Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 11
May 12, 2010
Fordham plans to merge its sponsorship effort
By Kathryn Mullen Upton ,
Seeing all sides of the state's new science standards
News and Analysis
Nationally, tide is turning toward smart teacher personnel policies
News and Analysis
Public preschool findings a mixed bag
From the Front Lines
Award-winning junior scientists at Phoenix Community Learning Center
Learning as We Go: Why School Choice is Worth the Wait
E-Learning 2010: Assessing the Agenda for Change
Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007
What do lotteries and cartels have to do with education?
As most of you know, Fordham has been a charter school sponsor (aka, ???authorizer???) in Ohio since 2005. Along the way we've learned a lot about the importance of charter sponsors holding schools accountable for results, and about how the a sponsor's size and economy of scale (or lack thereof) factors into this. Today, in testimony to the Ohio State Board of Education, Kathryn and I announced Fordham's plans to merge and consolidate our charter school sponsorship operations with that of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESCCO). We expect to launch a new statewide sponsorship effort in June 2011.
The goal of the proposed merger is a statewide authorizer that can:
- Hold its schools to a high-standard of performance;
- Support the development of great new schools; and
- Recruit outstanding models to Ohio.
Together Fordham and ESCCO currently sponsor 12 schools in the Buckeye State that serve about 3,200 students.??Ohio currently has about 70 sponsors authorizing 330 schools. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) has recently announced grant support to plan the Fordham/ESCCO effort, and organizers of the merged sponsorship plan hope that other current Ohio charter sponsors will seek to join it.
???Knowing the economic challenges facing public education, and charter schools specifically, it makes great sense for charter school sponsors to try and work together in coming months to develop cost efficiencies and economy
Mike Lafferty / May 12, 2010
The State Board of Education is slated to adopt new academic content standards in science at its June meeting. Lynn Elfner, executive director of the Ohio Academy of Science, and Stan W. Heffner, associate superintendent at the Ohio Department of Education, have been sparring in the press (subscription only) over the proposed standards. The Gadfly asked Elfner and Heffner to address their differences by answering seven key questions about the science standards. Following are their responses, the content of which has not been edited.
Q. What are the most important concepts that standards should embrace?
Elfner: Science as a way of knowing and learning about the natural world should far outweigh learning any statement expressed as principles, theories, concepts, or laws. Technological design—the heart of a modern economy—is missing. Also missing is the interconnected and interdependent nature of contemporary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that demands focus on cross-curricular (especially from English and mathematics), problem-solving and communications skills, and real-world applications required by Am. Sub. H.B. 1. Most 21st Century Skills are also absent. Students gain lifetime benefits from the habits of mind—such as skepticism—acquired by understanding the nature of science. The “skill-less” nature of the draft standards manifests itself also in freshmen college students, many of whom are “skill-less” as noted by Ohio college professors who teach introductory STEM classes. The draft standards do not look like science, technology, engineering, or mathematics as practiced today in Ohio
The D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers Union just reached an agreement on a new teacher contract. Reformers are calling it the boldest of its kind. Hailed by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as a “game-changer,” the contract would install a voluntary merit-pay component (with salaries some call “eye-popping” – $140,000 or more a year), remove forced hiring and transfer of teachers and require “mutual consent” hiring, and reduce seniority’s role in layoff decisions to just 10 percent of the equation. DC’s effort to fundamentally re-work its teacher contract could not be timelier. As districts and schools across the land are being forced to lay off thousands of teachers, many are rethinking the cost effectiveness (and common sense) of existing teacher policies.
In fact, a broad coalition of national education groups – Children’s Defense Fund, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Equality Project, Education Reform Now, The Education Trust, The Mind Trust, National Council on Teacher Quality, and The New Teacher Project – recently came together in support of eliminating “last hired, first fired” policies. The coalition, which represents a broad swath of the political spectrum, argues that the proposed $23 billion federal “Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010” (which would help stave off the tidal wave of teacher layoffs) should be paired with a requirement that states and districts put an end to seniority-based teacher layoffs.
Should Ohioans worry that recent cuts to early childhood education might widen the preschool access gap between Ohio and other states? Yes, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. But state leaders can remedy this problem by enacting smart changes to early learning programs in the next budget.
The 2009 State Preschool Yearbook, the seventh annual survey of state-funded prekindergarten programs across the country, gives Ohio less than impressive scores, compared to peer states, and follows an October 2009 PreK Now report that lambasted the Buckeye State for cutting preschool programming by $11.5 million.
According to NIEER’s yearbook, Ohio ranks 30th among states in the number of four-year-olds enrolled in public preschool, with eight percent of them in state-funded programs, and 10th for three-year-olds, with five percent of them attending public preschool. The programs themselves don’t get high marks for quality -- Ohio’s two primary preschool programs met only three and five (out of 10) quality standards. Nonetheless, we are spending a lot on preschool -- Ohio’s state spending per child of $6,904 far exceeded the national average of $4,143.
Although diminished access to early learning opportunities surely warrants concern (the 2009 PreK Now report estimated 12,000 fewer low-income children would be served as a result of the cuts), the NIEER ranking alone isn’t cause for alarm. Ohio ranks lower than many states for four-year-old access in large part because
May 12, 2010
Students from Phoenix Community Learning Center, one of six Fordham-sponsored charter schools, beat out students from eight other Cincinnati-area schools in a local robot competition in late February.
