Ohio Gadfly Daily

Governor John Kasich’s decision to take his second State of
the State address on the road has been big news in Ohio (see here).  More interesting than the history (Kasich is
the first governor to deliver the address outside of Columbus) is that he will
be delivering his speech at Steubenville’s high performing Wells Academy, which
has long been lauded by the Education Trust as a “Dispelling the
Myth”
school. One hopes the choice of venue is matched by a focus on needed
reforms in education.

Governor Kasich and legislative Republicans delivered some
sizeable reforms in the state’s biennial budget last June. But there is much
left to be done. The most pressing issue facing the state is putting in place a
proper school funding plan. The biennial budget dismantled the state’s
ill-conceived move toward an evidence-based model of school funding and
promised a new funding formula before the next biennium. The governor and his
team need to deliver.

Fordham has long-advocated (with
many others
) for a move toward a weighted, student-based funding system
based on three key principles:

  • Full state funding (and, properly encouraged,
    local funding) follows the child to the school the he or she attends, including
    charter schools. (This could also be extended, voucher-like, to private schools
    willing to participate fully in the state’s academic accountability system.)
  • Per-pupil amounts vary according to children’s
  • ...

Is it time for urban school superintendents to move from
being Reformers to Relinquishers? Yes, is the compelling case that Neerav
Kingsland makes today over at Straight Up. Kingsland, chief
strategy officer for New Schools for New Orleans, writes that reform-minded
superintendents should embrace the lessons from New Orleans, a key one being that
the academic achievement gains made in the Big Easy have not come from traditional
reforms and tweaks to the system. Rather, the changes in New Orleans are the
result of virtually replacing the traditional, centralized, bureaucratic system
of one-size-fits-all command and control with a system of independent
high-performing charter schools all held accountable by the center for their
academic performance.

In other words, Kingsland reasons, superintendents should
rid themselves of the notion that “current opinions on curriculum, teacher
evaluation, technology, or anything else will be the foundation for dramatic
gains in student achievement.”

Kingsland’s argument is a powerful one because it is based not
on philosophy or concepts, but on real academic gains made in a city that for
decades had some of the lowest performing schools in the country. “In the next
five years,” Kingsland writes, “New Orleans will likely be the first urban city
in the country (that I know of) to surpass its state average.” The Louisiana
Legislative Auditor backed up such optimism when it reported in 2011 that New
Orleans...

Ohio is unique
in its ability
to turn the best of charter school theory and practice on
its head. The most recent example comes from an Ohio school district that
set up
a charter school to offload test scores of low-performing students
while making money for the district. According to the Columbus Dispatch the London City School District “will collect 80
percent of the $1.9 million in state dollars the charter will draw this year as
payment for its services. It expects $700,000 of that to be profit.” The
treasurer for both the charter school and the district told the paper that “district
officials plan to continue the ‘revenue sharing’ method” despite the fact the
school received an academic rating of F on its 2010-11 report card.

Today the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released
its annual look at the state of charter schooling in the United States – Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look
at American Charter Schools in 2011
. The theme of this year’s report is
charter-district collaboration. For most of the 20-year history of charters in
America, relations between school districts and charter upstarts were frosty at
best and downright hostile at times. Or, as CRPE’s Robin Lake writes, “Districts
were known to call the local fire marshal to make sure new charter schools
could not get their fire permits approved in time to open...

Ohio has gotten a lot of feedback on our education system in
the past few weeks. On January 10, the U.S. Department of Education released a
progress report detailing the Buckeye state’s accomplishments and challenges
with Race to the Top funds. (Here
is Fordham’s take on the report.) On January 12, Education Week released the
national report card Quality Counts 2012: The Global Challenge –Education
in a Competitive World
.

Each year, Education Week chooses a theme that serves as the
underlying message of the report, this year’s being “American Education from a
Global Perspective.” The report “takes a critical look at the nation’s place
among the world’s public education systems, with an eye toward providing
policymakers with perspective on the extent to which high-profile international
assessments can provide valid comparisons and lessons.” States are graded on
the following 6 criteria:

1.       Chance for Success: Looks at the
broader educational environment: from family income and parent English
proficiency to adult educational attainment, and takes into account the
lingering effects of the ongoing recession.

o  
Ohio’s
Score: C+ (78.4)

o  
Nation’s
Score: C+ (77.6)

2.       K-12 Achievement: Examines at school
achievement: 4th and 8th grade scores on math and English
tests, the influence of the poverty gap on test scores, and high school
graduation rates.

o  
Ohio’s
Score: C- (71.2)

o  
Nation’s
Score: C- (69.7)

3.      ...

Ohio’s newspapers ran headlines today warning, “Money
crunch pushes Downtown roadwork way back
,” “Local
highway projects face delays
,” and “Last
phase of I-75/I-475 project stalls
.” The financial problems facing Ohio is
scaling back big time infrastructure projects that have been in planning for
years. According to the Columbus Dispatch
the Ohio Department of Transportation “proposes pushing back 34 projects that
had been planned to start by 2017 to dates as far off as 2036.”

Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation,
captured the problem when he told the Cincinnati
Enquirer:

Unfortunately, this
is Ohio’s new reality. For too long, previous administrations have added more
and more to the list of projects knowing that there were more projects than
funds available. Their poor planning has put us in the position of making the
tough decisions and delivering the bad news to many communities throughout the
state that there is simply not enough money to fund their projects.

In reading about the woes facing Ohio’s highway improvement efforts
I couldn’t help but wonder if education in Ohio doesn’t face problems of
similar scale. Despite recent cuts at both the state and local levels in the
Buckeye State, have we made more promises than we can possibly meet? Ohio is in
the midst of totally revamping its academic standards as part of the Common
...

Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and
management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might
alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public
schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms.
Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed
failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have
also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the
States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school
districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while
at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions
of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too
many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland
where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency
(F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively,
these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of
just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225. In these schools
fewer than half of the children attain basic proficiency in reading and
mathematics by the time they leave eighth grade. Yet, these schools, and many
others across the...

An innovative partnership to teach money-management skills
to students launched this week between a southern Ohio district and a local
credit union.

The Atomic Credit Union
is establishing student-operated credit unions in the three elementary schools
in the Jackson
City School District
. The credit union offers free savings accounts for
children that feature no fees or minimum balance requirements. The credit union
will provide the first $2 deposit for each student who opens an account and
students may then deposit as little as one cent at a time – to ensure that all
students can participate, regardless of their family finances. One day a week
will be designated as “credit union day” in the schools when students can make
transactions, and fifth-grade students will learn real-world job skills working
in the school credit union.

Credit
Union President and CEO Tom Griffiths told the local Telegram
newspaper
,
"For our children to be growing up and experiencing the worst economic
times our country has seen since the Great Depression, I cannot think of a
better ‘educational vehicle’ than that of a student-run financial
institution."

The average household carries more than $10,000 in credit
card debt
and college tuition continues to rise (in fact, Sec. Duncan and
Vice President Biden are talking college affordability in
Columbus today
). People – especially in areas like southern Ohio, where
unemployment...

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run
charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the
successful turnaround of a troubled school.

In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student
performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated
A+
(aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best
that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and
bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was
achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about
72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff
members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that
now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have
left during his four-year tenure).

So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things
immediately stand out:

Leadership. Principal
Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround since taking over the school four years
ago) is committed to the success of his students, staff, and school like few
others in his field. I don’t say that lightly as I know a lot of absolutely
terrific school leaders, but spend five minutes with Carr and...

What
does online learning really cost? Can it, in fact, be both better in terms of
improving student achievement and overall less expensive than traditional
bricks and mortar schools? These fundamental questions are what the Fordham
Institute’s new paper, “The Cost of Online Learning”, gamely tries to tackle. In
short, paper shows that online learning has the potential to save education
money while also improving the quality of instruction available to students.

The
Parthenon Group
(the national research firm that helped craft Ohio’s
winning Race to the Top application) provided the research. They conducted more
than 50 interviews with entrepreneurs, policy experts and school leaders across
the country to come up with “an informed set of estimates regarding the cost of
virtual and blended schools” across five categories – labor (teacher and
administrators), content acquisition, technology and infrastructure, school
operations, and student support.

Using
these five categories as the basis of comparison the researchers compared a
“typical” traditional model (brick and mortar school where instruction is
delivered by teachers), a “typical” blended model (students attend brick and
mortar schools where they alternate between online and in-person instruction)
and a “typical” full virtual model (all instruction takes place online). In
blended schools like Carpe Diem, Rocketship, and KIPP Empower, technology is
used as a tool to personalize instruction for students who spend part of their
...

Just over a year ago, Ohio won $400 million in Race to the
Top grant dollars and promised to implement a number of significant reform
programs. The U.S. Department of Education just released a progress report
for the Buckeye State detailing how it has fared in year one, as well as the
work that remains.

First, it might be helpful to revisit the major commitments
Ohio made. They were to:

  • Increase the high school graduation rate by 0.5
    percent per year with an eventual goal of an 88 percent graduation rate. Right now
    only 84.3 percent graduate from Ohio’s high schools.
  • Reduce the graduation rate gap between white and
    minority students by 50 percent. The current gap is 16 percentage points.
  • Reduce the performance gap between Ohio students
    and some of the nation’s highest performers like Massachusetts.
  • Double college enrollment for Ohioans under the
    age of 19. Ohio ranks 35th in terms of adults with a two-year degree
    of higher.
  • Adopt and implement high-quality academic
    standards aligned assessments.
  • Ensure great principals and teachers in every
    school (however that’s measured).

Ohio has more than 600 school district, 3,500 district schools
and over 300 charter schools so it had its work cut out for it when it applied
for RttT dollars and then won. The list of goals stated above is no easy
task.  So how is Ohio doing...

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