Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 6
March 10, 2010
Collaboration could save small districts big bucks
From the front lines
STEM push experiencing success, growing pains
Reviews and Analysis
Finn on Ravitch: A review of The Death and Life of the Great American School System
Terry Ryan / March 10, 2010
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is seeking to close a troubled charter school sponsor (aka authorizer), blazing new territory for the nation’s charter school program. While there have been many charter school closures over the years, this is the first time a state education agency has stepped in to close a sponsor – the entities responsible for birthing charter schools, holding them accountable for results, and ultimately making life or death decisions about them based on their performance.
In fact, Ohio, Minnesota, and Missouri are the only states that give the state department of education authority to revoke a charter school sponsor’s right to authorize schools. In most other states, authorizers are brought into being via statute, and they can only be decommissioned by the legislature. Ohio’s General Assembly, for example, fired the State Board of Education as a charter school sponsor in 2003.
Ohio currently has more than 70 charter school sponsors and under recent changes to state law each is held accountable for their performance through a contract with ODE. (The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation currently sponsors six charter schools in Ohio and has had a sponsorship contract with ODE since 2004; read more about our sponsorship efforts here.)
Per the case at hand, ODE is seeking to revoke the sponsorship authority of the Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center, Inc. According to press accounts, the department wants to close Ashe for “not properly overseeing the spending
Mike Lafferty / March 10, 2010
A Thomas B. Fordham Institute analysis indicates consolidating just a few administrative roles in Ohio school districts with fewer than 1,700 students might save as much as $40 million a year.
The analysis uses savings that the Rittman Exempted Village School District and the Orrville City School District, in Wayne County, realized when the two districts consolidated their administrative staffs in January 2008.
The Fordham analysis looked at 297 districts with 1,700 or fewer students, 49 percent of Ohio’s 611 districts.
The Rittman and Orrville decision seemed promising two years ago but it has turned out to be a no-brainer. This year, the arrangement has produced a savings of about $270,000 -- $170,000 for Orrville and $100,000 for Rittman, according to Superintendent John Ritchie.
In addition to Ritchie, the districts share an assistant superintendent, treasurer, director of operations, special education director, EMIS coordinator, and a transportation support team. The districts also share the time of a French teacher and special services for emotionally disturbed and multi-handicapped students.
Even if the 297 districts in the Fordham analysis did not combine administratively to the extent of Rittman and Orville, just combining the superintendent and treasurer would save an estimated $25.9 million, assuming a superintendent earns $100,000 annually and a treasurer $75,000.
Ritchie, originally Orrville’s superintendent, proposed the idea as a way to save money for both districts when Rittman’s superintendent retired. Ritchie, 42, is a 1986 graduate of Rittman.
“So far so good; it’s going real
Mike Lafferty / March 10, 2010
None of the more than 500 people attending last week’s statewide STEM meeting in Columbus needed to be convinced of the importance of science-and-math education, although many might wonder exactly what it really means for their schools.
Many questioned how STEM knowledge and techniques will be transferred from high-flying STEM academies to the state’s vin ordinaire classrooms, where far better science and math education is needed.
Kim Horvath, from Akron, the mother of a fourth grader, spoke for many attending the conference at the Center for Science and Industry when she asked a panel of state education and business leaders, including State Superintendent Deborah Delisle, how STEM was going to actually make it into classrooms.
Members from the day’s first panel, which included officials from the National Governors Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted the need for “public-private partnerships” and ways to “scale current strategy” to improve teaching.
“The MC-squared (MC2 STEM High School) in Cleveland needs to be a pipeline,” to share knowledge with Cleveland-area schools, said David J. Ferrero, of the Gates Foundation, citing an example.
But that wasn’t enough for Horvath, who believes No Child Left Behind, as it is carried out in Ohio at least, is forcing curriculum into a straitjacket and that schools are eliminating worthwhile extracurricular activities to meet its mandates.
“I can teach more in my backyard to my son than STEM can,” said Horvath, who is studying geology at the University of
Emmy L. Partin / March 10, 2010
When federal education Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the finalists for his $4.35 billion Race to the Top sweepstakes last week, surprise was a common reaction – surprise both at how many (16 out of 41 applicants) and who made the cut.
Reform-minded states like Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana made it. Their applications proposed major education innovations, supported by national partners and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and have been considered top contenders since applications were submitted in January. But Kentucky, which has no charter school law, also was named a finalist. So was New York, where student test results are prohibited from informing teacher tenure decisions and where charter school growth is capped.
Ohio made the finalist list, too. The Buckeye State’s surely is one of the top 16 applications submitted. Still, most fair-minded observers don’t think Ohio should win in the first round despite making the preliminary cut, unless Secretary Duncan goes back on his word and awards the dollars to most of the finalists or doles out grants based on political pressure.
