Arts on Line Update March 16, 2009

128th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House has canceled sessions for this week, and the Ohio Senate will only meet on Tuesday.  Committee hearings are still scheduled.

*The Ohio Senate approved SB2 Federal Infrastructure Funding (Carey) on March 11, 2009.  This bill provides for the distribution of moneys received by the state from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill now moves to the Ohio House for action.

*Budget Timeline:  Representative Sykes, chair of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, released information about the timeline for the House to approve the biennial budget, Sub. HB 1 (Sykes).  According to this timeline, the House Finance and Appropriations subcommittees will complete work on the budget and send it back to the full committee by the end of March.  A substitute version of Sub. HB 1 will be released on April 14, 2009, and at that time the committee will hold more hearings.  The committee is expected to vote on HB 1 the week of April 20th.  The bill will then move to the Ohio Senate.  The state’s biennial budget must be adopted by July 1, 2009.

*Another Casino Proposal:  Casino and gambling proponents, Penn National Gaming and Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, have recently submitted to Ohio Attorney General Cordray a proposed constitutional amendment, the Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan, to authorize casinos in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo. Once the ballot language is approved by the Attorney General, the proponents must collect 400,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters by July 1, 2009 to place the issue on the November 3, 2009 ballot.  The proposal estimates that the casinos will raise $1.8 billion a year in revenue.  Of that amount, $600 million will be distributed among county and local governments and school districts.

This Week at the Statehouse:
MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2009
The House Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Dyer (614-466-1790), will hold a regional hearing on Monday, March 16, 2009 in Dayton at the Stivers School for the Arts, 1313 E. Fifth St., 45402. The hearing begins at 4:00 PM, and is open to the public.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2009
The House Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Dyer (614-466-1790), will meet at 1:00 PM in room 313 to accept general testimony from the public on Sub. HB1 (Sykes).

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Cates (614-466-8072), will meet at 4:00 PM in the North Hearing Room.  The committee will hear a presentative from Susan Bodary regarding EDvention, and testimony on SB 6 – Special Education Voucher Program (Coughlin). An amendment and vote is possible.

The Partnership for Continued Learning will meet at 2:00 PM at the Ohio Board of Regents, Rhodes State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St., 36th Floor, Main Conference Room.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2009
The House Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Dyer (614-466-1790), will meet at 7:00 PM in room 313.  The subcommittee will accept testimony from the general public on Sub. HB1 (Sykes).

The STEM Subcommittee of the Partnership for Continued Learning will meet at 3:00 PM in the Rhodes State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St., 36th Floor, Main Conference Room.

THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009
The House Finance and Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative Sykes (614-466-3100), will meet at 1:00 PM in hearing Room 313.  The committee will consider testimony on HB15 Workers’ Compensation Budget (Sykes) and HB16 Industrial Commission Budget (Sykes).

National Education News
*Omnibus Appropriations Act Signed:  President Obama signed into law on March 11, 2009 a $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R.1105) to keep the government running through September 30, 2009.  The federal government has been operating through continuing resolutions since October 2008, when Congress failed to approve appropriation measures for government agencies. The spending bill provides $62.6 billion for education, an increase of $3.4 billion over 2008 levels. For an excellent summary of the appropriations for education included in the Omnibus Act please visit the New American Foundation and read their issue brief.
http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/2009_appropriations

*Education Priorities:  President Barack Obama outlined on March 10,2009 his priorities for education during a speech to the U.S.
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. According to the President it is critical for U.S. to significantly improve the education system because by 2016, “four out of every ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training.” The President will structure his education reform plan on the following “five pillars of reform”:

-Investing in early childhood initiatives like Head Start; -Encouraging better standards and assessments by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in; -Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers, and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.
-Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.
-Providing every American with a quality higher education–whether it’s college or technical training.

To read the speech please visit
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/10/Taking-on-Education/

*Testimony on Education Budget:  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Budget Committee on March 12, 2009 regarding the budget request for the U.S. Department of Education.  President Obama is requesting $46.7 billion in discretionary funding, which is approximately $500 million more than FY08 levels. The details of this request will be released in April.  To read the testimony please visit http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/03/03122009.html

More Testimony on Sub. HB 1 (Sykes), the FY10-FY11 Budget: The House Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Dyer, continued to hear testimony on Sub. HB 1 (Sykes), the biennial budget bill.  Last week the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and several individuals presented testimony on charter schools, special education, gifted education, student intervention services, teacher licensure, accountability, and assessments. The following are selected summaries of the testimony presented, prepared from written testimony.  Testimony from representatives of the Ohio Department of Education are available at http://www.ode.state.oh.us/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx?page=523.

