition from teacher unions and others. And, far too often this opposition has been emboldened by high profile charter school blow-ups, various scandals, and greedy operators. Consider the contrast between the following stories from today.
The Columbus Dispatch ran a piece showing that the Columbus superintendent Gene Harris has delayed taking a raise for the fourth time as superintendent citing the bad economy and the district's upcoming labor-contract negotiations (see here). Harris, the Dispatch reports, earns a base salary of $172,000. While at the helm of the 52,000 student district Harris has seen the district's academic performance steadily improve. In fact, for six straight years the district has made academic gains and the district has maintained a rating of "Continuous Improvement"-the equivalent of a C on the state's scale for the last couple of years. If performance matters, Gene Harris deserves every penny she earns and frankly more. She is not only astute politically but also knows how to run a decent school system.
Meanwhile, out of
March 4, 2009
Substitute House Bill 1, the legislative vehicle for Gov. Strickland's biennial budget proposal, was introduced last week. At more than 3,100 pages, the bill is massive, and its education section alone numbers more than 700 pages. It is a tall, but necessary, task to quickly analyze the budget bill and understand what its many education-related provisions mean for Ohio's schools and students. We have pulled out the sections of the bill that we think are most important to improving public education in the Buckeye State and offer our analysis for Gadfly readers (see full analysis here).
Following are some of the highlights of the bill and our analysis of these provisions:
Academic Standards: No one doubts that Ohio's mediocre academic standards could use a makeover. Sub. H.B. 1 is tackling a necessary challenge when it seeks to upgrade Ohio's academic standards. It is clear, however, that Sub. H.B. 1 seeks to modify significantly Ohio's standards and its aligned accountability system by focusing less on knowledge and academic content and more on nebulous and hard-to-define 21st century skills.
Specifically, the bill calls for revising the state's academic standards every five years so as to develop not only core academic content (reading, math, science, etc.) but also:
- skill sets as they relate to creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration; and
- skill sets that promote flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership