Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 19
August 11, 2010
Charter schools bracing for funding cuts, still seeking parity
By Mike Lafferty
News and Analysis
Putting charter theories to the test: an examination of student mobility in Dayton
Substantial savings possible by increasing student-teacher ratios
How top-heavy are Ohio's school districts?
Strategic Communications for Portfolio School District Reform
Embracing System Reform: Lessons from Five Award-Winning Schools
2010 KIDS COUNT Data Book
Flypaper's Finest -- the best from Flypaper
Low-performing schools need more than self-help jargon
Flyapaper's Finest-- the best from Flypaper
Hundreds of Ohio students on EdChoice Scholarship (voucher) waiting list
Mike Lafferty / August 11, 2010
Ohio charter schools could face funding cuts of 10 percent, 15 percent, or more in the next biennial budget. But the state budget crisis also will give charters an opportunity to talk about the current financial inequities between them and district schools.
Charters don’t have access to local school property or income taxes and it is unlikely charters’ minimal access to state facilities dollars will be increased. Charter advocates do hope the General Assembly will at least address charters’ lack of access to educational challenge factor funds (ECF). The ECF money, a component of the new evidence-based funding model, adjusts the amount of funding school districts receive in order to provide additional dollars to those districts with a higher proportion of disadvantaged students. However, charter schools, regardless of how disadvantaged a population they serve, do not see this boost in funding.
“That’s blatantly discriminatory. We’ll take the budget cuts like everyone else but give us the ECF so our urban charter schools can have the same benefit [as urban districts],” said William Sims, president of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
“Also, charter schools don’t get [funding] guarantees if enrollment drops. They don’t get guaranteed funding as districts do,” he said. “The real question is one the House majority caucus and Rep. Steven Dyer and Rep. Clayton Luckie don’t like to hear me say -- we have separate and unequal funding for public school kids in the state.”
Although lawmakers are bracing for
Terry Ryan / August 11, 2010
Fordham’s hometown of Dayton is famous not only for the Wright Brothers but also for being a school choice mecca. Annually since 2006, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has put Dayton on its top-ten list of charter communities by market share (27 percent of public school kids in the city attend charter schools). Another 1,500 children use a state-funded voucher to attend a private school of their choice.
With more than a third of all children in the city now utilizing school choice, the Gem City is an excellent place to test theories and arguments about charter schools and choice more generally, which is exactly what we’ve recently done with two theories about charter schools.
The first is a favorite of charter school advocates — that parents will make sound decisions about schooling and select high-performing schools for their children while shunning low performers. If this theory holds true over time, parents’ positive and proactive school selection will lead some schools to improve and weak ones to close as the high performers gain market share. In short, parents will be picky consumers and good schools will thrive while bad schools wither.
The second theory has been promoted by charter school opponents since the first charters opened their doors in the 1990s and holds that charter schools drain public schools of students and resources. Opponents frequently wield this criticism against charters when districts are facing deficits or declining enrollment; in effect,
Emmy L. Partin / August 11, 2010
Ohio’s faces an unprecedented $8 billion budget deficit next year. With 40 percent of state revenue invested in K-12 education, Ohio’s public schools will surely have to endure a fair share of the cuts. To his credit, Governor Strickland has taken action, asking the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation to investigate options for cost-savings and efficiencies in education. One area that should be examined closely is student-teacher ratios, as upward of two-thirds of district spending goes toward staff salaries and benefits.
Current state law calls for ratios no larger than 25 students per teacher (though the governor’s education reform plan, passed into law last summer, aims to lower the ratio in kindergarten through third grade to 15:1 over the next several years). In practice, however, average student-teacher ratios don’t fall anywhere close to the state maximum. Just a handful of Ohio districts have a ratio higher than 25:1 and more than half have ratios below 18:1.
My colleagues and I analyzed average student-teacher ratio, enrollment, and teacher salary data for local school districts that the state education department makes publicly available. We wanted to know what the financial impact of increasing student-teacher ratios might be – especially if ratios were increased by just a few students. How much money could really be saved? Would the state and local school districts see a sizeable difference in their bottom line?
Here is what we found:
- If every district in the Buckeye State raised its average student-teacher ratio by
Jamie Davies O'Leary / August 11, 2010
Earlier this year the Brookings Institution and the Greater Ohio Policy Center garnered attention from both gubernatorial candidates for their suggestion in the Restoring Prosperity report that smaller Ohio school districts consolidate. Despite typically having negative connotations, consolidation came across as a pragmatic rather than ominous idea. That’s because, according to Brookings, Ohio spends 49 percent more on district administration than the national average. It ranks 47th in the level of spending that makes it into K-12 classroom, but ninth in terms of money spent on administration.
A few districts have experimented with consolidating administrative positions. Two Bexley schools – the district’s middle and high school – will have just one principal next year (with assistant principals at each school), a move that will save $100,000. And several years ago, Rittman Exempted Village School District and Orville City School District (in Wayne County) merged their top administrative staffs to realize $270,000 in annual savings. A previous Ohio Gadfly analysis estimated that if school districts with fewer than 1,700 pupils consolidated a few administrative roles it could result in up to $40 million in savings. These numbers are important when one consider that of Ohio’s current 613 districts, half serve fewer than 1,300 students – the size of many high schools.
But can Ohio districts really thin out their central offices, or is there a critical mass of administrative staff toward which most Ohio districts converge out of necessity?
Theda Sampson / August 11, 2010
Sam Sperry, Center on Reinventing Public Education
This working paper by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) discusses the diverse needs of three “portfolio” school districts – Denver, New York, and New Orleans – when it comes to communications and marketing practices.