March 10, 2009
Family and Community Engagement:  Jane Weichel, associate superintendent of the ODE’s Center for Students, Families, and Communities, provided an overview of the provisions included in Sub. HB 1 that support families and students. The ODE’s Center for Students, Families, and Communities provides support for a range of students (pre-school, special education, gifted, and at-risk) through a variety of programs that focus on wellness, intervention, safety, community engagement, and extended learning.

According to the testimony, “A systematic method for pooling the efforts and supports of schools, families, and communities to better serve the needs of children and youth is needed, especially in the difficult economic times the citizens of Ohio are facing. It is becoming increasingly important for Ohio to find ways to maximize resources for children and families with fewer and fewer public, private, formal, and informal resources allocated in support of them.”

Sub. HB1 would require that a family and community engagement team of educators, support staff, parents, business representatives, and community members be established in every school district.  This team would create a five year family and community engagement strategic plan, a work plan, and an annual progress report, which would be aligned with the work of the Family and Children First Councils and P-16 Councils in every county. The State Board of Education is required to formulate standards for the team. Resources are provided in Sub. HB 1 for a family-community engagement coordinator for each organizational unit, and a linkage coordinator in high schools with a 70 percent or lower graduation rate.  Some of these efforts will build upon the work that the State Board of Education has been doing to strengthen parent and community engagement with schools.

School Options: Kim Murnieks, executive director of the ODE’s Center for School Options and Finances, provided information about the provisions in Sub. HB 1 pertaining to community schools, the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, the Educational Choice Scholarship, and non-public schools.

Community Schools: In FY09 state foundation funding for community schools totaled $637 million.  Sub. HB 1 includes $497.4 million in FY10 and $533.7 million in FY11 for community schools allocated through the new Evidence-Based Model formula.   $1.3 million is also included for technical support and assistance, and $225,000 for sponsorship training.

According to the testimony there are approximately 88,000 students enrolled in 321 community schools.  28 of those schools are internet-based schools, including seven statewide e-schools, and 21 e-schools sponsored by school districts.

There are 73 community school sponsors in Ohio. Since April 2003 the ODE has had oversight over community school sponsors.  However, the ODE does not have authority over sponsors operating before 2003, and Educational Service Centers and school districts that sponsor community schools. As a result, 55 percent of community schools currently operating fall outside the ODE’s authority.

In 2007-2008 eight percent of community schools were rated Effective or Excellent; 20 percent were rated Continuous Improvement; 18 percent were rated in Academic Watch; and 32 percent were rated in Academic Emergency. Since the passage of 126-HB 79, the ODE has the authority to close community schools with persistently poor academic results, except those that are dropout recovery.  Two schools will close at the end of this school year, and nineteen are at risk of closing in 2010. There are also fourteen community schools listed as “unauditable” for one or more fiscal years.  Six of those schools have already closed. The ODE is also monitoring several community schools that have lost enrollment, because these schools have the potential to close due to finances.

Sub. HB 1 includes the following provisions related to community schools:  -distributes funds to community schools through the new Evidence-Based Model; -authorizes the ODE to oversee all sponsors and annually review sponsors; -allows progressive sanctions to be applied against sponsors that do not comply with the law or sponsorship agreements; -establishes performance criteria for dropout recovery schools; -eliminates “first offer” language on school district property sales; -prohibits for-profit management services; -requires community school teachers to be highly qualified and teach in the subjects for which they are licensed; and -eliminates the two year waiting period between when community schools open and the issuance of the first school report card.

Non-Public School Options: Sub. HB 1 includes support for the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, which serves approximately 6,000 students, and the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, which serves approximately 10,000 students.

Sub. HB 1 includes two accountability measures regarding the scholarship programs.  Students who wish to participate in the EdChoice Program must attend a public school for the entire school year before applying for the scholarship. In addition, private schools that participate in the program must participate in Ohio’s statewide assessment system.

