Ohio Policy

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is seeking to close a troubled charter school sponsor (aka authorizer), the Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center, Inc.

This blazes new territory for the nation's charter school program. While there have been many charter school closures over the years, there are no instances where a state has actually stepped in to close a sponsor. In fact, Ohio, Minnesota, and Missouri are the only states that give the state department of education the authority to revoke a charter school sponsor's right to authorize schools. (In most other states, authorizers are brought into being via statute, and they can only be decommissioned by the legislature. Ohio's General Assembly, for example, fired the State Board of Education as a charter school sponsor in 2003.)

According to press accounts the department wants to close Ashe for ???????not properly overseeing the spending of taxpayer money.??????? Specifically, Ashe has sponsored two schools that the state auditor has deemed ???????unauditable.??????? According to an investigation by the state auditor, the sponsor's chief executive officer took payments from a school where his wife ???????? a member of the school's governing board ???????? approved said payments to the sponsor. Considering the sponsor is supposed to represent the interests of the state ???????? including ensuring tax dollars are actually spent on the educational needs of children ???????? this seems an obvious conflict of interest.

Ashe's sponsored schools also have a woeful academic track record. Over two-thirds (67 percent) of Ashe-sponsored...

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Forget accusations of terrorism, it seems wise to shy away from involvement with Bill Ayers if only because his ideas on public education reform are, well ??? pretty awful.

Last weekend I went to Midtown Scholar, a used bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in search of chai tea. I wound up sitting in on a lecture on American public education delivered by Ayers ??? aka a giant helping of the Jonathan Kozol-esque public education can only be fixed with more money argument, complete with a side of cynicism toward ???right wing??? reform ideas and hoards of misinformation.

I'm not certain of the point of the discussion (to promote his books?), but Ayers' talk floated around three main points: first, the notion that poor children shouldn't receive less funding than their wealthier peers; second, the importance of teaching kids to ask ???why???? in the classroom ??? e.g. intellectualizing questions of social justice and inequality; and third, a poorly constructed argument that education policy debates should be driven primarily by the question ???are we giving poor children what we'd want our own children to have???? He cited Kozol a lot, peppered in romantic ideas about educating the whole child, and even recited a poem. (All of which is fine.) For a random audience of leftist types (not necessarily education experts) in the middle of Pennsylvania, who's to argue with that?

But Ayers quickly moved from sentimental to misleading. Without providing any nuance,...

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Eric Ulas

Spurred by a new report and the looming state financial crisis, the time may be right for school district consolidation for Ohio.?? According to the recent report by the Brookings Institute and The Greater Ohio Policy Center, the Buckeye State drastically needs to scale down its overabundance of local school districts.

Consider the numbers:

??? Ohio has 611 school districts, almost half of which (49 percent) serve fewer than 1,700 students each.

??? Ohio ranks 47th in the U.S. in actual K-12 dollars going into classroom instruction.

??? Ohio ranks 9th in spending on administrative overhead.

??? Ohio's administrative overhead costs are 49 percent above the national average.

Faced with such staggering figures, both Governor Ted Strickland and his Republican challenger John Kasich gave measured statements of approval to the notion of consolidation in a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal. Said Strickland:

''I think some of the administrative functions perhaps could be consolidated in a way that would be a cost saving, while at the same time allow the individual schools to maintain their colors, their mascots, their individuality,''

In the same article, Kasich called consolidation of services ''a very good starting point.''

Their cautioned responses reflect how thorny the idea of consolidation is in the local mindset. The Beacon Journal article went so far as to refer to school district consolidation as Ohio's ???third rail' of politics. Community identities are deeply rooted...

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OhioFlypaper

It's no surprise that Ohio's economy is in crisis, but you might be amazed at the price tag for some of Gov. Strickland's new education mandates. Terry points out the implications of decreasing class size in grades K-3 alone (to 15:1), which will cost $784 million per year by 2014. If you're wondering how, where, and when Ohio plans to come up with that money while facing an upcoming $8 billion deficit, join the club.

Meanwhile, Kathryn (the Fordham Foundation's director of charter school sponsorship) discusses Fordham's new contract with its charter schools. We're proud of Fordham's strict sponsorship (authorizing) contract, which allows schools maximum operational freedoms but requires that schools be held to high standards of operational and academic excellence. Be sure to check this piece out to learn what types of provisions are necessary for a high-quality contract between schools and their authorizers.

Also on the lineup is Emmy's response to the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), which recently asked why the district would want to utilize charter schools as part of its transformation plan. Emmy says, ???For starters, how about better-educated students???? and points out that six of the top ten schools in Cleveland are charters. As CTU moves to unionize charters, find out what's at stake.

And don't miss several great reviews and Editor's Extras, including Teach for America alum Jamie's review of TFA'S new book, Teaching as Leadership, which outlines six principles embodied by TFA's most highly effective teachers,...

