Sunday, May 29, 2011

Interim Superintendent of Ohio Schools Works for ETS

On May 29, 2011 Greg Mild reported that the Superintendent of Ohio Schools works for the Educational Testing Service being paid to administer many of the new assessments being required under recent legislation. Here is a portion of that article:

Stan Heffner, Interim Superintendent for Ohio, provided testimony to the Senate expressly supporting a provision that would direct over 2.2 million dollars annually to ETS, the company that announced his hiring just three weeks earlier.  He provided opinions that contradict previously published documents from the Ohio Department of Education.  While it is true that he will not actually cast the votes to make this law, he has used his position as Superintendent to represent himself as an expert in this area. Nowhere in his testimony did he declare his existing financial relationship with ETS.
And this is not his only conflict of interest between ODE and ETS.

In the beginning stages of the development of the Common Core curriculum, Heffner clearly stated that Ohio wouldn’t participate.  And yet his latest ODE Profile states that “Heffner is an innovative leader in the national effort to create model curricula and common assessments aligned to the national Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics.” 

Heffner has reversed course to the benefit his future (current) employer and has been collaborating with ETS’s newly formed department since as early as January when this “leader in the national effort” began promoting ETS as his primary source for information about the development of common assessments.

Continue Reading the Full Article:
Interim Superintendent of Ohio Schools Works for ETS

Saturday, May 28, 2011

U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead

Vivek Wadhwa recently wrote an article for Bloomberg Business Week entitled, "U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead." Vivek Wadhwa is a visiting scholar at University of California-Berkeley, senior research associate at Harvard Law School, and director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Here are some excerpts from that article:

"...The independence and social skills American children develop give them a huge advantage when they join the workforce. They learn to experiment, challenge norms, and take risks. They can think for themselves, and they can innovate. This is why America remains the world leader in innovation; why Chinese and Indians invest their life savings to send their children to expensive U.S. schools when they can. India and China are changing, and as the next generations of students become like American ones, they too are beginning to innovate. So far, their education systems have held them back.

...Much is made of the PISA test scores and rankings, but the international differences are actually quite small. Most of the U.S. ranking lags are not even statistically significant. The U.S. falls in the second rank on some measures and into the first on others. It produces more highest-performing students in science and reading than any other country does; in mathematics, it is second only to Japan. Moreover, one has to ask what the test results actually mean in the real world. Do high PISA rankings make students more likely to invent the next iPad? Google (GOOG)? I don't think so.

Let's keep improving our education system and focus, in particular, on disadvantaged groups. Education is the future of our nation. But let's get over our inferiority complex. America is second to none. Rather than in mastery of facts learned by rote and great numbers of accomplished martinets, its strength lies in the diversity and innovation that arise in an open, creative society."

Continue Reading the Full Article:
U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead-Way Ahead

The Service of Democratic Education

At the commencement ceremony for Columbia University's Teachers College on May 18, Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond—a nationally renowned leader in education reform and former education adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign—was awarded the Teachers College medal for distinguished service. She responded with an elegant address on public education in America. Here are excerpts from that address:

"...During that decade, precisely 100 years ago, nationally distributed tests of arithmetic, handwriting and English were put into use. Their results were used to compare students, teachers and schools; to report to the public; and even to award merit pay—a short-lived innovation due to the many problems it caused.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In the view of these brilliant managerial engineers, professionally trained teachers were considered troublesome, because they had their own ideas about education and frequently didn’t go along meekly with the plan.

As one such teacher wrote in The American Teacher in 1912:
We have yielded to the arrogance of "big business men" and have accepted their criteria of efficiency at their own valuation, without question. We have consented to measure the results of educational efforts in terms of price and product—the terms that prevail in the factory and the department store. But education, since it deals in the first place with human organisms, and in the second place with individualities, is not analogous to a standardizable manufacturing process. Education must measure its efficiency not in terms of so many promotions per dollar of expenditure, nor even in terms of so many student-hours per dollar of salary; it must measure its efficiency in terms of increased humanism, increased power to do, increased capacity to appreciate.
 ...The new scientific managers, like the Franklin Bobbitts before them, like to rank and sort students, teachers and schools—rewarding those at the top and punishing those at the bottom, something that the highest-achieving countries not only don’t do but often forbid. The present-day Bobbitts would create “efficiencies” by firing teachers and closing schools, while issuing multimillion-dollar contracts for testing and data systems to create more graphs, charts and report cards on which to rank and sort… well, just about everything.

