Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 16
October 5, 2011
Making school choice work for kids
ObamaFlex: Too much tight, too little loose
Legislative round-up: Lots of school choice bills on the table
News & Analysis
Teacher ratings spread out evenly across spectrum of quality
Measuring Inequity in School Funding
Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates
What do GOP candidates think about education?
Terry Ryan / October 5, 2011
Ohio is on the verge of adding an enormous new private school choice scholarship to its existing array of choice programs and policies. How this new program will work in practice, how many private schools – and students – will actually participate, how much it will cost, and the mechanisms by which it will account for its use of taxpayer dollars are all important questions in need of cogent answers. The Buckeye State has been at the epicenter of school choice in the United States since the late 1990s and we have learned some hard lessons along the way.
More than 75,000 students are now enrolled in some 300-plus bricks-and-mortar charter schools. The EdChoice Scholarship Program, which (per the biennial budget signed by Governor Kasich this summer) will expand from 14,000 to 30,000 students aided in the 2011-12 school year and 60,000 thereafter, provides vouchers to students in failing public schools so that they can attend private schools of their choice (many of them Catholic schools), while the state’s Autism Scholarship Program has served more than 1,300 youngsters since the program began in 2003. Over 7,200 students participate in the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, Ohio’s oldest. In recent months, Ohio added the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, which will, starting in 2012, provide vouchers of up to $20,000 to students with Individual Education Plans (I.E.P.s).
Ohio’s school districts have also launched a number of choice programs: magnet schools and
Michael J. Petrilli / October 5, 2011
Followers of Fordham’s work know that, for the better part of three years, we’ve been advancing an approach to federal education policy that we call “Reform Realism”—a pro-school-reform orientation leavened with a realistic view of what the federal government can and cannot accomplish in education. It’s founded on the idea of “tight-loose” (tight on results, loose on means to achieve them) and heralds incentives over mandates and transparency over accountability.
Three weeks ago, Senator Lamar Alexander and a handful of colleagues introduced a legislative proposal that embodies Reform Realism. As I wrote then, it demonstrates a combination of thoughtfulness and humility that is rare in federal policymaking.
Obama Administration officials, for their part, haven’t been slouches when it comes to Reform Realism. Secretary Arne Duncan has appropriated the “tight-loose” terminology, and the Race to the Top symbolized the triumph of incentives over mandates (even if it was a carrot that felt more like a stick).
Which is what makes the administration’s new plan for conditional NCLB waivers so worrisome. ObamaFlex pulls too taut both the “tight” and the “loose.”
First, let’s talk tight. To be eligible for waivers, Duncan et al. are asking states either to adopt the Common Core or demonstrate that their own reading and math standards indicate college readiness, as judged by institutions of higher education. (Those institutions would have to certify that students achieving the state’s
Emmy L. Partin / October 5, 2011
After an unusually busy spring and summer passing major education reforms, the General Assembly isn’t ready to stop quite yet. September saw renewed debate in the House and Senate over education issues, most notably those bills that impact K-12 school choice.
An amended version of House Bill 136 (Huffman) cleared the House education committee last week. The bill creates the Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship Program (PACT), a private school scholarship program open to all students statewide whose families meet a maximum income threshold (see our earlier coverage of the bill here and Terry’s related editorial above).
Supporters of the bill say it will help allow more families to send children to the school of their choice. Under the current version of HB 136, families making up to $95,000 per year could receive private school scholarships (amounts would vary based on family income). There are no geographical or school performance-based restrictions on the scholarship.
Opponents’ concerns are several. The primary argument is that the program will drain scarce resources from public schools. The bill attempts to mitigate this concern with a gradually escalating statewide cap on scholarships and by limiting how many students per district could use the scholarship to the number that could be supported by the district’s state per-pupil aid (i.e., if a district receives $25 million per year in aid from the state, the amount of scholarships paid out
Jamie Davies O'Leary / October 5, 2011
This week the Columbus Dispatch ran an article about recently released performance ratings of some 7,500 teachers in central Ohio, including those in Columbus City Schools and South-Western City Schools. Note, while the ratings – which identify teachers’ impact on student learning last year (in grades 3 through 8) – are “part of a larger movement to revamp the way Ohio judges teacher quality,” they are not part of the mandate to adopt a comprehensive teacher evaluation system by July 2013 as required by the state budget. (When those teacher evaluation systems go into effect, they must categorize teachers into four tiers of effectiveness: accomplished, proficient, developing, and ineffective, and student growth will only count for half of the rating. Multiple other measures will also factor into the rating.)