Non-Public Schools: Sub. HB 1 includes $131.7 million in both fiscal years for Auxiliary Services provided to private schools, and $59.8 million for nonpublic administrative cost reimbursement. These line items have been increased by 1.9 percent in FY10 and are flat-funded in FY11. Transportation funds have also been changed to provide, through a new funding model, more support to school districts that are required to transport students attending private and community schools.

Coalition for Public Education (CPE): Barbara Shaner from the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) and Andy Jewell from the Ohio Education Association, presented testimony on the provisions in Sub. HB 1 that relate to charter schools.  The CPE promotes the value of public education as the foundation for good economic health and a strong society; advocates for accountability for the public tax dollars spent on education; and believes that traditional public schools provide the best choice for students and their families.

According to the testimony, Ohio’s charter school program has turned into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with the results less than satisfactory.  Charter schools have also had a negative effect on students and taxpayers.

An OEA study called “The Effect of Charter School Competition on Student Achievement in Ohio”, shows that charter schools actually have a negative effect on the public schools in their communities.
When students leave traditional public schools and lose state support the result is larger class sizes, increased student mobility and disruption, and fewer resources for programs to meet the needs of the students who remain in the traditional public schools.  According to this report, “…for each of the tested subjects and grade levels that were analyzed, the percentage of traditional school district students who attend charter schools is found to be significantly and negatively related to changes in pass rates.  All things being equal, for every one percentage-point increase in charter school market share, proficiency levels decrease by a range of one-fifth to one-half percentage points.”

The CPE supports the following measures to increase the accountability of charter schools:

*Clarify that the ODE has oversight of all sponsors, including the grand-fathered sponsors.
*Apply new sanctions (probation and suspension) on charter school sponsors who fail to have proper oversight of performance of the schools they sponsor.
*Apply sanctions on sponsors when charter schools do not meet legal standards.
*Publish an annual report on charter school sponsors.
*Require that charter school operators must be nonprofit entities competitively bid.
*Require that charter school teachers meet the State’s requirement to be “Highly Qualified”.
*Require that charter schools receive report cards beginning with the first year of operation.
*Codify “unauditable” charter school language.
*Repeal the requirement for school districts to offer property to community schools.
*Require on-site evaluations of charter schools by ODE at least once every five years.

March 11, 2009
Accountability Measures:  Kim Murnieks, executive director of the ODE’s Center for School Options and Finance, presented information about the accountability measures included in Sub. HB1.  The State Board of Education and the ODE are already committed to ensuring the financial integrity of Ohio’s school system through a number of initiatives.  Currently seventeen school districts are in fiscal caution; eight districts are in fiscal watch; and eight districts are in fiscal emergency status.

Sub. HB 1 includes $1 million in each fiscal year for the Auditor of State to conduct performance audits of school districts.  $2.16 million is included for the ODE to provide technical assistance and monitor the fiscal status of school districts. The ODE must also conduct performance audits of school districts and community schools at least once every five years to ensure compliance with academic and operating standards. A series of consequences for noncompliance is also outlined in the bill.

Sub. HB 1 includes $600,000 in each fiscal year to establish the Office of School Resource Management. School districts and community schools are required to annually submit a budget plan aligned to the evidence-based model, and school districts with high schools that have a graduation rate of 70 percent or less are required to work with the Governor’s Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative.

$350,000 is also included in Sub. HB1 to continue the Fiscal Data Project, which analyzes spending patterns and identifies effective and efficient use of resources in alignment with student achievement goals.

Transportation Funding: The proposed budget provides $376.9 million to support a new fairer transportation formula. A school district transportation base cost is determined by either using the cost per mile or cost per pupil, adjusted by the wealth of a district. School districts can also receive additional funding for the percentage of nonpublic and community school students transported; meeting efficiency targets; or exceeding minimum transportation standards. Currently school districts receive a set amount for transportation regardless of the services provided to students. Since 2006 the number of students being transported by school districts has dropped by 147,000 students. $10.85 million per year is also included for bus purchase allowance.

