Ohio Policy

This morning Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Commissioner of Education for the state of Massachusetts (and Fordham board member) David Driscoll spoke to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee about education reforms in their respective states.

The Buckeye State is in the midst of its biennial budget debate, and with the budget bill ? mangled in some areas yet also improved in a few ways by the Ohio House ? now on the Senate table, state senators were eager to hear from two leading education practitioners who have been down the road before. And the road to reform is rough; neither Bennett nor Driscoll minced words about Ohio's financial challenges, the pushback lawmakers and policymakers will receive along the way, and the difficulty in achieving comprehensive, statewide reform.

The good news for Ohio is that we're not alone in pursuing the reforms embedded in HB 153 (or even in SB 5) and Bennett's and Driscoll's testimonies reaffirmed that the state is on the right track.

Bennett ? whose past career as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and sports coach became apparent through the countless sports metaphors in his testimony (titles for his slides included...

Ohio is in the midst of a cosmic tussle around the future of its charter school program. Fordham's Checker Finn has been drawn into this in recent days (see here and here), and the New York Times even picked up on this yesterday with a great quote from Bill Sims of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The issue, in short, is whether for-profit charter operators should be allowed to operate free of any oversight beyond market forces. The proposed legislation from the Ohio House would neuter both non-profit governing boards and authorizers of their oversight responsibilities and authority, and give school operators carte blanche authority over virtually all school decisions. Let's be clear, we understand that oversight and accountability are things few people or organizations like if they can avoid them. Further, in Ohio charters have to pay their authorizers a fee of up to three percent of their per-pupil funding for this oversight, and that's money that could be spent on programs or in support of the bottom line.

But, consider the alternative. Let us imagine an Ohio without authorizers (aka sponsors in Ohio) or governing boards, which is what the House...

The status of the education of Hispanic students in the US is a hot topic of discussion. In this week's Ohio Education Gadfly, I reviewed a report from the Department of Education, Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community. The report described the recent rise in Hispanic population while highlighting the troubling status of education for them, including low participation in early education childhood programs and low graduation rates. Then today I read an article by Andy Rotherham that echoes a similar message of a rise in population, and a need for education reform for Hispanics. With all this recent talk I decided to dive into this topic a little bit and figure out what it means for our country and the State of Ohio.

Consider a few facts about the rise in the Hispanic population.

  • Between 2000-2010 the national Hispanic population grew by 15.2 million people ? accounting for over half of the overall population growth during that time period!
  • The Hispanic community is a young one with 17.1 million Hispanics under the age of 17
  • Hispanic students comprise 22 percent or one in five of all prek-12 students

The recent rise...

Today in the Columbus Dispatch is a must-read point-counterpoint set of op-eds about proposed changes to Ohio charter school law, including one by Fordham president and Ohio native Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The debate happening in the Buckeye State over the Ohio House's charter-related changes to the governor's budget, which would dramatically undermine accountability of charter schools as well as the separate groups that authorize and operate them, is an important one ? not just to Ohioans but to choice advocates nationally. As Checker argues, ?if the Ohio's House's version of the biennial budget makes its way into law, the state's mish-mash of a community-school? program will become a full-fledged contender for America's worst.? But with so many state capitols and legislatures run by charter-friendly Republicans, the debacle unfolding in Ohio should serve as a warning to other states, especially those with a smaller charter sector and less familiar with crafting policies and laws to ensure not only growth but smart growth and accountability.

The article by Tom Needles, lobbyist for the for-profit White Hat Management group and other charter groups, is misleading even in its title, ?Yes: Many states have similar laws that promote...

Ohio is in the midst of some serious and much-needed education reform. Unfortunately, the good stuff is getting lost in the noise of high-profile political controversies around relatively marginal issues like charter schools. Consider that only four percent of the states children attend charter schools; yet the political debate for the last week in Columbus around school reform has been almost exclusively around charters.

We've been drawn into this and haven't been shy about commenting (see here, here and here), but it has been seriously frustrating to be in this debate. In fact, the House charter language was so one-sided and out of kilter that it should never have even made it out of the House. If it had been presented to some of the state's charter school leaders ahead of time ??? like the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools ??? it would surely have been refined and improved upon before being put forth in the budget. Water under the bridge now, and hopefully the Senate will fix the mess passed their way.

Yet, despite the charter challenge, the House - building on some good stuff passed to them by the Governor - has...

Late last week the Ohio House released its amendments to the governor's biennial budget bill (HB 153). While the changes related to charter schools are atrocious ? as Terry pointed out in courageous fashion (winning the support of Democratic bloggers and organizations who would never typically string ?Fordham? and ?agree? in the same sentence together) ? changes related to teacher personnel provisions are a huge improvement.

In the original version, teacher personnel reforms were headed in the right direction but the details were off. While the bill eliminated LIFO, streamlined teacher dismissal procedures, and tried to establish meaningful performance evaluations and merit pay, it also retained antiquated variables like level of license (heavily correlated with having a master's degree) and highly qualified status as measures of ?performance? that would have allowed districts to continue making personnel decisions using these proxies for seniority. Teacher reforms are much clearer in the House version.

The timeline for the state superintendent (yet to be selected) to determine a model framework for teacher evaluations creates a sense of urgency (December 31, 2011); districts would have until July 2012 to submit their own frameworks. ?Teacher evaluations will...

Yesterday Gov. Kasich signed long-awaited legislation to enable Teach For America to have a home in the Buckeye State.?? Now that legislation is official ? and TFA can place teachers across all grades and subjects (the primary barrier for the last two decades) ? several important questions are cropping up. With which districts will TFA partner? How can it expect to place teachers as districts ? especially large urban ones like Cleveland that are likely TFA partners ? are laying off veterans? How can Ohio avoid headlines like this, and avoid tossing new corps members into a controversial thicket like what's happening in Kansas? (A friend emailed me right away to express excitement about the bill but as a traditionally trained teacher, this was her first question ? do you think TFAers should take jobs during layoffs? I had no good answer for her. I bet TFA will struggle with this one.)

Beyond the obvious questions about TFA's move onto Ohio soil, several other things stood out from the bill signing. First, despite wide-ranging support for the program, there's still a lot of opposition...

This morning in Fordham's hometown of Dayton, four education leaders and advocates working for change in the city of Dayton spoke on a panel. Among those in the audience included district leaders, parochial and charter school principals, and legislators. The panel included Fordham's Terry Ryan, the Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools Lori Ward, President of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School Dan Meixner, and Kevin Kelly, Dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton.

The panel spoke to the different challenges facing the Dayton community and the desperate need for education reform in the city. While the panelists disagreed about certain things there were two big areas of agreement that stood out.

The need for a supportive community

The moderator, Ellen Belcher from the Dayton Daily News, asked a question about what was needed of the Dayton community to foster reforms in education and move the city in the right direction. The panelists agreed that community support and involvement is crucial for education reform; however, they noted that it is extremely difficult to build in Dayton...

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