It’s unclear from this article how the ratings were determined exactly (how much student growth differentiates a “most effective” teacher over an “above average” one?), but one thing is clear: there are far more teachers delivering adequate or excellent student gains than not. And, despite all the alarm among educators and unions about using student growth to evaluate teachers’ performance, the breakdown of ratings – in the aggregate – seems pretty intuitive. And they’re probably more accurate, inasmuch as the distribution of teachers is more spread out than in the current binary rating system under which 98 percent of teachers are “satisfactory.”
October 5, 2011
This report examines variations in per-pupil funding across states and further analyzes funding differences between districts within each state. In order to make comparisons in funding between states, it adjusts for local costs by looking at of the percentage of taxable resources each state spends on education. This becomes known as a state’s “effort.”
The study finds that the average percentage of taxable resources spent on education or “effort” across states was 3.8 percent. In comparison, Ohio spends an average of 4.5 percent of total taxable resources on education. However, it should be noted that when making comparisons like this richer states would have to spend a much larger number of total dollars to reach a certain percentage than a poorer state. Therefore states like Illinois and Texas (which have two of the largest state GDPs) spend below that national average at 3.7 percent and 3.4 percent respectively.
When making comparisons between districts within a particular state, the report only accounts for state and local portions of per-pupil spending. When evaluating intrastate funding on education, equity measurements were divided into two categories: measures of “spread” and measures of “progressivity.” Measures of spread refer to the degree in which per-pupil spending varied from the state average. Measures of progressivity gauge the level of spending in districts with a high percentage of low-income children.
Ohio ranks in the bottom half of the country in all measures of
October 5, 2011
This recent report by the United States Census Bureau looks at the relationship between an individual’s level of education and their earnings. This report first uses Synthetic Work-life Earnings (an estimate of the amount of money a person might make over the course of their lifetime) to discover basic relationships between education and earnings. Next, the report goes deeper and looks at whether any differences between racial and gender groups exist. Data for this report came from the Multiyear American Community Survey conducted between 2006 and 2008. Data comes from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and all earnings estimates are reported in 2008 dollars.
The level of education in the U.S. has been on a steady upward trajectory for the past 70 years. In the 1940 Census, 25 percent of people aged 25 and over had a high-school diploma. In 2008, 85 percent of this group had a high-school diploma. Unsurprisingly, this report finds a positive relationship between education and earnings. Annual earnings of those studied ranged from $11,000 per year for a part-time worker without a high-school degree, to over $100,000 for a full-time worker with a professional degree. Education level also plays a large part into whether someone is employed full-time or part-time. Sixty-eight percent of people with a doctorate degree are employed full time, compared to 38 percent of people with less than a high-school diploma.
Significant differences also exist between gender and
October 5, 2011
- Ohio should know that it’s not alone: Value-Added performance assessment of teachers is becoming more and more widely used as part of evaluation ratings. This report by the Wall Street Journal points out that districts in at least 26 states are judging teachers in part on students’ performance on standardized tests. Cities like New York have used it to deny tenure to three percent of teachers.
- Is the U.S. Department of Education’s life at stake in the upcoming 2012 presidential election? This article takes a look at some of the GOP hopefuls’ stance on education and how it may evolve over the next year.
- In the United States and internationally, the global recession has hit those lower levels of education much more than those with postsecondary education. Those considered least well qualified (less than a high school diploma) saw unemployment rates move up at twice the rate of those with a college degree. This isn’t exactly surprising, but The Economis provides a telling graphic to illustrate the point.
- Education Trust takes a look at how teacher evaluation systems can be “Fair to Everyone.” Teachers usually know who among their peers is performing at a high level yet teacher compensation systems treat them as if they all perform uniformly. Measuring student learning through multiple methods can more efficiently identify and reward top-notch teachers while also fostering an environment for improvement.