Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 15
June 30, 2010
Cyber-learning lessons from Georgia
News and Analysis
Kicking around the data: education systems in World Cup's final 16 countries
Experts say plug budget hole without cutting funding to schools
Public catching on to pension system woes
Flypaper's Finest -- the best from Flypaper
Ohio schools winning School Improvement Grants select easiest model
Flypaper's Finest -- the best from Flypaper
Worst SIG-winning schools get $31 million. Similar charters would be shuttered.
When eccentric school leadership works
Terry Ryan / June 30, 2010
Terry has an op-ed in yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer that's worth checking out if you're interested in virtual learning, ways to save costs in K-12 education during unprecedentedly bad times, smart accountability mechanisms for charters (including e-charters), or a combination of these topics.
Georgia recently accepted applications for two new high-quality virtual schools, but one can discern from the explanation by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission that the process by which it selected these two particular virtual schools wasn't capricious but was based on ensuring quality as well as accountability. As Terry writes:
In explaining why applicants were rejected, the commission made clear they rejected applicants because they did not believe the proposed models could deliver high-quality instruction to the targeted students. In one case, the commission wrote that it ?was concerned about a proposal that subjects an extraordinary number of students to unacceptable academic standards.?
In contrast, one of the schools approved ? Provost Academy Georgia ? presented an academic plan that went above and beyond what's required by state and federal standards, delineating specific benchmark goals for graduation rates, SAT and ACT performance, and state assessments.
? The law requires that ?substantial independence? be demonstrated between the nonprofit corporation and the for-profit entity so as to ?preserve the public interest and avoid conflicts of interest.?
Terry argues that the process by which the Peach State went about selecting these two virtual schools offers a useful example for Ohio, a
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 30, 2010
In case you’ve been living in a cave, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is well underway, and Ohio Gadfly is a proud fan. (Did you know US head coach Bob Bradley is an Ohio University alum and the school’s former head soccer coach?) As we head into the final games, futbol aficionados and proud nationalists of every creed will cram into pubs so crowded that maximum occupancy signs lose all meaning. There will be endless speculation and commentary ranging from the evolution of the official World Cup ball and making fun of our own American cluelessness about the sport to why Americans are so behind the times when it comes to world’s most infamous game.
What you might miss amid the noisy vuvuzelas and the excitement of 91st minute qualifying goals is commentary on the countries these players represent. Specifically, what are their education systems like? If Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, or Landon Donovan weren’t living their dreams playing for national teams, what might their lives be like given the schooling they received?
We took a look at the final 16 countries and tried to be impartial, unless the stat is as obvious as a handball in the box – for example, higher enrollment in school or gender parity in education are unequivocally positive. We’ll try our best to be good commentators; the only thing missing is a Scottish accent.
Take a look at World Cup finalists’ enrollment levels in
June 30, 2010
The looming state budget crisis has become a political elephant in the room, with state leaders largely avoiding the topic ahead of November’s elections. Case in point, a state panel charged last September with recommending solutions to the crisis held its first meeting just yesterday.
Passing the FY2010-11 operating budget was a contentious and drawn-out process, and enacting the next budget is likely to be much harder. Taking such realizations into consideration, The Center for Community Solutions has released a report offering a plan to tackle the crisis. Thinking the Unthinkable: Finding Common Ground for Resolving Ohio’s Fiscal Crisis urges lawmakers to act in a bipartisan fashion and offers a plan to close the budget gap through a series of tax increases and targeted spending cuts.
The Center’s calculations on the severity of the deficit confirm a $6 to $8 billion hole. The authors assert that a deficit of this size cannot be reduced by relying solely on taxation or spending cuts and will require legislators and the governor to seek a “balanced approach” that combines both practices. Toward this end, a three-part framework of tax increases, reduction in tax exemptions, and reduction in expenditures is presented.
Tax hikes are always a particularly bitter pill to swallow in an election year, and as such the report offers a variety of options to increase state revenue. These range from raising income taxes on the wealthiest Ohioans to increasing the state sales
The truth is finally setting in about the health of Ohio’s public pension systems, but one shouldn’t be too optimistic that major reforms are on the horizon.
In 2007 the Fordham Institute commissioned the well-respected economists Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky to analyze Ohio’s State Teachers Retirement System. Key findings from their report, Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs: Rethinking Ohio’s Teacher Pension System, included that:
- The system is too pricey to sustain in its current manifestation;
- The system encourages early retirement and “double-dipping”;
- The system is out of step with the state’s current teacher needs, labor markets, and career patterns; and
- The system lacks transparency.
