Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 5
February 24, 2010
Fordham's charter school sponsorship contract 2.0
2009 State Policy Yearbook: Ohio
Move over Charlie Brown, here comes Ohio
Cincinnati: We'll sell you a school building, just don't use it for a school
Terry Ryan / February 24, 2010
No one denies that Ohio’s economy is in crisis. The state’s current $50.5 billion biennial budget was made whole in 2009 by $8 billion in one-time federal Reinvestment and Recovery Act dollars and $2.4 billion in budget cuts. It is estimated that the state will face at least an $8 billion deficit in 2011 ($3.9 billion in FY2012 and $4 billion in FY2013).
Without new federal dollars the state is going to have to cut upward of 15 percent of its current spending. As K-12 education funding represents about 40 percent of the budget, a sizeable portion of these cuts will likely need to come out of school funding. David Varda, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, acknowledged as much in the Columbus Dispatch earlier this month, “Is it realistic that we’re going to get through this biennial budget without cuts? Our school districts have been held pretty harmless compared to their colleagues in other states.”
And the Dispatch echoed his concerns in an editorial Sunday, “Difficult cutbacks are in the state's future and almost certainly in the amount of state aid school districts will receive. What is uncertain is when the state's leaders will acknowledge this and start talking numbers.”
The message seems clear – expect cuts to school funding in the near future. Despite this brutal fiscal reality, Ohio’s system of school funding does little to encourage smart spending decisions. For example, it does not
Next school year marks the Fordham Foundation’s fifth year as a charter school sponsor in Ohio. We currently have four schools up for renewal of their original sponsorship agreements (aka, charters). Their renewal presents us with an opportunity to update the universal sponsorship contract that we use with all schools that we sponsor, and to share our thoughts on what constitutes a quality contract.
We’ve learned a lot in the last five years (some lessons tougher than others), and have watched many charter schools -- including some of our own -- struggle to deliver students the excellent education they deserve. With 58 percent of charter students in Ohio’s Big 8 cities proficient in reading last year, and only 49 percent proficient in math, improving the academic performance of charters (as well fostering sound operational/financial management that enables academic improvement) is critical. As a sponsor, we’ve come to appreciate the important role that sponsorship contracts play in holding charter schools accountable. While it certainly hasn’t been easy to take action when schools don’t meet performance or operational standards, it’s necessary. So what are the key components of a sound sponsorship agreement?
As was the case in 2004, when we drafted our initial sponsorship contract, Fordham still firmly believes in allowing schools maximum operational freedoms. We stay out of the day-to-day operations of the schools we sponsor. In exchange, those schools are accountable to us, and ultimately to the public,
Emmy L. Partin / February 24, 2010
Speaking to reporters last month about the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Academic Transformation Plan, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten warned that teachers need to be full partners in the district’s reform effort, “I am deadly serious about a reform agenda that does things with teachers, not to them.” Apparently, she wasn’t referring just to district school teachers. This week Cleveland’s AFT affiliate commenced with efforts to organize the city’s charter schools.
The Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) made public records requests this week to Cuyahoga County charter schools asking for teachers’ names, years of experience, current salary, and other information, presumably in preparation for reaching out to the teachers about joining the CTU. Meanwhile, union officials issued a newsletter to its current members advising them of its efforts. In the newsletter, CTU President David Quolke and Director of Professional Issues Mark Baumgartner questioned why the district would want its students to be educated by charter schools, “What is in it for CMSD?”
For starters, how about better-educated students?
Six of the top ten schools in the city are charter schools. And the charter operators that the district wants to bring into its portfolio are among the best in Ohio. Take, for example, Citizens’ Academy, which the district school board is considering sponsoring. The school boasts outstanding academic achievement results year-in, year-out, and serves a population of students just as disadvantaged and academically challenged as the
Jamie Davies O'Leary / February 24, 2010
Steven Farr, Teach For America
With nearly two decades of data on more than 17,000 teachers, Teach For America has released its internal findings showing what distinguishes its most highly effective teachers from the rest. The book, Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap, outlines six principles embodied by effective teachers and builds the evidence base for an issue that author Steven Farr says has been far too long shrugged off as an ineffable mystery – what makes a great teacher?
TFA teachers and alumni will surely recall large portions of the “Teaching as Leadership” (TAL) framework from heart (or at least older iterations of it). My first encounter with TAL occurred during afternoon-long sessions at a coffee shop in 2005, between college graduation and moving to the East Coast to begin my teaching stint in Camden, New Jersey. I had just two weeks to ingest the formulas for extraordinary teaching before heading to Summer Institute (TFA’s five-week boot camp).
