Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 2
January 26, 2011
GOP owes charter schools some tough love
Changes to K-12 governance give Kasich major ed reform opportunity
From the Front Lines
Geoffrey Canada speaks to Dayton community
School lunch special: Chicken a la... foam?
Terry Ryan / January 26, 2011
Since their inception in 1997, charter schools have been at the center of some of the most politically contentious debates in Ohio. The charter debate too often has been characterized by two competing camps. One side typically has been organized labor (the teacher unions), many Democrats, or citizens uninformed about school choice but believing it represents a threat to “public schools.” The other side tends to be business –represented by large profit-making school management companies, free-market oriented individuals (often Republicans), as well as activists of all political stripes who advocate for educational equity.
Interests on both sides of the debate have poured money into
political campaigns over the years and have treated the politics of charter
schools as a zero-sum game in which a gain by either side must come at the
expense of the other.
This political polarization has led pro-labor Democrats to support anti-charter legislation while pro-business Republicans have fought to protect extant school operators and have resisted accountability measures that they perceived as anti-charter. True to form, in his first budget in 2007 – and again in his second budget in 2009 – Governor Strickland proposed legislation that would have banned for-profit charter operators, cut charter school funding, and buried the schools in costly regulations.
The long political struggle around charter schools has hurt charter school quality in the state, made it difficult for Ohio to improve its charter law, and retarded the power of charter schools to meet their potential. According to new state charter law rankings by the National
Jamie Davies O'Leary / January 26, 2011
It’s been a while since Gadfly buzzed about legislative hearings or new bills, what with the past legislature renowned for its inactivity. But the new 129th General Assembly already has several education bills in the works, so expect Gadfly to be reporting on capital matters over the coming months.
HB 21 – Virtual charter schools, value-added data, and Teach For America graduates. Sponsored by Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Butler County), the bill is a recycled version of last year’s HB 312 and SB 180 (legislation aiming to make Ohio more competitive for Race to the Top funds, and for which we testified in support). While SB 180 was passed by the Senate, neither bill made it anywhere in the House.
The basic components of the legislation are well-intentioned, but limited. HB 21 would:
- Lift the
ironclad moratorium on charter e-schools and replace it with a
performance-based vetting process, which makes good policy sense. If a
charter school authorizer wishes to open a new e-school, it must have a track
record of authorizing success. Specifically, at least one of the charter
schools it sponsors must be rated Continuous Improvement or higher. While this
metric is imperfect (for example, if a sponsor has 10 schools rated D or F and
only one rated C – that’s not exactly “successful”) it at least extends a performance-based cap to e-schools similar to
what applies to new bricks-and-mortar charter schools while also opening the
market to new virtual providers. This is a good thing as this
Emmy L. Partin / January 26, 2011
Education reform is moving fast in Ohio, and a sudden membership shuffle on the State Board of Education has given Governor Kasich the opportunity to ramp up the pace further, putting his imprint on the state’s schools much faster than his predecessors.
The Ohio House will begin hearings this evening on several pieces of education legislation (see the article above), and the Senate is expected to follow suit next week. While Governor Kasich isn’t likely to unveil his full education platform until he introduces his biennial budget proposal in mid-March, at minimum he is certain to dismantle the evidence-based school funding model, expand school choice options, and revamp Ohio’s public sector collective bargaining laws, including those that affect local teacher and school employee unions.
But whether serious education reforms will be achieved (and sustained) depends on more than just the governor’s and lawmakers’ best ideas and intentions. Success also depends on how well the reforms are implemented, which in turn depends greatly on the governance structure and leadership of education at the state level. In other sectors of state government, the governor appoints agency heads and has fairly broad control over policy implementation. Education is a different beast altogether.
The Ohio Department of Education, responsible for implementing state education laws and policies, is technically independent from the governor. Instead, ODE and its chief, the state superintendent of public instruction, answer to the State Board of Education, a 19-member partially elected, partially appointed body. The complex arrangement is a compromise from the Voinovich era intended to
Jamie Davies O'Leary / January 26, 2011
Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), spoke at the University of Dayton last week as part of the university’s diversity lecture series. (You can read Dayton Daily News’ nice coverage of it here.) Fordham’s hometown of Dayton is the perfect place to hear Canada’s message. It’s one of Ohio’s poorest cities, and despite all of our efforts on the ground there, the city is a constant reminder of how tragically difficult it is to improve outcomes for poor kids. In Dayton Public Schools, over three fourths of kids attend a school rated D or F. No children go to a school rated Excellent.
Canada’s assessment for Dayton – and the nation – is right. Our communities simply can’t afford to have so many young people unemployed (or in jail), especially African American boys. It’s an issue of global competitiveness and our economic health, but more than that – a moral and spiritual imperative.
