Ohio Gadfly Daily

Hugh Quill

Fewer state tax dollars for Ohio’s local governments and schools have public administrators talking, in the light of day no less, about mergers and shared services – topics long taboo in the Buckeye State’s public sector. Most public officials fear the former and suspect that the latter is just a catchy phrase that stands for comingling their funds for the benefit of others.

Elected officials can be forgiven for their reluctance to discuss mergers and service consolidations. They didn’t create this maze of public service delivery; and until stagnant population growth, aging Babyboomers, and weakening soft economy caught up with Ohio, the status quo seemed sustainable. Citizens also have misgivings about consolidation and sharing. They view merging their local governments as a potential loss of identity and fear their sense of community will be sacrificed in the process. In Ohio, all politics really are local, and local control has been a sacred cow.

The reality is that public institutions have long succeeded in gaining taxpayers’ approval to dig deeper in their wallets because citizens fear that doing otherwise will result in bad schools, crumbling infrastructure, community decay, and lower property values. Times have changed. The economy tanked in 2008 and is only slowly recovering, state government is cutting back on local funding, property values have fallen, and it is increasingly difficult to pass school levies and other local tax increases even in the high-wealth suburbs. Local officials – and citizens – are left contemplating significant service reductions, higher local...

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Our May 2010 report Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing, high-need urban schools profiled successful elementary schools that serve challenging populations. Due to the overwhelming positive response, we have commissioned a follow-up report that looks at high-performing urban high schools. Peter Meyer – journalist, author, and senior policy fellow at Fordham – has been traveling to the selected schools to chronicle what makes them work. (He wrote a bit about his experiences at these schools in January.)

We’ve been working to improve the education landscape in our hometown of Dayton for nearly twelve years. The work is never easy and often frustrating. We were disappointed two years ago not to be able to feature a Dayton elementary school in our report. Thus we are pleased to be featuring two outstanding high schools there in this edition: Dayton Early College Academy (a charter school) and Stivers Schools for the Arts (a district-operated magnet school).

The charts below compare DECA’s and Stivers’ tenth-grade students’ performance on the math section of last year’s Ohio Graduation Test to their peers in the Dayton Public School district. The OGT certainly isn’t known for its rigor and we don’t want to overstate a school’s excellence based on its performance on that test. But these results do make clear that DECA and Stivers are delivering their students to far higher levels of achievement than the district as a whole. We’re pleased by their successes and look forward to sharing more about these two...

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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is seeking to remake and refashion the city’s long-suffering schools through a series of bold reforms that include making significant changes to the district’s collective bargaining agreement, passing a school levy for the first time in more than 15 years, and sharing public dollars with high-performing charter schools. As bold as the Jackson Plan is, however, even more audacious is the political coalition that seems to be coalescing around it.

Controversial components of the mayor’s plan include basing pay, layoffs, and rehiring decisions on performance and specialization instead of traditional factors like seniority and credentials; replacing the current 304-page collective bargaining agreement, when it expires in 2013, and using a “fresh start” to renegotiate a new and far more streamlined contract; and providing high-performing charter schools with local levy dollars to support their day-to-day operations.

The Jackson Plan’s labor flexibility and levy support for high-performing charter schools are ideas that have long been anathema to statehouse Democrats and their union supporters. Not surprisingly, more than a few legislative Democrats and union officials have pointed out in recent weeks that some of the proposed changes in the mayor’s plan to the Cleveland teacher union collective bargaining agreement mirror those that were in the contentious and voter rejected Senate Bill 5. Democrats in both the House and Senate vehemently opposed Senate Bill 5 from its introduction to its demise (as did Mayor Jackson) in November. Further, organized labor, led by the teachers’ unions, raised over $20 million to...

