Education News for 12-28-2011

Statewide Education News

  • Charter schools get win in White Hat suit – Columbus Dispatch
  • The 19-month fight over whether Ohio’s largest for-profit manager of charter schools must share detailed financial records could be coming to a close.

    Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John F. Bender has decided he can rule on the case, and he reiterated an order he made in August that White Hat Management release records showing how the charter-school operator spends the millions of tax dollars it gets each year. Read More…

  • Six Ohio Education Stories to Watch in 2012 – State Impact Ohio
  • Here’s our take on the six education stories to watch in 2012:

    1. School funding.
    2. College-readiness.
    3. The feds.
    4. “School choice.”
    5. Charter school accountability.
    6. Teachers rising.
    Read More…

Local Issues

  • Energy conservation at schools benefitting taxpayers – Oxford Press
  • Efficient new buildings save Hamilton thousands of dollars. While utility bills for homes have been increasing, many area school districts have seen their bills drop thanks to a variety of energy conservation programs.

    And thanks to those bills dropping, the districts can put money back into their general fund, creating less drain on taxpayer dollars. And in at least one case, that has enabled a district to delay putting a levy on the ballot. Read More…

  • Yardsticks for local students are analyzed – Marietta Times
  • By one measure, Washington County's school districts are ranked in the middle to bottom third in the state.

    But another ranking assembled by a nonprofit education organization dramatically changes some of those positions. Read More…

Editorial & Opinion

  • School reform takes time – Youngstown Vindicator
  • Steubenville Herald-Star: Allocating funds among hundreds of school districts to ensure all provide the “thorough and efficient” education required by the state constitution is easier said than done, as Ohio Gov. John Kasich is learning.

    Soon after taking office less than a year ago, Kasich pledged to overhaul the state formula for funding public schools. By January a plan would be in place, the governor thought.

    He was wrong. His advisers say the January deadline was a self-imposed one that won’t be met. Better to get it right than to get it on time, they add.

    They are right, of course. Public education reform is among the chief concerns of many Buckeye State residents. Read More…

For Many Teachers, Reform Means Higher Risk, Lower Rewards

One of the central policy ideas of market-based education reform is to increase both the risk and rewards of the teaching profession. The basic idea is to offer teachers additional compensation (increased rewards), but, in exchange, make employment and pay more contingent upon performance by implementing merit pay and weakening job protections such as tenure (increased risk). This trade-off, according to advocates, will not only force out low performers by paying them less and making them easier to fire, but it will also attract a “different type” of candidate to teaching – high-achievers who thrive in a high-stakes, high-reward system.

As I’ve said before, I’m skeptical as to whether less risk-averse individuals necessarily make better teachers, as I haven’t seen any evidence that this is the case. I’m also not convinced that personnel policies are necessarily the most effective lever when it comes to “attracting talent,” and I’m concerned that the sheer size of the teaching profession makes doing so a unique challenge. That said, I’m certainly receptive to trying new compensation/employment structures, and the “higher risk, higher reward” idea, though unproven in education, is not without its potential if done correctly. After all, teacher pay continues to lose ground to that offered by other professions, and the penalty teachers pay increases the longer they remain in the profession. At the same time, there is certainly a case for attracting more and better candidates through higher pay, and nobody would disagree that accountability mechanisms such as evaluations and tenure procedures could use improvement in many places, even if we disagree sharply on the details of what should be done.

There’s only one problem: States and districts all over the nation are increasing risk, but not rewards. In fact, in some places, risk is going up while compensation is being cut, sometimes due to the same legislation.

For example, Ohio’s controversial legislation (Senate Bill 5) eliminates tenure for new hires and guts collective bargaining rights, while simultaneously rolling back pay increases and increasing health care contributions (effectively a pay cut) for teachers and other public employees. Ohio Governor John Kasich actually promoted the bill as a cost-cutting measure, with the savings coming from public employee compensation, including that of teachers. In other words, more uncertainty in exchange for nothing or even less, all in the same bill.

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Guest Post: Thoughts about teacher evaluation

A guest post by Robert Barkley, Jr., Retired Executive Director, Ohio Education Association, Author: Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders and Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, Worthington, Ohio –

Thoughts about teacher evaluation

As it often has over the 50+ years I’ve been involved in public education, teacher evaluation is once again getting considerable attention.

And as is too often the case, many who are discussing it have little idea what they’re talking about – to put it mildly.

First, there can be no meaningful discussion of this topic unless and until the parties come to a clear and shared agreement as to what are the purpose and corollary objectives of education in the first place. Without doing so any process of evaluation establishes the educational purpose and objectives extraneously and inappropriately. Thus, in almost all cases, the discussion of teacher evaluation is entirely off base and counterproductive to say the least.

For example, I have concluded, after extensive study and discussions over many years that the fundamental purpose of education is: The purpose of education is to preserve and nurture an abiding enthusiasm for learning and an unending curiosity, and to first and foremost guide students to make sense out of their current reality.

