Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 18
July 30, 2010
Special Ohio Gadfly: Summer reading edition
Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program
Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction
PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle
July 30, 2010
For many of you, July means vacation time. There's nothing better to do during those long flights, layovers, hours in the sand, or just ?stay-cations? in the backyard hammock than catch up on reading. If you're tired of hearing about the status of Lindsay Lohan's jail sentence, or weary of pining over Travel & Leisure's suggestions for future vacations, Ohio Education Gadfly has just the thing. Check out our latest summer reading edition, which pulls together the latest education policy papers and reports, and summarizes and analyzes them for you in digestible short reviews. Summer reading doesn't have to lack substance, and for education enthusiasts ? sometimes vacation can feel too long to be away from education commentary.
There's plenty on tap for everyone. The reviews cover a range of issues, from evaluations of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and Denver's ProComp system, essays on urban Catholic schools in 12 American cities, to a nuanced look at whether full-day kindergarten is necessary, and an interesting take by school finance gurus on productivity in K-12 schooling.
Be sure to peruse it, or print it to have on hand in case Anthony Bourdain's latest book is making you too hungry or you don't want to be away from ed news for too long.
May 26, 2010
From Ball State University comes the latest report, Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, which measures the extent to which states demonstrate funding fairness toward charter schools. As the title implies, most don’t: charters remain severely underfunded compared to their district counterparts despite the fact that they enroll increasing numbers of students. Funding disparities have not subsided since the 2005 (Fordham-published) report, Charter School Funding, Inequity’s Next Frontier identified a spending gap of $1,800 per pupil. Inequity Persists looks at 25 states and finds that Ohio charter students receive $2,231 less than district students, a gap that places Ohio as the 12th most inequitable among the studied states. It’s an important read for charter advocates and opponents alike, and should beg the question: how are we getting away with severely underfunding charters when most are serving minority and/or low-income students? Civil rights, anyone?
July 30, 2010
Institute of Education Sciences
In 2004, Congress passed the District of Columbia School Choice Incentive Act, creating the first federally funded private school voucher program in the United States, now known as the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The purpose of the scholarship was to provide low-income students (below 185 percent of the poverty level) who attended schools in need of improvement an opportunity to attend a private school. Upon creating the scholarship, Congress instructed that the program be assessed to determine its impact on students and families.
This report compares the outcomes of 2,300 eligible students who were awarded a scholarship and those who were not (based on a random lottery system). Researchers looked at the impact of receiving a voucher on students’ test scores, high school graduation rates, and perceptions of school safety and satisfaction over a period of five years and found that:
- Reading and math scores for students participating in the OSP were not significantly different than those who did not participate in the scholarship program.
- Graduation rates of students receiving the OSP increased dramatically. The graduation rate was 82 percent for those students receiving the OSP compared to 70 percent for those students who did not use the scholarship, resulting in a 12 percentage point difference!
- Parents of OSP recipients reported that their perception of school safety and satisfaction was positively influenced.
This report is timely for Ohio, home to one of just a few voucher
July 30, 2010
Thomas C. Hunt and Timothy Walch, Eds.