For me, TAL was memorable (you’ll see what I mean if you flip through it for yourself) because of its sense of urgency about closing America’s vexing achievement gaps, and because its anecdotes inspired hope that hard-working young people could achieve the seemingly impossible with their students.
But the contents of TAL aren’t just motivators. For TFA teachers, the six principles are guidelines for how to measure classroom success, signposts for knowing whether you’re on
Daniela Fairchild / February 24, 2010
National Council on Teacher Quality
This third edition of the NCTQ Yearbook takes another well-deserved look at the teaching profession, boasting a revamped set of goals and indicators even more rigorous than last year’s. The headline for Ohio? We joined the rest of the nation in floundering on all fronts. Whereas the highest grade in 2008 was a B+ (North Carolina), this year’s front-runner clocks in with only a C (Florida). Ohio scored marginally above the national average of a D, garnering a rating of D+. The comparisons stop there, however, as NCTQ President Kate Walsh explains, because the metrics were significantly overhauled--and to our eyes, for the better. There are now five focus areas (up from three): teacher training, recruitment (in particular, expanding the pool), identifying effective teachers, retaining effective teachers, and dismissing ineffective ones.
The report found that Ohio did particularly poorly in four areas: Failure to use evidence of student progress the main component of teacher evaluations; lack of an efficient termination process for ineffective teachers; a disingenuous route to alternative licensure; and not ensuring that elementary teachers are well prepared to teach mathematics. Ohio’s policy highlights, as outlined by the report, were somewhat lackluster. They included supports for differential pay in high-needs schools and shortage subjects, support for performance pay, and requiring that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test. While Ohio technically supports differentiated and merit based pay, there has been no
Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education
February 24, 2010
The Brookings Institution
This report envisions a new role for the federal government in promoting school choice opportunities for students, and points to initiatives in Ohio (and in other places) that have expanded school choice options. It highlights Ohio choice opportunities—particularly voucher programs in Dayton and Cleveland—alongside those in New York, D.C. and Chicago, as among the few places where voucher programs exist.
A good primer for anyone interested in school choice generally, the report contains a fairly detailed history of school choice legislation and judicial decision-making (including the Cleveland-originated U.S. Supreme Court voucher ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris). Broad enough in its scope to detail rationales supporting school choice, the report contains important details about different programs and is not shy about calling out the effectiveness of some of the programs.
Most importantly, the report focuses on ways the federal government can support school choice, such as by providing a framework for sharing information with families about their school options. Other recommendations hint at a more proactive role for the federal government, such as expanding the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s provisions for school choice for eligible students to include virtual schools.
The authors are careful to challenge the role of school districts in implementing school choice policy (specifically in terms of disseminating information about other schooling options), since they are “interested parties” in how students and families make decisions about education. Strangely, though, the report makes no mention of why
Jamie Davies O'Leary / February 24, 2010
This has been a tough winter for Ohio and its cities, and I don’t mean because of the weather… In last week’s Ohio Education Gadfly, we pointed out another rating system that, although not education-specific, is still somewhat disheartening. Both Cleveland and Columbus made Forbes’ worst 10 winter cities list, with Cleveland taking the title. I have to admit I was somewhat surprised to see Columbus alongside infamously blustery cities like Boston, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Yesterday the Buckeye State earned yet another Forbes prize (do they employ a legion of disgruntled Ohio natives or what?), with Cleveland rising to the top of the “most miserable cities” list. Read the full post here.
Kathryn Mullen Upton / February 24, 2010
Can a school district sell a school building and prohibit the buyer from opening a school in that building? It seems laughable, but the Cincinnati Public Schools are suing an individual who purchased the district’s vacant Roosevelt School because the purchaser plans to open a charter school in that space....Read it here.
February 24, 2010
- Columbus City middle school principals’ views about how well their schools operate diverge quite a bit from what state report cards say. That’s the word from a study commissioned by the district to look at “what principals, teachers and parents think of its 23 middle schools and what must be done to turn them around,” according a Columbus Dispatch article. Only six of the 45 principals and assistant principals said their schools were performing poorly, even though most of the schools got Ds or Fs on their state report cards.
- A bad economy and rising health care costs are pushing states and school districts past the brink of what they can afford. Cuts in course offerings, staffing, and teacher benefits all loom large for students, administrators, teachers, and unions. In one opinion piece, a Milwaukee School Board member points to ways of increasing participation and interest in the school board as a way of countering economic interest groups that he sees as needlessly burdening the schools. Another article by the American Spectator underlines how New Jersey Democrats, New York City officials, and value-added assessments are loosening the grips of unions on school budgets.
- Ohio should reduce by one-third the number of school districts in the state by consolidating them and making more efficient use of administrative salaries, according to a joint report by the Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institution. The report made 39 recommendations for