Ohio Gadfly Daily

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


This morning, economist and education policy expert Eric Hanushek testified in a joint meeting of the Ohio House and Senate education committees. His testimony ? which focused on the importance of ensuring that all education policies, including school finance policy, create incentives for achievement ? comes less than one week before Gov. Kasich's budget will be introduced.

The most debated education-related policy changes here in Ohio over the last month have been about Senate Bill 5, the Buckeye State's controversial attempt to weaken public sector collective bargaining in the state. (Terry testified in support of the aims of the teacher personnel provisions in the bill, not expressly on rolling back collective bargaining rights.)

Hanushek's presentation today helped reframe the debate in a necessary way: undoing LIFO, or changing teacher salary schedules, or including value-added data in teachers' and principals' evaluations is not about weakening unions but about incentivizing performance, driving student achievement, and ultimately improving the quality of Ohio's future labor force.

Given the highly politicized environment surrounding the capitol lately, it was good to hear an outside expert explain the research and remind lawmakers that the need to move toward achievement-focused policies predates the Midwest's turmoil over collective bargaining and will certainly go on long after. Hanushek explained:

As important as the fiscal issues that motivate current discussions are ? they are actually secondary in my mind to other policy concerns about our schools, although we shall see that there is also overlap.


Columbus Collegiate Academy, a Fordham-authorized charter school in one of Columbus's poorest neighborhoods (Weinland Park), has just been awarded the Gold-Gain EPIC award by New Leaders for New Schools for dramatic gains in student achievement.?

This award is an incredible accomplishment on the part of CCA school leader Andy Boy and his dedicated staff. Only four charter schools in the entire country earned the Gold award. CCA won EPIC's silver award last year ? and was the only charter school in the whole state of Ohio to win. The school's ability to continue making tremendous gains with students ? 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged ? propelled it into the very top tier for student growth, among the ranks of some of the most impressive charter schools in the country.

CCA Executive Director and Founder Andy Boy explained the school's keys to success in a press release:

We are so proud of our students and staff.? Our teachers and staff share the belief that all students can and will learn when provided the right environment for academic success.? Through high expectations, a structured school day, and an uncompromising focus on academics our students are outpacing students from around the country.

Kathryn Mullen Upton, director of charter school sponsorship at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, noted:

We are thrilled that Columbus Collegiate Academy is a 2011 EPIC Gold Gain School. This award recognizes the exceptional quality of the academic program at Columbus Collegiate, the


This morning the Ohio Senate Education Committee met to discuss SB 81- a bill that would allow Teach For America alumni to gain a resident teacher license and be equipped to teach in the State of Ohio. It also paves the way for the creation of an actual TFA-Ohio site. ?In support of the bill three TFA alums (including Fordham's own Jamie Davies O'Leary) testified, throwing their support behind this bill.? After listening to their testimony, it became clearer than ever to me that Ohio needs to pass this legislation and allow TFA participants and alums into low-income classrooms.

Currently in Ohio, people who leave the state to participate in TFA but would like to come back and teach in Ohio have a very difficult time doing so. For these individuals to teach, they have to jump through several hurdles and often have to undertake additional course work. These difficulties deter a lot of talented and committed people from coming back to teach. This means that Ohio is losing out on teachers that sometimes have six plus years of college and who have achieved significant growth in the classroom. This can't happen if Ohio is serious about providing a quality education to all students.

As Jamie pointed out in her testimony, there are several alarming trends in Ohio that justify why SB 81 is good for Ohio. First, this bill would allow highly committed and effective teachers to teach in some of the...

Last week we released Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out ??? a statewide survey of Ohio superintendents and other education leaders.?? Among the key findings, superintendents told us they want state leaders to:

  • Get rid of the provision in state statute that mandates automatic step increases in teacher salaries ??? about seven in ten said this would be important.
  • Repeal the provision in state law that ???requires a last-in, first-out approach to layoffs??? ??? this is very important to two-thirds of Ohio's superintendents.
  • Change state law to make it ???easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers ??? even if they are tenured??? ??? eight in ten say this is very important.

On Friday, the report's co-author and I met with about 60 superintendents around the state and shared with them our survey results. Those conversations were especially intense because the Ohio Senate on Wednesday passed the highly controversial Senate Bill (SB) 5, which as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer seeks the following changes for teachers:

  • Wages still will be negotiated through collective bargaining. But management gets to decide much more than it does now, including leave policies, class sizes and where employees are assigned.
  • Employees can't strike. If agreement can't be reached on bargaining issues, a fact-finder's report and the last offers from both sides will be made public. The school board then chooses one of the offers.
  • Salaries must be based on merit. Automatic raises now pegged to years of service
  • ...

Education in Ohio, as in most of the country, is coming to terms with a challenging ?new normal,? as Arne Duncan calls it?the prolonged period ahead when schools must produce better results with diminished resources. The Buckeye State faces a daunting budget shortfall over the next two years, the resolution of which will powerfully affect K-12 education, which now consumes about 40 percent of the state's money. And Ohio's situation is far from unique.