...And doing the right thing—meeting that professional commitment—is not easy. Whether it is standing up for a child who is mistreated, or finding the energy to go that extra mile to reach out to a troubled parent, or taking up a challenging issue in the research, or taking on a difficult concern in the public discourse, doing the right thing is often hard. As King reminded us:
On some positions, Cowardice asks the question "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
Take heart in knowing that the arc of history is long, as King noted, but it bends toward justice. Take courage in knowing that where a community of hands comes together to work toward justice, a freedom seed will grow. And take pride in knowing, when the work is challenging and setbacks come—as they must when anything important is happening—that you are building a better future for every child and family and community you touch. And remember, as Robert F. Kennedy observed:
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."
 Continue Reading Her Full Address:
The Service of Democratic Education

Teach For America: From Service Organization to Self-Promoting Industry

Rachel Levy a self-described former teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mom recently wrote an excellent article on Teach for America on her blog, "All Things Education." Many education writers, including Diane Ravitch and Kenneth J. Bernstein, view it as the best article to date on the Teach for American program. Here are some excerpts from the article:

"If the impact of TFA teachers is not entirely clear, their rates of attrition and financial costs are. According to the review of literature cited earlier, fifty percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and eighty percent leave after three. They don’t become lifelong teachers or even ten-year teachers. Their improved effectiveness would only come into play after they would have left. Since the corps members don’t stick around long enough for their students to benefit from their experience, TFA doesn’t, in fact, ultimately lead to higher teacher quality.

TFA teachers cost taxpayers more money than traditionally educated teachers. The afore-mentioned review  shows that the average cost of a TFA teacher is $70,000 per recruit. Public school districts are paying twice for recruiting: from $2,000 to $5,000 to TFA per recruit plus funding recruitment by their internal human resources departments. Recruitment costs should be one-time expenditures, but at the current rate of attrition, districts must pay anew every time a TFA teacher leaves. According to Barbara Miner’s investigations, on top of their school district-paid salaries, Teach for America candidates also receive taxpayer-funded Americorps stipends, plus because of their TFA member status, they qualify for funding that people who take traditional teacher training routes don’t. Finally, TFA receives millions in local, state, and federal dollars. TFA annual reports show that about a third of costs are borne by the public—add in a $50,000,000 grant they received from the Department of Education this past spring, and that share has probably risen. How can the federal government subsidize a jobs program for the privileged as it struggles to extend unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs?"

Continue Reading the Full Article:
Teach for America: From Service Organization to Self-Promoting Industry

An American Agenda for Education Reform

Recently, the National Center on Education and the Economy released a report entitled "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform" by Marc S. Tucker. The report examines the education systems of Finland, Japan, Singapore, Shanghai and Ontario, Canada as a point of comparison for the American system. Below are excerpts from that report:

"...Put these three points together—highly qualified college educated women and minorities abandoning teaching as a career, the drop in admission standards following the baby boom and the decision by many capable students to avoid teaching because of the widespread teacher layoffs, and we can see the danger ahead for the United States. All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing. Inaction, not action, will bring about this result. It is critical that this trend be reversed. We cannot afford to continue bottom fishing for prospective teachers while the best performing countries are cream skimming.

...There are no “alternative routes” to entering the teaching force in Finland. The only way to become a teacher in Finland is to get a university degree in teaching. 

