Ohio Policy

Eric Ulas

Education Week features an insightful new study that finds excellent teachers tend to raise the performance of their peers.

We've known for a long time that great teachers matter hugely to student performance but showing a ???spillover effect' of teachers on other teachers has the potential to influence attitudes and practices in several important policy areas; primarily teacher merit pay and mentoring programs.

C. Kirabo Jackson, one of the study's authors noted:

If it's true that teachers are learning from their peers, and the effects are not small, then we want to make sure that any incentive system we put in place is going to be fostering that and not preventing it. If you give the reward at the individual level, all of a sudden my peers are no longer my colleagues-they're my competitors. If you give it at the school level, then you're going to foster feelings of team membership, and that increases the incentive to work together and help each other out.

A team-based performance incentive system is an intriguing idea that critics of individual merit-based pay might see as middle ground.

The results of this study can also be applied to teacher mentoring programs. Recent studies have shown that highly structured teacher mentoring programs have marginal effectiveness. But in seeing evidence that top-notch teachers affect peers, might it be possible that more informal mentoring programs would produce better results?

Having experienced a highly structured mentoring program in an urban...

Do you want a nitty gritty view of how funding issues and accountability ratings affect local school districts? Then you won't want to miss this week's Ohio Education Gadfly. Mike spends some time with school district officials, who share their views ??on how Gov. Strickland's new "evidence-based" education model will affect their students, their teachers, and their bottom line (fyi, many of them are still in the process of figuring it out). Next, Terry gets controversial when he talks about why Kettering City Schools - who received a "C" grade, even though it met far more academic goals than other "C" districts like Cincinnati Public or Columbus City Schools - reflects what's wrong with Ohio's rating system. Want to witness the controversy? Read the comments after his editorial in the Dayton Daily News.?? In another (not-so-happy) story, Mike looks at closures of preschools and early college academy high schools sweeping the Buckeye State. Emmy reminds us to check out Fordham's sixth annual analysis of Ohio urban school performance, and compiles the excellent media coverage by state newspapers who highlighted our analysis (yes, we're proud of this). Other features include a look at NYC's "School of One" pilot program and a timely review that discusses performance management in school districts (think Los Angeles and New Orleans). And don't miss this week's videos under "recommended viewing" - the first features Fordham sponsored charter school Columbus Collegiate Academy (great job Laura and Eric!), and...

One frequently hears arguments that redirect blame from failing schools (and their teachers and principals) to ubiquitous social monsters that are bigger and hairier (poverty, broken families, crime) but also impossible to hold accountable.?? I get this. There are undeniable correlations between student achievement and socioeconomic status. When I taught in Camden, New Jersey (then the second poorest city in the US) I could empathize when my colleagues said--in so many words--that a student's failure simply wasn't their fault. Having been schooled in Teach For America's no excuses curriculum, this abdication of blame was foreign to me. But seeing up close the level of poverty that ravaged our school's neighborhood, and the kinds of unspeakable problems that come with that, I couldn't help but make peace (if not always agreeing) with the tendency for educators in persistently failing schools to point to the outside social forces that make their work so difficult.

This comment by Metro Association of Classroom Educators chairman John Trotter (affiliated with Atlanta Public Schools), however, is a new way to redirect blame, and one that I can't make peace with.

Duncan apparently thinks that you can just demand and command improvement...He wants to replace everyone...except the ones who matter, the children.

They are unmotivated and lazy. Yes, there are many incompetent and idiotic and mean administrators who need to go. There are even some bad teachers, but these are really rare. The problem starts with the students. What is Duncan going to do with


The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Friday that Cincinnati Public Schools will be the focus of a study by The New Teacher Project (TNTP). TNTP will analyze teachers' contracts in hopes of proposing policy changes in a report scheduled to come out a few weeks before the district's contract expires with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

There are two reasons this is such exciting news. First, TNTP is well known for creating effective partnerships with urban districts and churning out reports that can improve district staffing practices immensely.?? Cincinnati Public Schools could greatly benefit from this. For two of TNTP's very impressive reports that offer recommendations on improving district staffing procedures, see Missed Opportunities and Unintended Consequences.

The second reason to be excited is simply that Ohio needs more partnerships with groups like TNTP, whose consultants can offer a great deal of insight on how?? to improve?? teacher hiring, firing, recruitment and retention procedures (much needed in a place like Cincinnati). TNTP also can circulate innovative ideas - all the more important in a state like Ohio, which isn't keen on brands such as Teach For America, or robust alternative teacher/principal programs that spur entrepreneurialism in districts that need it.

Admittedly, there is no guarantee that Cincinnati Public Schools will take TNTP's recommendations to heart, or that the district's staffing practices will improve enough to have a tangible impact on student achievement. But it's like getting excited when a new restaurant comes to town,...

This weekend saw a flurry of news stories on education in Ohio, and Fordham was in the middle of these in our usual roles of analysts and prognosticators.

