Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 14
June 23, 2010
Search for cost-savings is nothing new for local school districts
By Mike Lafferty
News and Analysis
Policy changes necessary for Cleveland to see Baltimore-like success
By Jamie Davies O'Leary
If Ohio wins Race to the Top, what type of students will funds reach?
US vs. the World (hint: we're not talking about soccer)
What do you think -- second half of the charter school bargain?
Mike Lafferty / June 23, 2010
Ohio remains firmly in the throes of the economic recession and analysts predict that recovery is a long way off. The state was able to postpone much of the financial pain in the current biennial budget but faces an estimated $8 billion deficit in the next two-year budget. Work to address this shortfall has been slow to start in the Statehouse. A bipartisan panel formed last fall to address the looming crisis will finally hold its first meeting next week, and last month Governor Strickland commissioned the KnowledgeWorks Foundation to seek cost-savings opportunities in K-12 education.
In schoolhouses across the state, the story is much different. Local school districts have been living with the pain for the last few years, pain that is getting worse. And despite a new state school funding model that promises billions in new education funding over the next decade, superintendents are preparing for funding cuts upward of 10 percent for the coming school years. Gadfly’s Mike Lafferty explores how local educators are slashing dollars to make ends meet, while still preserving the quality of education they provide to their students.
When teachers in the Southwest Licking School District agreed to a base pay freeze earlier this month they joined a growing number of teacher union local affiliates that accept the idea that the bustling economic powerhouse they grew up in has faltered.
School districts, some faster than others, are struggling to navigate an Ohio economy
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 23, 2010
The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently lifted up Baltimore City Schools as a possible model for Cleveland. In fact, Cleveland Metropolitan Schools CEO Eugene Sanders’ district transformation plan sounds remarkably similar to Baltimore’s 2008 Great Kids Great Schools Initiative, which aimed to lift student achievement, raise graduation rates, and overhaul the district via a portfolio-management style of schools.
But Cleveland has a long way to go to achieve either the reforms implemented by Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso (who earned no mention in the Plain Dealer article despite being the primary driver of reform) or the resulting achievement gains – among students in grades 3-8, the percent scoring proficient or advanced in reading on state tests has gone up twenty percentage points over the past four years (52.8 to 72.4 percent), while math proficiency levels have risen 22 points (41.5 to 63.5 percent).
Simply put, Baltimore has four policies in place that Cleveland does not.
Robust choice. Baltimore has a robust school choice climate, with an open enrollment process for middle and high school students, and transfers within the district allowed for elementary students. There are 30 charter schools, 15 “transformation” schools (which combine middle and high school around a particular theme) and 10 innovation schools. Cleveland should consider a similar open-enrollment program so as to expand intra-district choice. Further, Sanders will need to have a zero-tolerance attitude toward scenarios such as the CTU’s attempt to unionize charters.
Weighted-student funding. One
Should Ohio win the $400 million it is seeking in Race to the Top, it’s important to know who will be affected. Specifically, what type of student will the much-talked-about funding touch? The state education department has touted that nearly 62 percent of the state’s public school kids will be impacted, including high numbers of African-American, Hispanic, limited English proficient, and economically disadvantaged students.
But what about participation of students according to how well their schools perform academically?
We’ve broken down the data to look at RttT participation among district and charter schools according to four performance-related measures. Regardless of which performance metric is used, a theme emerges: among students in the state’s lowest performing schools (defined in any one of the four ways) a significant number won’t benefit from RttT dollars, assuming Ohio wins them. Conversely, among the students in schools doing seemingly well, many will get the funds.
(If Ohio wins Race to the Top, the Ohio Department of Education will receive funding to do work at the state level that has the potential to impact all Buckeye State schools, including those that did not sign on to Race to the Top. However, it’s unclear to what extent a district or charter school that couldn’t muster the local support to sign up for RttT in the first place, and which will not receive dollars to do RttT work at the local level, would participate in any reforms.)