...At the International Summit on the Teaching Profession convened by Secretary Duncan in New York City in March 2011, the Minister of Education of Singapore offered the observation that the goal of compensation policy ought to be to “take compensation off the table” as a consideration when able young people are making career decisions. There was wide agreement on that point among the ministers of the other top-performing countries around the table.
...The United States is far from the Singapore minister’s standard. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, teachers earn a national average starting salary of $30,377. That compares with $43,635 for computer programmers, $44,668 for accountants and $45,570 for registered nurses. None of these occupations are among the leading professions, which provide starting salaries that are even higher. Not only do teachers make markedly less than other occupations requiring the same level of education, but census data shows that teachers have been falling farther and farther behind the average compensation for occupations requiring a college degree for 60 years.

...As we have seen, the prevailing view in the United States is that our teachers need not come from the more able strata of the college-educated population. We behave as if we believe that only a few weeks of training is needed to do what they have to do, a sure sign that we do not believe teaching is a profession at all.
...Any country that recruits its teachers from the higher ranges of the applied ability distribution will quickly find that—in order to keep them—it has to train them in high quality, high status universities, support them well once hired and offer them decent pay and professional work environments, and—not least—trust them to do the right thing.

...It turns out that neither the researchers whose work is reported on in this paper nor the analysts of the OECD PISA data have found any evidence that any country that leads the world’s education performance league tables has gotten there by ...implementing any of the major agenda items that dominate the education reform agenda in the United States. We include in this list the use of market mechanisms such as charter schools and vouchers, the identification and support of education entrepreneurs to disrupt the system, and the use of student performance data on standardized tests to identify teachers and principals who are then rewarded on that basis for the value they add to a student’s education or who are punished because they fail to do so.
...They insisted on high standards but they listened hard to what the teachers had to say about the support they needed to raise student achievement to those standards. They decided that the highest leverage strategy available to them was to the capacity and professional skill and commitment of their in-place teaching force. They focused on what it would take to build capacity at every level of the system to deliver, and wherever possible, supplied it. They made a point of trusting teachers and the teachers returned their trust.”
Continue Reading the Full Report:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Worthington Teacher's Testimony Against Ohio HB153

OEA member and WEA President Mark Hill's written testimony against HB 153

"Chairman Widener, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee, my name is Mark Hill. I am a math teacher in the Worthington City Schools currently serving as president of the Worthington Education Association. Thank you for allowing me to offer testimony on HB153.

I come today to talk to you about the teacher accountability provisions in HB 153. I have some concerns about the structure for accountability that is in the version passed out of the House. 

I would like to begin by saying that I don’t have a problem with a rigorous evaluation system for teachers nor do I disagree with the notion of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom. That may sound unusual coming from a leader of a local teachers union but I am a parent, too, and I care about access to a high quality education for my kids. The teachers I represent take a great deal of pride in teaching in an excellent school district; many of them live in the district and all of them want it to remain excellent; none of them want to work alongside a bad teacher. 

HB153, as passed by the House, goes too far. It requires teachers to be rated highly effective, effective, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory based on an evaluation in which 50% of the score is measuring student growth through value added scores averaged over three years. It requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to set a minimum level value added measure for a teacher for each of the rating levels. Furthermore, it imposes draconian penalties for teachers who are rated as unsatisfactory or needs improvement including imposition of unpaid leave on a teacher rated at those levels if their principal does not consent to placing them in their building the next year effectively ending their careers. 

Value added scores are a great concept but as a statistical measure, they are fraught with error. Scores fluctuate by random error; in Houston’s value added system only 38% of the top fifth remained in the top rating the next year. 23% of the top fifth in performance ended up being in the bottom fifth the next year and vice versa. Fluctuations like that defy reason; it is highly unlikely that a fourth of the top teachers in Houston one year were poor performers the next. 

According to another study done for the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation found that, using three years of data, a teacher who should be rated as average has a 25% chance of being rated significantly below average. A teacher who should be rated as a top performer has a 10% chance of being rated significantly below average. This means under HB 153, 25% of the average teachers in Ohio and 10% of the good teachers in Ohio would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs due to statistical error. I hope the Ohio General Assembly would not want to add a “Wheel of Fortune” element to teachers’ careers. 

