Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 29
December 1, 2010
Renewal and optimism: Five years as an Ohio charter authorizer
By Kathryn Mullen Upton ,
Value-added can help schools keep the best teachers
Front the Front Lines
Closed Ohio charter school returns $423,421 to state's coffers
Does Competition Improve Public Schools?
You're Leaving? Sustainability and Succession in Charter Schools
International Benchmarking: State Education Performance Standards
Other Ohio districts should take a cue from Cleveland
More Race to the Top drop-outs
Of dropout factories and budget scissors
Video profiles of Fordham-authorized schools
Are Education Schools Amenable to Reform?
Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010
This national survey of education school professors finds that, even as the U.S. grows more practical and demanding when it comes to K-12 education, most of the professoriate simply isn't there. They see themselves more as philosophers and agents of social change, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft. They also resist some promising reforms such as tying teacher pay to student test scores. Still, education professors are reform-minded in some areas, including tougher policies for awarding tenure to teachers and financial incentives for those who teach in tough neighborhoods. Read on to find out more.
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been authorizing (aka sponsoring) charter schools in Ohio since 2005, and we’ve learned a ton these past five years. Sharing these lessons is important – one of the reasons we devote time, energy, and money on our annual sponsorship report. Through it, we hope to help readers understand the complexities of charter schools and better appreciate the hard work of teachers, school leaders, and board members who are serving not only in the schools we sponsor but in schools around the state and nation to make a difference in the lives of children who desperately need it. We also believe public education benefits significantly from transparency and accountability. For those reasons, we annually share a detailed accounting of our sponsorship activities as well as report on the overall performance of the charter schools we authorize.
Charter contract renewals
The 2009-10 school year marked a milestone in our sponsorship efforts because it was the first time we had to make contract renewal decisions for our sponsored schools. In June 2005 we issued five-year sponsorship agreements to the following charter schools:
- The Dayton Academy (now called Dayton Leadership Academies: Dayton Liberty Campus);
- The Dayton View Academy (now called Dayton Leadership Academies: Dayton View Campus);
- Phoenix Community Learning Center; and
- Springfield Academy of Excellence.
In each contract we shared expected achievement targets for each school over the term of their five-year agreements; all of which expired on June 30, 2010. The key academic
Terry Ryan / December 1, 2010
Taxpayers invest a lot in their teachers, and good ones are worth every penny. Nothing affects student performance more than great teachers. Conversely, weak teachers can do irreparable damage to children and their learning. This alone should prompt Ohio to glean as much information as possible about teacher effectiveness.
But in the face of Ohio's impending budget cliff and the teacher layoffs it will cause, defining teacher effectiveness has become that much more urgent. Consider two pots of federal money that have propped up Ohio's education spending: the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the August 2010 infusion of "Ed Jobs" money. Ohio received nearly a billion dollars for education from the recovery act - funding that dries up in July 2011 - which saved or created upward of 9,000 education jobs. Ed Jobs funding, to expire in 2012, funneled $361 million to Ohio and saved an estimated 5,000 teaching jobs. To say that layoffs will occur en masse is an understatement. Ohio must come up with strategies to keep the most effective teachers in classrooms.
We actually know little about the effectiveness of teachers in the Buckeye State. Current teacher evaluations do not distinguish highly effective teachers from the rest, nor do they weed out poor performers. Further, archaic human-resources practices in public education prevent us from retaining, rewarding and supporting teachers based on their effectiveness. In fact, we pay long-serving, but ineffectual, teachers more than
Terry Ryan / December 1, 2010
Much has been written about spectacular charter school blow-ups that have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rarely, if ever, do we see headlines that read ???Closed charter school returns $423,421 to state's coffers.??? But that's exactly what happened yesterday when the treasurer for the East End Community School in Dayton hand delivered a check to the Ohio Department of Education. Fordham served as the school's authorizer from 2005 to 2008, when it closed at the end of the school year.
