Evidence builds - corporate ed policies are failing

Lately, study after study, report after report is casting doubt on the efficacy of corporate education reform polcies. The ltest comes from The Broader Bolder Approach to Education

Pressure from federal education policies such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, bolstered by organized advocacy efforts, is making a popular set of market-oriented education “reforms” look more like the new status quo than real reform.

Reformers assert that test-based teacher evaluation, increased school “choice” through expanded access to charter schools, and the closure of “failing” and underenrolled schools will boost falling student achievement and narrow longstanding race- and income-based achievement gaps.

The reforms deliver few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise to address poverty-related barriers to school success:

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
  • Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.
  • Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
  • The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

That's a troubling litanty of corporate education reform failure. You can read the report, here.

A pre-budget baseline

In advance of the Governor releasing his budget, Policy Matters Ohio has produced a report looking at the current budget situation and making recommendations in numerous policy areas, including education.

  • Restore cuts that have caused local school districts to cut staff and course offerings, increase class sizes, and implement pay-to-play for extracurricular activities;
  • Institute a fair, adequate and equitable funding formula for schools;
  • Apply high standards to charter schools, keeping ineffective schools from opening and closing those that fail their students. Make sure charters become part of a stronger K-12 education system in Ohio, not a means to dismantle it;
  • Fund higher education sufficiently to make tuition at Ohio’s colleges and universities more similar to that in other states;
  • Establish a long-term strategy to restore need-based aid.

Their entire education section of the report is worth a read, but we wanted to pull out 2 sections from that.

Funding drops over decade

Figure 3 shows that, adjusted for inflation, annual state funding for primary and secondary education in Ohio has dropped more than a billion dollars over a 10-year period, to less than $8.7 billion in FY13 from $9.7 billion in FY04, in 2012 dollars. As noted, Figure 3 does not include federal stimulus funding.

Those are serious declines in education investment that should be kept in mind.

Privatization directs money away from districts

Even as K-12 education – districts, charters, and voucher programs – has gotten less funding through the state budget, the state continued to expand privatization, directing increasing amounts of money away from school districts toward privately operated charters and voucher schools. Some increasing funding is due to rising enrollment in charters, but as Table 5 shows, year-to-year increases in the deduction of funds from school districts have either outstripped or stayed roughly on track with enrollment increases. Over the 10-year period beginning in FY 2003, charter school enrollment has increased 262 percent, while funding for charters has increased more than 500 percent over the same period.

Policy makers have increased voucher spending as well. HB 153, the budget bill signed in 2011, created a new voucher worth up to $20,000 that families of special needs children can use at state-approved private providers beginning this school year.[23] The budget bill also increased the voucher amount for the Cleveland program, to a maximum of $5,000 for high school and $4,250 for grades K-8, from $3,450 for all grades.[24] HB 153 expanded the number of vouchers available through the statewide EdChoice program to 60,000, although FY 2013 enrollment remains much lower at about 15,968.[25] Ohio’s autism voucher program, which provides up to $20,000 a year to use with private providers, began in FY 2004 and has been used by more than 2,000 families.[26]

Together, the amount of money directed to charter schools and voucher programs in Ohio is approaching $1 billion a year deducted from school district funds. In FY 2011, for example, charter schools saw about $720 million and voucher programs got a total of more than $100 million.[27] The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) reports that in FY 2012, $774 million was allocated to charter schools and at least $86 million for vouchers.[28] This reflects a growth of about 5 percent in privatized school funding in a year that overall funding plunged. ODE figures show at least $950 million will be spent on charters and vouchers in Ohio in FY 2013.[29]

The Governor is also expected to expand privatization efforts further.

Kasich cuts bite deep locally

A new report finds that the loss of teachers and other education staff is forcing communities into difficult choices that harm our children’s education and future, including increasing class sizes and shortening school years and days. The report shows that more than 300,000 local education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession – a figure that stands in stark contrast to previous economic recoveries. As a result, the national student-teacher ratio increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, rolling back all the gains made since 2000. Increased class sizes have negative consequences for the future of America’s children at a time when education has never been more important to finding a good job and maintaining our competitiveness as a nation.