Accountability and Testing: Stan Heffner, associate superintendent of the ODE’s Center for Curriculum and Assessment, reviewed provisions in Sub. HB 1 that relate to accountability and assessment. Sub. HB 1 includes $71.9 million each year for testing.  This is an increase of $3.15 million over the current fiscal year. The bill also includes $5.789 million each year to update the academic content standards, and $4.4 million each year for accountability programs administered by the Office of Policy and Accountability.  This is an increase of about $20,000 over current estimated spending.

Sub. HB 1 includes several changes related to the state’s assessment system.  The proposed new system replaces the Ohio graduation tests with a nationally accepted college entrance exam to be given to high school juniors; creates high school end-of-course exams; requires a service learning project and senior year capstone project; revises the assessments in grades 3 through 8; combines the reading and writing tests in grades 4 and 7 into a single English language arts assessment; and reduces the number of performance levels from five (i.e., basic, limited, proficient, accelerated and advanced) to three (i.e., limited, proficient, advanced).

Teaching Profession: Lou Staffilino, associate superintendent for the ODE’s Center for the Teaching Profession, reviewed the provisions in Sub. HB 1 that relate to teacher licensing, teacher preparation, alternative licenses, and a four-level career ladder system, which includes resident educator, professional educator, senior professional educator, and lead professional educator.

Major restructuring changes are proposed in Sub. HB 1 for the teaching profession, including a provision that transfers the authority for teacher preparation programs statewide to the Ohio Board of Regents, and changes the process that a school district uses to dismiss a teacher. Under the bill the dismissal process will be the same used to dismiss other state employees. According to the testimony, the changes proposed for teacher career advancement are consistent with the vision of the State Board of Education, the ODE, and the Educator Standards Board.

Sub. HB 1 also includes $6.1 million in the ODE’s budget and $2.5 million in FY11 for the Board of Regents’ budget to create the Ohio Teach Program, and $1.68 million each year for the Educator Standards Board to implement educator standards and develop professional standards for superintendents, treasurers, and business managers.

March 12, 2009
Special Education: Jane Weichel, associate superintendent of the ODE’s Center for Students, Families and Communities, provided an overview of the provisions included in Sub. HB 1 regarding special education services.

According to the testimony, there were 265,000 students who received special education services last year, which is 15 percent of the K-12 student population.

The formula for special education included in Sub. HB 1 retains the six categories of special education weights, but revises the weights and applies them to the number of special education students in a category in a school district, rather than to a per-pupil amount. The level of funding is also applied at 90 percent.

A 1:20 teacher ratio is used to determine the number of special education teachers that will be funded through the model.  A special education aide is included for every two special education teachers.

Funds are also provided to support home instruction reimbursement, special education and related services at county MRDD boards and institutions, and preschool special education and preschool supervisory units at county MRDD boards, educational service centers (ESC), and school districts.

Additional funds are included to reimburses school districts at least 50 percent of the cost of providing services to students above
$27,375 in categories two through five, and $32,850 for students in category 6.

Gifted Programs: Ann Sheldon, executive director of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children, described the current funding system for gifted students, the proposed funding levels for gifted education in Sub. HB 1, and noted several concerns about adequacy of the proposed system.

The current structure for providing services to gifted students includes approximately $5 million for identification and approximately $42 million for “gifted units”, which support gifted coordinators and intervention specialists.  There are 1110 gifted units allocated to some, but not all, school districts throughout the state.  These units provide services to only 20 percent of the identified gifted student population, and local funds support another 7 percent. The number of gifted students served has been decreasing from 43 percent in 1998 to 27 percent currently. According to the testimony, “Where you live definitely determines whether you will receive appropriate services or not.”

The average gifted unit is funded at $37,000, which is below the state average teacher salary level. Approximately 300 of the gifted units are allocated to Educational Service Centers to provide gifted services to students in school districts that have too few gifted students to efficiently provide a gifted program. No state share is applied to the current gifted funds. Another $1 million is spent on the Summer Honors Institutes including the Martin Essex program.

The proposed budget for gifted education in Sub. HB 1 provides school districts with $25 per ADM, but these funds are adjusted for each district by the charge-off in the new formula.  As a result, gifted funding is reduced to $21 million in the proposed formula, and no funds are provided for identification or the Summer Honors programs. In addition, no funds are tied to an intervention specialist or coordinator for gifted students. According to the testimony, “In fact, almost all of Ohio’s districts lose gifted funding under the new plan.  The only “winners” are those districts that serve no gifted students or substantially fewer than the majority of other like districts.  In essence, the new plan rewards districts who have done the least for gifted students.”