Representatives of both the STRS and the teachers unions publicly questioned not only the veracity of the report’s findings but also the integrity of the authors themselves. Much of the media bought STRS’s line, including the Dayton Daily News, which said in an editorial about our report:
The Fordham Institute is wrong to imply that the retirement system is in crisis, or that Ohio taxpayers suddenly could be saddled with huge liabilities. Such alarmist talk is factually inaccurate and does not fairly characterize what the researchers found.
The retirement system has ample assets to pay retirement benefits. There is no risk that Ohio taxpayers could be stuck with huge, unforeseen pension liabilities.
Fast forward a few years.
By law, state pensions must be able to cover their liabilities within a 30 year period. But in its 2009 annual report, STRS
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 30, 2010
Harvard University, Program on Education Policy and Governance
This working paper by Harvard research fellow Matthew Chingos is a crystal ball for Ohio. Chingos examines Florida’s 2002 class-size reduction (CSR) policy – a universal mandate similar to Ohio’s mid-2009 policy enacted via the governor’s evidence-based model of school funding—and finds that it had no impact on student achievement.
The report outlines previous class size research and puts the infamous Tennessee STAR experiment (frequently cited by CSR defenders) in context. Other research has since contradicted STAR’s findings, and minority children benefited more than non-minorities in that study – a finding that should caution against universal CSRs and encourage more targeted reductions, if anything.
Using student-level data from the Florida Department of Education, Chingos examines deviations from prior trends in student achievement at districts and schools required to reduce class size, as well as deviations among those districts and schools that weren’t require to do so. Simply put, the comparison group included districts and schools which had already reduced class size and so didn’t have to comply with the 2002 mandate. The treatment group focused on those that did have to reduce classes by at least two students per year. (Chingos explains clearly why looking at achievement before and after the policy isn’t appropriate since Florida also had all sorts of other policy changes at that time that may have contributed to rising achievement.)
To add insult to injury to CSR defenders,
Janie Scull / June 30, 2010
Editorial Projects in Education
Did you know that just 2 percent of Americans earned high school diplomas in 1870? That’s just one of the tidbits you’ll find in this year’s Diplomas Count (find 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006 here). In addition to the usual graduation statistics update, this edition attempts to chr onicle “data in action,” i.e., how the smart use of information can raise graduation numbers, mainly by identifying students at risk for dropping out. As usual the news isn’t good: The graduation rate hovers around 70 percent, having actually declined slightly from 2005 to 2007 (the most recent year of available data). But that’s somewhat misleading, because while the overall graduation rate has fallen, rates for every racial group have improved. This is Simpson’s Paradox in action, as the lower overall number can be attributed to the fact that the population of students most at risk of dropping out—minorities, especially Latinos—is composing an increasing percentage of the overall student body. Perhaps most interesting is that just twenty-five of the nations’ 11,000 school districts account for a whopping 20 percent of all dropouts, or 250,000 students. New York City and Los Angeles are the worst offenders, each failing to graduate more than 40,000 students every year. Admittedly, these districts are the nation’s largest and would statistically have more dropouts than smaller ones, but it’s also a lesson in how much difference data systems could make
Kathryn Mullen Upton / June 30, 2010
Center for Reinventing Public Education
Robin Lake, Brianna Dusseault, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Paul Hill
This publication contains interim findings from a nationwide study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) effectiveness. Started in May 2008 and expected to conclude summer 2011, the work was commissioned by New Schools Venture Fund and is being conducted jointly by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and The University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education. The point of the project is to examine the effectiveness of CMOs (non-profit organizations that manage “more than one school with a unified management team responsible for delivering the educational program and supervising school leaders”) by investigating their operations, internal structures, growth strategies, missions, and challenges.
