Additional Topics

It seems there are only two education topics worth talking about in Ohio today. Good thing there are a number of perspectives on both.

  1. First up, charter law reform. So far, a standalone bill and the governor’s budget bill are being heard in their respective House committees and both contain excellent reform provisions, mostly in the “sponsor-centric” realm. A standalone Senate bill with other proposals will likely follow. But yesterday, as promised, State Auditor Dave Yost testified on the House bill and laid out some reform provisions that only an auditor would think of. Things like accounting practice changes, attendance reporting changes, defining the public/private divide inherent in many charter schools’ operations, and some interesting new ideas around truancy reporting. These are all welcome additions to the ongoing debate from a part of state government directly connected with oversight of charter schools, sponsors, boards, and school management organizations. You can read details of his proposals and testimony in the Columbus Dispatch, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Dayton Daily News (including input from our own Aaron Churchill), and Gongwer Ohio, among other outlets.
     
  2. Hopefully our very knowledgeable auditor is exempt from the concerns raised in the guest column published in today’s DDN. In it, the president of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools opines that the lack of general knowledge of just what standards and accountability charter schools are held to currently should be dispelled before charter law reforms are pushed in those areas.
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Florida—home to Disney World, sunny skies, and bizarre crimes—is probably best known for its sizable elderly population. Yet a new report from the state’s Foundation for Excellence in Education warns that we are all Florida, or will be soon enough. Dr. Matthew Ladner, who pens the report, predicts that by 2030, the demographics in most of the country will mirror those in today’s geriatric Sunshine State. And that doesn’t bode well for our nation’s fiscal health.

Seventy-six million Baby Boomers will soon leave the workforce. Growing along with this cohort—albeit at a lesser rate—is the school-aged population. As a result, the total percentage of young and old Americans dependent on government-financed education, healthcare, and Social Security will jump from 59 percent in 2010 to 76 percent in 2030.

Fortunately, just as readers might consider panicked calls to parents begging them to reconsider retirement, the report offers some hope. The future workers of America are in school at this very moment. Providing them with an excellent education is the best step towards building a large base of wage-earning, tax-paying citizens. According to Ladner, one of the most cost-effective ways to do this is to expand school choice. Charter and private school programs would provide the necessary additional space for the growing school-age population while demanding fewer district dollars and producing higher-achieving students than their traditional public school counterparts.

More importantly, this could also improve achievement. Despite having one of the most expensive public school systems in the world, 64 percent...

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Moynihan Report. The great tootling racket now bursting your eardrums is the trumpet blast of memorials, think-pieces, and reflections commemorating the occasion.

The report, which kicked up a generations-long debate on race and culture far afield from its technocratic origins, primarily concerned itself with the vanishing of two-parent families in the black community. That phenomenon is also the subject of this counterintuitive Education Next study. Its authors, however, have no need to limit their focus on a particular racial category, since single parenthood is now commonplace across multiple demographics. The proportion of white children raised by a single parent today (22 percent) is precisely the same as for black children in 1965. Meanwhile, the proportion of black children living in the same circumstances has continued to rise astonishingly, to 55 percent.

Contriving to measure the educational influence of these developments, the study analyzes data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a broad-ranging sample of roughly 6,000 children who came of age between the late-1970s and the late-2000s. Their conclusion is both surprising and noteworthy: Measured against a number of other factors, including the age of the mother at the time of birth, number of siblings, and the mother’s educational attainment, the effects of having only one parent are by no means the most consequential.

Over the course of three decades, children who spent 1.2 years with a single parent between the ages of fourteen...

  • Though House of Cards returned magnificently to form last weekend, ESEA doesn’t look like it’s headed for a similar renewal any time soon: Friday’s expected House vote on the Student Success Act went up in a puff of smoke and a fit of Mephistophelean laughter from the spirit of Frank Underwood. The Republican bill suffered somewhat from the mad rush to keep the lights on at the Department of Homeland Security, which took most of the air out of the chamber. Ideology played a role, too—after the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth came out strongly against proposal, conservative votes were hard to find. Let’s just hope members of the leadership can find some common ground and pass a bill soon, without resorting to a string of murders and expository narration.
  • When thinking about ways to improve educational outcomes, it’s natural to start from the bottom and move up. We start with the kids themselves, making sure they begin their schooling with the literacy and socialization tools they need to excel; then we focus our attention on teacher quality, the gradual improvement of which demands better ed programs and sensible forms of evaluation; we might even ponder our opaque system of cultivating principals and superintendents. But how often do we discuss the highest level of local education leadership, the school board? That’s what Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim do in their new book, profiled briefly by the Wall Street Journal. The two scholars
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I remember reading an interview with a successful business leader once. It went something like this:

Reporter: What’s the secret of your success?

CEO: Good decisions.

Reporter: How do you make good decisions?

CEO: Good judgment.

Reporter: How did you get good judgment?

CEO: Bad decisions.

I bring this up because yesterday I made a bad decision. May it please lead me to better judgment in the future.

It started on Monday, when I sent a tweet to advertise tomorrow’s Fordham Institute/Hoover Institution/Education Next conference marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report: 

This provoked a response from Chris Stewart, a.k.a. @citizenstewart, an African American education reformer. He and I went back and forth on whether the issue of single-parent families was a reasonable topic for discussion among education reformers—especially those of us who are not people of color.

I should have stopped there, and I’m sorry I didn’t.

But Tuesday morning, Education Next published its special Moynihan Report anniversary issue, along with the cover art.

