Ohio Policy

A bill has been proposed in the Ohio House of Representatives (HB 319) that would require parents of students who attend school districts rated Continuous Improvement (a "C" rating) or lower to attend a parent-teacher conference.

That's right, require. If you're thinking that Ohio districts rating "C" or lower tend to be those districts that are poorer, and whose families/parents tend to be lower-income, that's an accurate generalization. And if you think that's a confusing thing for House Democrats to rally behind (among all of the exciting education ideas floating around), I agree. But it's less confusing given the track record of Ohio Democrats and the political context that can confuse any Democrat that sets foot onto Ohio soil.??

On the one hand, it seems that the House Democrats who sponsored this bill have been listening to President Obama's remarks about parents' responsibility over their students' education:

"Parents, if you don't parent, we can't improve our schools. You've got to parent. You've got to turn off the television set in your house once in a while, you've got to put the video game away once in a while...You should have a curfew in your house so your children aren't out in the streets all night. You should meet with the teacher and find out what the homework is and help that child with the homework. "

However, when it comes to a majority of the reforms Obama and Duncan talk about - teacher...

Ohio education policymakers seem to have a split personality when it comes to what they say they care about and what they fund. The frequency and impact of this disconnect make it all the more frightening.????????

This Jekyll-and-Hyde contrast was evident today when education experts gathered ????in Dayton to discuss the state of the state's schools at a discussion sponsored by the Ohio Grantmakers Forum (our Terry Ryan was a panelist).

Tom Lasley, dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton, pointed out that Ohio now requires all-day kindergarten, yet the same piece of legislation which mandated that devastated early learning funds that help prepare children for school. ????Meanwhile Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Stanic pointed out that children are entering Dayton schools and they're already two years behind.

Lasley complained equally about the other end of the K-12 continuum - the state decimated funding for its nine early college academies that have produced good results for inner city high schoolers. ????It's the same with the "Seniors to Sophomores" program in which high school students could earn college credit, cut ????a year out of college, and save thousands in tuition and room-and-board money. ????Despite Ohio's commitment to get 270,000 more people through our colleges and universities, "Seniors to Sophomores" was abandoned as well.

Notice a trend here?

While Ohio's leaders talk a lot about wanting to implement certain reforms, when the...

This conversation about churches authorizing charter schools has raised my hackles. Not because it deals with religious organizations overseeing public schools and ensuring that public dollars are spent well (a conversation absolutely worth having), but because the conversation is happening in Ohio, where we already have too many charter school authorizers (70+ sponsors serving about 310 schools) - especially if the goal of authorizing is to birth and oversee great schools.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been sponsoring (as authorizing is called here) charter schools in the Buckeye State since 2005, and as such we have learned a ton about the business. First and foremost, that providing high-quality oversight of public charter schools is costly and time-consuming, and this is if things go well. Being a sponsor in Ohio means not only holding schools accountable for their results (and ultimately making life or death decisions about schools), but also helping schools navigate a myriad of regulatory and legal issues.

Our base sponsorship agreement with schools is more than 30 pages long - and this doesn't include dozens of pages of attachments - and deals with issues ranging from responsibilities of parties to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Quality sponsorship requires serious legal expertise.

In Ohio, many sponsors make their economics work by not only sponsoring schools (for this you can charge up...


This week's edition opens with a timely look at Senate Bill 180 - a pending piece of legislation that would make Ohio more competitive for Race to the Top dollars (you'll definitely want to check out Terry's testimony, as well as testimony from two dynamic Teach For America alums who spoke about their maddening experience to try to get certified in Ohio).

??Terry Ryan testimony in support of Ohio SB 180

John Dues and Abbey Kinson testimony in support of Ohio SB 180

Next in the lineup, Mike highlights the grave funding cuts to Ohio's early college academy high schools and their decision to form a lobbying group to stay afloat. Eric discusses the performance gap between Ohio NAEP math scores and the state test results; this disconnect, though not unique to Ohio, should inform lawmakers and education officials who may be plowing forward in drafting Ohio's academic standards and possibly reneging on their commitment to the Common Core Initiative.

Also check out an interesting piece on STEM education, Flypaper's Finest, Kalli's review on achievement gaps and another on district portfolio management. Finally, for anyone...

I'll take??Emmy's bait. I have no objection to churches working as authorizers, if they can do it well. Many of course run schools themselves-and some good ones, ones that we (Fordham) have been urging ed reformers to find ways to support and sustain. I haven't read Brookwood's application, so all I know is what google serves up, which includes this nice story about the church's work serving 54 special ed students "in grades seven through 12, including those with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and/or an autistic diagnosis." It certainly sounds like they're "education oriented," contrary to ODE, and (perhaps) that they've had some success.

So to me the question isn't whether they're a church, a tutoring program, a university, or a nonprofit think tank-it's simply whether they have the competence and the commitment to hold charter schools to a high standard, educationally, fiscally, and organizationally. I think ODE needs to have high standards for its authorizers, but it's distressing, if true, that Brookwood was rejected not on any of those grounds, but because they're a church.

A central Ohio church has appealed the Ohio Department of Education's denial of its application to become a charter school authorizer (more on the story here, subscription required):

Brookwood [Presbyterian Church], doing business as Brookwood Community Learning Center, submitted a 49-page application to the ODE in November 2007 for approval as a charter school sponsor.

