Ohio Policy

Last evening, the Ohio Senate passed its version of the state's next operating budget, which would reward exceptional charter schools with low-cost facilities.?? Specifically:

  • Districts would be required to offer up unused space to charter schools for lease if the space goes unused by the district for two years,
  • When multiple charter schools express interest in the space, the district would have to lease it to the highest-performing school among the mix, and
  • If the leasing charter school is in the top 50% of all schools statewide, based on its ???performance index score??? ??? a measure of academic achievement ??? the district would lease the space for $1 per year.

Gene Harris, superintendent of Columbus City Schools, Ohio's largest district and one with a history of blocking charter schools from its unused facilities, is opposed to the change. Her reasons include that charters might not have sufficient funds to maintain a facility and that it prevents the district from leasing to other ???important??? organizations. I admit that these aren't invalid concerns.?? But I can't help but see this as yet another instance where anti-charter sentiment among the education establishment is so ingrained that districts don't recognize...

In his weekly TIME column, Andy Rotherham pens a piece, ?Are These End Times for Charter Schools??, that begs further discussion. (Although how much cooler would it have been if the column came out on May 21?)

Despite reasons for optimism about charter growth ? there are now over 5,000 charters serving more than a million kids (and many states, facing pressure from Race to the Top and/or GOP leaders, will stimulate more growth as they lift charter caps) ? Rotherham points out what we here in Ohio have been noting for nearly a decade:

Charter schools range in quality from among the absolute best public schools in the country to among the absolute worst. That variance in quality is proving a political Achilles heel for charter schools and is fueling a serious backlash.

He goes on to outline places where charter schools are victim to strong opposition from teachers unions (New York City ? the teachers union and NAACP filed a lawsuit to curb charter growth; Rhode Island ? one mayor is facing an uphill battle to bring one of the best CMOs in, Achievement First). It's reminiscent of the scene in The Lottery where...

Like many states, Ohio is struggling with how best to evaluate teachers and how to use those evaluations to inform personnel decisions (like remuneration, tenure, professional development, and ? when district budgets or enrollment levels leave no other choice ?layoffs). (Read today's Ohio Education Gadfly for more background on the Buckeye State's current legislative battle over teacher evaluations.)

Last week we released a video, What Ohio can learn from DC's teacher evaluations, featuring interviews with teachers evaluated under the DC IMPACT system. The teachers we interviewed ? which include science teachers, an elementary math coach, a fourth-grade teacher (of all subjects), a special ed middle school teacher, an art teacher, and a master educator (who conducts the observations on behalf of DCPS) ? shared what it's like to be evaluated via five observations each year and have part of their performance linked to student test scores.?

Today we released two more videos, wherein teachers evaluated under DC's IMPACT system address common fears and myths about rigorous evaluations.

Part 1

Part 2


Consistency in public policy is hard to come by. Special interests, ideology, and ignorance of issues (manipulated by lobbyists and other interested parties) all collide and compete for life in the cosmic swirl of the legislative process. There is a distinct lack of consistency around education policy in the competing budgets drafted by the Ohio House and Senate that could be remedied if each body could focus its proposals around issues of performance.

In its version of the state budget (HB 153), the Ohio House put forth legislative language on teacher effectiveness that is some of the most progressive in the country. It would connect measures of pupil academic growth to teachers and further connect teacher effectiveness to key personnel decisions. Teachers would be rated, in part, on the academic performance of their students over time, and they would receive ratings according to four tiers ??? highly effective, effective, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory.

With a fair and rigorous system that measures gradations of teacher effectiveness using state assessment data, expert and peer evaluations, building- and district-level performance metrics, and even student evaluations, school systems can make smarter personnel decisions. They can reward their ablest instructors and put them...

Charters in Ohio have a contentious and troubled history. Events over the last few weeks have added another controversial chapter to the story. With Republicans in charge of the House, lobbyists for the large for-profit charter management company White Hat (currently operating 30 schools in Ohio) pushed for charter legislation in that chamber that would effectively create corporate, private schools, funded directly by the state but free of all state accountability requirements. As long as the kids show up the state money will flow. Whether the kids learn anything or not doesn't matter. In fact these new corporate private schools wouldn't even have to take state achievement tests or face other pesky state accountability provisions.

Yesterday's Columbus Dispatch ran a front page piece on the political maneuverings behind all this, and Fordham was drawn into the story (see here and note below). Fordham has been a staunch supporter of charter schools in Ohio since before the first ones opened in 1998. But, we have also been equally unyielding in our belief that all schools that receive public dollars to educate children should be held accountable for their academic and fiscal performance. We support things like school report cards...

The Ohio Senate just released its version of the state's biennial budget. The Senate deserves much credit for the plethora of charter school provisions it deleted from the Houses' version (which as you probably know by now, Fordham and many others across the state opposed).

But even the removal of provisions that would have dramatically weakened charter quality and accountability can't make up for the fact that the Senate removed all of the excellent teacher personnel language in HB 153.

Fordham's Terry Ryan testified yesterday afternoon to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee to express our collective disappointment and implore lawmakers to prioritize policies to improve teacher effectiveness. ?

He described what's at stake by removing this language:

For as long as anyone can remember, in Ohio as in the rest of America, a public-school teacher's effectiveness and performance in the classroom have had little to no impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district's schools, or how her professional development is crafted. Instead, all of these critical decisions are made on the basis of quality-blind state


Joanne Jacobs Diana Senechal (guest-blogging for Joanne Jacobs*) had an unusual blog post this morning, calling out two other blogs (GothamSchools and one by Ed Week's Sarah Sparks) for sloppy reporting ? or more specifically, sloppy titling. She writes:




I was a bit puzzled when I read the GothamSchools ?remainder?: ?Researchers in Houston are asking whether students can give teachers post-traumatic stress.? Post-traumatic stress? Is the study investigating whether teachers have bouts of depression, nightmares, etc. after they have stopped teaching?




I followed the link to the Edweek blog by Sarah Sparks, which bears the headline, ?Can a Class of 7th Graders Give Teachers Post-traumatic Stress?? But the article itself made it seem as though this were a study of teacher stress, not post-traumatic stress. (Sometimes the headlines are written by someone other than the blog's author.)


Indeed the study ? while potentially interesting ? has nothing to do with?post-traumatic stress?(it just so happens that the researcher conducting it has a background in researching trauma and PTSD). This mis-characterization of mental illness, and about teachers nonetheless, is frustrating in several other ways.

First, it...