Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 12
June 22, 2011
Restructuring Resources for High-Performing Schools
Too many As at ed schools?
Terry Ryan / June 22, 2011
Ohio has echoed with controversy in recent weeks regarding House-passed changes to the state’s charter law that would decimate an already weak charter-school accountability system (see here, here, and here). We at Fordham have been outspoken and relentless in commenting on what’s wrong with the House amendments and have forcefully argued for stronger charter accountability and transparency.
That is not a new argument or a new role for us. For more than a decade, we’ve pressed Buckeye policymakers on charter school quality. That included co-authorship (with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) of Turning the Corner to Quality: Policy Guidelines for Strengthening Ohio’s Charter Schools. This 2006 report urged a “housecleaning” that would close down Ohio’s poorest performing schools. Partly in response, the General Assembly passed a law two months later that forced failing schools to improve or face automatic closure.
Because we’ve been so vehement in criticizing the recent House language (currently in conference with the Senate, which stripped that language out of its version of Ohio’s biennial budget), some who disagree with us have questioned our motives. They’ve even charged Fordham with a “power grab” because we’ve pushed the legislature to allow for a new statewide authorizing entity that would allow the voluntary merger of the school portfolios of several existing sponsors, us included. Still others claim we are financially greedy and seek to expand our sponsorship efforts in order to boost our revenues. Such allegations are hokum and need to be refuted.
Our charter-school sponsorship philosophy
The Thomas B.
Emmy L. Partin / June 22, 2011
Among the many differences the conference committee must resolve between the House and Senate versions of the state budget is a Senate provision that would reward exceptional charter schools with low-cost facilities. Specifically:
- Districts would be required to offer up available space to charter schools for lease if it goes unused by the district for two years,
- When multiple charter schools express interest in the space, the district would have to lease it to the highest-performing school among the mix, and
- If the leasing charter school is in the top 50% of all schools statewide, based on its “performance index score” – a measure of academic achievement – the district would lease the space for $1 per year.
Gene Harris, superintendent of Columbus City Schools, Ohio’s largest district and one with a history of blocking charter schools from its unused facilities, is opposed to the change. Her reasons include that charters might not have sufficient funds to maintain a facility and that it prevents the district from leasing to other “important” organizations. These are valid concerns, and the conference committee could amend the provision to address them. But this seems like yet another instance where anti-charter sentiment among the education establishment is so ingrained that districts struggle to recognize those pro-charter policies that can actually benefit them.
For starters, this provision is fiscally smart for districts. If a district must maintain unused facilities regardless, why not lease to a charter school that will pick up those costs? Further, this provision requires districts to lease, not sell, the space (as current law requires), so
Jamie Davies O'Leary / June 22, 2011
Earlier this month Fordham released an analysis in the national Education Gadfly showing that when it comes to serving kids in the neediest communities, charter school start-ups have a far greater chance (nearly quadruple) of success than a district turnaround. David Stuit - who also authored Fordham’s recent study on the dearth of successful school turnarounds: Are Bad Schools Immortal? – examined select charter start-ups and district turnarounds in Ohio along with nine other states to determine their chance of success (scoring above the state average). He finds:
In most of the showdowns, the charter start-ups emerged victorious. Of the eighty-one head-to-head matchups I identified, 19 percent of the charter schools (i.e. fifteen schools) tested above the state average in 2008-09, compared with 5 percent of district schools (i.e. four schools).*
To be clear, Stuit’s definition of a “turnaround” is narrow – “a school must have moved the needle on student achievement in both reading and math from its state’s bottom decile to above the state average (from 2003-04 to 2008-09).” And he admits that “caveats abound”: the sample size in this analysis was small; charter schools’ success rates may be overestimated through selection bias; and there were loads of unsuccessful start-up charters in his study that merit a whole separate policy conversation. (Read more about the methodology and the limits of the study here and here.) Stuit concludes:
When contemplating whether to put one’s energy and resources into turning around failing schools or closing them and replacing them with charter start-ups, the answer for most cities
June 22, 2011
Nikki Baszynski reflects on the eighth-grade graduation ceremony at Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA), a Fordham-authorized middle school serving students in grades six through eight (the vast majority of whom are economically disadvantaged). CCA recently won the Gold Star EPIC award from New Leaders for New Schools for its extraordinary student achievement gains, placing it among only four schools nationally to win the honor. In short, its eighth-grade graduates are among the best prepared incoming high schoolers in the city of Columbus, if not the whole state. Nikki was a founding teacher at the school, is a Teach For America alumna, and is now pursuing her juris doctorate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
As we waited for the elevator, I looked to my left and saw a sign above the drinking fountain declaring, “Whites Only.” Two Columbus Collegiate Academy graduates – one black, one Hispanic – noted the sign, too, and continued to read the commentary below it. The remaining portion of the sign explained the historic division of the races, recognized the efforts made to close that gap, and then ultimately welcomed all who read the sign to drink freely from the water fountain. As we finished reading, the elevator doors opened and we rode to the third floor of the King Arts Complex.