Yet schools?in Ohio and beyond?can produce better-educated students on leaner rations so long as their leaders are empowered to deploy the available resources in the most effective and efficient ways, unburdened by mandates, regulatory constraints, and dysfunctional contract clauses. That's the message that comes through loudest from a new survey of the state's school superintendents. And again there's no reason to believe that Ohio's situation is unique.

While governors and lawmakers are responsible for balancing state budgets, it is district and school leaders who must make their schools work on tighter resources while still boosting achievement and effectiveness. Over the past year, as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has organized various discussions, conferences, and symposia across Ohio on the big challenge of ?doing more with less? in K-12 education, we've been privy to innumerable comments?usually off the record?by superintendents and school leaders along the lines of, ?We could survive these cuts if we had real control over our budgets.? They called in...


Innovation Ohio ? a newly birthed ?non partisan progressive think tank? (incidentally run a by former top aide to Governor Strickland, with research conducted by a former Democratic lawmaker who helped push through then-governor Strickland's ill-conceived school funding plan) ? just released its first research document, timed with heated protests over the state's collective bargaining reform bill (SB 5). But ?Ohio Teachers and Collective Bargaining: An Analysis? is not so much an ?analysis? as it is an amalgam of statistics from the national Bureau of Labor Statistics, wrought with faulty assumptions about the purpose of collective bargaining reform and an assortment of cardinal sins when it comes to basic statistics.

Where to begin? It's only eight pages long, but manages to mislead on a number of fronts.

For starters, the brief draws on two years' of data (2008 and 2009) showing the average annual wages for kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers in Ohio. Comparing average wages for teachers between the two years, all four categories saw a drop from 2008 to 2009, with an average drop of 3.8 percent.

The average annual wage dropped from one year to the next. The brief builds on this trend ? an observable wage change from year to year?and calls it ?pay cuts? in the next paragraph, arguing ?only Utah and Michigan's teachers have seen larger pay cuts,? that the state was ?only one of six ? whose teachers saw salary cuts to all four...


Anyone who's followed more than a few releases of NAEP scores recognizes the familiar feeling of disenchantment that accompanies it. Scores are low across subgroups? and criminally low for minority students and low-income kids; trends are flat, stagnant, stalled, barely budging; wide achievement gaps persist. And NAEP illustrates time and time again how proficiency rates according to states' own achievement tests tend to be higher and therefore misleading (check out Fordham's 2007 report, The Proficiency Illusion) ? all the more reason to be happy that Ohio and other states have signed onto Common Core standards in ELA and math.

According to recently released 2009 scores for the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), Cleveland fourth and eighth graders performed just as abysmally in science as they did in reading and math. At least according to NAEP scores, one might say that Cleveland's closest cousin is Detroit (the only district whose students fared worse in science). The bad news takes a variety of forms:

  • Among the 17 participating districts in the NAEP TUDA, eight of them had students in both grades scoring lower than the large city average nationally. Cleveland earns that distinction.
  • In both fourth and eighth grades (according to average scale scores) Cleveland ranks at the very bottom, beating out only Detroit.
  • Scores for Cleveland eighth graders place them in the 21st percentile in science nationally; fourth graders are in the 16th percentile.
  • Not only do Clevelanders fail to reach science proficiency, but 70 percent
  • ...

Over the weekend the Dayton Daily News ran an article talking about Senate Bill 5. With a majority of the state's and local news outlets completely consumed by this debate this should come as no surprise. But the article took a slightly different spin on the topic: what happens to districts that don't currently have an alternative system to determine merit pay for their teachers (called for in SB 5)?

Take for example Kettering City Schools, a suburb of Dayton whose labor agreement states that teacher unions and school boards ?agree that negotiations are an effective and efficient method? to decide conditions of employment. ?If SB 5 passes it will force the district to evaluate teachers based on a combination of student growth and classroom observations.? The mere thought of having to do this has local education leaders in a ?frenzy.?? While Kettering City Schools does not currently have an effectiveness-based evaluation system in place it does not mean that they can't work toward creating one.

Skepticism or absence of a current evaluation system is not a valid excuse anymore. Districts and states across the country have made great progress in replacing antiquated evaluation systems with ones that actually measure and reward performance. Before Kettering City Schools throws up the white surrender flag they would do well to look at the way others have crafted and implemented such systems.

State such as Florida, Colorado, Tennessee, and Illinois have all signed pieces...

The Education Gadfly

Fordham's own Terry Ryan testified recently before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee on Ohio Senate Bill 5.

While Terry was in DC for a visit last week, we were able to talk to him about why he testified in favor of the bill, the atmosphere at the Ohio State House, and how the state is grappling with issues surrounding collective bargaining.