Under this system, who would take care of the kids? There are teachers who ask for the students with behavior problems and learning disabilities because they care about them and believe they deserve an education. Under HB 153, these teachers would be putting their career at risk to do so. My own son has Aspergers Syndrome, which is a condition on the autism spectrum – who will want to teach him? Under HB153, math and reading teachers are far more at risk for losing their jobs than other teachers because those are the only areas with enough scores to build a value-added modeling system. Who would want to work in an area where you are constantly worrying about losing your job due to a statistical error? 

I don’t come just to complain but to offer solutions. First, you’ve already passed this framework for evaluation in Senate Bill 5. There is no logical reason to duplicate it in HB153 – frankly, I don’t believe it belongs in either bill but should be a subject of debate on its own. Second, instead of mandating 50% value added, allow the local education agency to decide how to best fit value added in their evaluations. This is the system under Race to the Top – Worthington is a Race to the Top district, so we have already agreed to rate teachers’ effectiveness through evaluation using value added modeling. A top down statewide approach will have serious unintended consequences. 

Thank you for listening."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Phil Hayes' Testimony In Opposition to the Ohio HB153

Written Testimony
Ohio Senate
Senate Finance Committee, Chris Widener, Chair
Testimony in Opposition to Sub. HB 153 by:
Philip W. Hayes, Educator,
Brookhaven High School
Columbus City Schools

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Good morning Chair Widener, Vice Chair Jones, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee. I thank you for giving me the opportunity today to speak candidly and personally regarding my opposition to Substitute House Bill 153.
I am a high school social studies teacher at Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio. It is my first and only teaching assignment; I’ve taught there since 1998 and cannot imagine teaching anywhere else.

I want to tell you all that for the past four months, I wake up each morning at 5 a.m., angry. I go to bed each night, often at 10 or 11 p.m., tired, frustrated, hoarse from talking and arguing, and wake up angry again the next day, only to start the process over.

I am angry because of the various pieces of legislation that have been proposed or passed by the Ohio General Assembly that deal with education matters. This includes the items in HB 153 that threaten to change my profession, my calling, my life’s work into something much less—a job. Teaching is not what I do; it is who I am. Most importantly, the proposed changes will affect my students.
Who are my students? According to the latest state report card, each class of 30 students at Brookhaven has 25 that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Seven of the 30 have transferred from another school. Five students have an identified learning disability. Three students were learning how to read, write and speak English as they were being instructed in that language. Roughly one student in each class of 30 was homeless.

Here are just some of the proposed “solutions” that have been included in HB 153 that will affect my students, my colleagues and their students.

Why has an overall K-12 funding decrease been touted as a state foundation increase? While the promise has been made that the state will not increase taxes, the truth is that local school districts will have to put levies on the ballot at an ever-increasing rate to make up for the shortfall in state funding. This proposed budget shifts the burden from the state to local governments.

I take issue with the provision that gives teachers a $50 bonus if their students achieve more than a year’s worth of academic growth. This transforms our students from human beings into fifty-dollar bills. Why would you want to create a situation where a teacher walks into a class and sees their students with dollar signs hovering over their head? Our students are equal human beings, and should be treated as people, not profits.

I disagree with the section that calls for retesting teachers that teach in core academic areas if they work in a school that is identified as one of the lowest 5 percent statewide. We have already passed a national test, selected for use by the state’s Department of Education to establish our subject area competence. Just weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter.

I object to the House’s inclusion of teacher evaluation provisions from SB 5 into HB 153. It is, at its best, disingenuous; at its worst, it is duplicitous, divisive and devious.

The basis of merit pay within the bill, as proposed, is completely without merit. There are many areas where state achievement test scores or growth data cannot be used to inform the evaluation process. How can anyone possibly determine the worth of an art, music or physical education teacher that inspires and motivates a student to become an artist, musician or more physically fit, enriching, changing and perhaps saving their lives?

For the past four years, I have my students pick the best teacher they’ve ever had and write them a letter, thanking them and explaining why they were chosen. Often times, those teachers write back to my students and their share stories and recollections from when my students were in their classroom.

