Ohio Policy

Tomorrow Duncan will deliver a speech to NASBE members on the role of the federal government in education reform.?? I agree with K-12 Politics that this part of Duncan's prepared remarks is refreshing:??

"I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it. But I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo. I plan to be an active partner. As a nation, we need a federal voice encouraging our shared goal of success for every student and stimulating innovations to reach those goals. But I'm also mindful of this. For nearly 200 years, our federal government was a silent partner. It mostly sat on the sideline while a shameful achievement gap persisted."

Also,

"In cases where children are being underserved or neglected, we have a moral obligation to intervene, and we won't allow fear of over-reaching to stop us."

While the rhetoric is nothing new, the difference between Duncan and scores of others using such no-excuses language is that, well, Duncan's got a lot of money to bargain with. And, he represents an insurgence of new thinking in the Democratic Party, which people are noticing and reiterating. In today's New York Times, Kristof writes:

?? "Democrats have too often resisted reform and stood by as generations of disadvantaged children have been cemented into an underclass by third-rate schools. President Obama and his education secretary, Arne...

The Education Gadfly

In this week's edition Jamie evaluates a report calling for Ohio to scale back its charter school program because charters allegedly get a "head start" with kindergarteners who are more prepared for school. But the report (among other weaknesses) uses an inappropriate piece of data to measure school readiness.??

In a timely Q&A, Mike interviews Fordham board member and former Massachusetts education commissioner David Driscoll, who shares insight on the standards development process in the Bay State and lessons for Ohio.

For "Capital Matters," Emmy describes a proposed Senate bill that would make significant changes to Ohio's school rating system, particularly to safeguard those relatively high performing districts that took a hit this year.

Other features include a recap of our conference, World-Class Standards for Ohio, as well as Flypaper's Finest and a reminder to check out Fordham's latest report (whose title we love by the way) - Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Standards in 2009.

??...

Sec. Arne Duncan made the first (of three) speeches intended to recruit an "army of great teachers" when he spoke to UVA's Curry School of Education last Friday. But his address wasn't the typical rally cry for the teaching profession (although it did include feel-good phrases like "Our children need you" and "A great teacher can change the direction of an individual's life").

Duncan's take on America's teacher preparation programs was in tune with other parts of his agenda that have surprised (and angered) teachers unions - such as Race to the Top's guidelines emphasizing charter schools and teacher evaluations linked to student test scores, and his speech to the NEA last summer that pointed out the tendency for teacher contracts to "put adults ahead of children" and the subsequent need for teacher merit pay.??

His Virginia speech called out teacher training programs for being "theory-heavy and curriculum-light" and for not preparing teachers "for what awaits them in the classroom." Duncan outlined the need to expand human capital pipelines such as Teach For America and The New Teacher Project, in addition to overhauling teacher preparation programs (which certify 22 times as many teachers as alternative programs). Specifically, he cited the need for education programs to train teachers in the use of student achievement data, to better prepare them to work in high-need schools, as well as to track graduates in order to measure their success in the classroom.

Duncan's unapologetic focus on critical reforms,...

Eric Ulas

Video is now available from our recent event, World-Class Academic Standards for Ohio, which was held October 5 in Columbus, Ohio.

What do state and national experts make of the "Common Core" standards effort??? How can states go about crafting top-flight standards??? How will the Buckeye State respond to the Common Core effort and a recent legislative mandate to upgrade its standards? ??Click on the links below to find out.

Opening Speaker:

Why World-Class Standards?

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Panel Sessions:

Current Efforts to Create National (???Common???) Standards

Michael Cohen, Achieve Inc.

Gene Wilhoit, Council of Chief State School Officers

Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute, moderator

Highlighting the Efforts of Top Performing States??

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Stan Jones, former Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education

Sue Pimentel, StandardsWork

Bruno Manno, Annie E. Casey Foundation, moderator

Moving Forward in Ohio

Deborah Delisle, Ohio Department of Education

Eric...

Eric Ulas

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is a charter-school authorizer in our home state of Ohio and we currently oversee six schools in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield.??In the Buckeye State, academic performance of schools is gauged by both student proficiency rates and progress (using a "value-added " measure).??Schools are expected to help students make one year or more of academic progress annually and are given a value-added ranking of "below," "met," or "above" corresponding with how much growth their students made. We're proud of the academic progress our schools made last year compared to their district and charter peers. The following chart shows the percent of students in schools by "value-added" rating for Fordham-authorized schools, the home districts in which they are located, and charter schools in the state's eight major urban areas.

Percent of Students in Fordham-authorized Schools, Home Districts, and "Big 8" Charter Schools by Value-Added Rating, 2008-09

Source: Ohio Department of Education interactive Local Report Card

The question of whether schools and districts should play a role in battling childhood obesity has been prevalent in the news lately. Last week, the New York Times highlighted new citywide regulations on baked goods (among the strictest in the nation, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and yesterday, it ran an article on new regulations for vending machines in schools. A new report from the CDC indicates that in 2008, fewer schools sold soda or sugary fruit drinks or sold candy and "fatty" snacks than in 2006, suggesting that significant headway is being made in the childhood obesity battle (especially by states like Mississippi and Tennessee).

