Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 19
November 16, 2011
State Superintendent Heffner makes case for more demanding K-12 expectations
By Jamie Davies O'Leary
News & Analysis
Voucher kids do better than peers
News & Analysis
Ohio superintendents discuss efficiency, lament limits
Digital Learning Now: Nation's Digital Report Card
Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers
Questions and controversy surround Ohio's value-added scores
Jamie Davies O'Leary / November 16, 2011
Ohio teachers and administrators work tirelessly to deliver an excellent education to the state’s 1.8 million students, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner at the annual Ohio School Boards Association’s conference earlier this week. So why are fewer than one in three of Ohio’s fourth graders reading at a proficient level (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress)? Worse, why are achievement scores unimpressive among not only the Buckeye State’s urban districts, but even among wealthier suburban districts, especially in contrast to students internationally?
Heffner argued lackluster performance in K-12 isn’t a product of laziness, ineffectiveness, or incompetence on the part of educators and leaders. Rather it results from an outdated system that “traps them in mediocrity,” and has everyone working to the lowest common denominator. But this wasn’t just a hollow declaration, or a convenient way for Ohio’s school chief to shift blame away from demoralized educators and cast it vaguely on “the system.”
Ohio’s educational framework quite literally is the problem, namely academic standards, expectations, accountability structures, proficiency cut-offs, and the fact that the “system” shields us from brutal realities rather than serving as a true yardstick of how our schools and children are doing. According to Heffner, student performance in Ohio is middling because academic expectations for students are set too low. Ohio’s education system focuses on getting students over a threshold of “minimum competence” instead of expecting excellence. As a result student performance (and teachers’) languishes once that bar has been cleared. (For example, once a student passes the Ohio Graduation Test
Terry Ryan / November 16, 2011
Ohio’s electorate soundly rejected Issue 2 (the referendum on Senate Bill 5) last Tuesday. As almost everyone knows, that statute made significant changes to collective bargaining for public employees in the Buckeye State. The most controversial bits included changes to binding arbitration (to give management the right to impose its last best offer), a ban on strikes by public employees, and elimination of seniority as the sole factor for determining who should be laid off when cutbacks are necessary.
Though teachers and their unions were most definitely included—both in Senate Bill 5 and in the frantic, well-funded ($30 million) effort to persuade voters to repudiate it—education-policy watchers outside Ohio may not appreciate the extent to which this was really a referendum on policemen, firemen, and other “first responders” in the public sector. They and their unions were covered by the measure, too, and played the lead role—and by far the most visible role—in the campaign to undo it. There is, in fact, every reason to believe that if the first responders hadn’t been involved, Senate Bill 5 would have survived Election Day.
At their raucous victory party last week, union leaders said the vote should send a clear message to Governor Kasich and GOP legislative leaders. “Their biggest mistake was to think they (Republicans) could come up with a solution and impose it on a bunch of people,” said Bill Leibensperger, vice president of the Ohio Education Association. He continued, “There has always been room to talk. That’s what collective bargaining is about. You bring adults around a table
November 16, 2011
This letter to the editor appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on November 12.
A recent Dispatch editorial, “Many questions,” stated that advocates of private-school choice “should be able to show that students who go to private schools using vouchers do better than their peers who remain at the public schools they left. So far, no one has collected such data.”
While better data certainly are needed, what we have now can tell us if the kids receiving vouchers are doing better or worse than their peers who stay behind. The limited data available from the Ohio Department of Education allows researchers and others to compare the academic performance of students using an EdChoice voucher to those students who remain in voucher-eligible public school buildings, on a single-year, snapshot basis. (We can’t get at value-added growth or growth over time.)
The results for Ohio’s “Big 8” districts (from which the majority of voucher students hail) are encouraging for school-choice supporters. Overall, the available data show us that a majority of students using vouchers are outperforming their peers in voucher-eligible district schools.
In cities such as Dayton and Youngstown, where public-school performance has languished for years, students who use vouchers outperform the kids from the public schools. Voucher students in Columbus outperform their peers in every subject and grade except one, and in some cases do so by a significant margin.
Eighth-grade voucher students outperform students in the schools they left behind by 31.9 percentage points in reading and 18.3 percentage points in math. These results are an improvement from last year, when Columbus voucher
Jamie Davies O'Leary / November 16, 2011
Last week Ohio Education Matters (a subsidiary of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation) hosted a forum for Ohio superintendents and district leaders looking to save money. Figuring out ways to “do more with less” in K-12 education is an urgent matter (especially follow last week’s repeal of Issue 2), which is why Fordham has been prodding school districts for quite some time to think proactively on this issue. (See a summary of our recent event, “Working Smarter Together”; coverage of our “doing more with less” events in education from this past spring; or highlights from last year’s “Stretching the School Dollar” event – or that accompanying book.)
The event featured Fordham friend Rick Hess (director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute) as well as superintendents from school districts across Ohio recognized by OEM’s benchmarking study for exceptional cost-savings measures.
These on-the-ground “efficiency experts” included superintendents from Canton City (Michele Evans); Perry Local in Stark County (John Richard); Sandy Valley (David Janofa); Western Reserve (Charles Swindler); and Salem City (Tom Bratten). Except for Canton, the majority of examples of cost-savings and service-sharing came from districts that are fairly small.
