Education News for 03-08-2013

State Education News

  • Charter schools decry proposed cuts in state funding (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Charter-school supporters like to tout that the privately operated, tax-funded schools do more to improve student achievement with less money than traditional public schools…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Rotary Club, UA unite to promote child literacy in Akron schools (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Kolaiah White looks comfortable in front of 75 fidgeting third-graders…Read more...

  • Medina school superintendent to give back bonus amid community protest (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Medina’s school superintendent agreed Thursday to give back a bonus and potential merit raises in his new contract…Read more...

  • Tax ruling may cost county, schools millions (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • A ruling granting a West Chester Twp. hospital a tax exemption for charitable purposes may mean the loss of millions to Butler County and the Lakota Local School District…Read more...

  • Clear Fork student drug test policy updated (Mansfield News Journal)
  • The Clear Fork Board of Education will consider changes to a proposed plan to drug test student-athletes and drivers…Read more...

  • Armed resource officer hired for Sandy Valley schools (New Philadelphia Times-Reporter)
  • As superintendent of Sandy Valley Local School District, David Janofa believes his district is among the safest in the Tuscarawas Valley…Read more...

Ohio Media Ignore Financial Link Between Failing Charter School Operators And New Charter-Friendly Education Plan

Via Media Matters

Ohio media reporting on Gov. John Kasich's (R) new education funding plan neglected to inform readers that the plan funnels millions of dollars in increased spending to private schools and charter schools whose operators have donated millions in campaign contributions to Kasich and Republicans in the state legislature.
Ohio's largest print news outlets -- including the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dayton Daily News, Toledo Blade, and the Beacon Journal -- not only ignored the financial connections between Kasich's charter-friendly plan and his campaign donors, they also failed to note that the charter school industry is receiving this boon despite consistently performing well below Ohio's traditional public school districts. Recently released report cards for the 2011-12 school year indicated that "while 92 percent of the state's public school districts scored effective or higher...only 26 percent of charter schools did."

The amount of tax payer money being transfered to Ohio's terrible charters schools under the Governors new funding plan is quite staggering. all told it is likely to be close to $1 billion a year.

Top reasons to take power out of the hands of the politicians

Or why the Voters First initiative is so important

  1. Ohio’s new Congressional Districts now look like they were drawn using an Etch-A-Sketch.
  2. Ohio’s new 9th Congressional District is so narrow that with a good long jump you could leap right over it — from the 4th District, right in to Lake Erie.
  3. The mapmakers put The Ohio State University and Ohio University in the same Congressional District instead of the NCAA Elite 8.
  4. Tax-payers had to foot the bill for a fancy hotel room[1] — the politicians called “The Bunker” — so the mapmakers could have more privacy to gerrymander Ohio’s new Congressional and State Legislative districts.[2]
  5. The mapmakers came up with a brand new criteria for redistricting called, ‘Save Our Politicians Millions in Future Campaign Spending.’ [3]
  6. Partisan operatives got $150,000 to help draw the maps.[4] Ohio’s voters got the shaft.
  7. Mapmakers ignored public input and protected their own political interests. Their efforts made a mockery of public redistricting hearings held across the state.
  8. Congressional districts were rigged so that most U.S. Representatives were selected during the Primary, robbing millions of General Election voters of a voice. [5]

To find out more, please visit Voters First Ohio.

[1] Map-makers worked in Room 601 of the Double Tree Guest Suites, The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 31-34

[2] Apportionment Board Secretary Ray DiRossi’s August 16, 2011 email at 9:53am noted, “I’m free all day today at the Bunker,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 35

[3] Ohio House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Troy Judy provided Ray DiRossi with an analysis which ranked the top Ohio House Districts for the amount of in-kind campaign support provide by the Republican Party or caucuses. DiRoss replied, “But we have made significant improvements to many HD on this list. Hopefully, saving millions over the coming years,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix 106-107.

[4] Both Apportionment Board Secretaries received contracts for $75,000 for map-making. Each received an additional $30,000 for their work during litigation, Elephant in the Room, Appendix pp. 41-46.

[5] Partisan indexing based on the results of the following statewide races: 2008 – President, 2010 – Governor, Auditor, and Secretary of State project no highly or heavily competitive Congressional races in 2012.

Common Core, costly

The Cincinnati Enquirer has an article pointing to the logistical and expensive costs ahead to implement the Common Core Curriculum, which is set to begin in earnest in 2014. One of the first major hurdles is having the requisite infrastructure in place to accommodate the millions of computer based tests that will occur.

