Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 3
February 9, 2011
What's not being said in the Williams-Bolar case
By Emmy L. Partin , Jamie Davies O'Leary
Nobody deserves tenure
House Ed Committee hears from Fordham and teachers
New NAEP data tell familiar story
The State of Charter School Authorizing 2010
The social status of bullies and other miscellany
Some have called it a “Rosa Parks moment for education” as Kelley Williams-Bolar, an African American mom merely trying to get her kids into a better school, was convicted of two felony counts of tampering with records. Many in the education reform community see Williams-Bolar as a poster child for school choice – she is the quintessential urban, minority, single mom whose kids are trapped in failing schools. As Kevin Huffman noted in the Washington Post, “She looked at her options, she looked at the law, she looked at her kids. And she made a choice.” Would any one of us have acted any differently?
Still others, including Gov. Kasich, mostly just can’t believe that her deeds warrant two felony convictions. They argue that the case should have been tried as a civil matter, not a criminal one. With two felonies on her record, Williams-Bolar risks losing her job as a teaching assistant to special needs kids and can’t become a teacher herself, which was her dream. Political activist groups are pleading with the governor to pardon her. and he's agreed to have the parole board review her case.
Missing from the coverage, and lost among the clarion calls for expanding school choice, are several questions worth asking. Besides falsifying documents and sending her kids outside of Akron Public Schools, did Williams-Bolar have other options?
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / February 9, 2011
Nobody deserves tenure, with the possible exception of federal judges. University professors don’t deserve tenure; civil servants don’t deserve tenure; police and firefighters don’t deserve tenure; school teachers don’t deserve tenure. With the solitary exception noted above—and you might be able to talk me out of that one, too—nobody has a right to lifetime employment unrelated either to their on-the-job performance or to their employer’s continuing need for the skills and attributes of that particular person.
Tenure didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower. Though people occasionally refer to its origins in medieval universities, on these shores, at least, it’s a twentieth-century creation. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) began pushing for it around 1915, but tenuring professors didn’t become the norm on U.S. campuses until after World War II (when the presumption of a 7-year decision timeframe also gained traction) and it wasn’t truly formalized until the 1970’s when a couple of Supreme Court decisions made formalization unavoidable.
In some states, public-school teachers began to gain forms of job protection that resembled tenure as early as the 1920s, but these largely went into abeyance during the Great Depression and were not formally reinstated until states—pressed hard by teacher unions—enacted “tenure laws” between World War II and about 1980.
| Tenure didn't come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower.
The original rationale for tenure at the university-level, articulately set forth
Jamie Davies O'Leary / February 9, 2011
Last Wednesday, the Ohio House Education Committee held hearings related to several education bills currently on the table, among them HB 21, which aims to lift the ironclad moratorium on virtual e-schools, grant a professional educator license to graduates of Teach For America wishing to teach in the Buckeye State, and require the use of student performance data in evaluating teachers. Fordham’s Terry Ryan, along with two teachers from Fordham-authorized charter schools, testified in support of the bill. (Read their testimonies here, here, and here.)
As we’ve noted before, this bill is a new iteration of Senate Bill 180 from the fall of 2009, for which Terry testified back then. What’s different this time around, however, is that a GOP-controlled House is likely to go further than the Democratic-controlled House of a year-and-a-half ago, and push for bolder changes in each of these areas (and others). While Fordham supports the provisions of HB 21, the legislature can, and should, go further that merely granting licensure to TFA alums, lifting e-school caps, and requiring value-added data. As Terry said:
…much has changed just in the last year and change is happening fast in states across the country. The reality is that Ohio risks being leapfrogged by dozens of states in many crucial areas of education reform…. Thus, while I support House Bill 21 and its passage, I encourage this legislature to think more boldly. While the bill is a good start, it does not go far enough toward enacting the education reforms Ohio needs
Emmy L. Partin / February 9, 2011
Ohio has long awarded districts five calamity days – school days that can be missed and not made up due to inclement weather, power outages, or other catastrophic incidents. In 2009, Governor Strickland argued – as one of the stronger components of his education reform package – that Ohio in fact needed to add days to the school year to catch up with our better-performing peers nationally and internationally. The legislature balked at finding the funding to add more days to the school year and compromised with the governor by reducing the number of calamity days from five to three, in effect lengthening the school year at no cost. Strickland’s intention was to continue reducing the number of calamity days down to zero and then begin lengthening the school year after that.
What a difference an $8 billion budget hole, an election, and an unusually snowy winter, makes.
Districts were plowing through snow days in mid-December, an oddity for most of Ohio, and by mid-January many districts, especially rural ones, had used up their allotted days and were rearranging the remaining school year calendar to make up the time missed. When the new General Assembly got underway last month, State Representatives John Carey (R-Wellston) and Casey Kozlowski (R-Ashtabula County) introduced House Bill 36, which would increase from three to five the number of calamity days school districts aren’t required to make up and give districts additional flexibility on how they made up days after those five.
The bill had its first hearing last week before the Ohio House education committee (it will
February 9, 2011
The recently released 2009 NAEP science results provide an in-depth look at how knowledgeable students across the country are in various science-related academic areas. The framework for 2009 sought to align the assessment with new developments in science standards, content, and curricula. The framework for the test broke down the questions into three separate areas: physical science, life science, and earth and space science. NAEP tests students in grades 4, 8, and 12.
The good news is that Ohio students outperformed students in many peer states. The average score of fourth-grade students in Ohio was 157 out of 300, which surpassed the national average of 149. Furthermore, 41 percent of Ohio fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient compared to the national average of 31 percent. The average score of eighth-grade students was 158 with 37 percent of students scoring at or above proficient, compared to national average of 149 (scale score) and 29 percent of eighth graders scoring at or above proficient. Ohio scored higher than 27 states and only four states scored higher (the remainder of the states were not statistically different than Ohio).
