Ohio Gadfly Daily

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...


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...


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...


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...


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
  • ...