Ohio Policy

???????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.

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...

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...

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...


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)....

Ohio State University President Gordon Gee has been in the press lately for his ideas to ???reinvent??? higher education (including changes to the way professors are awarded tenure). Gee probably isn't unique in recognizing the perverse incentive structure inherent to the university tenure process, as reflected in this quote??in the LA Times:

The traditional formula that rewards publishing in scholarly journals over excellence in teaching and other contributions is outdated and too often favors the quantity of a professor's output over quality.

But Gee is exceptional in his willingness to swim against the current, by openly speaking against the holy grail of postsecondary and K-12 education alike ??? educators' tenure. In fact, it's probably the only time you'll read the words ???bold??? and ???tenure??? and the name of an Ohio education leader in the same sentence.

Admittedly, arguments for and against tenure differ dramatically at the university and K-12 level (there are legitimate reasons to incentivize non-teaching work in universities) and it's important not to conflate them. But the sentiment behind what Gee is doing ??? suggesting dramatic changes to the status quo and probably ruffling a lot of feathers in the meantime ??? is something that K-12 leaders would do well to emulate.????

The National Council on Teacher Quality, in its recent State Teacher Policy Yearbook (a look at state laws, rules and regs over the teaching profession), gave Ohio a D+.?? Our inability to ???exit ineffective teachers??? is one area...

Yesterday morning I visited McGregor Elementary, a school in Canton, Ohio serving students in preschool through sixth-grade, and doing it very well. The building sits practically across the street from the sprawling Timken Co. steel plant, nestled in a neighborhood you might describe as working class. Even if you've never been to a northeastern Ohio city, the surroundings immediately feel familiar. It reflects the quintessence of old industrial cities, the kind whose rapid job loss and demographic shifts leave them looking worn and a little forgotten.

Glancing at some basic data, the school appears similar to other Canton City Schools: student mobility is slightly higher than the district average; its average per pupil expenditure nearly meets the district mean; its teachers are a notch above the district in terms of years of experience and salary.

But, over 90 percent of McGregor's student population (just shy of 400 students) is economically disadvantaged, and the school??knows how to educate poor kids well.??Without getting into too much nitty gritty (you'll get to hear more in a forthcoming Fordham-Ohio report this May), the school consistently meets Adequate Yearly Progress, posts achievement test scores that outpace the district average, and exceeds expected growth on state tests with its students.

That McGregor teachers don't take academic achievement lightly is reflected in one motto among staff this school year -- ???1.1 away from Excellence??? ??? the number of points that would move them from the...

Ohio has the sixth-highest charter school enrollment in the nation ???????? about 90,000 children attend a Buckeye State public charter school.???? In cities like Dayton and Cleveland, some of the top-performing schools are charter schools.???? Cleveland's superintendent plans to turn some buildings over to charter operators through his district transformation plan, and community, business, philanthropic and education leaders have rallied to support the state's most promising charters, including Ohio's first KIPP school.???? But a reader of Ohio's Race to the Top application wouldn't realize any of this in reading the state's pitch to the feds for $400 million.

As Terry points out in the Columbus Dispatch, the application makes clear that while charters exist in Ohio, they are tolerated at best by current state leadership and won't be a major component of any state-led reform efforts.???? This is particularly perplexing when it comes to school turnarounds:

By contrast, the applications for Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado not only recognize the good efforts of individual charter schools and charter support groups but also terms such organizations critical partners in their school turnaround efforts (another key component of the application).

Ohio's application is silent on any role for charters in turning around the state's 69 "persistently lowest-achieving schools" despite the fact that most brick-and-mortar charters operate in the state's neediest neighborhoods. Consider, for example, that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District now favors the use of charters in turning around some...

Remember in the movie, A Christmas Story, when Ralphie's dad wins the infamous leg lamp, places it in the family's front window, and shouts to the neighborhood that he's won a ???major award????

That's kind of what happened yesterday when Gov. Strickland announced in his State of the State that Ohio had won an award for ???the most innovative education system in the country.??? Turns out, Ohio was recognized (conveniently just moments before Strickland's speech) by the Education Commission of the States as recipient of 2010's Frank Newman Award, which ???recognizes states and territories for demonstrated excellence in shaping education policy.??? The basis for Ohio's win? Strickland's move to channel increased spending through new school reforms, enshrined in H.B. 1 (which, as I'm certain you know by now, we think are overly prescriptive and misguided).

Feel like you're standing in the snow staring at a glowing leg? Me too. We looked up the list of Frank Newman recipients for past years, and it's not a ranking of innovation so much as a student-of-the-month honor for states. Kentucky, Alaska, North Dakota, and Tennessee are the most recent winners, and while there's nothing to bash about various reforms in winning states (pre-k, technology, etc.), Ohio's receipt of this award is a far stretch from saying that it symbolizes that we are ???the most innovative education system in the country.???

But try telling that to a man who's...


Make sure you catch the latest Ohio Education Gadfly! In this edition Terry comments on the state's snub of charters in its Race to the Top application and reminds us what good things charter schools are doing in Ohio;??Mike Lafferty shows us how Ohio's recent Quality Counts ranking is good news for adults ??? but maybe not for students; and Jamie and Eric examine the claims of success made by advocates of the evidence-based funding model. (Hint: other ???evidence-based??? model states aren't doing so hot!) Throw in some excellent Short Reviews, Flypaper's Finest and Editor's Extras, and you've got all your up-to-date Buckeye State education news and analysis in one neat little package!

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