The news coverage around Race to the Top and the efforts states are making to become more competitive seems to now dominate much of the conversation around education. With so many state leaders moving into action (or at least using aggressive reform rhetoric), Ohio is like the kid in show-and-tell who forgets to bring something cool and shows off a piece of pocket lint while classmates hold up crystal geodes, model airplanes, and Indian arrowheads.
Some states have already enacted sweeping RttT-inspired legislation that will undoubtedly win them points: California enacted a law giving parents more power to move their children out of poorly performing schools. Michigan's governor signed sweeping legislation that gives the state authority to shut poorly performing schools and evaluates (and dismisses) teachers partly on the basis of student test scores.??
Other states get kudos for trying: Alabama is trying to schedule a special legislative session to pass the state's first charter schools bill. Tennessee's governor is rallying support for a proposal to tie teacher tenure decisions to student performance. Education leaders in Rhode Island are calling for an overhaul of teacher recruitment and retention, and certification based on student test scores. Several other states (Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana) have bold plans for reform even without legislative or executive action. The list could continue, but you get the gist.
Meanwhile, Ohio lawmakers passed a provision giving the Department of Education and the chancellor authority to establish a longitudinal data system to track students from preschool through postsecondary ("P-16"). The legislation is being billed as a way for Ohio to earn points toward winning $200-$400 million in federal Race to the Top dollars. While the P-16 provision is a positive step toward better student tracking (and allows Ohio to complete 10 out of 10 Data Quality Campaign elements, instead of nine), it's hardly worth showing off when compared to the bold reforms heralded by other states.
It'll be interesting to see whether Sec. Duncan (and RttT application evaluators) give Ohio an honest appraisal or show some favoritism for political gain. ??
- Jamie Davies O'Leary