Over the course of those four years, none of the student letters have contained the sentence “Thank you for helping me pass the test.” Not one. But these are the best teachers these students have ever had; they have made their subject come alive for them, encouraged them, inspired them, fought for them, laughed with them and cried with them. All of those are teacher attributes that cannot be tested, surveyed or measured.

Chair Widener, Vice Chair Jones, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee, I thank you for your time and attention. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have at this time."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kasich is Using Public School Money to Pay Casino Consultants

Ohio Governor John Kasich recently announced that he is hiring gaming consultants to advise the state on its deal with casinos. According to Ohio Budget Watch, "the consultant fees — a percentage of the state’s revenues from casinos — of up to $15 million are to come from the Lottery Commission’s budget. The Lottery, whose profits are constitutionally required to be spent on education." Here’s what the Ohio Constitution has to say on how the lottery proceeds are supposed to be used:

(§ 15.06(A):
"The General Assembly may authorize an agency of the state to conduct lotteries, to sell rights to participate therein, and to award prizes by chance to participants, provided that the entire net proceeds of any such lottery are paid into a fund of the state treasury that shall consist solely of such proceeds and shall be used solely for the support of elementary, secondary, vocational, and special education programs as determined in appropriations made by the General Assembly."

Unfortunately, it appears like Ohio's public school budget is being cut by an additional $15 million.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Teachers Hold 'Grade-In' to Protest SB5

Fifth-grade science teacher Ashlee Michael got a lot of attention Thursday evening as she sat in the Casa de Emanuel restaurant in East Liverpool grading papers. 

And Michael, along with several other teachers in Columbiana County, were hoping they would turn some heads, as they took part in a "grade-in" demonstrating the work they put in after hours to make sure students are successful.

"It's hard to get all the grading and all the other responsibilities done in a regular eight-hour day," Michael said.

Michael said she puts in at least 12 extra hours a week outside of school just grading papers and working on lesson plans.

"I for one have 150 students that I have to make sure that I assess their notebooks, their different assignments, and I have to do that daily," she said.

But the teachers said they have a deeper reason for participating in the "grade-in." They want politicians who voted for Senate Bill 5 to see just how hard they work, even when they're not getting paid to do the work.

"We just want to make the community aware that we're out here and we want the support of the community to protect our union and what we're fighting for, which is equal civil rights in the workplace, the right to bargain for wages, our retirement, and everything like that and our benefits," Michael said.

The teachers are part of an effort to collect enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot to repeal Senate Bill 5.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Failing Schools" Fallacy

In the past few months, Americans have often heard it stated as a fact that our public schools are failing. Certainly, we will never be satisfied until our education system is perfect and it will never be perfect because it is comprised of imperfect people. But what is the basis for the claim that our public schools are failing?

The most often cited statistic is the performance of American students on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluations that is coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Much of PISA's methodology follows the example of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, started in 1995), which in turn was much influenced by the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The reading component of PISA is inspired by the IEA's Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). In 2009, the United States ranked 30th in Science, 23rd in Math and 17th in Reading on these assessments.

Diane Ravitch recently wrote an article putting these ranking in historical context. Here is a portion of that article:

"President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, reacted with alarm to the results of the latest international assessment of student performance in December. Duncan said they were a “wake-up call” to the nation.
To counter what it thinks is educational decline, the Obama administration launched a program called “Race to the Top,” which promotes more privately managed schools, evaluates teachers based on student test scores, encourages merit pay, and includes a variety of other unproven strategies intended to boost test scores.
But are our public schools really in free-fall? It is a fact that American students recently scored in the middle among 65 nations that participated in tests of reading, mathematics and science.
What the president doesn’t seem to know is that our students have taken part in these international assessments since the 1960s, and we have typically been in the bottom quartile.
When the first international math test was administered to students in eighth grade and 12th grade in 1964, our eighth-graders came in next to last and our seniors were dead last. In the first international test of science in the early 1970s, our seniors scored last. In additional tests of mathematics and science in the 1980s and ’90s, American students seldom surpassed the international average."

