Ohio Gadfly Daily

Effective teachers are the most valuable education asset that Ohio (or any state) has. Statistics don't lie when it comes to their impact on children's learning. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who recently testified before a joint hearing of the Ohio House and Senate education committees, reports that "having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background." Similarly, a weak teacher can blight a child's prospects.

Given how powerfully teachers can alter students' life trajectories, it is not only prudent but imperative to push reforms that enable education leaders to distinguish effective teachers from ineffective ones. With a fair and rigorous system that measures gradations of teacher effectiveness - not just binary ratings such as "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory" - school systems can reward their ablest instructors and put them in the classrooms where they are most needed, target support to teachers who need it and weed out those who are not a good fit for the profession. For Ohio, where low-income and minority children reach proficiency at far lower rates than their wealthier peers, the stakes are enormous.

But the evaluation system isn't working nearly as well as it needs to. As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has noted: "Everyone agrees that teacher evaluation is broken. Ninety-nine percent of teachers are rated satisfactory and most evaluations ignore the most important measure of a teacher's success - which is how much their students have learned."

In Ohio, districts pay...

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Ohio is in the midst of its biennial budget debate and there has been much angst and ink spilled about a proposal in the budget bill (HB 153) to create a ???parent trigger??? for the state's truly woeful schools. The proposal has triggered front page new stories, strongly worded editorials against the idea, and public testimony in House hearings on the budget dismissing the idea as another assault on public schools.

The bill would allow parents to petition a school district to force reforms in a school that, for at least three consecutive years, has been ranked in the lowest 5 percent of all district-operated schools statewide based on its performance index score (which is a measure of student achievement across all grades and subjects). Parents would be allowed to file a petition requesting the district to do one of the following:

  1. Reopen the failing school as a community school,
  2. Replace at least 70 percent of the school's personnel,
  3. Contract with another school district or a nonprofit or for-profit entity with a record of effectiveness to operate the school,
  4. Turn operation of the school over to the state Department of Education, or
  5. Any other restructuring that makes fundamental reforms in the school's staffing or governance.

This is strong medicine for sure, and for truly atrocious schools necessary. Now, the part of the story that has been missed by almost everyone is how few schools this law would actually impact. The bar for triggering...

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With the GOP dominating so many state capitols and governors' mansions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that legislation aimed at expanding school choice is on the rise. In Ohio, the most prominent (but certainly not the only) bill would expand the state's existing voucher program and also create two additional voucher/scholarship programs ? one aimed toward special education students, and the other aimed toward students attending schools anywhere across the state and meeting a fairly generous income requirement. Terry wrote about HB 136 last week, specifically pondering whether targeting scholarship to families making up to $100,000 annually was prudent during trying fiscal times, and whether the state should provide scholarships to families already paying private school tuition. ?

And as HB 136 is up for debate in the coming weeks, we'd predict that the accountability provisions within the bill may also be hotly contested. Should private schools receiving voucher students be subject to testing/accountability?? Does this infringe on their rights? What would this look like in practice? Why should we pump taxpayer dollars into schools without commensurate accountability requirements? (A 2009 Fordham report suggested a sliding-scale approach: as a private school enrolls more voucher students, ?the greater its obligation for transparency and accountability.?)??

As Ohio delves deeper into this debate ? precipitated not just by HB 136 but also by Gov. Kasich's plans to expand the EdChoice program in terms of both the number of scholarships and eligibility requirements surrounding them ? the state...

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Ohioans, for the most part, understand that strong teachers and good schools are a critical investment in our children's and our state's future. Consider that in 2010, the state invested more than $18.3 billion in K-12 public education ??? roughly $2,078 for every adult living in the Buckeye State.

In fact, school funding in Ohio has steadily increased over the past three decades. Just since 1991, when the first DeRolph lawsuit was filed, per-pupil revenue for Ohio's public schools has risen 60 percent (even accounting for inflation). After decades of steady growth in spending on its schools Ohio now faces a funding cliff. Education in the state is facing cuts of at least $1.3 billion.

The state's schools are being asked to do more with less. How do we do this smartly, without damaging children, especially our neediest? To answer this question it is prudent to look at the data. Where are we making gains? Where are we falling flat? Where do the investments pay off? Where don't they?

The Akron Beacon Journal jumped into the debate with a recent news story and follow-up editorial using NAEP test scores (commonly referred to as the Nation's Report Card) to show Ohio has made ???great improvements??? since the 1990s, especially in math. The paper went so far as to ask readers ???why haven't gains ??? especially for African Americans ??? been trumpeted from the rooftops????

Further, the paper insinuated that Ohio's small gains in math over...

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The 2010 census numbers came out this month and ???shrinkage??? is the defining term for Ohio's cities. Cleveland shrunk by 17 percent over the last decade and fell to 396,815 residents, a 100-year low. Cincinnati lost 10 percent of its population and is down to 297,000 residents, also a 100-year low. Toledo contracted by nine percent and now has a population of 287,208. The only large city in the state to grow was Columbus and it now has a population of 787,000.

Fordham's hometown of Dayton lost 15 percent of its population to reach a 90-year low. Since 1970 the city of Dayton has lost almost half of its citizens. Those left behind are increasingly poor. Fully a third of the city's residents had incomes below the poverty level in 2008, more than double the Ohio average. More than 80 percent of the city's school children are deemed economically disadvantaged.??

As Dayton continues to contract and get poorer its public schools struggle to educate the children left behind. The school district was rated Academic Watch by the state in 2009-10 and it met only one of the state's 26 academic indicators. No student in Dayton attended a public school (district or charter) that was rated Excellent or Excellent with Distinction, while in 2008-9 five percent of the city's children attended a top-rated school. In 2009-10, just 36 percent of students attended a school rated B or C (Effective or...