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Allan Odden

The Harrison (CO) School District’s compensation plan, profiled in a recent Fordham report, represents another of yet a few compensation plans that totally redesign the actual teacher salary schedule. In this way, it joins Denver and Washington, D.C. in designing and implementing complete overhauls in how teachers are paid. These three districts are different from the dozens and dozens of other teacher compensation changes, most supported by the federal TIF program, which simply left the old schedule in place and added bonuses on top of them for teachers who worked in high poverty schools, in subjects where there are shortages (e.g., math and science) or for improving student achievement. Though such bonuses programs are needed and represent augmentations to how teachers are paid, the real breakthroughs will come when the overall salary schedule is redesigned, as Harrison has done.

The Harrison plan reflects the kind of new teacher salary schedule I have been recommending for nearly two decades – one that drops the current years of experience that trigger the bulk of salary increases and replaces them with metrics that reflect a teacher’s instructional expertise and impact on student learning (see my new book, Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight, Corwin, 2012). Cincinnati was the first district to try such a new schedule, but the program collapsed as glitches in the new evaluation system emerged. It proposed to pay teachers largely on the basis of a performance-based evaluation score; though the compensation element was dropped, the evaluation system...

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In 2009, 135 Ohio high schools were identified as “dropout factories” – schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of their students on time. Further, despite an increase in the state’s overall graduation rate, Ohio saw a greater increase in the number of dropout factories than any other state from 2002 to 2009 (jumping from 75 to 135). These troubling findings come from the annual Building a Grad Nation report, issued this week by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

New York and Tennessee lead the nation in their overall increase in graduate rates, which have jumped 13 and 18 percentage points respectively from 2002 to 2009. (Ohio’s rate increased 2.1 points in that time.) Nationally, the number of dropout factories has declined by 457 since 2002 (to 1,550 such schools today). Texas leads the nation in moving schools off the list, with 122 fewer dropout factories in 2009 than 2002.  Another seven states moved more than twenty schools off the list.

But back to Ohio… what schools are the Buckeye State’s dropout factories? The report doesn’t list them, but using publicly available graduation rate data we can get an idea of what buildings they are and where they are located.

In 2009-10, 805 Ohio public high schools received a graduation rate calculation from the state. (Ohio, like many states, provided two graduation rates for that year: a state-calculated rate and a federally...

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Cities and states across the country are in direct competition for education talent (teachers, school leaders, and key administrators) and great charter school models and operators. This struggle for talent and expertise is especially acute in the country’s mid-section.

We see it up close and personal in Ohio in our work with local school districts and as a charter school authorizer. There isn’t a week that goes by that we aren’t asked for names or contacts of potential school leaders, curriculum directors, or even teachers who are an expert in a foreign language, special education, or other high-demand subject. Great charter school models, especially those with an interest in trying to turn around long-suffering district schools, are also highly sought after and wooed.

MindTrust in Indianapolis is arguably the Gold Standard for groups in the country that are expert, strategic, and successful at recruiting talent to launch schools, work in schools, or serve needy students and families in different ways. But others are also doing great work, including New Schools for New Orleans, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, 4.0 Schools in Louisiana, and Lead Public Schoolsin Tennessee.

Ohio’s efforts pale in comparison and scale to other states.

Ohio has made some gains in recent years in the competition for talent and the recruitment of successful charter school models to the state—for example: Teach For America (placing corps members in Ohio for the first time in 2012), KIPP, SEED Academy (planning to open...

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The major tenets of Governor Kasich's "mid-biennium budget bill" were unveiled yesterday. There has been much speculation that November's sound defeat of S.B. 5 by Ohio voters would cause Republicans to shy away from thorny or controversial measures, like streamlining state and local government and enacting additional reforms to education. A quick review of the budget plan shows that isn't the case.