Continue Reading the Full Article:
'Failing Schools' Fallacy

Monday, May 9, 2011

Law Firm's Analysis of Teacher Merit Pay in Ohio Budget Bill

The Muskovitz & Lemmerbrock law firm recently wrote their analysis of Ohio HB153 for the Cleveland Federation of Teachers. Here is a summary of their analysis.

Public School Teachers in Ohio will now be paid based upon:
1) Licensure level
2) Being a "Highly Qualified Teacher"
3) Required annual performance evaluations for all teachers

The Four License Levels Are:
1) Resident Educator (0-4 years)
2) Professional Educator (5+ years)
3) Senior Professional Educator (9+ years and requires "Master Teacher" designation)
4) Lead Professional Educator (9+ years and requires "Lead Educator" designation)

The Four Educator Rating Categories Are:
1) Highly effective
2) Effective
3) Needs improvement
4) Unsatisfactory

The law requires that at least 50% of the rating be based upon the value-added measure if it is available for the teacher. Some of the problems with this measure are discussed in many places including here and here. The second component is administrator evaluations. Each educator is required to have an administrator conduct a classroom observation for a minimum of 30 minutes twice each school year. This unfunded mandate will place a huge administrative burden on districts. The next component is parent and student evaluations. The Plain Dealer's PolitiFactOhio discusses this aspect of the plan here. Finally, whether or not the educator meets the "highly-qualified teacher" criteria is considered.

Matt Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute, was recently quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer for his views on merit pay for teachers in Ohio. He said that if he could further design the pay-for-performance program in Ohio, only one in four teachers would be rewarded with pay increases and the bottom teachers would have to immediately boost their teaching skills or be fired.

According to Mayer, "The real focus on K-12 pay for performance should be on rewarding the top 25 percent of teachers that when compared to their peers excel in terms of the academic achievement of their pupils. And then there is the bottom 25 percent who are below their peers. Get those who underperform help or help them move on to a new career."

And the middle 50 percent would get raises only as resources within the individual districts allow, he said. "Kind of how the private sector works," Mayer said.

The bill explicitly grants local school boards and school board members immunity from civil lawsuits for conducting these evaluations.

Here is the link to the full analysis of the implications of the Ohio budget for teachers that was written by the Muskovitz & Lemmerbrock law firm:

Legal Analysis of Teacher Merit Pay in Ohio Budget

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Plan to End Public Education in America

Recently, Rachel Tabachnick of published an article detailing the motivations behind the recent attacks on public education in America. She explains the funding sources and groups behind this campaign. I don't agree with some of the views of the writers for, but this article does seem to match up other articles and information available on the topic. The goals of these organizations seem to be accurately represented. The only concern that they would seem to have is that they do not want the public to know what their goals are and who they personally for fear of a backlash by the general public. Whether individuals support or oppose their plan, voters should be aware of their plan and the implications of that it would have for our nation. Here is a portion of the article:

"Media materials for Betsy DeVos’ group All Children Matter, formed in 2003, claimed the organization spent $7.6 million in its first year, “impacting state legislative elections in 10 targeted states” and a won/loss record of 121/60.

Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”

Like DeVos, several free-market think tanks have also issued warnings that vouchers appear to be an “elitist” plan. There's reason for their concern, given the long and racially charged history of vouchers."

Read the Full Article:
The Plan to End Public Education in America

Brennan's Bonanza

Brennan's Bonanza 'Pepperoni Pizza'

Brennan's Bonanza "Gold"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ohio Charter Schools Receiving Payback for Political Contributions?

Ohio State House Republicans recently proposed sweeping changes to laws regulating charter schools in Ohio. The changes would make Ohio the only state in America to allow for-profit operators to open charter schools without sponsors. The Columbus Dispatch recently published an article explaining the many problems with the proposed changes to charter school regulations.

It has been recently discussed how many charter school operators in Ohio, including David Brennan the founder of White Hat Management, have contributed millions of dollars to Republican candidates in the state of Ohio. Many are viewing the radical relaxation of charter school regulations in the state as political payback to Brennan and other charter school operators.

