Additional Topics

  1. A “rock star teacher” in Elyria says she is leaving the profession at the end of this year because her “special education students are suffering under the new system based on Common Core standards and more rigorous assessments.” (NorthCoast Now)
     
  2. Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost wants to make sure state law explicitly forbids felons from serving on charter school boards after routine audits of two schools turned up individuals with felony convictions on their boards. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Madison Schools in Lake County voted to continue outsourcing a large chunk of its transportation services, approving a new five-year contract with its current vendor. Local union reps and another private company also submitted proposals, but there were issues with both of those bids, detailed here. Hopefully this will be the end of it for the next five years. I say that because the original privatization effort ended up in court back in 2009. You can probably guess why. (Willoughby News-Herald)
     
  4. It is often said that without parental involvement, schools can only do so much to help children, especially children whose economic and family circumstances are less than ideal. That sentiment was articulated again
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THERE HE GOES AGAIN
Louisiana Governor and potential presidential candidate Bobby Jindal released a forty-two-page education-reform proposal urging lawmakers to repeal Common Core on grounds of federal intrusion. Fordham’s Michael Brickman doesn’t think Jindal’s Common Core claims pass the sniff test, but notes that other policies outlined in the proposal, such as ramped-up school choice and charter school efforts, are worth discussing.

WE'LL VOUCH FOR THAT
As the 2016 election crunch approaches, Republicans may be able to put the national spotlight on school vouchers. Though past attempts to expand the voucher program have met with opposition, GOP leaders hope to broaden the school-choice conversation by making it a central issue in the party’s platform. And as our own Chester E. Finn Jr. reports, some high-profile Democrats are finally willing to play ball.

ACROSS THE DIVIDE
NPR offers a poignant look at the vast, if predictable, disparities in college-advising services between Michigan’s tony Cranbrook Schools and an under-funded public school in northeast Detroit. One activist admits resignedly that “your ZIP code can really determine what your future will look like.”

EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT: INDIANA
Political junkies and ed-reform observers are turning their attention to...

Cheers to State Representatives Mike Dovilla and Kristina Roegner. They are the sponsors of House Bill 2, a high-priority bill introduced early in the 131st General Assembly that would remedy long-neglected deficiencies in Ohio’s charter school law, including in transparency, sponsor/school relationships, board roles, and accountability.

Cheers to Governor John Kasich, whose FY 2016–17 state budget also includes important charter school reforms, especially in the area of sponsor quality (which you can read about elsewhere in this issue of Ohio Gadfly). While there are incentives being proffered for achieving higher quality, it should not be overlooked just how much the bar is being raised in Ohio. If the governor is successful, sponsors and schools who fail to reach the mark will not just miss out on incentives; they will be out of the education business.

Jeers to the drawing of false battle lines. Walnut Township Schools in rural Fairfield County is heading for a fiscal abyss. They must cut nearly a million dollars from their budget by February 10 or risk being placed under fiscal emergency by the state. At an emergency board meeting on February 4, a budget-cutting plan was unanimously approved, which still...

  1. Editors in Akron opine on the district funding proposals in the governor’s budget. They seem cautiously optimistic. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  2. Patrick O’Donnell dives deep into proposed charter school reforms in both the governor’s budget and in HB 2. He and those he interviews seem to have concerns about what they see as a “sponsor-centric” approach to reform. It is a complex topic, as is clear by the length of the piece and the sheer number of voices included, and some details are missed. But overall, it’s a superior discussion at what will be an important issue in the early months of the 131st Ohio General Assembly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Another hot topic in the realm of school choice is the EdChoice Scholarship Program. The application window is now open and tens of thousands of students across Ohio are eligible to leave their persistently-low-performing public schools to go to a private school of their choice with a voucher. Once they find the right fit, they can stay in their private school all the way through graduation, no matter if the performance of their assigned district school improves. It is likely this latter issue that has some folks
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TFA TROUBLE
Teach For America’s slipping numbers continue as they experience their second year of diminishing applicant numbers. The group says the appeal of an improving job market is to blame, while some aspiring teachers have deep concern with TFA’s two-year long model. Perhaps played down in the article is a shift to diversify cohorts of teachers, which could also be a factor in diminishing numbers.

LOOKING FOR MIDDLE GROUND
Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are reportedly putting their heads together to create a bipartisan proposal for ESEA renewal. Yet there is much skepticism as to whether a fully collaborative bill will be produced; last week, Lamar Alexander said that an NCLB update didn’t necessarily have to start with a bipartisan product. When the Senate Education Committee passed a bill in 2013, not one Republican voted for it.

HEASTIE FROM THE BLOCK
Bronx legislator Carl Heastie has been elected to replace the recently resigned Sheldon Silver as speaker of the New York State Assembly, granting him the power to decide which bills are considered and which aspects of the state budget are negotiated. His (relatively quiet) views on education will be important...