Portfolio districts – which manage a “portfolio” of various types of schools, give school leaders great operational freedom over their schools, and hold schools accountable for academic performance – face marketing needs that are unique to each district’s context. The paper draws on interview data from communications personnel in the three districts and comes up with techniques to improve marketing and communications for other districts considering a portfolio approach, such as:
- Have solid messaging focused on academic improvement and results (and good “messengers”). Portfolio districts are focused on growing schools that work and closing those that don’t, and this can create messy PR scenarios. The paper recommends that districts be honest and stay centered in the core message that children deserve better options.
- Demonstrate success with concrete numbers. Point to increases in proficiency, graduation rates, student growth, etc. but also put a human face on the numbers so the message of school improvement is more compelling.
- Know the audience. The paper spells out the importance of stratifying communications with various groups like the media, the teachers themselves (many of whom may be skeptical of new reforms), parents and the community, etc. as well as having the right
William Lowe Boyd / August 11, 2010
Heather Zavadsky, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
In this AEI policy paper Heather Zavadsky highlights five urban districts (also showcased in her book, Bringing School Reform to Scale) that are models of systemic, district-wide reforms. All five have won the Broad Prize for Urban Education for their ability to implement reform across the entire district, not just among failing schools.
They are: Aldine Independent School District in Texas; Boston Public Schools in Massachusetts; Garden Grove Unified School District in Los Angeles; Long Beach Unified School District in California; and Norfolk Public Schools in Virginia. While all these schools operate within varying policy, organizational, and community contexts, they faced similar challenges in lifting student achievement.
All five serve large percentages of minority populations, low-income students, English language learners. So how did these large urban districts serving some of the highest “at-risk” student populations succeed in outperforming their home states on multiple assessments? Zavadskly highlights key components of their success.
Aldine Independent School District and Long Beach Unified School District attribute their high performance to aligning curriculum vertically among all grades (pre-kindergarten through 12) and horizontally across all schools within the district. This change ensured their highly mobile student body would be taught the same curriculum at any school they attended (an important lesson for districts like Dayton that experience high levels of student mobility). Boston Public Schools redefined key leaders’ roles, reconstructed its HR department, and increased its use of data, creating
August 11, 2010
Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released its annual Kids Count Data Book, an analysis of various indicators related to child/youth wellbeing, such as infant mortality rates, teen birth rates, and the number of teens not enrolled in high school.
Unemployment is on the rise (10.5 percent in Ohio) and states are facing budget cuts resulting in less money for things such as healthcare and education (for the Buckeye State, the deficit will be $8 billion). Given that the data for this report come from the year 2007, before the economic meltdown occurred, current statistics related to child wellbeing are probably even more dire.
After collecting data for ten key indicators and coming up with a raw composite score, the report ranks Ohio 29th in terms of overall child well being, down one spot from 2009. The findings have several implications for the state of Ohio as a whole, and for the education of our children.
Take teen birth rate for example, which is calculated by looking at births per 1,000 females ages 15–19. The national average is 43; Ohio comes in just below that at 41 births per 1,000. Significant numbers of teen births have a tangible impact on K-12 education as babies born to teen mothers are often born into homes with fewer resources to spend on education, and because teen mothers often may not attend college or even finish high school. Consequently, children may come
Jamie Davies O'Leary / August 11, 2010
Have you ever wanted to grow your ?emotional intelligence including managing your gremlin,? while receiving training in ?resilience? or ?creativity?? You might want to check out LifeTrek Inc., a life and career coaching company run by a couple out of their Virginia home. While there's nothing wrong with seeking to ?stress proof? your life or renew your self esteem ? there is something terribly wrong with folks in this line of work marketing their services in search of big bucks from school turnarounds.
Leave it to the New York Times to expose ?inexperienced companies? that are diving into the school turnaround business. One such company, LifeTrek, has now expanded its umbrella of coaching service to schools through the Center For Evocative Coaching (online at www.schooltransformation.com).
Here's a blurb from the site:
Are you a good school looking to become great? Are you a low-performing school looking to move up the ladder? Are you a conventional school looking to become more creative and innovative? Are you a school in conflict looking to become more trusting and collaborative? Whatever your circumstances, the Center for School Transformation can assist you to get where you want to go.
We do this by facilitating new conversations in schools through Story Listening, Expressing Empathy, Appreciative Inquiry, and Design Thinking.
NYTimes reports that Ohio has put the center on its list of approved school turnaround specialists, despite that fact that the organization
August 11, 2010
Since its creation in 2005, Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program – which grants $4,250 or $5,000 to students attending the state’s worst schools to attend the private school of their choice – has provided scholarships to all eligible students that apply. But this year the number of applicants exceeded the available number of slots (14,000), and it’s the first year that some students attending “D” or “F” schools and seeking an alternative will be denied. Findings from a recent analysis of DC’s voucher program could give reason for lifting Ohio’s voucher cap. Read more here.
August 11, 2010
- Think your college student is holed up in the library, studying away for dozens of hours? Think again. According to a recent policy brief by AEI there has been a dramatic decrease in student study time since the 1960s. In 1961 the average student at a four-year university studied about twenty hours a week. Fast forward fifty years and students are studying only fourteen hours a week! To check out the complete report, possible explanations for the decline in study time, and what this means for our students, click here.
- The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released its second analysis of states’ Race to the Top applications. Ohio is among 19 finalists in round two (and in fact presented to reviewers just yesterday) and has $400 million at stake in the competition. NCTQ ranks Ohio poorly, however, because the state is “non-committal” when it comes to denoting how much student performance will weigh into revamped teacher evaluations, and because the state made several components of its application optional for districts. Find out more about Ohio and how other states stack up in the competition here.
- Parents might want to double check their children’s school supply list before heading out to the store. According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch many schools are becoming very specific not just when it comes to what students need to bring to class, but also in the brands of