The new system for gifted funding would need to provide $56 per ADM rather than the $25 per ADM to provide the current level of support for identification and units, and this would still only serve 20 percent of gifted students identified.

Even though Sub. HB 1 has included transitional aid as a “hold harmless” provision to ensure districts don’t lose funding during the phase-in of the new funding system, unit funding for ESCs and funds for identification are not held harmless.

According to the testimony, “In short, the funding system as currently laid out in HB 1 will be devastating to gifted children and gifted educators in Ohio and the effect is already being felt across the state.  A dangerous number of gifted coordinators and intervention specialist positions are already being terminated.”

An evidence-based gifted education program based on Ohio’s operating standards for gifted should include the following components:

-Identification of gifted students, especially underrepresented populations, -Gifted staff, including both gifted coordinators and gifted intervention specialists based on ratios in the operating standards.
-Professional development for both gifted staff and classroom teachers.
-The Summer Honors Institutes and the Gifted Research and Demonstration projects (eliminated two biennia ago).
-A mandate to serve ALL gifted students based on the gifted operating standards.
Student Intervention and Support: Ann Brennan, director of the Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA), explained the role that school psychologists play to help students overcome both academic and nonacademic barriers to success; provide expertise to school districts regarding data related to student achievement and evaluation; and participate in the identification, delivery, and evaluation of services for students in special education and gifted education programs.

According to testimony, “School psychologists are trained in a prevention/intervention research based model that measures student outcome data against the expected achievement of groups of students and individual students.  In other words, their training provides expertise in evidenced based reading and math instruction, as well as behavioral interventions that can be used at different levels of intensity and frequency with both groups of students and individual students.”

Although OSPA generally supports the provisions in Sub. HB 1 directed at student centered learning, the following recommendations were presented:

*Include state funding for the school psychology intern program in the special education enhancement line item. This forty year old program, funded through the ODE, supports school psychology interns, who are placed in school districts in the last year of their three-year graduate program under the supervision of an ODE licensed school psychologist.

*Include related service providers, such as school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and physical therapists, in definitions and other components of Sub. HB, so that school districts can continue to use state funds to employ these specialists mandated by Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

*Include related service professionals, such as school psychologists, on the various student support teams described in Sub. HB 1, including the school organizational leadership team; the family and community engagement teams; academic improvement teams; and community engagement and linkage coordinators.

*Continue to provide support for the parent mentor program and adequately fund gifted education and Educational Service Centers.

*Continue analysis of the special education weights to ensure they meet the service needs of students with disabilities.

State Board of Education Meets: The State Board of Education, Jennifer Sheets president, met on March 9 & 10, 2009.  During the business meeting on March 10, 2009, the Board took action on ten personnel items, and the following resolutions.  The next State Board meeting will be held on April 13-14, 2009:

RESOLUTIONS
*Approved a Resolution to Amend Rule 3301-10-01 of the Administrative Code entitled School Enrollment for Victims of Domestic Violence; *Approved a Resolution to Amend Rule 3301-46-01 of the Administrative Code entitled Establishing Provisions for Granting Exceptions from Statutory Provisions and Rules as Necessary to Implement Innovative Education Pilot Programs; *Approved a Resolution to Rescind and Adopt Rules 3301-103-01 to 3301-103-07 of the Administrative Code regarding the Autism Scholarship Program; *Approved a Resolution to Adopt Ohio’s Proposed Plan for Credit Flexibility; *Approved the 2009-2010 State Board meeting dates; *Approved a motion authorizing the Dayton City School District settlement agreement. *Approved a Resolution of Intent to Amend rules 3301-13-01 and 3301-13-02 of the Administrative Code regarding Assessments; *Approved a Resolution of Intent to Amend Rules 3301-37-01 to 3301-37-12 of the Administrative Code regarding Preschool Program Standards; *Approved a Resolution of Intent to Rescind Rule 3301-56-01 of the Administrative Code entitled School Building and District Improvement Planning, Parent Notification, and Consequences Procedures, and to Adopt proposed new Rule 3301-56-01 of the Administrative Code entitled School District and Building Improvement Planning, Parent Notification and Intervention.