The church said that instead of reviewing application materials, the ODE determined that "neither the national Presbyterian church nor Brookwood Presbyterian Church is eligible to apply to become a sponsor" because they are not "education oriented" entities as required under state law.

"Despite the fact that nothing in the Ohio Revised Code prohibits a religious organization as such from ... being approved as a sponsor of community schools in Ohio, ODE's decision made it clear that the applicant's status as a church alone was a disqualifying fact in the eyes of ODE: 'also please know that no church has been approved as a sponsor,'" the church told justices.

It is true that no churches serve as authorizers in Ohio, but church-related organizations are certainly active in the charter sector with the knowledge and approval of the state.????Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio (ERCO) authorizes more than twenty charter schools in the Buckeye State.???? It was founded by Christ Tabernacle Ministries and the church still retains the rights to ERCO's trade name.???? Another state-approved authorizer, St. Aloysius Orphanage, oversees more than 30 schools and has deep roots...

Core Knowledge and Joanne Jacobs both picked up on a blog this week by Linda Perlstein, who says that Obama is "wrong" to suggest that teachers are the single most important factor related to student achievement. Perlstein points out that this is accurate only in that "of the various factors inside school, teacher quality has had more effect on student test scores than any other that has been measured."


I don't think it's fair to suggest that Obama has misrepresented the evidence. He didn't say "of all things measured and non-measured on the earth, teacher quality is the most important." Of course not everything has been measured, but do you expect the president to include that nuance in a 20 minute speech? Moreover -I don't see the point in asking policymakers or politicians to clarify that teacher quality is just an "inside school" factor (which actually Obama did mention in the quote Perlstein uses).?? Of course we're only talking about inside school factors. Those touting teacher quality as a critical factor to student achievement are not claiming it's paramount to everything else, ever --just that it's the most important factor thus far that we've measured, and that we actually have some degree of control over.

And, given how much public money we spend on teachers (their salaries and benefits make up about 80 percent of districts' overall budgets) should we really be surprised when politicians talk about teacher quality and not the...

Fordham, along with Catalyst Ohio and the FDR Group, conducted a survey this past spring that measured Ohioans' attitudes on a variety of education issues (note: the sample was 1,002 randomly selected Ohio residents and was the third of its kind -??following 2005 and 2007 surveys). When asked about teacher efficacy as it relates to impacting poor students, the Fordham poll found a relatively even split among respondents. Slightly fewer Ohio residents (46 percent) identified with the statement "good teachers lead even students who are poor and have uninvolved parents to learn what they are supposed to" than the statement "It is too hard even for good teachers to overcome these barriers" (48 percent).

These survey results indicate that roughly half of Ohioans think good teachers can make a difference in student lives despite obstacles such as poverty, while the other half holds to the more traditional view that socioeconomics??has more weight??than teachers when it comes to impacting student learning.

Views on teacher efficacy from "Checked Out: Ohioans Views' on Education 2009" survey

* Numbers do not add to 100 due to rounding.

These results are especially interesting when contrasted with the recently released Public Agenda results from the survey, "Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today."

This survey is markedly different from the Fordham survey in that it surveyed only teachers and not the general public....

Here's an interesting article about Harlem Success Academy, a??New York City charter school whose kindergarten field trip to a farm is more than a cute story about pumpkins and cows.

"The schools haul their students to a farm each year, hoping to expose them to rural life and lift their [test] scores," since questions on New York state tests often center on "livestock, crops, and other staples of the rural experience." A Harlem Success Academy teacher explains, "[the students] are good at reciting and remembering things, but they can't make the connection unless you show it to them."

For most students growing up in urban environments, state test questions that include passages about milking, plowing, cornstalks, and pumpkins are foreign and therefore more challenging, and "educators have long known that prior knowledge of a subject can significantly improve a child's performance on tests."

Though there's no way of knowing the precise impact that such field trips will have on Harlem Success students' test results, this charter school is right to emphasize the importance of content and background knowledge, especially for young readers. Such "real-world" learning might even impress the "21st century skills" camp, although the purpose for Harlem Success Academy's field trips seems less about?? fostering critical thinking, innovation, or creativity (those buzzwords that 21st century folks have a proclivity for) and more about overcoming deficiencies in background knowledge experienced by their...

I'm usually not the first person to throw my hands up in response to extracurricular programming being cut from schools. If something's got to go in this economic climate, better to be athletics and arts than social studies testing or early college academy high schools.??

Still, it's disconcerting that Ohio schools districts like Reynoldsburg have no junior varsity sports programs left, in part because families can't afford the required $500 athletic fees. And South-Western schools-who have already lost athletic and extracurricular programs- are in the news again as they hinge their hopes on the upcoming November levy. Even if it passes, athletes will still have to pay $150 per sport and there are no waivers for low-income students. For Big Walnut schools, pay-to-play fees could rise to as high as $300 if voters don't pass the upcoming levy.

Why care about cuts to sports programs? I admit that as a lifelong soccer player, I lack neutrality. But more important than my bias is the fact that many student athletes spend years getting good at their sport because it provides a pathway to college. College access can broaden exponentially for student athletes, particularly those whose families don't have savings or the willingness to take on exorbitant amounts of student loan debt.

For some Reynoldsburg students, nearly 30 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, I'd guess that a $500 fee not only threatens their eligibility for a sports season, but potentially blocks their...