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Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidate, challenged Republicans to take a critical look at the defense budget earlier this month when he told a reporter in Iowa, ???Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon. We can save money on defense, and if we Republicans don't propose saving money on defense, we'll have no credibility on anything else.???

Republicans, especially those considering a run for president, don't usually challenge defense spending, let alone when the nation is engaged in multiple wars. But these are not ordinary times. More and more, voters and politicians alike are asking what can we afford and where should we cut?

Like with defense, most conservative Republicans have been staunch supporters of school choice and its expansion. For this reason, observers in Ohio expected Governor John Kasich to support a significant growth in both charter schools and private school vouchers. The governor's budget indeed offers up a healthy portion of school choice that includes lifting caps on charter schools and expanding the number of vouchers available to children in failing public schools through the state's EdChoice scholarship program. Such moves will expand choice, but not at a dramatic clip and not to many middle-class families or districts beyond the state's urban centers. Ohio's choice programs will continue mostly serving kids in failing schools and long-troubled districts.

This could change, however, if either House Bill 136 or Senate Bill 128,...

Today marks history for the Buckeye State, its low-income children, and its failing schools, as well as for the dozens if not hundreds of education reform advocates who've been pushing for the last decade for Teach For America - Ohio.

Today legislation passed in both the Ohio House (HB 21) and Senate (SB 81) that paves the way for a Teach For America site (specifically, allowing TFA to place teachers across grades and not just in shortage areas) and also makes it easier for alums of the program to get certified here to teach.

The Ohio House passed HB 21 by a 64-32 vote margin, with five Democrats crossing the aisle to support it. Kudos to Reps. Celeste, Patmon, Sykes, Budish, and Salozzi for joining Democrats across the country ? including President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ? in supporting the program.

In the Senate, the bill was amended slightly so as to require Teach For America to partner with a local university (which is required in many other TFA states but which adds undo requirements to the program). It passed by a margin of 25-8. Kudos to Sen. Turner, Wilson, and Kearney to cross the aisle in support of the bill.

I, along with four other alumnas of the program now living in Ohio, sat in the House gallery on pins and needles this morning as we listened to lawmakers debate the merits of a program that would place talented and effective teachers...

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OhioFlypaper

The bickering between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the KIPP charter network involving overtime pay for teachers in two KIPP schools has come to a close.? Education Week reported earlier this week that KIPP officials and the Baltimore Teachers Union were in conflict over the pay that teachers receive for working hours beyond the normal school day.? The BTU has negotiated agreements with the Baltimore city school district outlining provisions on how to compensate teachers who work overtime.? The problem, however, was that KIPP could not afford to pay their teachers the amount outlined in the provision since every teacher works over time every week ? and this is part of what makes their model successful.? Last year KIPP and the BTU negotiated an agreement that allowed them to pay their teachers only 20.5 percent of the overtime amount in the union contract.?

The BTU criticized KIPP for making public threats that they would have to shut down their schools if an agreement could not be reached rather than negotiating their concerns with the union.? KIPP tried to bypass the union through lobbying the state legislature to amend existing laws involving teaching contracts. The BTU and KIPP recently have come to a ten-year agreement that will pay teachers 20 percent of the overtime amount outlined in the union contract. Jay Matthews has been closely following the situation on his Class Struggle blog, and he reported that an agreement had been reached on Thursday.

I applaud the...

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OhioFlypaper

A big congratulations to KIPP Journey Academy students McKeala Hudson and Michael Robinson, who were recently accepted into the KIPP STEP Summer Program at Deerfield Academy! Yes, that Deerfield Academy ? the prestigious prep school in Massachusetts whose students consistently populate the campuses of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.

The students are examples of the remarkable results that KIPP, which primarily serves economically disadvantaged students, has produced since it opened its doors in 2008. (Fordham authorizes KIPP Journey, Ohio's first and only KIPP school.) Already its students are scoring higher than the district average on the state mathematics assessment and higher than the state-wide community school average on the state science assessment. The STEP program is taught by a team of KIPP and Deerfield teachers, and includes three weeks of fully paid Deerfield courses focused on science and language arts.

After being accepted to the STEP program, McKeala and Michael each wrote an essay about their life goals and reasons for applying to the program. McKeala writes:

My goal is to become a News Reporter, to go to college at Spellman or the University of North Carolina (UNC), and to go to Columbus Academy for high school. I also want and to meet new teachers so they can inform me about how to be a better person. I will take this Deerfield experience as an honor since I am learning new...

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Yesterday Fordham's Kathryn Mullen Upton, director of charter school sponsorship for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee in support of SB 86.

The bill would enable the creation of a charter school that would ?serve adults of school age who are incarcerated or who have been released from the custody of the Department of Youth Services? (Gongwer News Service ? subscription required). The proposed school would be called WinWin Academy and would serve youths ages 18-22, and initially would be located at the Pickaway Correctional Institution. A second campus would open at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Unlike current educational arrangements for incarcerated youth, the charter school/s would continue serving students after their release from prison and thus would provide continuity and assist them in their transition back to society.

In her testimony, Kathryn noted that:

While there are other programs that provide incarcerated persons the opportunity to complete basic courses and earn a GED or diploma, WinWin Academy stands alone in that it provides educational and mentoring continuity to students during the critical time when they leave prison and attempt to re-enter society.

The proposed model for WinWin Academy is exactly the kind of innovative educational program that Ohio's charter school mechanism was designed to incubate, and, if successful, help replicate. Ohio's charter school program is almost 15 years old and during that time it seems that there has been a shift away from conceptualizing and implementing something

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