Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Mind Trust in Indianapolis released a plan
over the weekend that proposes a bold and dramatic transformation of
public education akin to what has taken place in New Orleans and New
York City. The plan, an amalgamation of some of the nation’s most
promising school reform strategies looks to transform Indianapolis
Public Schools (IPS) which have been chronically underperforming for
several years. The plan hopes to diminish a 20 percentage point
achievement gap between IPS students and the state in English and a
dismal 58 percent graduation rate.

The Mind Trust report observes that great schools across the country
share a set of core conditions that enable them to help all students
achieve. Among these core conditions are the freedom to build and manage
their own teams, refocus resources to meet actual student needs, hold
schools accountable for their results(and close those that don’t
perform), and create a system of school choice that empowers parents to
find schools that they want their children to attend.

In an attempt to halt the status-quo of under achievement among too many Indianapolis schools the Mind Trust proposed:

  • Downsizing the Indianapolis Public Schools district office while
    allocating resources to school level leaders. According to the plan the
    IPS central office would be reduced by about 450 jobs and its budget
    would be cut by $53 million, and these resources would flow to building
    level
  • ...
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This morning the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA)
results for Mathematics and Reading were released. The TUDA results look
specifically at 21 large urban school districts that volunteered to have their
NAEP scores reported separately (three of which participated for the first
time; see the complete rundown of cities here).

The TUDA results for both reading and math in the fourth and
eighth grade followed the same trend as the national results that were released
last month: scores show little to no significant change since 2009. At the
fourth-grade level average reading scores did not significantly improve in any
of the 18 districts that previously participated. In eighth grade, the results
are almost the same, with only one district, Charlotte, showing a significant
improvement in its scores from 2009. The results in mathematics are somewhat
more encouraging. Four districts -- Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore City, and Boston
-- demonstrated higher scores than 2009, and ever more encouraging is the fact
that, at the eighth-grade level, six districts performed better than they did
in 2009.

Cleveland, Ohio’s second-largest district, is a TUDA
participant. And like most of the other TUDA cities, its scores in both reading
and math at the fourth and eighth grade level were not significantly different
than 2009.  The district also had lower
overall average scores than the state of Ohio. (For a recap of how Ohio did...

White Hat Management, a major for-profit charter school operator, is fighting for its life.  At least that’s the story told in a recent memo by founder David Brennan.  Brennan told employees of White Hat that his family has committed over $50 million to sustaining White Hat, but that they simply cannot afford to do so anymore. Their financial commitment will only see the company through 2013. Brennan’s memo also pointed out that White Hat has not made a forecast for the bank in the last 5 years, and in order to start to turn things around they must produce in excess of $2 million every year.

White Hat runs 33 schools in Ohio, broken down into three brands: Life Skills Center for dropouts and alternative high-school students, The Hope Academies for elementary and middle grades, and OH-DELA- an online school serving students statewide. The 17 Life Skill Academies have lost more than 1,170 students since 2006-2007 equating to a loss of at least $6.7 million dollars according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis.

Much of the pain that White Hat is experiencing can be attributed to an increase in competition. When White Hat first got in the business of charter schools in Ohio the late 1990s there was very little competition in the charter school market, making it easier to attract students to its schools. Fast forward twelve-plus years and the Buckeye State now has 339...

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One could argue that 2011 has been the year of “digital learning”
across America but in fact digital learning has been big business in
Ohio for more than a decade. Lessons from that experience should inform
the Buckeye State’s approach to new digital learning opportunities that
are generating excitement and optimism.

In September, the White House announced its “Digital Promise” campaign, while a number of states have been embracing initiatives and campaigns in this realm, aided and encouraged by the Digital Learning Council, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Fordham itself (via our “Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning” series.)

Ohio’s biennial budget launched the Digital Learning Task Force
charged with ensuring that the state’s “legislative environment is
conducive to and supportive of the educators and digital innovators at
the heart of this transformation.” There have been many conferences this
year on fresh digital-learning possibilities and prominent innovators
in this field – people like Sal Kahn, Tom Vander Ark, John Chubb, Rick
Hess, Susan Patrick, and John Danner—have been much in demand to offer
insights and share possibilities with Ohioans. 

Education visionary Paul Hill captured the opportunities when he wrote for Fordham:

Capacities like these open up vast possibilities for
improved instructional delivery. Students who do not want to attend
school can access entirely self-managed online learning. Self-managed
‘virtual’ schools can match a student’s interests, learning rate, and
even

...
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WILD AND WACKY POLITICAL BATTLES

Since their inception in 1997, charter schools have been at the
center of some of the most politically contentious debates about
education in Ohio. The past year offered yet another example of charter
school controversy, but this time with a twist. The 2010 elections were
very good for Buckeye State Republicans, with John Kasich winning the
governor’s race (replacing Ted Strickland who had been a charter adversary throughout his four-year term). Republicans also took control of the House while expanding their majority in the Senate.

