Ohio Policy

This week 140+ local school district leaders and members of the business and philanthropic communities gathered in northern Ohio to take part in two Doing More with Less in K-12 Education events. The events, one held at Cleveland State University and the other at Lorain County Community College, were intended to help local education, business, and community leaders identify ways to think smart about cuts to schools spending while still staying focused on student achievement.? The event was moderated by our own Chester E. Finn, Jr. and featured three panelists: Nate Levenson (co-founder of District and Community Partners- a consulting group that helps district improve their special needs programs while reducing costs); Steven Wilson (founder and president of Ascend Learning- a charter school management organization); and Paolo DeMaria (principal at Education First Consulting and former executive vice chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents). All three panelists brought a unique and different viewpoint, helping attendees grasp what it means to do more with...

This morning, economist and education policy expert Eric Hanushek testified in a joint meeting of the Ohio House and Senate education committees. His testimony ? which focused on the importance of ensuring that all education policies, including school finance policy, create incentives for achievement ? comes less than one week before Gov. Kasich's budget will be introduced.

The most debated education-related policy changes here in Ohio over the last month have been about Senate Bill 5, the Buckeye State's controversial attempt to weaken public sector collective bargaining in the state. (Terry testified in support of the aims of the teacher personnel provisions in the bill, not expressly on rolling back collective bargaining rights.)

Hanushek's presentation today helped reframe the debate in a necessary way: undoing LIFO, or changing teacher salary schedules, or including value-added data in teachers' and principals' evaluations is not about weakening unions but about incentivizing performance, driving student achievement, and ultimately improving the quality of Ohio's future labor force.

Given the highly politicized environment surrounding the capitol lately, it was good to hear an outside expert explain the research and remind lawmakers that the need to move toward achievement-focused policies predates the Midwest's turmoil...

Columbus Collegiate Academy, a Fordham-authorized charter school in one of Columbus's poorest neighborhoods (Weinland Park), has just been awarded the Gold-Gain EPIC award by New Leaders for New Schools for dramatic gains in student achievement.?

This award is an incredible accomplishment on the part of CCA school leader Andy Boy and his dedicated staff. Only four charter schools in the entire country earned the Gold award. CCA won EPIC's silver award last year ? and was the only charter school in the whole state of Ohio to win. The school's ability to continue making tremendous gains with students ? 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged ? propelled it into the very top tier for student growth, among the ranks of some of the most impressive charter schools in the country.

CCA Executive Director and Founder Andy Boy explained the school's keys to success in a press release:

 

We are so proud of our students and staff.? Our teachers and staff share the belief that all students can and will learn when provided the right environment for academic success.? Through high expectations, a structured school day, and an uncompromising focus on academics our students are outpacing

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Last week we released Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out ??? a statewide survey of Ohio superintendents and other education leaders.?? Among the key findings, superintendents told us they want state leaders to:

  • Get rid of the provision in state statute that mandates automatic step increases in teacher salaries ??? about seven in ten said this would be important.
  • Repeal the provision in state law that ???requires a last-in, first-out approach to layoffs??? ??? this is very important to two-thirds of Ohio's superintendents.
  • Change state law to make it ???easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers ??? even if they are tenured??? ??? eight in ten say this is very important.

On Friday, the report's co-author and I met with about 60 superintendents around the state and shared with them our survey results. Those conversations were especially intense because the Ohio Senate on Wednesday passed the highly controversial Senate Bill (SB) 5, which as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer seeks the following changes for teachers:

  • Wages still will be negotiated through collective bargaining. But management gets to decide much more than it does now, including leave policies, class sizes and where employees
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This important survey of Ohio school leaders shows a growing disconnect of opinion between the people who teach in our public schools and those who lead them. While many teachers and other school employees resist changes to collective bargaining laws and education reform measures, superintendents recognize the need for such changes and in fact are hungry for them.

Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out is the result of a statewide survey of Ohio district superintendents and other education leaders on the most critical issues facing K-12 education in the Buckeye State in 2011, including budgets, school effectiveness, and laws that make schools harder to manage.  The survey was conducted by the respected, nonpartisan public opinion research firm, FDR Group, and commissioned and underwritten by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The findings come as policy makers struggle to solve the state’s massive budget deficit while ramping up pupil achievement.

OhioFlypaper

Education in Ohio, as in most of the country, is coming to terms with a challenging ?new normal,? as Arne Duncan calls it?the prolonged period ahead when schools must produce better results with diminished resources. The Buckeye State faces a daunting budget shortfall over the next two years, the resolution of which will powerfully affect K-12 education, which now consumes about 40 percent of the state's money. And Ohio's situation is far from unique.

Yet schools?in Ohio and beyond?can produce better-educated students on leaner rations so long as their leaders are empowered to deploy the available resources in the most effective and efficient ways, unburdened by mandates, regulatory constraints, and dysfunctional contract clauses. That's the message that comes through loudest from a new survey of the state's school superintendents. And again there's no reason to believe that Ohio's situation is unique.

While governors and lawmakers are responsible for balancing state budgets, it is district and school leaders who must make their schools work on tighter resources while still boosting achievement and effectiveness. Over the past year, as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has organized various discussions,...

Innovation Ohio ? a newly birthed ?non partisan progressive think tank? (incidentally run a by former top aide to Governor Strickland, with research conducted by a former Democratic lawmaker who helped push through then-governor Strickland's ill-conceived school funding plan) ? just released its first research document, timed with heated protests over the state's collective bargaining reform bill (SB 5). But ?Ohio Teachers and Collective Bargaining: An Analysis? is not so much an ?analysis? as it is an amalgam of statistics from the national Bureau of Labor Statistics, wrought with faulty assumptions about the purpose of collective bargaining reform and an assortment of cardinal sins when it comes to basic statistics.

Where to begin? It's only eight pages long, but manages to mislead on a number of fronts.

For starters, the brief draws on two years' of data (2008 and 2009) showing the average annual wages for kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers in Ohio. Comparing average wages for teachers between the two years, all four categories saw a drop from 2008 to 2009, with an average drop of 3.8 percent.

The average annual wage dropped from one year to the next. The brief builds on...

Over the weekend the Dayton Daily News ran an article talking about Senate Bill 5. With a majority of the state's and local news outlets completely consumed by this debate this should come as no surprise. But the article took a slightly different spin on the topic: what happens to districts that don't currently have an alternative system to determine merit pay for their teachers (called for in SB 5)?

Take for example Kettering City Schools, a suburb of Dayton whose labor agreement states that teacher unions and school boards ?agree that negotiations are an effective and efficient method? to decide conditions of employment. ?If SB 5 passes it will force the district to evaluate teachers based on a combination of student growth and classroom observations.? The mere thought of having to do this has local education leaders in a ?frenzy.?? While Kettering City Schools does not currently have an effectiveness-based evaluation system in place it does not mean that they can't work toward creating one.

Skepticism or absence of a current evaluation system is not a valid excuse anymore. Districts and states across the country have made great progress in replacing antiquated evaluation systems with...

Anyone who's followed more than a few releases of NAEP scores recognizes the familiar feeling of disenchantment that accompanies it. Scores are low across subgroups? and criminally low for minority students and low-income kids; trends are flat, stagnant, stalled, barely budging; wide achievement gaps persist. And NAEP illustrates time and time again how proficiency rates according to states' own achievement tests tend to be higher and therefore misleading (check out Fordham's 2007 report, The Proficiency Illusion) ? all the more reason to be happy that Ohio and other states have signed onto Common Core standards in ELA and math.

According to recently released 2009 scores for the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), Cleveland fourth and eighth graders performed just as abysmally in science as they did in reading and math. At least according to NAEP scores, one might say that Cleveland's closest cousin is Detroit (the only district whose students fared worse in science). The bad news takes a variety of forms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Among the 17 participating districts in the NAEP TUDA, eight of them had students in both grades scoring lower than the large city
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