To read the March 2009 Board Brief regarding the State Board of Education meeting, please visit
http://www.ode.state.oh.us/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx?page=3&TopicRelationID=574&ContentID=61502&Content=64981

New Study Links Poverty & Student Achievement: A Policy Brief released on March 9, 2009 called “Poverty and Potential:  Out of School Factors and School Success” warns that out-of-school factors (OSFs) must be more rigorously addressed if states are to be successful in closing achievement gaps between lower and middle income students.

The Policy Brief was prepared by David C. Berliner, Arizona State University, and was funded by the Great Lakes Center for Educational Research & Practice.

The policy brief describes the effects on lower income students of the following six OSFs and how they limit what schools can accomplish:

*low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; *inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; *food insecurity; *environmental pollutants; *family relations and family stress; and *neighborhood characteristics.

These OSFs lead to physical, sociological, and psychological problems in children ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

According to the brief, “Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.”

The brief makes the following recommendations:
*Reduce the rate of low birth weight children among African Americans, *Reduce drug and alcohol abuse, *Reduce pollutants in our cites and move people away from toxic sites, *Provide universal and free medical care for all citizens, *Insure that no one suffers from food insecurity, *Reduce the rates of family violence in low-income households, *Improve mental health services among the poor, *More equitably distribute low-income housing throughout communities, *Reduce both the mobility and absenteeism rates of children, *Provide high-quality preschools for all children, and *Provide summer programs for the poor to reduce summer losses in their academic achievement. The research brief is available at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

Bills Introduced:
*HB68 Healthy Farms Healthy Schools (Dodd): Establishes the healthy farms and healthy schools grant program for the purpose of providing grants to schools to establish nutrition and agricultural education programs for Kindergarteners.

FYI ARTS
*SBE Adopts Credit Flexibility Action Plan:  The State Board of Education’s Carnegie Design Team presented their recommendations to the State Board of Education on March 10, 2009.  The recommendations along with supporting information are included in a document called “New Emphasis on Learning:  Ohio’s plan for credit flexibility shifts the focus from “seat time” to performance,” This document is available at http://education.ohio.gov/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx?page=3&TopicRelationID=1427&ContentID=61432&Content=64752.

The State Board of Education was directed through SB 311 (2007) to develop a plan to grant high school credit to students through a demonstration of competency rather than the current method, which awards high school credit to students based on achievement and completion of 120 hours of instruction (Carnegie Unit). The law requires the State Board to adopt the plan by March 31, 2009, and local boards of education to adopt policies in time for the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

Current law allows students to earn graduation credits without meeting the 120 hours of classroom instruction through five options.  However, only five percent of high school credit is awarded through these alternative options. Additional ways for students to earn high school credit include testing out; showing mastery of course content; or completing successfully a senior project, distance learning, postsecondary coursework, internship, service learning, or research based project.

To develop the credit flexibility plan, the ODE formed a Design Team to research and develop recommendations that provide students with more flexibility to earn credits for graduation.  The Design Team started meeting in June 2008, and developed a proposal which was shared with a variety of stakeholders, including arts education and advocates, in January and February of 2009.

The State Board of Education approved a resolution on March 11, 2009 outlining the provisions and guidelines related to the credit flexibility plan.  These provisions and guidelines are summarized below:

Ohio’s Plan for Credit Flexibility
*The Carnegie Unit will be retained, while students will have options for demonstrating subject area competency and for earning credit.  Students may choose to earn credits through the completion of courses (i.e., seat time). Or, they may choose to “test out” of a course or pursue one or more “educational options” (e.g., distance learning, educational travel, independent study, internship, music, arts, after-school program, community service or other engagement project and sports). In any of these cases including a hybrid approach, students can demonstrate their subject area competency. In each of these instances, learning will be guided by the Ohio Academic Content Standards.

*All students will have opportunities to earn credits through flexible methods. Some students will prefer traditional methods, especially when their learning styles are well suited to the current modes of delivery, but all students will be allowed to advocate for and take advantage of this opportunity (this includes students with disabilities, gifted students, under-credited and over-aged students at-risk of dropping out, incarcerated students, English as second language learners and any student eligible to earn high school credit).