Alliance for Catholic Education Press
Troubled by our 2008 “Who Will Save America’s Catholic Schools?” statistic that 1,300 Catholic schools had closed since the 1990s, Hunt and Walch commissioned a team of venerable authors to chronicle the history of urban Catholic education in twelve of America’s major hubs. Each case study approaches this task from five angles: demographics (specifically, the effect of the community’s ethnic mix on school development); the interest and commitment of Catholic leaders; the attitudes of and roles played by non-Catholics; the size and growth of Catholic communities; and how those four elements together molded the experience of students in each city. The essays delve deeply into the historical and social contexts of each locale but they also share a few themes. These include the fact that Catholic schools are themselves products of a “sheer will to survive,” from early colonial anti-Catholic sentiment to the white flight of the mid-twentieth century; that their development and success is largely due to America’s immigrant populations and the periods in which those populations grew substantially; and that not all Catholic leaders or populations responded to the parish school movement positively. Catholic schools also turn out to be, at least viewed through historians’ lenses, remarkably adaptable and to self-identify as “community” institutions. All of this leaves Hunt and Walch optimistic: As Catholic schools have overcome hardship yesterday, so too will they today
Transforming the High School Experience: How New York City's New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates
July 30, 2010
Howard S. Bloom, Saskia Levy Thompson, and Rebecca Unterman
The small-schools movement is a damaged brand, thanks to research showing that “smallness” is not enough when it comes to boosting achievement, especially for disadvantaged pupils. So it would seem that this study by MDRC, which finds positive effects in New York City’s “small schools of choice” (SSCs), is notable for saying otherwise. But, as the authors put it, these schools “are more than just small”—they were created through a rigorous application process, and they had to fulfill other criteria, such as serving traditionally disadvantaged communities. Even more important, however, is that they were created to replace roughly twenty large failing high schools have been closed for chronic low performance since 2002, proving that school closure and opening new schools is possible on the large scale. (Indeed, these schools collectively serve about 45,000 students—roughly the same size as the entire Houston high school population.) MDRC analysts tracked 21,000 NYC students who applied to a ninth-grade SSC lottery between 2005 and 2008; some got into a small school and some did not, thus creating a randomized sample (think lottiered-in, lotteried-out charter study design). The results were strong: SSCs increased the likelihood, year by year, of students being on track to graduate. For example, at the end of the second year at a SSC, students had on average accumulated 22 credits towards graduation, while non-SSC students had just 19. This translated,
July 30, 2010
Danielle Battle & Kerry Gruber
The National Center for Education Statistics
While there’s no dearth of statistics on America’s teacher-turnover problem, data on principal attrition are sparser. Leave it to the National Center of Education Statistics -- as part of the Institute of Education Sciences’ Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) – to fill in the gaps. This 2008-09 survey of 117,140 public and private school principals casts light on principal attrition rates and mobility patterns, and breaks down findings in a variety of ways (by gender, experience level, attitudes and level of “enthusiasm," and school type, to name a few).
Overall, it finds that nearly one-fifth of principals nationally turned over between the 2007-08 school year and the 2008-09 school year. Of all principals of public schools in the 2007-08 school year, 80 percent remained at the same school the next year. Seven percent moved to a different school, and 12 percent left the profession altogether. Principal turnover was slightly higher in charter schools than in traditional public schools. Twenty-eight percent of charter schools said goodbye to their principals in 2008, compared to 21 percent of traditional publics. Among private schools, 28 percent left.
The report also highlights where principals went. Of public school principals that left in 2007-08, about half moved to a school within the same district. Of principals that left the profession entirely, 45 percent retired. The second largest group of former principals (33 percent) continued working
July 30, 2010
Edward W. Wiley, Eleanor R. Spindler, & Amy N. Subert
University of Colorado at Boulder
Could Denver’s ProComp pay program be responsible for attracting better teachers and increasing retention rates in hard-to-serve schools? Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder seem to think so. This report (the first of two) sums up the impact the innovative pay program has made on student performance, teacher retention, and teacher attitudes and behaviors. Researchers tracked student and teacher data for eight school years beginning in 2001, and specifically matched student data to teachers in order to determine value-added teacher “effects.”
The analysis includes several noteworthy findings about the pay program. One is that teachers who opted to take part in the ProComp system slightly outperformed their peers who did not join the system in their first year of teaching. While on the surface this seems like encouraging news about innovative pay structures, the finding must be taken with a grain of salt because it can’t be determined whether ProComp spurred improvement or because teachers opting into the program were already effective teachers. Perhaps a more durable finding is that schools with higher numbers of ProComp participants experienced higher retention rates. This also proved to be true in hard-to-serve schools (although to a lesser degree than the retention boon experienced by less hard-to-serve schools).
Merit pay for teachers has long been a contentious issue, even more so as several states have written performance-pay plans into
July 30, 2010
Institute of Education Sciences
This report is the third and final report of a series that examines the efficacy of comprehensive teacher induction programs, which are intensive, formalized mentoring programs that many districts have adopted and developed in order to boost student achievement, increase teacher retention, and provide a system of support for new teachers.