The bad news is that proficiency rates in both grades are still alarmingly low, and haven’t budged much in a decade (much like in reading and math). Chart 1 below depicts the proficiency rates of Ohio students in science over the past several years. Fourth-grade results have actually increased slightly over the last decade, but eighth-grade results have remained relatively constant.
The most recent NAEP science results
Jamie Davies O'Leary / February 9, 2011
Add this report by the Center For American Progress (CAP) to the mountain of evidence disproving the notion in American public education that more money is incontrovertibly better (or even necessary to achieve greater productivity). And add it to the slowly growing pile of work that attempts to measure educational productivity, or “return on investment” – a concept CAP warns does not signify their endorsement of “unfettered market-based reforms” or a call to spend less on K-12 education.
Rather, after decades of constant growth in education spending with no real corresponding gains in achievement, it’s time to look at the bang we’re getting for all those bucks. The austere fiscal climate facing most states lends urgency to the task as policy makers and lawmakers figure out what to cut, what to preserve, and how to maximize scarce public resources. This study shows that many districts could actually boost student achievement significantly without spending a dime.
In the most comprehensive examination of public school productivity seen yet (it looks at 9,000 districts in 45 states), CAP not only measures productivity, or the “academic achievement a school district produces relative to its educational spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control,” but also hopes to inspire districts and states to undertake similar efforts to think about ROI, collect and make transparent such data, and put systems in place that will identify and sustain educational efficiencies. Productivity is defined in three ways (and with a helpful interactive map, one can look up any district in the study and see how in rates according to
Kathryn Mullen Upton / February 9, 2011
The National Association for Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) just released its third annual survey of charter school authorizers (a.k.a. “sponsors” in Ohio). To anyone interested in improving the quality of charter schools as well as outcomes for kids served by them, findings about charter school authorizing matter immensely.
First, more school districts are undertaking the work of authorizing – that is, monitoring and overseeing the education, fiscal, operational, and governance components of a charter school, and holding the school’s board accountable for performance. Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, 233 school districts became authorizers. Also of note, the survey found that charter agreements (i.e., the contract between the authorizer and the governing board of the charter school) with lengthier terms – for example, ten years as opposed to five years – resulted in a greater number of weak schools remaining open, largely because authorizers tend to close schools as a result of the renewal/non-renewal process, and focus on school evaluations at that time.
In terms of scale, large authorizers (those that authorize 10 or more schools) are more likely to implement authorizing best practices than their smaller counterparts. According to the report, roughly 700 authorizers oversee only one or two schools each, which in turn raises questions about whether they have the resources to effectively perform the work of authorizing. One finding that deserves additional study is that about one third of authorizers do not implement professional authorizing practices that relate to charter schools that contract with management companies – for profit or non-profit – that provide various services to the schools.
When the Stakes Are High, Can We Rely on Value-Added? Exploring the Use of Value-Added Models to Inform Teacher Workforce Decisions
February 9, 2011
In this report, Dan Goldhaber of the Center for American Progress analyzes various teacher evaluation processes nationwide and provides recommendations for improving them, since current evaluation systems--to the surprise of no one-- fail to effectively measure the differences in teacher effectiveness. Value Added Measures (VAMs) can replace subjective, binary evaluation methods that have traditionally made teacher performance assessments exercises in futility.
Teachers become undifferentiated widgets under this binary evaluation system, despite evidence that some teachers are more effective than others. Goldhaber suggests that multi-year VAM estimates would decrease the risk of misclassifications by eliminating the statistical noise that can arise from having a strong class one year and a weaker class the next. Using VAMs would provide more transparency to potential classification errors because they are less subjective and can be easily evaluated since they are statistically based. He proposes an evaluation process that uses both observational measures and VAMs to identify low-performing teachers, and suggests that performance evaluations follow teachers from school-to-school and district-to-district.
However, Goldhaber notes the limits of VAMs as well. Most teachers, for example, are in classrooms or grades not covered by state standardized assessments, such as music, art, or first and second grades, making the use of VAMs impossible until state policies are changed. VAMs also fail to measure secondary functions of education, such as socialization behaviors that are taught in the classroom. Finally, VAMs focus heavily on student test scores, and this could result in the role of teachers being reduced to “teaching to the test.”
There is growing demand to reform teacher evaluation systems and value-added data
Nick Joch / February 9, 2011
- With the initial buzz over virtual schooling on its way out, questions about quality and effectiveness are on their way in. Erin Dillon and Bill Tucker admit they don’t have all the answers, but in their Education Next article “Lessons for Online Learning,” they outline several issues policy makers and educators will need to address in order to make virtual schools effective: the rigor and universality of virtual school performance standards; the need for data and research on virtual school effectiveness; and the murky policy questions related to funding and access to virtual schools, among others.
- Realtors, meet the education policy wonks. Chris Lozier and Andrew J. Rotherham’s new study Location, Location, Location: How would a high-performing charter school network fare in different states? explores the possible effects of re-locating the much-lauded Aspire charter school network from California to various other states. Lozier and Rotherham find that, depending on the charter-friendliness and per-pupil spending in a given state, Aspire (a proxy for other high-performing charter networks) would make a small fortune or go bankrupt accordingly. In Ohio, Aspire would run a mere $38 per-student surplus, which would make for a miserly 0.5% operating margin.
- South Carolina is the latest buzz in school
choice news. State legislators recently proposed the South Carolina Education
Opportunity Act, which, according to Education
Dunn, “would provide tax credits to parents choosing to send their children
to private school, extend smaller tax credits to homeschooling families, and
provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.” Both
Dunn and the Cato Institute’s Andrew
Coulson heralded the