Almost immediately GOP lawmakers set out to make the Buckeye State
more inviting to charter schools. Governor Kasich’s budget proposals in House Bill (HB) 153
offered a solid plan for not only increasing the number of charters in
Ohio but improving their quality. Crucial elements included encouraging
successful operators to clone good schools; leaning hard on authorizers
to fix or close failing schools and banning the replication of failure;
placing schools’ ostensibly independent governing boards in clear charge
of any outside organizations that they engaged to run their education
programs; creating professional and ethical norms for all parties;
insisting on transparency around academics, governance, and finances;
channeling fair funding into successful schools; and introducing best
practices and expert advice into every step of the process. This was a
vision that excited us and many others in Ohio and beyond because it
...

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Matthew Kyle
is currently a policy and research intern with Fordham’s Columbus team.
He is working on his master’s degree in education at Antioch
University, after recently earning a bachelor’s in economics from The
Ohio State University.  In pursuit of his master’s degree, he has begun
student teaching and will be entering the field as a full-time
professional in 2012.

I still remember when I was 13 years old and began my first job
bailing hay for a local farmer.  I remember the heat, the dirt and the
sweat that went into that job; it was hard work–for some of us.  As much
as I remember the difficulties of that job, I remember some of my older
co-workers that had been working for this farmer for a couple of
summers sitting down watching a few of us younger kids do most of the
work.  To this day I remember the frustration I felt when I found that
not only were some of them getting paid as much as me, but many were
getting paid more simply because they had been there longer.

A week after Issue 2
was voted down, I’ve had some time to ponder the reasons why I
supported it in the first place, and they still hold true. Here are my
reasons:

  • As an up-and-coming teacher I desperately want to work in a system
    that rewards me
  • ...
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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...

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Guest Blogger

Ever wonder what happens to teachers who don't want to join the union? In her emotional testimony to the Ohio House's Commerce and Labor Committee on Senate Bill 5 this morning, teacher Carol Katter of Wapakoneta provided an answer.

Katter takes her faith (she's a Roman Catholic) seriously, and she has always been uncomfortable with the idea of paying dues to the OEA, as it and its parent organization, the NEA, often support pro-choice political candidates. From the moment she walked in the door at Wapakoneta City Schools she felt ?the stigma of being a union dissenter.? At the time, the union-management contract did not stipulate union membership for all teachers. Even so, Katter said she was ?ostracized? for not joining, and that union representatives continuously reminded her that ?we will be watching you [?] very closely.?

In 2005, however, the union re-negotiated its contract with the district, and the result was a provision requiring union membership for all teachers. Katter was disappointed and anticipated losing her job after she refused to fill out paperwork to join the union, but was surprised to learn that, against her will, a local union representative had obtained her Social Security number and birth date from the district's central office and filled out the paperwork for her. She objected to this back door procedure and promptly filed a request with the OEA for an exemption from union dues, based on her religious convictions.

A local council of OEA representatives convened for...

Guest Blogger

The Falcon 49 School District near Colorado Springs is implementing an innovative structure to their administrative system, according to this article in Education Week. ?You can read about it there, but the gist is that the district will be trying a very innovative new governance structure wherein the top four administrative officials (including superintendents) will have their contracts bought out, and the district will be divided into ?three zones.?? Each zone will consist of elementary and middle schools that feed into a high school and the head of each zone will be the principal of the high school. The zone-heads will lead all the schools in their zone, and will report to a CEO whose role deals strictly with academic issues across the zones.? Issues involving human resources, facilities, and transportation would be handled by the head of each zone, or under a newly established service operator position.?

Such changes would push decision-making processes and resources to the school level and reduce top-heavy administrative procedures (something that Fordham has called for in Ohio for years).?? The initiative is expected to better connect the community, parents and students to their schools.? Even more relevant (to Ohio especially) is that the move could save a lot ? a combined $2.96 million from not having to pay the salaries of the current four administrators.

According to Education Week, the proposal is currently in preliminary stages, and was designed to test the Innovation Schools Act which aims to reduce bureaucracy...

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To improve student learning in Ohio, and in other states, we need to improve the quality of our teaching force. Statistics don’t lie when it comes to the impact of teachers on children’s learning. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek has observed that “having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.” Yet, according to a new report by the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and US News and World Report too many of our new teachers enter the classroom unprepared. 

Over a century ago, Abraham Flexner provided a withering critique of the nation’s medical schools, which led to a transformation of a sub-standard system of doctor preparation into preparation programs that would become models of quality for the rest of the world. NCTQ wants to do the same thing for teacher preparation that Flexner did for medical training back in 1910.

Toward that end, NCTQ and US News and World Report have issued their Teacher Prep Review. The Review provides data on the 1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers. Forty-six institutions in Ohio were included in the Review. The findings are not good. In fact, NCTQ warns that the nation’s teacher prep programs “have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”

The urgency to improve teacher preparation has never...

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