June 23, 2010
Lori Drummer and Don Soifer
Latino children are twice as likely as white children to score “below basic” in reading on both the fourth and eighth grade NAEP tests; this figure has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade. Latino students also drop out at high rates and are less likely to go on to earn college degrees. In Libertad de la Educacion, Drummer and Soifer lament these data and argue for school choice strategies to close the achievement gap between Latino students and their white peers: specifically, online education, school vouchers, and special education scholarships.
Online learning – which allows for a more individualized study plan for each student, as well as access to qualified faculty regardless of geographic location – is especially beneficial for poor and rural Latinos who may lack access to highly effective instructors or robust curricular offerings.
Vouchers to send low-income students to private schools can help improve Latino performance, as well. If the experience of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the nation’s oldest tax-payer-supported voucher program serving over 20,000 children) is any indication, Latinos are well served. According to the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project, MPCP students outpaced their counterparts in almost all indicators by eighth grade – and 15 percent of the students served are Latino. Latino students using MPCP vouchers scored higher than their peers in all content areas. Expanding Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship (which recently reached its 14,000
June 23, 2010
Center for American Progress
Momentum is building to reform teacher dismissal policies. Federal and state policymakers alike are calling for changes to K-12 education’s highly complex and costly dismissal procedures, especially as school districts face looming budget cuts.
In Devil in the Details, author Saba Bireda takes an in-depth look at all fifty states’ dismissal policies, and provides several recommendations for improvement. Dismissal procedures were originally established to protect teachers from unfair management decisions. However, due to the lack of sound policies informing the selection, evaluation, and development of teachers, the dismissal hearing is often the first time that performance issues are seriously discussed.
The report describes numerous problems that make the dismissal process cumbersome and difficult to manage. Among the most astonishing is that the same hearing procedures are used for all teachers regardless of the reason for dismissal. This means that teachers being accused of incompetence in the classroom go through identical dismissal procedures as though that have violated criminal laws. After a thorough description of the problems surrounding current teacher dismissal policies, the report lays out five recommendations for improvement. Among these is one especially critical for Ohio: the need to spell out what defines “ineffective” classroom performance. In particular, the report suggests multiple measures, including student achievement on standardized tests, to inform how we measure classroom effectiveness.
This report is important. Currently, tenured teachers are protected from dismissal except in rare cases. Worse, teacher evaluation systems
June 23, 2010
- Digital-game-inspired instruction isn’t the only thing that makes one New York City charter school unique. At Quest to Learn, professional development is focused on helping teachers infuse technology with instruction, and it isn’t just a one-off session. Every Wednesday kids are sent home two hours early so that teachers can begin their weekly training sessions, known as Studio Q. Sounds like a fun place to teach.
- Do quirky but still precocious students get overlooked by school gifted programs in place of more outgoing kids? Turns out that social and emotional skills play a role in whether kids are to gifted programs, a fact that this Out of Left Field blogger weighs in on.
- Here’s a bit of NOLA news we like. A group of students is taking matters into their own hands to help rebuild Valena C. Jones School in New Orleans The school fell victim to Hurricane Katrina, and was left abandoned and boarded up along with surrounding neighborhoods. Students are now working on a new vision and design for their school, one that includes solar panels and a school garden. The hope is that by fixing up the school, people will want to move nearby, helping to jumpstart the community once again.
- We know that many Ohio districts are resorting to teacher layoffs as a way of reducing costs, but what else are districts doing to save? According to this
June 23, 2010
In the national Gadfly, Checker Finn and Stafford Palmieri highlight and commend teach union leaders across the country who are reform-minded visionaries and pragmatists that don’t always let the short-term self-interest of adults blind them to the long-term interests of children. Find out who these admirable men and women are and why they deserve a pat on the back here.
Terry Ryan / June 23, 2010
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers recently issued its latest annual report on the policies and practices of the nation’s charter authorizers. Despite the fact that the charter school movement turns 20 next year, it’s remarkable that states and authorizers still struggle mightily with issues of accountability. And it’s all the more unsettling given that there are an estimated 872 authorizers across the nation, and that collectively these entities oversee and hold accountable 4,956 charter schools serving about 1.6 million students. Read the rest of the post here.