Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 25
September 2, 2009
Schools scratching heads, crossing fingers over new ed. plan costs
By Mike Lafferty
Time to re-think report card ratings
News and Analysis
"School of One" pilot program uses technology to differentiate instruction
Innovative Ohio schools struggle to make ends meet
Report card round-up
Mike Lafferty / September 2, 2009
Two years in the making, it will probably take local school officials at least two years to figure out all the changes in the state's new "evidence-based" education model.
School officials have to wrestle with new concepts such as organizational units. There's a new funding formula to learn, new student-teacher ratio requirements, a mandate for all-day kindergarten, as well as plans for different accountability and testing systems.
"It's going to be challenging because of the different way in which schools will be operated," said Akron City School District Superintendent David James.
School officials, however, seem more interested in understanding the new education requirements than in criticizing them. Gov. Ted Strickland's evidence-based model has several goals - the most important of which is molding Ohio's K-12 education system to mirror what the governor's education experts say works, according to the evidence they have accumulated. There is plenty to dispute over the so-called evidence (see here) but opponents, including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, lost that fight in the General Assembly.
James said he is willing to give the model a chance. Valid or not, it will try to bring regularity to public schools, which James appreciates. The uncertainty lies in the idea of organizational units that seek to organize elementary, middle, and high schools into the most efficient groupings for staffing. It's possible to have more than one organizational unit in a school but basically, one organizational unit is the same as a school
Terry Ryan / September 2, 2009
Judging schools based on student academic performance is more art than science. This fact was never depicted more clearly than in the recent release of state report card data that gave the Kettering City Schools a rating of Continuous Improvement (a C) even though it met 29 of 30 academic indicators (see here).
The state expects Kettering to get at least 75 percent of its students to proficiency or above on 28 academic tests, while also having an appropriate attendance and graduation rate. Kettering met all these goals but for one (achievement in eighth-grade social studies). Further, Kettering saw its overall student achievement results increase from 2007-08 when the district was rated Effective (a B).
Not surprisingly, the state's rating of the Kettering City Schools has flummoxed and angered local officials. The district's C rating is hard to explain when one considers Kettering's state rating is identical to far lower performing districts like Elyria City Schools (it met 11 of 30 indicators), or Cincinnati Public Schools, Columbus City Schools, and Akron Public Schools (all met only 6 of 30 indicators).
So, what's going on here? Kettering took a hit because it failed to meet federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals with two sub-groups of students - students with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students. What this means in practice is that Kettering schools failed to deliver students with disabilities (which make up about 15 percent of all district students) and students
Jamie Davies O'Leary / September 2, 2009
For all the alarming statistics illustrating that public education in America is in trouble (see Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr.'s discussion here on flat SAT scores, stagnant or falling NAEP scores, and bad news from the ACT), there are probably equal numbers of education reform solutions floating around the education policy stratosphere. But you would be hard-pressed to find many that simultaneously address two of the most formidable barriers to scalable reform: human capital challenges and the pressing budget deficits facing nearly all state and local governments.
The education reform community has become obsessed with the human capital variable (an article here by Ed Week calls the Gates Foundation's emphasis on teacher effectiveness the search for education's "magic pill"), yet our ability to improve it (or anything else in education, for that matter) has been seriously hampered by the current economic woes. Even the giant chunk of stimulus money recently handed to states is plugging holes in their budgets rather than launching or ramping up education reforms.
One innovative pilot promises to enhance teacher effectiveness, capitalize on the power of data to inform instruction, infuse schools with much-needed technological innovation, and improve student performance. All this, and it is estimated to cost about the same as what we spend to operate traditional schools.
Called School of One, it launched this summer out of New York City's Department of Education. Its mission is to "provide students with personalized, effective, and
Mike Lafferty / September 2, 2009
While funding for most public schools will be flat - and schools will be lucky with that - for innovative schools at both ends of the state's pre-K-12 education ladder, the budget is nothing short of doomsday. For example, the state's Early Learning Initiative program provided major support for preschools and its demise has resulted in the abrupt closure of some of them throughout the state.
"We didn't foresee this happening. We thought there would be cuts but we didn't see the program going away completely," said Nancy Gazzerro, who had to close two preschools in two Dayton-area charter schools as part of the private Mini-University system (see here). In March, one of her schools was the first preschool in Montgomery County to receive the state's highest rating for preschools. "To turn around and have to close the doors was heart-breaking," she said. Gazzerro has reopened the schools but is only running one class in each school. She needs private funding to continue.
On the other end of the spectrum, the state's nine early college academy high schools are facing possible closure at the end of the school year. These schools offer an intense program to prepare at-risk, low-income, inner-city students for college. They lost a $12-million state subsidy.
In addition to Dayton, early college academies operate in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, Elyria, Lorain, Toledo, and Youngstown. The state, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have invested more
Emmy L. Partin / September 2, 2009
Following last week's release of local report card data by the state education department, the Fordham Institute conducted our sixth annual analysis of school performance in Ohio's major urban cities (see here). In addition to city-by-city analyses of charter and district performance in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo, we partnered with the North Carolina-based education and management consulting firm Public Impact to produce an in-depth report, Urban School Performance Report: An Analysis of Ohio Big Eight Charter and District School performance with a special analysis of Cyber Schools, 2008-09 (see here). Our analyses were featured in articles in Catalyst-Ohio (see here), the Cleveland Plain Dealer (see here), the Columbus Dispatch (see here), the Dayton Daily News (see here), the Cincinnati Enquirer (see here), Gongwer News Service Ohio (see here, subscription required), and The Hannah Report (see here, subscription required).
September 2, 2009
Last week was the first official week of classes at Columbus Collegiate Academy, a charter school authorized by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. CCA students notched gains on reading and math proficiency exams last year and everyone's ready for another excellent, energizing academic year. Watch a back-to-school video featuring CCA here.
September 2, 2009
Terry Ryan, Fordham's vice president for Ohio programs and policy, talks about the recently released performance data for Ohio's urban district and charter schools. Watch here.
September 2, 2009
The Fordham Institute is pleased to welcome Eric Ulas as a Policy and Research Associate working in our Columbus office. A Cleveland native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, Eric previously taught middle- and high-school visual arts and photography in Clark County, Nevada, and in Ohio. In Nevada, he was appointed to a group that advised the revision of the Silver State's curriculum standards and while working in the Reynoldsburg City Schools, he helped develop the curriculum design and implementation of that district's new STEM high school.