Additional Topics

Cheers to State Auditor Dave Yost, for going there. Charter law reform is a cause célèbre in Ohio. An influential report, a determined governor, and two bills being heard in House committees all feature excellent reform provisions, mostly in the “sponsor-centric” realm. But last week, Yost laid out some reform provisions that only an auditor would think of—things like accounting practice changes, attendance reporting changes, and defining the public/private divide inherent in many charter schools’ operations. These are all welcome additions to the ongoing debate from an arm of state government directly concerned with auditing charter schools.

Jeers to Mansfield City Schools, for nitpicking Yost and his team as they attempt to help the district avert fiscal disaster. Mansfield has been in fiscal emergency for over a year, and their finances are under the aegis of a state oversight committee. Yost’s team identified $4.7 million in annual savings opportunities. Instead of getting to work on implementing as many of those changes as possible, district administrators last week decided to pick holes in the methodology and timing of the report. Kind of like the teenager who swears “I’m going” just as Dad finally loses his cool. And the fiscal abyss is still out there.

Jeers to Shadyside Local Schools, for doing exactly the same thing as Mansfield. Although after eleven years in fiscal caution status, Shadyside is less a case of a petulant teen than of a failure to launch.

Cheers to Pickerington Schools Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson...

  1. Chad is quoted in the Columbus Dispatch’s big weekend gotcha story about the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a statewide online charter school that spends somewhere around 2 percent of its budget on advertising. It is that advertising that is the sticking point here, with some odd comparisons made to Columbus City Schools’ designated “recruitment” spending. The full Dispatch story is here. The story also hit the AP wire in various non-Columbus-centric versions and so that same headline popped up in media outlets across the state. Some – like this one from the Toledo Blade – include some edited input from Chad. Other versions do not.
     
  2. Q: When do you know a teacher’s union actually approves of a charter school? A: When they actively try to unionize it. “We are careful about where we look to organize,” OFT President Melissa Cropper says. “Although we believe that all teachers should have the right to organize if they so desire, we don’t feel right in organizing teachers in a school we are trying to shut down.” There are a lot of interesting details in here – from teachers, the union, and school leaders. Worth a read. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. The ABJ piece above notes that teachers at Franklinton Preparatory Academy, a Columbus charter school actively organized by OFT, voted last week in favor of unionizing. The vote was 5-4 and will be contested, but if it goes through, FPA will be the first non-district-sponsored charter school
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On Sunday, Mike spoke to the New York State Council of School Superintendents. These were his remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you for the kind invitation to speak to you today. I know that some of you are wondering what the folks at the Council were thinking in inviting me. Certainly there are a lot of angry people on Twitter wondering that. I hope that by the end of my talk, it might make a little more sense.

The title of my talk is “How to End the Education Reform Wars.” But as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve decided that this isn’t exactly the right title. That’s because you, as superintendents, don’t have it within your control to end this war. That’s because it’s not really about you. Especially here in New York, it seems clear to me that it’s a war between the governor and the unions, as well as between the reformers and the unions. It’s also a fight between the governor and Mayor de Blasio.

So the real question is how you can navigate these wars. A better title for my speech might be, “How to Survive the Education Reform Wars.” And how can you do so in a way that allows you to do good work for kids?

With all due respect, let me suggest three principles that might guide your advocacy work—to stand up for what’s right for kids while distancing yourself from the worst instincts of the unions:

  1. Be the voice
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  1. There was a full day of hearings on Governor Kasich’s proposed budget yesterday in the House Finance and Appropriations Committee’s Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Not sure if it was opponent testimony or just what they call “interested party” testimony, but everyone quoted in these two stories seemed pretty negative. First up, lots of union reps who a) didn’t like the funding formula changes proposed, and b) want many additional aspects of the bill (charter law reforms, increases in voucher amounts, testing changes, etc.) stripped out in favor of standalone legislation on these issues. You can read coverage of this testimony on Gongwer Ohio. On the topic of the funding formula, union friend Howard Fleeter did most of the talking. He’s not a fan. But neither he nor the other witnesses had much concrete to offer as an alternative. Said the subcommittee chair: “Every [potential formula] you look at has its own flaws.”  Coverage of Fleeter’s testimony is in the Columbus Dispatch.
     
  2. Speaking of Kasich, he was quoted on the record yesterday in regard to the tempest in a teacup that is parents opting their children out of standardized testing. What’s he got to say? Ohio is working on review of testing time via several mechanisms. “But I would encourage parents to let your kids be tested. I mean, I think it’s what you should be doing.” (Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland)

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...

There is no shortage of theories to explain how learning works and how teachers, as purveyors of knowledge, should disseminate that knowledge to students (though there tends to be a shortage of supporting evidence for any of them). In The Teaching Brain, doctoral candidate and former New York City schoolteacher Vanessa Rodriguez proposes yet another: Forget learning styles and multiple intelligences; teaching is all about “awarenesses”—of learners as individuals, of teaching practices, contexts, and interactions, and of one’s “self as a teacher.” 

She casts off older theories as antiquated, instinctive, and too student-centered, arguing that they’ve hindered educational innovation and stifled educators’ professional development. How students learn ought not be our only concern, she says. Instead, the book introduces “system-centered teaching,” which aims to infuse instruction with awareness of both how students’ brains work when they learn (“the learning brain”) and also how teachers’ brains work when they teach (the so-called “teaching brain”).

Because this is somewhat uncharted territory, a large portion of the book purports to examine the minds of expert educators. Rodriguez concludes that the brains of teachers differ considerably, which means that one-size-fits-all approaches to instruction are bound to fail. What may work for one teacher might not work for another. Instead, every educator has a unique optimal style of instruction, and each must work hard to unveil it.

Rodriguez infuses this section with an awful lot of new-age jargon, like “synergy” and “shared energy.” To find his or her best-fit teaching brain, a teacher needs to...

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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This article is part of a new Education Next series on the state of the American family that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 release of the Moynihan Report.

This may seem like a ridiculous question: How can schools possibly persuade more adults to marry—and not have children out of wedlock? Fifty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan himself decided it was inadvisable to offer solutions to problems afflicting minority families. Since then, our familial challenges have only grown deeper and wider, with four in ten American babies now born to unwed mothers. That includes a majority of all children born to women in their twenties and almost one-third of white babies. There are no obvious or easy prescriptions for reversing these trends.

And why put this on the schools? One could argue that reducing teenage pregnancy is a reasonable job for our education system—and that if we could encourage girls to wait until they were in their twenties, and educated, to have babies, they might also wait for marriage. Well, teenage pregnancy rates are down 50 percent from their peak in 1990. High school graduation rates are up from 65 percent in the early 1990s to 80 percent today. Yet out-of-wedlock birth rates are as high as ever—we merely pushed early childbearing from the late teens to the early twenties. Now the young adults having babies before marriage haven’t had any contact with the K–12 system for two years or more.

Yet for educators and education...

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