And on the flipside, Core Knowledge posted an interesting blog about a mother in upstate New York who is fighting a school policy that actually prohibits her son from riding his bike to and from school.

The New York Times article also makes a point that's worth noting - there's a correlation between student health and performance on standardized tests.?? Since schools and states are the ones being held accountable for student performance, will more of them start regulating things that affect student learning conditions?

In the Buckeye State, the answer is - not yet. Ohio has yet to join the ranks of states that have implemented regulations on bake sales and vending machines, passed laws requiring children to be weighed in schools, or set healthier standards for school lunches than federal...

Ohio is on board with the NGA/CCSSO Common Core State Standards Initiative, ostensibly agreeing to adopt 85 percent of the standards that result from the effort.???? But in remarks to the Columbus Dispatch yesterday following our academic standards conference, a state education department staffer explained why that won't actually happen:

Along with 47 other states, Ohio has helped write a set of common standards that are research-based and benchmarked to top performing countries, and could be adopted anywhere in the nation. But the state won't use those, instead revamping its existing standards, Associate Superintendent Stan Heffner said.

The common standards won't be finalized until January and, by law, Ohio must adopt new ones for English, math, science and social studies by June 30. It's not enough time, Heffner said, and they'll be too different from the academic content the state currently believes is important.

What's the Buckeye State to do????? Should the state board of education risk non-compliance with state law and wait for the Common Core work to be finished????? Should state lawmakers revisit the law and extend the deadline for updating the standards????? Are other states in similar predicaments????? If so, what becomes of the Common Core Initiative?...

An opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal is encouragement to anyone who bemoans the tendency of teachers unions to thwart reform efforts.?? "How Teachers Unions Lost the Media" points out that teachers unions increasingly have been scrutinized by the press, even targeted by "liberal" papers like the New York Times. The evidence of this media shift lies not just in the name-calling ("indefensible," "barriers" etc.) of certain union practices??but in the fact that many outlets have stood up for controversial figures like Michelle Rhee and have profiled the successes our nation's most impressive charter school networks.

All of this is fantastic news for national reform efforts ??- ??not necessarily that teachers unions are portrayed as slow-moving, stale and/or self-interested - but that entrepreneurial leaders, charter groups, etc. are getting some spotlight and praise.

However, it's hard to stay elated here in Ohio. Not only are there relatively few such leaders and groups to spotlight, but most of our media (and the general public) are not so forward-thinking?? as to paint them in a positive light. Teachers unions in the Buckeye State are robust, and nestled comfortably in the pockets of most Democratic leaders (including the governor). We are the state whose attorney general sued to shut down charter schools ??and whose governor tried to kill off the charter sector in his first biennial budget, then attempted to cripple it in the next.

Achieving a real policy shift in the education reform debate...

Ohio has been handed a bucket of lemons when it comes to the economy and its impact on the state's finances. But, state leaders have the opportunity to make lemonade if they work together around education in the coming weeks.

During the recent budget go-around the governor and House Democrats did all they could to strangle charter schools of funding. Senate Republicans rallied and managed to keep charter funding intact. As a result, the Buckeye State's 330 plus charter schools and their 85,000 students were set to receive the same basic level of funding as in past years.????

Then, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the governor's plan to generate revenue from slot machines, blowing an $850 million hole in the state's budget. Without new revenues, education funding is on the chopping block. The state has warned schools that they face a 10 percent reduction this year and 15 percent next year. To avoid these cuts, Governor Strickland has proposed suspending a 4.2 percent income-tax cut that took effect at the start of the year.

Funding cuts of 10 to 15 percent would be catastrophic for urban school districts that receive more than half of their revenue from the state. In contrast, suburban schools receive closer to 20 percent of their funding from the state and the rest from local taxpayers so the state cuts won't be as painful for them. But, in this context, pain is a relative term.

For charters, however,...

The Education Gadfly

Check out this week's Ohio Education Gadfly to read about our upcoming conference, "World-Class Standards in Ohio." We're excited to welcome an impressive lineup of education experts and state leaders, who will discuss Ohio-specific standards issues (timely, since the state is mandated to revise its academic standards by 2010) as well as examine high-performing states and the national ("common") standards movement. Terry is spot on when he says "Ohio, and indeed the country, is at a pivotal moment in the development of standards-based education."

Next, Jamie brings us an informative piece exploring education tax credits (and deductions) and their potential to raise (private) money for education in Ohio. Given Ohio's gaping budget hole, might Ohioans consider this vehicle for school choice?

Also featured in the Ohio Education Gadfly is a video by Mike and Eric in which Ohio Rep. Lynn Wachtmann discusses the current crisis facing Ohio's pension systems. Finally, it wraps up with Flypaper's Finest, and timely recommended readings from Eric, Kalli, and Emmy....

Pages