Phoenix’s team included six students who worked for months on Buddy 2.0, a one-and-a-half pound Lego robot that stands on two feet and rolls like a tank. Buddy uses a sensor to detect colors, which represent different environmental hazards that he is designed to clean up.
Starting in November, two students worked to build and program the robot, while the others shared the responsibilities of building a floor for Buddy to roll on and writing a report on environmental hazards. Students stayed after school three days each week to work on their robot, but as February drew closer they started to spend every day after school working on the project.
In March, the students made an oral presentation of their report and let Buddy do his stuff for a six-judge panel at the competition, which was hosted by the College of Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
For their work, the students won three first-place trophies (Total Points-Winner, Best Robot, and Creativity) and two second place trophies (Research Display and Oral Presentation).
“I think that it didn’t really hit home until we actually came back and could take a breath,” said Mrs. Sushumna Means, a teacher who served as an advisor to the students on the project.
Ms. Jenna Amatull
Jamie Davies O'Leary / May 12, 2010
Paul T. Hill
Hoover Institution Press
Why haven’t school choice programs—especially charters and vouchers—been the smashing success many of us expected? In this new book (which was the subject, along with Paul Peterson’s new work on choice, of a recent Fordham event), Paul Hill explains. For the most part, it was a matter of misplaced assumptions, namely that choice would stimulate a “virtuous cycle” of school improvement. Think flow chart: Schools of choice create competition; parents vote with their feet and enroll their students in such schools; public schools feel pressure to improve; entrepreneurs create more new schools based on rising demand; new schools pay “premiums” for better teachers; and so on. But there are numerous realities, explains Hill, which throw a wrench in this circuit, none of which should come as a surprise. Most notably, education systems are “entrenched” in procedure, compliance, and employee protection, and often debilitated by nonsensical state and district laws and policies. But all is not lost, says Hill, and we certainly shouldn’t give up on school choice. He provides several recommendations to fix these problems, including “re-missioning” education toward continuous improvement (via performance-based “portfolio-run” districts, a topic Hill has engaged with before). We agree; school choice is worth the wait—and the fight. You can buy the book here.
Kathryn Mullen Upton / May 12, 2010
For an intro to cyberschooling – whether full-time, online delivery of classes or “blended models” (the combination of online classes with traditional face-to-face instruction) –check out this special report from Education Week. The report highlights the increase of national online learning opportunities for students and explains their benefits: they create more course options for students, expand individualized delivery methods, and result in potential efficiencies for schools and districts that may translate to lower operating costs.
In addition to the “101” material, there are some key components associated with online delivery of material worth noting. First and foremost, there’s a human component that is critical: a mentor or guide for students. This mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be a content expert (as there are teachers for that), but the mentor does need to oversee coursework, troubleshoot problems, and be available for regular communication with student.
Second, course content should be packaged in chunks of time conducive to learning from a computer or other appropriate device (i.e., don’t give a kid two back-to-back three-hour blocks of reading and math online – you’ll lose them). Third, online learning programs should be conscious of providing sufficient interactive opportunities for students, regardless of whether the course is in a fixed medium (e.g., a recorded webinar) or live.
There are some interesting policy nuggets in the report, too – principally that China’s K-12 material has gone digital, as has Mexico’s, and that Turkey now educates 15
Kathryn Mullen Upton / May 12, 2010
National Center for Education Statistics
Sarah Grady, Stacey Bielick, and Susan Aud
This statistical analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) breaks down trends in enrollment in all major venues for K-12 education: public and private, charter and district, plus homeschooling. The report also examines characteristics of students as well as parents’ satisfaction with and involvement in such schools.
The study is an update to previous NCES reports on school choice and at 77 pages contains more data than any review can thoroughly describe. But, a few trends during this 14-year span stand out:
- The percentage of students in grades 1-12 attending assigned public schools decreased from 80 percent to 73 percent. In effect, more students and their families are availing themselves of school choice options.
- In 2007, just two percent of students in grades 1-12 were enrolled in charter schools. A much higher percentage of charter students hailed from cities (64 percent) when compared to students in other public schools (30 percent).
- Public school options account for most of the increase in the use of school choice. In 1993, 11 percent of students chose to enroll in a public school other than their assigned neighborhood school. By 2007, that number grew to 16 percent. In the meantime, the number of students in both private religious and private non-religious schools grew by one percent each (from eight to nine percent, and two to three percent, respectively).
Thus, the expansion
May 12, 2010
- Word has it (here, too) Cleveland will be among the cities in which the new Common Core national standards will be piloted. The timeline is still up in the air, but you can bet your few remaining state dollars that we’ll keep you updated!
- Speaking of odds, what are the chances your child can escape a low-performing school via a lottery? The Lottery is an award-winning film that follows four NYC children through their roll of the dice in getting access to better educations. Check back with the website for potential show times in Ohio on June 8. Another great edu-film, The Cartel, is making its way to Ohio on May 21. Produced by New Jersey reporter Bob Bowdon, the documentary follows the widespread corruption in education in the Garden State, e.g., how “our public school system wastes and steals billions of dollars every year.” See Flypaper for a review of the movie and head to the Columbus Gateway Film Center next week for a limited-time screening.
- This WestEd review of professional teaching standards compares several states—including Ohio—according to a variety of criteria, including whether standards are targeted toward all teachers or just beginning ones. To see the hodge-podge of policies, check out the report here.
- Check out footage of yesterday’s Brookings Institution’s event on the future of education journalism. Presenters include Brookings Senior Fellows Grover “Russ” Whitehurst and E.J. Dionne, whose new