From 2005 through 2008, Mathematica researchers (as commissioned by IES) examined the effects of comprehensive teacher induction on 1,009 beginning elementary teachers in 17 urban districts that had previously not been providing any form of comprehensive induction. Specifically, the study examined the impact of induction programs on workforce outcomes (teacher attitudes and retention) as well as classroom outcomes (as measured by student achievement and observations of teachers’ instructional delivery and classroom culture). In seven of the districts, researchers studied teachers participating in a one-year induction program; in the remaining ten districts, they followed participants in a two-year induction program. Control groups in all districts participated in traditional and less formal induction programs.
The report found that both one- and two-year comprehensive inductions had no impact on teacher attitudes, such as feelings of preparedness or satisfaction. Inductions also had no impact on teacher retention or on the composition of the workforce – in other words, participation in the induction program didn’t lead to retention of more effective teachers, or teachers with more professional qualifications (unfortunately).
In terms of classroom outcomes, neither induction program had an impact on teachers’
Emmy L. Partin / July 30, 2010
Paul Hill and Marguerite Roza
Center on Reinventing Public Education
These eleven pages do something quite useful: Explain the disconnect between education inputs and outputs in the language of economics. The affliction is Baumol’s cost disease, or “the tendency of labor-intensive organizations to become more expensive over time but not any more productive…(defined as the quantity of product per dollar expended).” Take a string quartet that “produces the same music from the time it is first assembled until the players retire.” Then consider that the education sector solves problems by adding more (money, teachers, etc.)—“the string quartet both gets wage and benefit increases and adds enough new members to become a sextet.” This is a structural problem, the authors explain, and one that better teachers and competition from independent operators (e.g., charter, private, and voucher-receiving schools) cannot (at least not alone) fix. But other industries have cured Baumol’s—or at least controlled its effects—which leaves hope for education. Some strategies are more applicable (or even already in use) than others: deregulation, which allows in new firms and new efficiencies (e.g., alternative certification routes), and information technology, which streamlines capacity, extending the touch of workers so that companies need fewer of them (e.g., virtual education). Others are further off, such as production process innovation, wherein tasks become specialized by competency and paid accordingly (e.g., the medical model: doctors supported by descending chain of residents, interns, nurses, etc.). The bottom line is
July 30, 2010
The Southern Education Fund
This report by the Southern Education Fund paints a stark picture of our nation’s children living in poverty, and the impact it has on their education. The number of children living in extreme poverty has risen considerably during the last decade – in 2008 more than 5.7 million children lived in extreme poverty conditions. Though these children are concentrated largely in the South, the report singles out Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan as non-southern states with high levels of child poverty.
The 10.5 percent unemployment rate in Ohio is just one indicator of the hard economic times that this state is facing, and children are feeling the impact of the recession. Nine percent of children in Ohio live at or below 50 percent of the poverty level (or, roughly $11,100 total annual income for a family of four). Furthermore, among the 100 school districts with the highest poverty rates nationally, Ohio shows up 14 times, with Warren City Schools in Trumbull County sitting atop the list. Thirty-five percent of its students live in extreme poverty. Three other Ohio districts – East Cleveland, Youngstown, and Portsmouth – were also noted for having more than one in four students in extreme poverty; and Ohio has three districts which reported no children living in extreme poverty.
What do these dire stats mean for children’s education?
Children born into poverty-stricken families face challenges right from the start. They will be
July 30, 2010
Foundation for Child Development
This policy brief from the Foundation for Child Development recommends that full-day kindergarten (FDK) be at the forefront of national and state-level education reform efforts. Specifically, it recommends that all states integrate FDK into their education systems regardless of what systems are currently in place – or what costs this might impose – and that states require licensure in early childhood education for all kindergarten teachers, and implement professional development and rigorous assessments to improve the quality of FDK.
Currently, 12 states require districts to provide FDK to all students, though many of these states allow parents to request traditional half-days for their kindergarteners. Fewer than half of states fund full-day kindergarten at the same level as first grade. Ohio will join the list of kindergarten-mandatory states in the 2010-11 school year (however, many districts are seeking to waive this requirement for at least a year, so in practice FDK in Ohio won’t be comprehensive until at least 2012-13). By 2011-12, districts in Ohio will no longer be allowed to charge tuition for full-day kindergarten.
The report touts the necessity of FDK, but offers little compelling evidence as to why universality is necessary. It cites longitudinal research showing that children who participated in full-day programs made gains in early reading skills by the end of the kindergarten year, although most research also shows that such benefits wear off for most children, and tend to