Of dropout factories and budget scissors

  •  Much has been made lately of the idea of lengthening school days, but one school district in Marysville, Ohio, is thinking about shortening them. The district’s administrators are currently researching the cost savings such a measure would achieve but have not yet reached a definitive conclusion. The proposal comes on the heels of US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speech, in which he branded instruction-time cuts as “the wrong way to increase productivity.” We at Fordham got more than a little excited about the Secretary’s speech (and about Bill Gates’ speech, which addressed similar issues), and hope legislators and school administrators in Ohio will realize the importance of rethinking spending altogether rather than trimming things like school days.
  • In news of the ironic, the Ohio Education Association ended the 2009-2010 fiscal year with $33 million deficit, according to the Education Action Group Foundation.
  • There are almost as many school reform ideas today as there are followers of Snooki on Twitter (918,301, in case you wondered). For those tired of listening to the piecemeal proposals that often come down the pipe, McKinsey & Co., in its new report, How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better, offers what it touts as “the most comprehensive database of global school system reform ever assembled.” After looking at 600 reform strategies implemented in 20 school systems across the world, researchers concluded that effective reform happens not as a result of a group of particular strategies (such as reducing class sizes, expanding per-student funding, etc.), but as a result of making school-specific reforms. In other words, one size does not fit all. By McKinsey & Co.’s standards, the US (particularly Ohio) couldn’t be a riper field for reform.
  • Amidst the constant peppering of blogs and studies about “what’s wrong with education in America,” it’s nice to find a report that has something positive to say. Building a Grad Nation, a report recently released by the America’s Promise Alliance, shows that the number of “dropout factories” (high schools in which 12th grade enrollment is less than 60 percent of 9th grade enrollment three years prior) in the US actually decreased by 13 percent from 2002-2008. Although its authors’ claim that “We know what works” will sound overconfident to most school reformers, the report points out the fact that we’ve done something right: more than half of all states raised their graduation rates from 2002-2008. Ohio residents will be happy to learn that during the same period, the number of Ohio students attending dropout factories decreased by 23,453, a higher number than any other state in the Midwest, according to the report.

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