I first saw the cover about a week ago, when a hard copy landed in my inbox. I knew right away that it would be controversial and wondered out loud to some friends and colleagues whether it crossed the line. (More...

  1. In case you missed it, Mike Petrilli was part of a panel in All Sides with Ann Fisher yesterday, talking about standardized testing in Ohio and parents who are opting their students out of said testing, especially in Columbus. As awesome as he was, Mike’s perspective is one that ed reformers and others know pretty well. I personally enjoyed listening to Columbus City Schools’ Machelle Kline. As executive director of accountability in the district, hers was a calm, informative and very welcome perspective that folks may not have heard before in the midst of other overheated rhetoric. Dr. Kline is a guest throughout the show; Mike comes in at about the 40 minute mark. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
     
  2. We told you yesterday about a new study conducted in Mahoning County on the achievement of students opting for open enrollment to other districts nearby. The Akron Beacon Journal have read it and have taken the unusual step to do what appears to be a review of it, using their own previous look at Summit County’s open enrollment numbers as their basis. That piece, from last year, was primarily about the program’s funding mechanism and about racial disparities seen in utilization. Neither of these issues was addressed in the Mahoning report. That doesn’t stop the ABJ from defining open enrollment as a program “which allows mostly white and middle class families to send children to neighboring school districts.” Of course the ABJ knows that it allows anyone who wants to go to
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  1. If you can stand one more story from last week’s education writer’s conference in Colorado, I can. Fordham’s Mike Petrilli said, “Ohio needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector” during one of the final panels at the event. As noted in the article, the state budget and another House bill included dozens of provisions to do just that. The state auditor will be adding his valuable input on reforms tomorrow morning, and the Senate is poised to do the same soon. Sounds like progress. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There are those who say that Mike’s comment is, shall we say, plain as the nose on one’s face. And since we’re going there, here’s another one: Columbus City Schools needs regular audits of many of its systems, processes, and departments. So opine the editors of the Columbus Dispatch today. They focus heavily on the example of the steaming pile of fail that is the district’s transportation department, as revealed last week in an internal auditor’s report. Small item not mentioned: actions needed to fix up this vital system may be budgeted for next year. Unless of course those rigorous audits unearth anything else that needs fixing even more urgently. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. In what might be called a case of “synergy”, two different newspapers are following the same story today: substitute teacher shortages in their areas. First up, Montgomery County. Journalist Jeremy Kelley talks mainly to suburban districts, all of which have been having trouble finding
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The sudden departure of Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, caught many by surprise—including Starr. That’s a depressing sign of a dysfunctional school board, one whose members failed to signal serious concerns with their superintendent, even as recently as last fall’s school board elections.

If the board has any hope of recruiting a talented new leader for MCPS, among the largest districts in the country with more than 153,000 students, it needs to be crystal-clear about the direction it wants the system to take. As an MCPS parent and incorrigible education reformer, let me offer a few suggestions.

First, MCPS needs to recommit to its core mission: dramatically raising student achievement. As Starr’s struggles with the board burst into public view, he made a last-ditch effort to convince its members, and MCPS’s many ardent constituents, of his commitment to narrowing the achievement gaps between poor and minority students and white and Asian students. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But the achievement gap is measured primarily by test scores, and Starr made his name by speaking out against tests. At the least, he sent a mixed message about his commitment to academic achievement.

It’s not entirely fair to blame him for that. Starr was hired in part because he represented a change in style...

  1. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill is quoted in this piece taking a good long look at online charter school ECOT. The headline probably says a lot about where the article intended to go from the outset: “turnover common at e-school.” That turnover is real, to be sure. The numbers don’t lie. But after reading the piece, I think that several someones at the Big D likely had their eyes opened a little about what really causes said turnover. As Aaron puts it: “The cost to make that transfer…is essentially zero.” As the ECOT rep puts it: “People [need] a short-term situation for a bullying situation, parents splitting, or they have a child… They have instability for that moment that doesn’t lend itself to a traditional school and how it’s structured.” And as a former ECOT student who didn’t complete a year in the school puts it: “It’s all you, pretty much…. You don’t really have a teacher standing over your shoulder telling you what to do, so I fell behind really fast. I think a lot of people are thinking it’s the easy way out. Honestly, that’s what I thought. But it really wasn’t.” Which of those statements makes you reevaluate what you think you know about online charters? (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Aaron wasn’t the only Fordhamite in the Ohio papes this weekend. Mike Petrilli was bonding with education writers in Colorado this week, including the Beacon Journal’s Doug Livingston. Doug reported this weekend on
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  1. Editors in Columbus opined on the value of standardized testing in schools and the small but vocal opter-outers making noise on the topic. They’re right on the money here, noting the slippery slope that could result from curtailing testing (farewell accountability system, farewell Common Core) while also noting some practical changes that could be made to testing protocols in the state to “dial down the anxiety”. Nice There’s a number of good quotes in here, but my personal favorite is:  “No 9-year-old has reason to fear a PARCC test unless an adult has instilled that fear.” Exceedingly true. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Last year, editors in Youngstown practically begged the state to take over the local schools – mired in years of fiscal and academic crisis and beset by bickering and turf warfare among adults who seem to have little interest in actually bettering education for students. Following Governor Kasich’s State of the State speech earlier this week, in which he said, “... anybody in this state that supports a reform agenda to put our children first, please come and see us… We will help you.” Today, those same editors renew their call for the district to reach out to the state with a plan for shaking up the status quo, and they throw in a plea to Youngstown State University to do the same. Yowza! (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. State Auditor Dave Yost is scheduled to testify on charter law reform in the Ohio House next week. I think
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