The findings come from 43 of the 82 known CMOs (as of 2007) and highlight educational programs, school cultures, teacher accountability systems, and the economics of starting and sustaining CMO operations. Most interesting among the takeaways is that while many of the CMOs firmly believe that their particular educational approach is critical to the success of their programs, their approaches differ widely. This confirms what, anecdotally, we’ve seen from an authorizer perspective: the school leadership and people at the front of the classroom matter most. It also gives credence to another anecdotal observation: all individual schools have different needs – even schools under the umbrella of the same management organization - and individual schools must have the ability to adjust quickly to meet internal (e.g.,
June 30, 2010
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
Christina Clark Tuttle, Bing-ru Teh, Ira Nichols-Barrer, Brian P. Gill, & Philip Gleason
This is the interim report of an ongoing (until 2014) longitudinal study of achievement in a quarter of KIPP's eighty-two schools. Though KIPP schools have been the focus of previous research (see here and here, for example), this is by far the largest and most rigorous study to date. And the results are encouraging. Using matched student achievement data from twenty-two middle schools that had been open since at least 2005-06, Mathematica analysts found statistically significant impacts on reading in fifteen of the twenty-two, and on math in eighteen. Conversely, just two schools had a significantly negative impact on reading, while one school had a significantly negative impact on math (in year 1), which actually reversed into a positive impact by year three. These positive effects are sizable, especially in math. After three years in a KIPP school, a student will have made on average 4.2 years of growth in math and 3.9 years of growth in reading. This was true even though KIPP included in its treatment group all students who were ever enrolled in a KIPP school during the study, including those who spent just one year at KIPP and subsequently left, as well as the results for two schools that lost their KIPP affiliation during the study and subsequently closed. That means these results are probably conservative in terms
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 30, 2010
Ohio recently?announced the 42 schools who won School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to fund efforts to turn themselves around. Three are charters and the rest are district schools in 11 districts; their awards total $95 million.
These persistently low-performing schools who, year in and year out, fail to deliver students to proficiency, are receiving millions of dollars to help them determine how to fix themselves.
SIG is a federal grant program that allocates money directly to states; states then selected eligible districts and charters on a competitive basis (there are three ?tiers? of low-performers eligible). To apply, schools had to indicate which of the four turnaround models they would use: turnaround- replacing the principal and 50 percent or more of the staff; restart ? closing a school and reopening in under new management, which might include a charter or educational management organization; school closure?closing the school and redistributing kids to other schools in the district; or transformation ? leaving staff in place but implementing plans to improve instructional effectiveness, extending learning time, etc.
If you're thinking that of those four models, two sound pretty stringent ? you're right. Shut ?em down and do something different sounds like the US Department of Education and Sec. Duncan ? who has pushed the concept of school turnarounds pretty hard ? mean business. But if you're scratching your head trying to figure out what ?transformation? actually means, and thinking that sounds kind of squishy, you're certainly
Emmy L. Partin / June 30, 2010
Ohio has one of the most stringent academic ???death penalties??? in the country for our charter schools.?? If they perform poorly enough for long enough, the state will force them to close their doors.?? (And, for the record, that's a good thing ??? if a school can't make the grade, year in and year out, and its authorizer doesn't do its job and shutter the school, then it's fine in my book for the state to step in.)
Of course the same rules don't apply to district schools, which have virtually unlimited opportunity to remain open and seek improvement, regardless of whether they actually do.?? This fact is illustrated beautifully by some of Ohio's School Improvement Grant awardees.
Thirty-nine district schools in Ohio were awarded SIG funds.?? If the same closure rules applied to district schools as charters,??11 of these schools would have been told by the state to close their doors at the end of the 2009-10 school year because of perennial poor performance.?? Instead, those 11 schools, serving a collective 4,300 students, will use $31 million in federal funding over the next three years to try and turnaround their performance.
Even worse, 10 of these 11 schools, which are inarguably among the worst in the Buckeye State, elected for the SIG ???transformation??? strategy.?? This is by far the least rigorous turnaround model, leaving principals and staff and failing schools intact. One of the 11 opted for the
June 30, 2010
- Ever wonder how your local high school compares to others around the state or country? Newsweek has recently published their yearly pick of top high schools across the nation. Check out the complete list, as well as interactive features (you can search by city, state, or year) –36 Ohio schools make the cut.
- Will school libraries be the latest victims of looming budget cuts? As students return to school this coming fall they might be surprised to find that their favorite librarians are gone. However, the American Association of Schools Administrators won’t be quite as shocked; they’re projecting that around 19 percent of the nation’s school districts will have fewer librarians next year.
- Ohio urban middle schools struggling with student achievement and discipline might learn a thing or two away from one Bronx principal. Pedro Santana took over a middle school in the South Bronx four years ago and, thanks to his unconventional ways, the school has turned itself around (seventh grade math scores went up by 50 percentage points!). Students describe his office as “a beach house” where they can go to talk about their problems. (Santana’s analogies are even more eccentric – he’s a “mother sea turtle?”) For a fascinating and amusing look at what else this nontraditional principal is doing, check out this article by the NYTimes.
- Thirty social studies teachers recently got the opportunity to experience what it was like to be on