According the Columbus Dispatch, “a spokesman for Brennan acknowledged yesterday that White Hat sought several provisions to reduce oversight and lift restrictions, but he also refused to take sole credit for the changes. ‘There were more than a thousand amendments (to the budget bill) and there are numerous school-choice interests advocating for school-choice policies,’ said Tom Needles, a lobbyist for White Hat.”

Even other charter school supporters question the changes. Bill Sims, of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said the changes threaten to undermine public accountability and could be a setback for school choice. "No other state allows for-profits to be the direct receiving entity of state dollars," he said. "Our concern is when you don't have a nonprofit governing authority acting as mediator. What happens to board meetings? Are they not public anymore? What happens to the Sunshine Law? Are their financial dealings out of reach? There's no accountability. None of it makes any sense."

The issue also came up in the May 2nd Ohio budget hearing before the House Finance Committee. "A number of provisions ... have the unintended consequence of greatly weakening accountability in the charter-school system to the point that it would put the charter-school movement at risk," Dave Cash, president of the Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers, told lawmakers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blame a Teacher Day

E. D. Kain of Forbes magazine recently wrote an article in response to Matt Yglesias:
"Okay, for the sake of argument let’s accept each of Matt’s premises here. Let’s say that Last In, First Out and seniority and compensation schemes based on experience and education don’t make sense (even though much of this is unofficial practice in many other industries). Even accepting these premises I fail to see how implementing a complicated, controversial, financially burdensome and ultimately counterproductive testing regime is the correct answer to getting rid of the bad teachers while attracting good people to the profession.

Here is my alternative plan: make teaching fun and rewarding. Treat teachers as autonomous professionals and make teaching more exclusive....

Because Matt is right that teachers make a huge difference. He’s just wrong to suggest that we should make teaching a lousy profession that no-one with half a brain would want to join. Why would talented people want to subject themselves to a teaching job under the sort of conditions that Matt favors? “Accountability” and “value-added” schemes are not only bad at actually gauging teacher quality, they have the really awful side-effect of making teachers all teach to tests.

High-stakes standardized testing flies in the face of creative teaching and learning and everything that makes America great: our creativity, our individualism, our ingenuity and problem-solving. Instead we get Teaching By Rote 2.0 and a deeper entrenchment of the school-as-assembly-line model."

Read the Full Article:

Another Example of Charter School Failure Caused by Poor Oversight

Scene Magazine of Cleveland, Ohio investigated another charter school in Ohio that was allowed to waste taxpayer money because of poor management and lack of oversight:

"A regular week at the Weems School was a minefield of surprises for staff and students alike.
For students, that was a blast: The lunch menus were constantly changing, any given day could yield an unannounced field trip, and there was always the possibility you'd show up and find the doors locked and lights out.

For teachers, that wasn't so fun. Bill collectors were clogging up the phone lines, required textbooks weren't on the shelves, paychecks were late, and regular funds from the state got straw-sucked down a gaping black hole. The whole operation, it seemed, was held together by the thinnest strands of authority.

Such was life at the Tremont charter, which was christened in 2005 and ran aground four years later. Behind the wheel was Ruby Weems, the Hummer-driving superintendent with a spotty background in education. Together with her identical twin sister Rory, Weems ran an operation that even her most favorable critics call sloppy. Those who were bilked by the school and left to clean up the mess are less charitable.

...The teachers say ERCO [the school's sponsor, Cincinnati-based Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio (ERCO)] should have stepped in before Weems' mess got out of hand.

...Not surprisingly, the books were bad from day one. According to a state audit, the Weems school provided few or no financial records to substantiate its expenditures in its first year. The audit lists multiple occasions where Weems cut checks up to $30,000, but failed to properly document where the money went. State auditors threw up their hands, refusing to even provide an official opinion on the books.

More strangeness ensued in the weeks that followed. Rory Weems found her office had been ransacked for material related to the suit. Ruby shut down the school for three days in order to duck an order to appear in court. She hauled students off on impromptu field trips to the zoo and a local fair without telling parents or teachers beforehand. She also locked all employees out of the administrative office.

But the real mystery hanging over the Weems fiasco: Why did the Weems School money disappear in the first place, and where did it all go?"

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The Weems Way