Ohio Policy


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formula that rewards publishing in scholarly journals over excellence in teaching and other contributions is outdated and too often favors the quantity of a professor's output over quality.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

Ohio's evaluation and tenure policies do not consider what should count the most about teacher performance: classroom effectiveness.?? Ohio does not require any objective measures of student learning in teacher evaluations and does not require annual evaluations for all teachers.?? It also does...

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 rating of Effective (???B???) to the Excellent (???A???) category. The ingredients of McGregor's success (and of other schools in our study) are too many for a blog, but one component stuck out and is worth sharing.

The principal and teachers alike expressed a commitment to constant improvement and appeared...

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 of that city's most troubled schools.

Whether or not Ohio is selected for federal Race to the Top funds, the state will have a better shot at achieving its stated goal of "radical change in a compressed time" if charters are brought in as a full partner in...

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 just won a major award.

--Jamie Davies O'Leary

Image courtesy of Our_Photo_Stuff at Flickr...

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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An article in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch delivered two important reminders regarding teacher performance-pay. First, even in cities that have experimented with it for several years (Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati) the results are incredibly difficult to measure. (Recall that even Texas, which has some of the oldest and most comprehensive performance pay plans, has mixed results.)??

Second ??? and most salient on everyone's minds ??? is the fact that performance-pay is very expensive. Districts relying on grant funding from programs like the national Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) or the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) eventually need to use their own funds to supplant grant money. The Dispatch provides an example:

The four Columbus schools that have been trying TAP the longest -- Easthaven and Parkmoor elementary schools, Champion Middle and South High -- are no longer funded by the grant, which means the district is picking up the tab. The grant for the four other schools -- Fifth Avenue and Lindbergh elementary schools, and Clinton and Starling middle schools -- will run out at the start of the next school year???. The district also must cut its budget by millions, a promise made by the school board in its 2008 levy campaign. There's no guarantee that TAP will continue.

With so many Ohio districts facing sizeable budget deficits (not to mention the tidal wave of costs resulting from Gov. Strickland's ???evidence-based??? mandates), maintaining ??? let alone expanding ??? performance-pay programs in Buckeye districts will be a challenge.

This makes Georgia Gov. Perdue's recent proposal to revamp the statewide teacher-salary schedule that much more interesting. Perdue has introduced legislation that would build performance-pay into the existing salary structure. Teachers opting in to the new system would forego salary...

Ohio has joined 39 other states and the District of Columbia in submitting its Race to the Top grant application to the Feds. The Buckeye State is seeking $409 million for ???????radical change in a compressed time.??????? Whether or not Ohio's plan is bold enough, and competes well against other states, is now awaiting the determination of reviewers at the U.S. Department of Education.

But in Ohio, many policy wonks and journalists believe that politics will surely intrude in the USDOE's decision making. This despite that fact that Secretary Duncan and the department have repeatedly insisted that politics will play no role in determining which states receive RttT grants.

Skeptics in Ohio point to last week's election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts and the struggles facing Democrats across the country and argue political calculations will rear their head in RttT grant determinations. Consider that this weekend Ohio newspapers ran headlines like ???????Ohio voters lean GOP once again??????? and ???????Strickland trails Kasich in race for governor, poll shows.???????

Ohio' RttT application plays up big-time Gov. Strickland's recently passed education reform plan in House Bill 1. Specifically, the application argues ???????Governor Strickland has strongly committed himself to H.B. 1, the most significant and comprehensive education reform in Ohio for decades and the cornerstone of the strategy reflected in our RttT application.???????

There is little doubt that in his re-election campaign Gov. Strickland will point to his education reform plan as a pivotal piece of legislation and one of the reasons he deserves another four years as governor.

Will the White House and the USDOE really say to a loyal Democratic governor in a major state facing a tough re-election that his signature policy reform isn't good...

Yesterday Terry responded on Flypaper to remarks made by the president of the Dayton Education Association (DEA) as to why the union turned down up to $5 million in federal Race to the Top money. (This, while the district faces a $5 million budget shortfall! Do the math.)

There is something specific about the DEA president's remarks worth addressing further. In response to a Dayton Daily News editorial arguing that the teachers union ???let kids down by saying no to millions,??? she said:

It is totally wrong, and indeed inappropriate, to claim that Dayton teachers do not care for their students.

Her evidence of Dayton teachers' commitment to children is that they spend, on average, ???$500 a year of their personal funds for materials and supplies for their classrooms.??? Whether or not teachers care about students is totally beside the point (although it's an oft cited defense any time teachers unions are the target of critique). And pointing to teachers' supply receipts doesn't refute the underlying reasons the DEA is being criticized: intentionally stifling reform, and rejecting much-needed funding for its students.

Not many people would doubt that Dayton teachers are committed to children. But this commitment (as evidenced by extraneous purchases, long hours, or any one of the countless sacrifices that teachers make for their kids) does not offset the need for serious evaluations to be sure that all teachers are doing what they were trained, recruited, and hired to do ??? help students progress academically.

The more germane question is whether or not teachers perceive it as their fundamental responsibility to move students forward academically (as opposed to being caring and committed) and prepare them for college and life success.?? For example, you may be surprised to learn...

Last week I, and others, took the Dayton Education Association to task for its decision to scuttle the district's participation in the state's Race to the Top application. To understand this criticism, consider that the union rejected RttT funds in the face of a $5 million budget shortfall caused by rising home foreclosures and delinquent property taxes.

Further, Dayton's school district has seen 10,000 students flee for charters and other places in the last decade (shrinking from 24,000 students to about 14,000 students) and enrollment in the DEA has dropped from 2,000 in 1998 to about 1,100 in 2008. During this time the union has steadfastly resisted any serious reform, despite real efforts by different superintendents and school boards over the last decade. Dayton is perennially ranked as one of the lowest performing districts in Ohio, battling the likes of Cleveland and Youngstown for the dubious distinction of worst in the Buckeye State.????

If any urban school district in America needs reform, it's Dayton, and the reforms embedded in RttT are steps in the right direction. When asked why the DEA rejected RttT funding, here is what the union president had to say:

How would you like your job to be based on criteria over which you had no control? Let's say you are an editorial writer for a city newspaper. How would it be for your evaluation to be based on how many ads your paper sold? Understand, you are not being evaluated for your skills as a writer, but for something completely out of your control.

Similarly, a number of teachers in the Dayton school district felt that tying test scores to evaluations was unfair and had no bearing on a teacher's skill.

???????????Now we see...