The new tests will be taken online, replacing the standardized No. 2 pencil-and-paper tests that Ohio schools have always used.

While local school leaders like the idea of online testing, the switch is also creating concern because it's unclear who's going to pay for the computers and software upgrades needed for the new system. District officials worry the state will pass costs onto local districts - and their taxpayers. That's something many districts fear they won't be able to afford.

At a time when requests for new school levies are proving difficult to pass, and Columbus is keen to abrogate its responsibility to funding public education, additional costs like this are sure to hit districts up and down the state hard. Not only will schools need to significantly boost their IT hardware spending, but the level of IT infrastructure needed to support these new testing requirements will also require on going IT support to keep it all running smoothly.

Without additional computers or greater wireless capability, the new tests shrink the number of computers available for remedial classes and other kinds of instruction, Farmer said.

"We'd be very much in trouble if they expect us to do all that (testing) online," he said.

Northwest voters, like Cincinnati's, rejected a combination bond issue/operating levy this month that would have paid to renovate the high schools and improve technology.

With the selection of the consortia Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), Ohio might also expect to test its students even more.

Instead of tests once a year, the new tests will probably be taken at least twice a year, said Dennis Evans, an Ohio Department of Education spokesman.

With each of these millions of tests costing at least $14 each, it's not just the cost of IT infrastructure that needs to be contended with anymore.

Whatever the merits of these policies as tools to increase educational quality, it is clear that Ohio is going to need to find a way to invest more readily in these transitional efforts.

Teacher evaluations are becoming big business for private companies

New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually for companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools.

Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating another source of revenue for those in the business of education. More than half of states are changing their laws to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations and adding requirements for the classroom observations used to rate teachers. The main intent of the new laws is to identify which teachers are doing a good, bad, or mediocre job and to help them improve. One early outcome of such recent legislation, however, is a booming market that sells services and products to help states and school districts scrambling to meet the new standards.

“It’s an incredibly heavy lift for states,” says Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. “Some have contracted out big pieces of it, whether it’s someone internal in the state or an outside provider.”

Nonprofit groups and for-profit companies alike are vying for contracts to design evaluations, train teachers and principals to use them, and set up online platforms to help sort the data that schools will be collecting. Private foundation money is subsidizing some of the contracts, but districts are also spending millions of public dollars, much of it from the Obama administration’s $4.3 billion “Race to the Top” initiative.

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The Gates Foundation Exposed. Part I

If you are reading this article, it's likely you have heard of Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, maker of the Windows operating system for PCs. He's a multi-billionaire entrepreneur, turned philanthropist.

His charitable Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent millions of dollars on various causes including malaria and AIDS research, human rights, the environment, and also education. It's his efforts to apply corporate education reforms to US public education that we want to focus on in this series.

At a time when education budgets are being slashed, the Gates Foundation is wielding hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the education reform debate. In 2009 alone the Foundation spent $373 million on its education agenda, of which $78 million was devoted to corporate reform advocacy. This money was spread far and wide, to non-profits, PR firms, governments and education departments throughout the country.

Some might argue that this money could lead to improved schools, but many of the goals of the Foundation are based not on sound science, but ideology and gut instinct. Take for example an early initiative the Foundation pursued, to the tune of $2 billion - the Small Schools Initiative.

Based upon nothing more than a belief that breaking up low performing schools into much smaller student blocks would produce wildly improved student achievement, Gates set upon spending his money to convince schools to break up. But after billions of dollars and years of experimentation on students, Gates himself admits the endeavor has not produced the desired benefits

Now, Bill Gates has acknowledged that the results have been "disappointing" too. Gates shared the information. Here's what he said in his speech:

"In the first four years of our work with new, small schools, most of the schools had achievement scores below district averages on reading and math assessments. In one set of schools we supported, graduation rates were no better than the statewide average, and reading and math scores were consistently below the average. The percentage of students attending college the year after graduating high school was up only 2.5 percentage points after five years. Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for."

The evidence is clear that smaller impersonal schools are no more effective than larger impersonal schools.

One can easily see that one man, with strong convictions and deep pockets, can have major impacts on public policy. Even when exercising the best of intentions, a little caution and humility should be assumed; else serious damage could be wrought.

In part II of our series, we'll look at some of the reforms Gates and his Foundation are now pursuing, which could have far more damaging consequences to schools, students and their teachers.

Part two can be read here.
Part three can be read here.