Even if Duncan raises the bar for winning Race to the Top dollars, making the easy decision and inviting nearly two-fifths of the applicants to continue in the competition could have a negative impact on the round-two hopes of the less-stellar finalists like Ohio.
While Ohio is preparing to make the pitch for its application in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday, the states that didn’t
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / March 10, 2010
Diane Ravitch’s important new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has already stirred controversy, exactly as she intended. For it embodies and expresses--with her characteristic confidence, style, and verve--a fundamental change in her views about where U.S. K-12 education should be heading. Simply stated, she believes it should recapture the strengths of the traditional public-school system, incorporate a vigorous common curriculum, and renounce many of the theories, practices, policies, and programs that have comprised America’s major education-reform emphases in recent years. More than a few of those are reforms that she had herself promoted in her writings, board memberships, speeches, media comments, and government service.
She admits that she’s changed her mind.
Diane and I go back a very long way--three decades, give or take--and in addition to personal friendship we have, during that period, shared a basic diagnosis of what’s awry in U.S. education. It boils down to this: Most kids aren’t learning nearly enough of the important stuff that they ought to be learning.
That was true in 1981 when we jointly launched the Educational Excellence Network and it’s still true today. Our view of the central problem needing to be solved has, I believe, remained constant and there is no daylight between us on that score.
We also share a number of disappointments and frustrations arising from reform efforts that have been mounted to solve that problem. Standards, in many places,
March 10, 2010
This week we’d like to start of Editor’s Extras by giving a warm welcome to our newest intern, Dan Woolf, who will be working on reviews, research and creating these wonderful Editor’s Extras. Dan is a graduate from Miami University, where he double-majored in philosophy and American studies. Welcome to TBFI!
- This report from the Alliance for Excellent Education warns against putting off necessary long-term education reforms because of the short-term programs embedded within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Race to the Top. It calls for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but regards NCLB as ineffective for solving our education woes for a number of reasons, including NCLB’s blunt grading system and its incompatibility with the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- In light of Cleveland’s string of tough educational, economic, and publicity luck (it was recently declared the “most miserable city” in America by Forbes magazine), a native son known for his political savvy and proclivity for giving away cars and kitchenware has finally decided to step up and offer Cleveland the solutions others have failed to provide for years. Drew Carey is answering the call by creating and starring in a series of online documentaries suggesting the political path Cleveland should follow for a more prosperous future. For some odd reason, not everyone seems eager to follow the comedian’s advice on governance. Carey’s first suggestion: listen to “
March 10, 2010
Is America’s civil-rights leadership looking out for the essential interests of African-American children? Former education secretary Rod Paige says no. His hard-hitting new book, The Black-White Achievement Gap, co-authored with Elaine Witty, is a trenchant, courageous, plainspoken indictment and cri de coeur.
Paige is appalled that the black-white achievement gap is as wide and persistent as it has proven to be. He correctly regards it as the principal impediment to the economic advancement, social strengthening, and full integration of African Americans. And he is outraged that such venerable organizations as the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus haven’t made closing that gap their top priority.
He and Witty (long-time dean of education at Norfolk State University--and Secretary Paige’s sister) devote the first half of their book to documenting the achievement gap and explaining its origins and persistence. They pull no punches here. After recounting a bleak and sometimes horrific history, they ask “to what extent does the legacy of the Negroes’ historic educational experiences [slavery, Jim Crow, etc.] account for the current gap in academic performance?” They declare that “while history is important, it is not destiny” and that it is something to be overcome, along with a host of contemporary challenges, not something to accept as permanent rationalization for an insoluble problem.
They are, in fact, confident that the problem can be solved, provided that leaders (and in due course followers) themselves come to believe that it can be solved, that
March 10, 2010
Caprice Young, CEO of Distance Learning, has been elected to the board of trustees of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Foundation. Young has been CEO of the California Charter Schools Association and president of the Los Angeles Board of Education. She has also served as strategy consulting group manager of IBM’s West Coast e-Business Innovations Design Center and assistant deputy mayor of Los Angeles. Read more here.
March 10, 2010
Do you have a great example of charter schools and traditional district schools working together? Then the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools wants to hear from you! Fifty Best Cooperative Practices between Charter and Traditional Public Schools will be selected for publication and wide dissemination throughout the education community and to national and state opinion leaders and policymakers. A National Conference – presented in partnership with the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, KidsOhio.org, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- to showcase these best practices will be held September 27 & 28, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio. For more information, contact Amy Black at firstname.lastname@example.org.