Among the governor’s K-12 education proposals are:

  • a strengthened third-grade reading guarantee—while Ohio has had a version of this guarantee on the books for years, it has been decried as an “unfunded mandate” by local districts and largely gone unenforced;
  • performance standards for drop-out recovery charter schools—these schools have been excepted from Ohio’s charter school academic death penalty and other accountability measures since their inception more than a decade ago;
  • a more straightforward, A-F school-rating system—the new system would be easier to understand and more accurately reflect schools’ true performance;
  • adjustments to teacher evaluation and testing requirements—while the evaluation requirements put in place through the budget bill last summer are well-intentioned, they need tweaking to be more meaningful and workable at the local level; and
  • passage of Mayor Frank Jackson's reform plan for Cleveland's schools—the city’s schools are suffering mightily, both academically and financially; Mayor Jackson’s plan—which carries the support of the district superintendent and business community—would put the district on the path toward academic improvement and fiscal stability.

Governor Kasich still has yet to tackle a few areas of education policy that need attention...

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Pop quiz: Which school district is farthest ahead in designing and implementing a workable teacher evaluation system?  Washington, DC, with its IMPACT system? Denver, Colorado, with PRO-COMP? You’re getting warmer…

The correct answer, according to a brand-new paper from the Fordham Institute, is very likely the Harrison (CO) School District. Harrison is a high-poverty district of about 10,000 students near Colorado Springs. It has confronted the triple challenge of determining what elements are most valuable in a teacher’s overall performance (including but not limited to student growth on standardized tests), applying that determination to the district’s own teachers (all of them!), and then reshaping the teacher-salary system (with the teacher union’s assent!) to reward strong performance. Excellent teachers earn substantially more—and do so earlier in their careers—than their less effective peers.

Under the Harrison Plan, salaries for all teachers depend not on paper credentials or years spent in the classroom, but on what actually happens in their classrooms. “Step increases” based on longevity were eliminated, as were cost of living raises. And professional development is tailored by evaluations to help teacher improve. Harrison’s evaluation process is divided into two parts, with “performance” and “achievement” each representing 50 percent of the overall score.

Performance is gauged via multiple observations of the teacher-in-action over the course of the school year. Some of these are conducted by the principal, other parts by a committee of external district evaluators from other schools within Harrison. According to the report’s author, Harrison Superintendent Mike...

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This guest blog post is from Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and a former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and Eric Lerum,
StudentsFirst's Vice President for National Policy. In this post they
analyze a Colorado school district's innovative approach to teacher
compensation, profiled in Fordham's latest report, "Teacher Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) School District's Pay-for-Performance Plan."

StudentsFirst
had the pleasure of working with teachers and a principal from Harrison, Colorado
late last year. We assisted the New Jersey State Superintendent in organizing
roundtables across the state on the proposed teacher evaluation system under
development. The Harrison folks were
passionate about their work and their success in elevating the teaching
profession there. It was incredibly powerful to listen to these veteran
educators talk about how they felt that their evaluation system treated them as
professionals and how they relied on it as a tool to help them and their
colleagues improve. The principal described the increased, targeted development
she could provide to staff and how the system enabled her to build a team
solely focused on raising their students’ achievement.

What
strikes me most about the Harrison model and why I think it’s so significant is
that it dispels so many of the myths we hear about why a reform like...

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Yesterday we wrote
about Ohio’s recent waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education for
relief from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind act and the proposed revamping
of the state’s reporting system for schools and districts. We also warned that
many parents, teachers, and students would be shocked by the results and that
there would be a push to water down the new system, insisting that it is unfair
and not accurate.

As we predicted, there have been several articles describing
the coming changes and what they mean for districts across the state. The Columbus
Dispatch
today quoted the superintendent of Bexley City Schools, a suburb
of Columbus, as saying, “I don’t know how a high-performing district like ours
and many others gets a B?” “It might be a way of communicating in the simplest
way but you miss a whole lot.” Bexley, currently rated Excellent with Distinction,
would fall to a B under the new system. 
Superintendents of currently high-performing districts in Montgomery
County will also see
a decline in their academic rating under the new system. Of the 28
districts in Montgomery that received a rating of Excellent with Distinction or Excellent on
the last report card, only three (Oakwood, Miami East, and Mason) would receive
an A with the new system.

We expected to see district leaders, teachers, and parents
...

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