The King Arts Complex of Columbus, Ohio, is devoted to increasing awareness of the “vast and significant contributions of African Americans” to our country and the world. It was a fitting location for the first Columbus Collegiate Academy eighth-grade graduation, an event three years
June 22, 2011
With ever increasingly tight public school budgets, Education Resource Strategies (ERS) could not be timelier in the release of its policy brief related to how to maximize school spending.
In Restructuring Resources for High-performing Schools, Karen Hawley Miles, Karen Baroody, and Elliot Regenstein take a careful look at barriers that make it difficult for public schools to use resources effectively and efficiently. In particular, ERS argues that state policymakers must address four areas in order to ensure the maximum effectiveness of their spending:
How schools organize personnel and time
With class-size reduction linked positively to student performance only in early elementary grades, class size requirements and required staffing ratios should be eliminated. Similarly, flexibility in meeting student needs can be achieved by eliminating seat time requirements in non-core subjects.
When it comes to teachers, policymakers should boot
state-mandated pay incentives tied to longevity and additional education and
replace them with those awarded to effective, high-contributing teachers. A
fair and transparent process for removing low-performing teachers should also
How districts and schools spend special education dollars
A myriad of restrictions make it difficult for special education funds to be cut or reallocated, often at the expense of general education students. Public schools should establish and support early intervention programs to reduce the number of students placed in the special education system, do away with rigid staffing requirements that don’t take student progress into account and provide incentives for teachers to obtain certification in both special education and specific content areas.
How districts allocate resources to schools and students
To dodge roadblocks put in place
Kathryn Mullen Upton / June 22, 2011
The growth of high-performing charter schools and charter-management organizations (CMOs) is critical for such schools to become sound alternative for more needy kids. To expand, however, CMOs must overcome the challenge of finding superior teachers and school leaders. To see how this has been done and can be done, this Center for American Progress report profiles Green Dot, IDEA Public Schools, High Tech High, KIPP, Rocketship Education, and Yes Prep and explains how these models have dealt with organizational growth and their associated human-capital challenges. It seems that these successful CMOs have three things in common: They formalize recruitment, training, and support processes and infrastructure; they get the most mileage from available talent by narrowing and better-defining staff roles; and they import and induct management talent. Toward that end, many of these organizations have developed their own recruiting tools and candidate evaluations. Some offer extensive professional development aligned with their organizational culture. Most believe in cultivating in-house talent, often by identifying future school leaders during the teacher-hiring process. Others have created and implemented their own certification programs. Well worth your attention, whether or not you’re a CMO junkie.
Preparing for Growth: Human Capital
Innovations in Public Charter Schools
Center for American Progress
Can NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student Access to Higher-Performing Schools
June 22, 2011
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation stipulated that a Title I school is in need of improvement if it fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, and that students attending those schools are eligible to transfer to another public school within the district. How many students are taking advantage of this provision though? A new report by The Century Foundation found that fewer than two percent of the students eligible to transfer to higher performing schools within their district did so between 2003 and 2005. Also alarming is that an extremely small number of poor and minority children took advantage of the choice option. In 2004-05, 11 percent of eligible white students took advantage of the NCLB option, compared to only 0.9 percent of African Americans and 0.4 percent of Hispanics.
Part of the problem is that there is a short supply of schools that are not in need of improvement and eligible to receive transfer students. This report examines whether expanding students’ access to higher performing schools across districts would be a feasible policy. To identify which schools were eligible to send or receive students under the NCLB choice policy, The Century Foundation looked at all schools nationwide, excluding D.C. and Hawaii as they each only have one school district, and magnet and alternative schools because they operate under different admission requirements. The remaining schools were then categorized by their AYP scores. Schools failing to meet AYP for two of the last three years were identified as eligible sending schools (9.9 percent) and the remaining schools were classified
June 22, 2011
- Education Week’s Sean Cavanagh surveys the status of parent-trigger proposals in states across the nation in his latest article, Legislative Momentum Stalls for 'Parent Trigger' Proposals. In Ohio, the proposal first will be attempted as a pilot program in Columbus City Schools.
- Do education schools give out too many As? A study released by The University of Missouri this month says so (take a look at what EdWeek says about the study here). When compared to the distribution of grades in other academic areas, students in education departments had an average GPA that was 0.5 to 0.8 grade points higher than students in the other departments, bumping them up to a 3.6 average, “solid A- territory.”
- KIPP CEO Richard Barth sat down to discuss the college completion challenge with EdWeek blogger Rick Hess. To make sure that KIPP students get to college and stay there, Barth said they need to make students aware of financial costs, form partnerships with schools, and develop programs to support students throughout their college years.
- Instead of shutting the doors on Newcomb High School in 2007, Superintendent Clark Hult opened them even wider, recruiting students from all over the world. The New York Times tells the fascinating story of the 30 international students who invigorated a small town in upstate New York and transformed a dwindling high school into a multicultural hub of global learners.