In Ohio, as Plunderbund notes, the effects of the Kasich budget have been similar and dramatic, as we now find local communities being asked to pick up the budget pieces

Over 63% of the school levies on the general election ballot are Kasich levies seeking to increase property tax funding for schools to replace the lost of state funding.

We catalogued the full list of school levies on the November ballot, here.

Governor John Kasich enacted Ohio's most draconian education cuts in the state's history, and as a consequence is now causing either local taxes to increase to meet the serious shortfalls, or degrading educational quality with increased class sizes, cuts in programs, nutrition, busing and sport.

He will have a chance to reverse this in his up coming budget, we urge him and the legislature to do so, our future, as the report below indicates, depends upon it Investing in Our Future Report

Education By the Numbers


Guest Post: Proposed education reforms misguided

To the Editor:

More and more we hear assertions that our schools are failing. There are also increasing comparisons between education systems in the US and Finland, with specific attention to the 2009 results of PISA where Finland scored first or second in math, reading and science. Consequently, there are some who believe we should be competing with them and that we can learn from the Finnish model.

Others think that through changes with charter schools, teacher evaluation, school funding, common standards, student assessment and school choice that we can improve our international test scores and student achievement. Many are advocating for the implementation of elements of the Finnish model and these reforms.

However, these beliefs are quite contradictory and two key points are problematic. First, the reforms fly in the face of the foundations of Finland’s education system. Second, the reforms and increased accountability measures do not address the larger national issue of poverty and its impact on student achievement.

A central focus of the Finnish system is the priority on local innovation and absence of standardized testing. Actual teaching time in Finland is among the lowest in the world and teachers spend more time planning and collaborating than many school systems. Their school days are shorter and students study less at home. Becoming a teacher in Finland is a privilege; in fact, less than 10% of applicants become teachers.

Conversely, the U.S. is stuck in conflict between an impetus for 21st century instruction and a spotlight on standardized testing and common curriculum. By definition, “standardization” and “common” actually inhibit innovation and creativity. In many parts of the U.S. the trend is towards extended school days, increased teaching time and significant amounts of homework. And while teacher quality is an enduring issue with calls for improved performance and preparation, we are in the midst of layoffs and waning resources for teacher training and development. We are making teaching less attractive and more difficult to foster success.

A second problem with the direction of educational reform is that it appears less attention is paid to the negative effects on student performance of family poverty and concentrations of poverty in schools. Iris Rothberg of George Washington University claims the assumption that accountability, school choice, and common standards will solve our education problems is off-base.

Our schools are not failing. In the U.S., socioeconomic status of students accounted for almost 80% of the difference in reading performance between schools on the PISA. When examined separately, affluent schools in the U.S. scored among the best in the world.

I agree with Rothberg that current policy deliberations touch the periphery of these realities and that tougher accountability and test score comparisons will not address the problems of poverty and our country’s divide. Historically, accountability measures have not resulted in meaningful improvements in student learning.

Despite this, we illogically continue developing new policies not employed and often discouraged by countries such as Finland whose results we seek to emulate. While there is nothing wrong with holding professionals accountable for performance standards, what we really need is to reposition conversations and focus actions on the real targets; implementing known, proven practices and addressing issues of poverty.


Checking in on Ohio’s E-schools, Part 1: Enrollment

The Quick & the Ed are beginning a new series of posts looking at Ohio's E-Schools.

In 2005, the Ohio state legislature put a moratorium on the creation of new e-schools, but allowed existing schools to continue enrolling new students. Since then, enrollment has increased 65 percent. It’s accelerated, too: in 2011, e-schools added 3,963 students, more than any other post-moratorium increase. In retrospect, 2010 looks to have been a down year for e-schools in terms of enrollment.

Check out the rest of their post.