East End had facility problems since its inception in 2002. When the church in which it rented space terminated that arrangement, the school had nowhere satisfactory to conduct class. In its final year of operation the school was one of Dayton's highest performing schools with its students' reading proficiency scores fully 15 points above those of district students. In 2008 the school was rated Continuous Improvement (C) and met AYP. Despite its achievement and an enrollment of 210 students the school couldn't function without a decent facility.
And so, in May 2008, the school's governing board reached an agreement with the Dayton Public School district whereby East End would cease operating as an independent charter and its pupils would be encouraged to enroll in the district's newly built Ruskin Elementary School. Many teachers and staff from East End subsequently took positions in the new school. This arrangement allowed the district to fill an otherwise underutilized new building with students while
Jamie Davies O'Leary / December 1, 2010
Cassandra M.D. Hart & David Figlio
This study by Northwestern University economists—published in Education Next—teases out findings to a “notoriously difficult” question: do public schools improve when they face the threat of losing students to nearby private schools (in this case, precipitated by tax credit scholarships)? This theoretical “competitive effect” is a main tenet of the school choice movement, but it’s difficult to substantiate that the education market actually works this way. Figlio and Hart’s study bolsters this school choice principle, as it finds that the availability of tax credit scholarships in Florida led to improvements in the average performance of “at-risk” public schools (those that would lose eligible students).
Figlio and Hart examined Florida state test results (FCAT scores) from 1999 to 2007 as well as student demographic variables, and geo-coded data for public and private schools so as to measure the distance, density, and concentration of private school options within a five-mile radius of Florida’s public schools. (They also measured private school diversity, naming ten different types on a religious-secular spectrum.) Next, they measured the effect of “scholarship-induced private school competition” on nearby public schools by comparing student performance before and after the scholarship program was enacted. Meanwhile, they controlled for demographic variables like race and poverty, as well as state-given grades to schools, thus isolating the effects of private school competition and disentangling it from, say, schools’ behavior to avoid accountability sanctions.
The four measures
Kathryn Mullen Upton / December 1, 2010
Center for Reinventing Public Education
Kudos to CRPE for its new report (from its National Charter School Research Project) shedding much needed light on an issue critical to the long-term sustainability of charter schools, yet rarely addressed: succession planning. As an authorizer of charter schools, Fordham has seen firsthand how acutely a change in leadership can affect the success or failure of a charter school.
Succession planning isn’t at the forefront of many board agendas, yet it’s just as crucial to a charter school’s viability as other issues that typically garner lots of attention (e.g., academics, fundraising, facilities, and budgets). This report finds a 20 percent turnover rate over two years among the 24 schools it studied. Despite significant turnover, 14 of the 24 schools studied had no succession plan at all. Of the 10 schools that purported to have a plan in place, only five were considered substantive.
More important than the numbers, though, are the questions that charter school governing boards and school leaders should consider in order to strengthen their organizations. For example, do boards with strong school founders recognize organizational weaknesses/skills the founder doesn’t have? Are the school leader and board - and management company, for that matter - clear on whose responsibility the succession plan is? (It’s the governing board’s responsibility.) Does the school have the bench strength and training capabilities to produce a new leader from within, or does the leader need
December 1, 2010
Julie Kowal and Emily Ayscue Hassel
There is undoubtedly no other sector in which talent and performance are more important than in education. Teachers have a tremendous impact on student learning and improving teacher effectiveness is one of the most important levers in improving student achievement. Thus, it is imperative that schools leaders have an adequate and efficient way to gauge teacher effectiveness. This recent report from Public Impact provides thoughtful insight in this area by comparing performance measurement across sectors, including non-profit organizations and private companies. Through research of numerous organizations and companies, the report compiles six components necessary for meaningful performance evaluations.
- Determine the purpose of the performance measurements. Determine if the measurements are going to be used for planning purposes, for retention or dismissal of employees, or for the purpose of learning. This is a crucial step because the rest of the design hinges upon this.
- Choose objectives that align with the organization’s mission. In education, performance measurements should align with the school’s mission and purpose.
- Design performance measurements. Each employee should know their role in the performance review process and what actions they must take to achieve results.
- Set performance standards. Standards must be established in order to understand what a fully satisfied performance measurement looks like.