It was apparent by the way superintendents in the audience were taking diligent notes that they are really in the market for new ideas. Several good ones emerged:
budgeting. Perhaps most encouraging is that districts are taking the advice
laid out by Marguerite Roza in Stretching
the School Dollar to cost out various activities on a per-pupil basis
(e.g., illustrating the cost per student for various subjects as well
November 16, 2011
In 2010 the Foundation for Excellence in Education convened the Digital Learning Council, which brought together leaders from education, government, and business to develop a framework to integrate technology meaningfully into K-12 classrooms across the country. Despite the influences of technology on our daily lives, only 10 percent of students nationwide are experiencing the benefits of digital learning.
The council graded each state’s digital learning initiatives based on a set of 10 “elements of digital learning,” including ensuring that all students from grades K to 12 have access to it, as well as aligning online courses with state standards and the Common Core standards, where applicable. Furthermore, each state was graded on 72 specific metrics that indicate their current status in attempting to provide a digital education for all students.
Overall, Ohio fared pretty well on the report card, meeting 36 of the prescribed metrics and achieving partial completion status on 12 of them. For example, several metrics measure whether state law ensures that all elementary, middle school, and high school students have digital learning options readily available to them. Ohio state law requires this for all grade levels and today over 29,000 students are enrolled in on-line courses.
While it is encouraging that a majority of students have access to digital learning, Ohio must work on other metrics, such as having students demonstrate competency on end-of-year course exams in order to gain credit for the course. Currently Ohio law does not require this. Ohio must also work on improving the infrastructure that supports such learning. Currently Ohio law is silent
Laura Johnson / November 16, 2011
If CRPE’s recent meta-analysis of charter-school research was an amuse-bouche, this report (from Mathematica/CRPE) on the practices and impacts of charter-management organizations (CMOs) acts as the entrée—and perhaps also the dessert. It exhaustively details the characteristics of forty CMOs (of the nation’s 130, which serve 17 percent of charter-school students), noting some interesting commonalities: Compared to their district counterparts, CMOs typically run smaller schools (with smaller classes). They also offer more time in learning: Forty percent of studied CMOs provided their students with more instructional time than all of the nation’s traditional public schools. Completing the meal, the report analyzed student-achievement results for those CMOs with adequate data. Echoing previous charter research, the report finds that CMO performance varies—and widely. Of the twenty-two networks analyzed, eleven boast significantly positive impacts in math, while ten can make that claim in reading—this compared to a representative control group of district pupils. (Seven negatively impact their students in math, six in reading.) Why do some CMOs do so well while others flounder? Researchers note two reasons for success: intense teacher coaching and school-wide behavior standards (notably those that offered consistent rewards and sanctions and asked for parent and student contracts). Unfortunately, the authors stop there. No after-dinner coffee or digestif. Because of promises of confidentiality, the report names neither the high flyers nor the low performers. Interesting data, yes, but not much help to school shoppers or communities seeking effective CMO’s to run more of their schools. Though a palatable and hearty meal, the report could have used that added bit to settle the reader’s
November 16, 2011
While researchers have long tried to answer questions about whether teachers are under or overpaid, this study from the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute attempts to evaluate the total compensation of public school teachers against other private-sector professionals. In order to make comparisons deemed to be more apples-to-apples, researchers compared salaries and fringe benefits of public school teachers and similarly skilled private-sector workers (rather than all private-sector workers broadly, like most other analyses do). This was determined by examining private-sector workers’ levels of education, cognitive abilities (SAT and ACT results), and total weekly hours of work. The paper used data ranging over time between 1960 and 2010.
Using this research framework, the study finds that teachers are paid annually 19.3 percent less than non-teachers of similar education attainment. However, the researchers argue that the levels of education attained by teachers may not provide a true signal of their abilities as college-level education courses are arguably not as rigorous as most other areas of concentration. In 2009, for instance, education majors at Indiana University had an average GPA of 3.65, while students majoring in math, science, and economics averaged 2.88.
The study also points out that on cognitive ability tests teacher scores often fall below the average of other college graduates (evidenced by results from the SAT, ACT, and Armed Forces Qualification Test). After correcting for this difference, the 19.3 percent gap in salary evaporates into a statistically insignificant 0.6 percent premium in favor of teachers.
When looking at total compensation packages, however, public school teachers gain ground on their private-sector counterparts receiving benefits totaling 100.8
November 16, 2011
- According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, federal programs similar to Head Start are keeping more than 2 million disadvantaged American children out of poverty.
- In Ohio more than half of all charter schools are located in the state’s “Big 8” urban districts, but a growing number of students are now going to charter schools from suburban districts.
- Controversy over Ohio’s value-added system now being used to evaluate teachers continues as the first results (or a pilot) have been released. Unions feel the model is flawed, while proponents claim it identifies high-quality teachers.
- One principal in Mason, Ohio is seeing double. Principal Eric Messer is the first principal in Mason’s history to be in charge of two elementary schools, resulting in two offices, two different school staffs, and different school schedules.