The Columbus Dispatch chronicled the struggles and triumphs of KIPP Journey Academy and Building Excellent Schools' Columbus Collegiate Academy, both of which are authorized by the Fordham Foundation. Columbus Collegiate was applauded for delivering excellent results in its start-up year; while the paper noted KIPP Journey's first-year hiccups and offered reasons for hope going into the new school year.????The Dayton Daily News highlighted Pathway School of Discovery, a charter school operated by National Heritage Academies that is the city's only A-rated elementary school. The Cleveland Plain Dealer shared that even though 65 percent of Cleveland charter school students, and 71 percent of their district peers, attend schools rated D or F by the state, some of the state's highest performing charter schools operate in that city, including Citizens Academy, Cleveland Entrepreneurship Preparatory School, and the Intergenerational School.???? All three articles cited Fordham's annual analysis of Ohio school performance data (conducted in partnership with our friends at Public Impact).

Also this weekend in the Dayton Daily News op-ed pages: Terry explored the challenge of rating schools fairly based on academic performance and Jamie explained how Ohio could benefit from retaining the talented young people we lose to Teach for America each year....

In February, during the heated political debate around Governor Strickland's education reform plan, I wrote an opinion piece for the Columbus Dispatch that argued the governor's attack on for-profit charter schools "would be a blow for needy children and families. For example, the top-performing elementary school in Dayton in 2008 - the Pathway School of Discovery - is a charter school operated by the National Heritage Academies. Does it make sense to toss 570 children out of a school rated effective (the only elementary school in Dayton so designated) solely because it is operated by a for-profit company?"

Fortunately for the families and children in the Pathway School of Discovery, the governor's attacks on charter schools were largely defeated by the Senate. I say fortunate because the school received its state report card this week and it was rated excellent (an A) by the state of Ohio, and it was one of only two schools in the city with a top academic rating (the other being the charter high school DECA).

In Ohio, we simply have too few schools - charters or district - that serve needy children in our urban areas well. Consider just released state achievement data that show of the 648 schools (176 charters and 472 district schools) serving children in Ohio's Big 8 cities (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown)???? only eight percent of charters are rated excellent while a meager seven percent of district schools have...

Okay, I know I'm about the 31,487th person to pick up on this, but there's one factoid in the 2009 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of Americans' attitudes toward public schools that is driving me especially nutty. Although the number of respondents who favor charter schools rose to 64 percent (up from 49 percent last year), the majority of Americans still don't know what charter schools really are. Most respondents admitted they thought charters were not public, could charge tuition, could screen students on the basis of ability, and/or could teach religion. Agh! (None of this is true, by the way, if any poll respondents are reading). A 2009 Fordham report looking at Ohioans views on education had similar results-52 percent of respondents said they favored charters. Meanwhile, 55 percent said they knew little to nothing about them.

I'm reminded of many frustrating conversations I've had along the way, trying to defend why I support charters and explain to cousin Millie or Uncle George or a public school teacher at a conference that yes, I agree with them that public schools should NOT be disbanded, and no, I DON'T think we should pay public schools to teach bible verses to children, etc. and also that none of that thinking is accurate whatsoever.

Charter schools are "secular, tuition-free, open enrollment public schools of choice that are freed from many local and state regulations and union contract constraints. They control their own curriculum, staffing, organization and budget. In...

The Education Gadfly

Terry Ryan of our Ohio offices offers a concise explanation of our Ohio 2009 Education Report Card Analysis in this video.

Ohio 2009 Education Report Card Analysis from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

Here in Ohio, the annual report card release from the Ohio Department of Education is like Christmas. We wait a long time for this morning, anticipating what kind of goodies there will be to unwrap in all of the data (and there is a lot of it).In good news, students in Ohio's "Big 8" districts (large urban cities) were just as likely to attend a school rated "A" or "B" by the state in 2008-09 as they were the year before (for the last two years, 20 percent of urban students- both charter and district - attended a school ranked Effective or Excellent). But, as Terry points out in our Special Analysis of Local Report Cards (PDF), there are still over 125,000 children in Big 8 cities who attend a school rated by the state as failing, or on the verge of it.

The good news is that according to Ohio's value-added metric, which measures the amount of growth achieved by schools and districts (in addition to absolute proficiency rates), roughly half of all schools in the Big 8 cities that serve grades four through eight exceeded expected growth in 2008-09.

As Terry is quoted on Catalyst OHIO:

"This data represents both the worst of news and the best of news. Overall, only half of the students in big urban districts are proficient in reading and math. But the good news is that in these schools, whether charter or district, students seem to be...

Laura Pohl

Teachers and administrators arrive at Columbus Collegiate Academy by 7am.

Teachers prepare their lessons in a central planning room.

Columbus Collegiate teachers wheel their lessons among the school's four classrooms.

Andrew Boy, Columbus Collegiate's founder and principal, prepares breakfast for the students. "I don't ask the staff to do anything I wouldn't do myself," he said.

Students learn the "four times tables" by singing a song with hand movements.

Checking out a book at the classroom library.

Photographs by Laura Pohl and Eric Ulas