Beyond that, one piece of his message really stood out: here in Ohio, we’ve been busy for the past several years thinking about state-level policy issues that inhibit districts and schools from serving kids better, and pushing to lift roadblocks when it comes to reforming K-12 education. Now perhaps more than ever, the Buckeye State stands a chance at successfully rolling back senseless laws and requirements, and untying districts’ hands so that they can pursue meaningful reforms. However, there still remains a
Kathryn Mullen Upton / January 26, 2011
This working paper from the Center on Reinventing Public Education – as part of its National Charter School Research Project – examines the impact of charter school authorizers on student achievement. The paper focuses on Ohio, a state that allows a wide variety of entities – public school districts, educational service centers, 13 state universities and 501(c)(3) organizations that meet Ohio Department of Education (ODE) criteria – to authorize (aka, sponsor) charter schools.
Researchers collected longitudinally linked student-level data that spanned from 2004-05 through 2007-08 from ODE. The data were for elementary and middle grades only, and virtual/online charter schools (aka e-schools) were excluded from the study. The report found that when it comes to student achievement in both reading and math, charter schools that were originally authorized by nonprofits, on average, produced the least gains in student achievement, while district-authorized charters had the largest gains (though statistically insignificant). ESC-authorized and state-authorized charters were “statistically indistinguishable” from other charters in both subjects.
The authors note that these findings may reflect Ohio’s ongoing struggle with how to grow and regulate the charter sector, with choice proponents often wishing to expand school choice for the sake of choice (with success defined by the diversity and number of options), and others (including Fordham) cautioning that choice must come with quality controls and a laser focus on performance. The report concludes – and we agree – that the structure of the authorizing entity is not the issue. Regardless of entity type, the key issue is whether the entity is effective at
Nick Joch / January 26, 2011
Add this credible and quantitative research to the growing list of reports finding seniority-based layoffs to be detrimental both to student learning and to the bottom line. From the CEDR, the report analyzes data on over 2,000 Washington state teachers who received reduction-in-force (RIF) notices during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years—primarily on a first hired, last fired model. It then compared these seniority-based layoffs to a number of proposed performance-based layoff models—each using a different metric for value-added. In a computer simulation, the seniority-based model caused student learning to lag by two to four months compared to a performance-based model, and under it African American students were 50 percent more likely to have their teachers laid off than were white students (compared to 20 percent more likely in the performance-based scenario). Further, the study found that performance-based layoffs would save up to 10 percent of the state’s teacher workforce, as fewer tenured, higher-paid teachers would need to be pink-slipped to meet budget quotas. Many states, including Fordham’s home state of Ohio, have laws that require all teacher layoffs to be based on seniority alone—laws that, in light of this study’s findings, legislators would do well to cut.
the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs”
Center for Education Data and Research
Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald
Janie Scull / January 26, 2011
In the fall of 2009, the Gates Foundation commenced an epic task: the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project. Through thousands of hours of videotaped and live classroom observations, student and teacher surveys, and information on student achievement gains, foundation analysts labored to uncover the best indicators of teacher effectiveness, the goal being to craft systemic and reliable evaluation processes and feedback mechanisms for the future. The preliminary findings of this massive initiative are now available. And if they’re a sign what’s to come, teacher evaluations will be in for a major makeover. This preliminary report analyzes two of the project’s five measures of teacher effectiveness—student scores (on both state and external tests) and student survey responses. There were four take-aways: First, a teacher’s past success in producing student gains is highly predictive of that teacher’s ability to do so again. Second, teachers who, according to their students, “teach to the test” do not produce the highest value-added scores for said students; rather, instructors who help their students understand math concepts and reading comprehension yield the highest scores. Third, student perceptions of their teachers are remarkably telling and remain stable across groups of students and across classes taught by the same teacher. Most reflective of teacher effectiveness is students’ perceptions of whether their teacher controls the classroom and challenges them with rigorous work. The analysts end by noting that a combination of these methods provides teachers a more accurate, detailed, and targeted evaluation. These findings are just the beginning of MET. Check back in late spring for the final report—including analyses of classroom
Nick Joch / January 26, 2011
- KidsOhio just released a study timed perfectly for National School Choice Week, which polled parents in Columbus’s Weinland Park (where Fordham-sponsored Columbus Collegiate Academy is making gains) who sent their kids to district schools other than the ones assigned to them. Results show that parents were motivated by academic performance more so than reasons like school safety.
- ‘Tis the season to be releasing policy platforms and words of advice to ed reformers. The latest comes from Education First Consulting, with Education Policy Advising: How to set your Governor—and Yourself—up for Success, Beginning on Day 1. Also check out Fordham’s Education Policy Imperatives (advice for the state), and Michelle Rhee’s (studentsfirst.org) policy priorities if you haven’t already.
- Science results for grades 4, 8, and 12 on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) are out, and like NAEP’s math and reading counterpart results, it’s not looking so hot. While Ohio scores higher than the national average in grades 4 and 8, proficiency rates are still frighteningly low (we’re talking horror movie science experiment gone awry) – 41 percent for fourth graders and 37 percent for eighth graders.
in your child’s school lunch? “Bagel dogs” and “chicken foam”, according to
Mrs. Q, an anonymous teacher who ate 162 $3 school lunches and wrote about them
on her blog, Fed Up With Lunch. CNN recently ran a story about the blog, on
which Mrs. Q laments that students who qualify for reduced lunches have only limited