  1. Giant geekout at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday – better known as Straight-A Innovation Day, where schools, consortia, and projects funded by the previous two rounds of state innovation grants were showcased. The AP story is a little dry, so if you’re looking for more juice, check out Twitter and search #StraightADay. My favorite was from a young lady who Tweeted: “You know it’s a good day when the governor compliments your robot.” Indeed. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Speaking of technological geekouts, this story is about a student in Pennsylvania who is attending school from home via robot while his broken leg heals. It is clipped in an Ohio paper, however, and one local supe sounds pretty stoked by the idea. There IS another round of Straight A Funds called for in Governor Kasich’s new budget. Just sayin’. (Ashtabula Star Beacon)
     
  3. Speaking of the governor’s budget, that squawking he predicted over school district funding changes is continuing. Here are two pieces from Ohio’s largest cities. First up, a look at proposed changes for rural districts in greater central Ohio from the Columbus Dispatch. Some special attention is paid to Walnut Township Schools, whose dire fiscal situation has
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THE SWEET SMELL OF CREEPING DISILLUSIONMENT
The older students get, the more pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) they become regarding their future job prospects, according to this Gallup Student Poll. While 68 percent of fifth graders strongly agreed with the statement, “I know I will find a good job after I graduate,” only 48 percent of twelfth graders expressed the same sentiment. Whether this is a reflection of the rough young adult job market or a simple loss of youthful optimism, schools are increasing focus on their students’ college and career readiness.

STATE YOUR BUSINESS
Senator Lamar Alexander has indicated his leaning towards keeping federal testing requirements in the new ESEA bill, but giving states the freedom to choose how they use it to hold their schools accountable. Michael Petrilli says it well: “States should continue to experiment with various interventions in low-performing schools. But let’s admit that we don’t know precisely what that should look like, and thus we definitely shouldn’t prescribe a particular approach from Washington.”

CAP'S OFF
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unveiled his proposal for the 2015-17 education budget, with plans to extend voucher participation beyond the thousand-student cap and increase accountability...

  1. Yesterday saw a Q&A between House Education Committee members and the sponsors of HB 2 (the charter law overhaul bill) as well as the start of committee hearings on HB 7 (the bill which would, among other things, give students a “safe harbor” from PARCC test results). Not much to say at this point on the testing bill – that will come – but it was interesting to hear how very open the sponsors of HB 2 were to lots of other recommendations to improve the charter sector over and above what’s already in the bill. Call us, members of the committee, we have some more recommendations. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Editors in Cleveland opine on standardized testing in Ohio today. The specific issue of cutting testing time is not yet on the legislative radar, but the calls continue. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Cleveland also opined on the governor’s budget proposal this week, saying “there’s a lot to like” in it. Among the education provisions, charter law reforms get a thumbs-up from PD Tower while district funding reforms get a wait-and-see-but-we’re-inclined-to-be-bothered. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. One of the things the PD’s editors wanted to wait-and-see about
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  • President Obama released his 2016 budget proposal this week, and the media welcomed it with loads of over-analysis. Yet Congress has no use for it.  One Republican House member went so far as to call it “laughable.” It won’t guide legislation for the next twelve months, regardless of what it says about testing or charter schools or anything else. Moreover, the Republicans’ aversion is based on far more than partisanship. The $4 trillion budget is packed with new taxes, yet still isn’t balanced—a major problem when the government is already borrowing money for the programs we have. The White House called it the “beginning of a negotiation.” Translation: It’s unreasonable, and they know it.
  • On Monday, comments closed on the Department of Education’s proposed regulations designed to improve the quality of teacher-preparation programs. Two noteworthy changes would be the collection and distribution of more meaningful data on program quality and the withholding of TEACH grants if programs aren’t up to par. Both are worthwhile upgrades, considering the grisly state of U.S. teacher training. Not surprisingly, the major teacher and professor advocacy groups opposed the regulations, including the American Federation of Teachers and the
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How do we get new and better private schools of choice? That’s the question AEI’s Michael McShane and a cadre of researchers and practitioners dive into in this new edited volume. The book and a corresponding conference acknowledge that “better is not good enough.” Indeed, for far too long, supporters of school choice have been content with merely providing alternatives to district school options on the assumption that choice was a sufficient guarantor of quality. Instead, this book calls for a “nimble, agile, and market-driven” system of schools. Among the high points is Andy Smarick’s look at what has worked in chartering: incubation (leadership pipelines, start-up capital, strategic support, and political advocacy) and network building. He also reprises his call for “authorizers” to oversee publicly funded private schools. McShane agrees that this model could “provide oversight without stifling the set of options available for school choice.” Perhaps. But private schools, from Catholic schools to those providing alternative curriculum, often see themselves as working toward ends that are more than academic. Could they maintain their distinctive flavor in a marketplace that could devalue their mission? New and Better Schools is a smart look forward in private school choice programs...

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