Now one can argue with this conclusion, but the point is that for any evaluation of teacher performance, or the performance of any other worker, to be of serious consequence, such a statement of purpose must be firmly established and shared by all those evolved. Rarely have I come upon a district or school that has satisfactorily completed this first step of leading to any worthwhile evaluation system.

Second, most psychologists that I have studied I think would agree that most workers, and teachers in particular, want to do a good job. In fact, it has been long established that those who enter teaching have this intrinsic and altruistic drive to do well to an even greater extent than do those entering many other professions.

And if one accepts that premise, then top-down, punitive, and competitive evaluation will have greater negative consequences than positive ones. If that is the case, then a system of non-threatening feedback will be the most productive approach to set in place.

Over these many years the best of such approaches is one labeled “360-degree feedback.” In this system, once purpose is established an appropriate context determined, everyone in the system is provided feedback as to his or her performance from all directions. This would mean that each teacher would be provided feedback from students, colleagues, parents, support personnel, and supervisors. Each employee in that system would receive the same such feedback. This means that every principal would receive feedback from the entire faculty.

And let me emphasize the “non-threatening” part of such a system. This means that the feedback you receive is yours and yours alone. No one else would see it unless you choose to share it. The theory in all this is of course that, given a natural desire to do well and improve, we will all make appropriate changes and seek guidance when necessary.

Some would say this is a naïve and utopian approach. I have been involved in such a system. It works. And as one can easily see, there is no place for merit pay in such and system and it naturally encourages teamwork and collaboration, which are the hallmark of all successful enterprises.

Blockbuster revelations coming on charter schools


An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation has uncovered a money trail of Ohio tax dollars leading overseas that paid for illegal immigration fees and expenses associated with charter schools across the state.

Our investigation also reveals that the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating one charter school located in Cleveland for its use of so-called "H1-B visas" issued by the U.S. government for "highly trained" employees to work in the United States.

An extensive review of financial audits uncovered that in one case, the cash was finding its way to Istanbul, Turkey, where nearly $600,000 is winding up paying for monthly rent for a charter school back in Dayton.

In another case, thousands of tax dollars were paid for immigration and legal fees that auditors found were illegal.

In some instances, auditors found cash went to individuals who were never employed at any of the schools.

20 years after DeRolph case school funding in Ohio isn't fixed

Nate DeRolph knows a lot about how Ohio finances public education. Twenty years ago, a lawsuit bearing his name was filed in Perry County challenging the state's school funding system.

The case was filed by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding on behalf of children who were being educated in schools similar to DeRolph's.

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SB5 would set us back

Submitted by Bexley Superintendent, Mike Johnson

Public negotiations take two parties to carve out outcomes based on mutual interests to add value and ultimately benefit the community. These mutual interests provide opportunities to serve the common good. The common good principle is a concept that assures everyone will share in the benefit of a service, independent of the wealth and status of any individual community member.

These benefits, whether they are in the form of public education, safety, health, welfare or transportation, are always provided by loyal and dedicated community servants. Community servants allow each of us to have access to a world-class education; provide peace of mind in knowing that our properties are safe and secure; and ensure that the basic needs of the poor, the disabled, the unemployment and the underemployed are met.

Public servants have one negotiation chip, their service. They do not have capital, land or money to bring to the table. They only have their willingness to labor and to serve the public and thereby benefit everyone. The only power that a public servant or public employee can exercise in negotiations is the ability to ultimately withhold services.

In the case of the services provided by fire and police, withdrawal of services would threaten our property interest and personal safety. Therefore, third party arbitration provides for a balance of power during negotiations. Fire and police personnel are secure in knowing that if negotiations are at impasse that a neutral third party will hear the facts and render a decision, while public and private safety are maintained.

If the United States and the state of Ohio are to become leaders in a knowledge economy, then educators must be invited and remain at the table as equals. Educators are knowledge workers and if we are to overcome some very serious national and international challenges, then we will need our teachers to assist all of us in making decisions, designing the best possible research driven solutions and implementing those decisions over time. The full value of our knowledgeable and professional teaching staff will not be realized in an environment where they are on the receiving end of a power shift.

It strikes me as a case of very poor timing to suddenly develop laws to truncate the advantages, negotiations provides for those responsible for growing our economy. In Ohio, we will need to rely more on our intellectual capacities and assets and less on physical inputs or natural resources. I cannot think of a greater source intellectual capacity, than can be found within our K-16 public education community. As Powell and Snellman (2004) state, that an upsurge in knowledge production is associated with the emergence of new industries.

We need to make sure before making any final decision on SB5, that we will achieve the intended ends. Personally, I believe that we are going to experience some adverse unintended consequences as a result of passing such legislation. It is going to take some creative, collaborative, and systemic decision making to keep Ohio at the forefront nationally and internationally.