- Adopt a performance measurement process. Leaders must determine who will have input in the evaluation process and how often evaluations will occur.
- Use measurement results to take action. Once the
Nick Joch / December 1, 2010
American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Gary W. Phillips
Analyses comparing US students’ achievement with that of their global peers are widespread (and discouraging), but little has been said about how US educational standards compare to standards in other nations. This new AIR study does just that.
To make the comparison, Phillips begins with the metric the National Center for Education Statistics uses to evaluate state assessments (assumed to be representative of state standards) in relation to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). He then uses this NAEP-based evaluation as a bridge to measure state assessments against the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) (two studies assumed to be representative of international standards). Phillips determines that across the grade levels studied (grades four and eight), less than four percent of states have standards on par with or higher than the TIMSS and PIRLS standards in mathematics and reading, respectively.
Ohioans may be interested to learn that on an A-F scale in which a “B” represents meeting or exceeding international standards, the report gives Ohio’s standards a C for fourth grade mathematics and reading, and a C- for eighth grade mathematics. (The study does not measure grade eight reading.) These “grades” put Ohio slightly below the national average in all subjects and grade levels studied. The study also posits that low testing standards have caused Ohio, among other states,
Emmy L. Partin / December 1, 2010
We've been no fans of the Columbus City School District's treatment of charter schools within its boundaries. The district's icy and hostile relationship with charters is the norm when it comes to charter-district ???cooperation??? in Ohio (though people on both sides of the issue are admirably trying to change that fact).?? But while Columbus and other districts continue to fight against charter schools, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is leading the way in partnering with high-performing charters, making good on promises made as part of the district's academic transformation plan.
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the district has opened up an application process for more charter schools to be authorized by the district (it currently authorizes three schools).?? The district is also willing to let charter schools lease vacant school buildings at little cost, or share buildings with district schools.
Such collaboration can benefit both sides.?? Ohio law allows districts that authorize or lease facilities to charters to include the test scores of those charter schools in the district's academic results, providing a much-needed performance boost to languishing urban districts (in Cleveland, for example, six of the top ten public schools are charters).?? For charters, a relationship with the district could mean access to back-office services, improved transportation for students, and lower facilities costs.
These developments might seem small to folks in charter-friendly cities like New York, Denver,
Jamie Davies O'Leary / December 1, 2010
A week ago, upon hearing that the Ohio Department of Education rejected the majority of districts' and charter schools' Race to the Top proposals, we pondered whether this would instigate a dropping-out effect among LEAs who signed on originally but maybe were tired of the work it required.
Yesterday the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that at least 28 LEAs have withdrawn (making the drop-out rate thus far about five percent, not considering the 47 percent of districts and 34 percent of charters that didn't sign up in the first place). The title of the article ? Some Ohio schools quit Race to the Top as political sparring threatens the program ? feels a bit confusing/possibly misleading, though. Does the ?political sparring? have anything to do with schools dropping out? Does the dropping out have anything to do with political sparring? The answers are no, and no.
What's the primary reason for LEA withdrawal from RttT? Districts can't afford to spend more carrying out the proposal's requirements than they'd receive in RttT to do the work.
Districts spokespersons were quoted saying:
Unfortunately, the enormity of the application process, and the limited time in which to complete the application, made it difficult for us to give quality attention to two lengthy RttT applications simultaneously.
It's not that we oppose the program's concept, but when we have a five-year forecast that shows a deficit in 2014, I can't afford to do it.
Nick Joch / December 1, 2010
- 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
December 1, 2010
Want to learn more about the schools Fordham authorizes? Check out these video profiles of each school.
December 1, 2010
Many reformers and funders have written off schools of education as beyond repair, and much of the current energy for teacher preparation is centered on non-traditional programs like Teach For America. But are schools of education more ready for reform than the conventional wisdom supposes?
Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a lively and provocative debate about that question. Institute President Chester Finn will moderate, and the discussion will be informed, in part, by Fordham’s recent study, Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010, as well as by the recently-announced effort, led by Jim Cibulka's NCATE, to overhaul the teacher evaluation system. For those of you who are not DC-based, the event will be webcast live. Learn more here.