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???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher training program at Hunter College that was formed...

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???????The overriding question is how will having a teachers union improve on our ability to educate all of our children and make sure they're ready to graduate from college? We respect that they represent the interests of teachers; we represent the interests of students.???????????

- Perry White, executive director of Citizens Academy, a Cleveland charter school that is one of the top-performing charters in Ohio, speaking to the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the Cleveland Teachers Union's efforts to unionize the city's charter schools.

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Since the troubled birth of charter schools here in 1997, school districts have had a love/hate relationship with them. Some district officials have sought to embrace them as part of their larger reform efforts, while others have done everything in their power to kill them off. A few leaders have actually done both simultaneously.

In 1997, then-Dayton Public School District Superintendent James Williams brought together a broad coalition of community leaders in an effort to convert five failing schools into district-authorized charter schools. At the time, charter schools were a brand new concept in the Buckeye State. Williams envisioned educational "high-flyers" with innovative teaching programs, longer school days, and a longer school year designed to boost student achievement. He dreamed of someday converting the entire district to charters. His plan was ultimately scuttled by the local teachers union, the same union that recently vetoed Dayton's application for Race to the Top funding.

Fast forward to 2010 ???????? Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eugene Sanders is pushing an Academic Transformation Plan that seeks real collaboration between the district and the city's current and future charter schools. The district is asking the city's top charters to join its "portfolio.??????? Yet, as Cleveland works to embrace charters as part of the solution, other districts continue to make life hard on charters. My colleague Kathryn wrote yesterday about the Cincinnati Public School District's lawsuit to prevent a prospective charter school operator from using a former district building he...

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Can a school district sell a school building and prohibit the buyer from opening a school in that building?

It seems laughable, but the Cincinnati Public Schools are suing an individual who purchased the district's vacant Roosevelt School because the purchaser plans to open a charter school in that space. Apparently, the sale agreement contained a provision requiring the purchaser to only use the property for commercial purposes. The purchaser bought the facility for $30,000 at auction, agreed to the terms, and then commenced with plans to open a charter school in the space (a plan that a city zoning inspector signed off on in October).

Setting aside the legal question of whether such a restrictive provision is void as against public policy, the lawsuit shows what a joke the state's charter school right of first refusal law really is. State law requires school districts to sell ???????suitable??????? classroom space by first offering the property for sale to start-up local charter schools. In five years of working in charter school authorizing, I don't think I've ever come across a district actually using this provision.

The reality is that are precious few high-performing schools serving Ohio's urban children. If a district is selling a facility, and there is a good charter school that could use it, this should be a no brainer. (For example, an outstanding charter school currently in need of facilities is Columbus Collegiate Academy -- one of the highest performing middle...

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In a recent poll of elementary school principals commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a majority of principals reported that recess has a positive impact on student achievement. While there's little doubt that physical activity is good for kids, helps them ???listen better??? and stay more focused in class, etc. (not to mention a hundred other worthwhile reasons for promoting physical activity), the methodology from the RWJF poll was less than satisfying.

As Education Week's Curriculum Matters points out, a principal's self-reported perceptions of student learning might not be convincing, especially compared to more ???concrete??? evidence like test scores (the blog goes on to highlight further studies showing the behavioral/social impacts from recess). RWJF's efforts to curb childhood obesity are certainly commendable. But what principal is going to tell a pollster that recess isn't positive for kids?

I don't doubt the power of play (just poll results), which is why this article from the Wall Street Journal was so satiating. WSJ featured a study from the Wharton School of Business that examined the returns from high school sports participation (especially for girls). The researchers looked at female sports participation before and after Title IX (a policy that improved gender equity in athletics) and thus were fortunate to have a quasi-experimental design on their hands. The study found that:

??????a 10-percent point rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1 percentage point increase in female...

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OhioFlypaper

Be sure to check out the latest edition of the Ohio Education Gadfly for some good snow day reading. With DC experiencing more precipitation than Ohio (a rare event) and the east coast getting hammered- we know some of you out there are buried indoors (and if you venture out, be sure to dress the part). Read Mike Lafferty's??piece about the history standards debate in Ohio (also relevant to North Carolinians, Texans, or anyone interested in the controversies of US/world history curriculum).

Dr. Doug Clay of Cleveland State University pens a guest editorial on what's wrong with Ohio's value-added system, and why it's critical to understand (and prevent) the yo-yoing effect inherent to the current methodology before making high-stakes decisions based on the data. Jamie points out a potential windfall for Ohio under the Center for American Progress' proposed Title I formula changes.

And don't forget to read several great reviews and Editor's Extras to stay abreast of the latest education research, news and factoids (and snow-themed videos, of course)....

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