*Credit flexibility will pertain only to high school credit. At this time, the provision applies only to students who are earning high school credit. It could include a middle grades student or younger who is eligible to earn high school credit. For this reason, students may benefit from early exposure and awareness about their options for learning including demonstration subject area competency.

*There is no limit to the kinds of course work, nor to the number of credits, that can be earned. Students can earn credit in core and non core subject areas, and academic and career technical coursework under this provision. As well, there will be no limit on the number of credits towards graduation that can be earned in this way.

*Credit will be reported on student transcripts in the same way that seat time credit is recorded. Transcripts should not indicate that this credit was earned in any way different from other credit or in any way that could disadvantage a student in their application to postsecondary or work opportunities beyond high school.

*Credit will be a local decision. Teachers will award credit (as they do now). Yet, other mechanisms may be used to “inform” a credit determination. This could involve the use of a multi-disciplinary team, a professional panel from the community (e.g., business, higher education or a community expert), or a state performance-based assessment in one of the core content areas. It is expected that teachers and students will pre-identify and agree on the learning outcomes that align with the state’s academic content standards, and on how these outcomes will be assessed.

*Local boards of education will establish policy to guide implementation at the local level. Local boards of education will adopt policies in accordance with guidelines set out in the plan and establish additional provisions as may be necessary. Local boards will be prohibited from establishing local policies that negate or otherwise prohibit access to the essential tenets and intent of this “plan for credit flexibility.”

*To ensure statewide equity, state entities should invest in and utilize technology platforms and/or consider specialized provider agreements.

*Information about practices, models and research will be collected and disseminated statewide. The state should consider following students after high school graduation and reporting their success rates.

*In recognition of the changing expectations around learning, support for and investment in ongoing professional development for educators remains important. Experts in the community, in higher education and business and online, provide an additional resource – an opportunity for specialized content, relevance and mentoring connections.  Teachers should not be expected to know what these experts know and do. For this reason, teachers may choose to use “experts” in determining, assessing or demonstrating the acquisition of academic, technical and soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills, professionalism, and responsibility).

*Policies should be aligned in ways that help make credit flexibility actionable statewide. The state should remove critical system barriers where it is able and develop system capacities to better utilize credit flexibility where needed. This includes recommendations such as changing the language of the Operating Standards and Educational Options so that it can be funded and more schools will be motivated to use it with students. The goal of early adoption is to serve more students in individualized ways to ensure their success (and positively impact performance ratings on school and district accountability). In doing so, the state seeks to learn how to design a system that graduates and prepares each and every student.

State Guidelines for Local Board
Based on the research from other states and the feedback from stakeholders, the following guidelines should shape policy at the local level:
*Local boards must communicate the aspects of Credit Flexibility (the policy and programs) with students and parents on an on-going basis and using multiple communications methods.
*Local board policies must allow demonstrated proficiency options on an on-going basis.
*Local board policies should allow graded options for demonstrated proficiency (because pass/fail may disadvantage a student during transition to postsecondary).
*Local board policies must allow demonstration of proficiency to count towards course requirements for graduation (may not be restricted to elective credit).
*Local board policies must determine credit equivalency for Carnegie unit.
*Local board policies shall not cap or limit the number of courses or credits earned through Credit Flexibility.
*Local board policies must allow simultaneous credit (e.g., academic and career technical, more than one academic content/course area, secondary and postsecondary) and partial credit to be earned.
*Local board policies must not prohibit access to on-line education, postsecondary options or services from another district approved by the board.
*Local board policies may accept credit from other districts and educational providers including on-line providers in accordance with the operating standards.
*Local boards must establish provisions for instances when students do not or cannot complete requirements, for instances when students transfer between districts and for early graduation.
*Local boards must establish a review process and submit data to the state about the methods and frequency of communication with students and families. Boards must collect performance data including the number of participating students, total credits earned and extent to which student participation reflects diversity of the student body.
*Local boards may want to consider the maintenance of a “library” of courses that were previously accepted to assist students, parents and teachers with understanding available options (or those unique to local contexts and regional economic development interests).

Expected Timelines Moving Forward
This section of the document includes implementation information for school districts. Many steps must be completed in order for the credit flexibility plan to be successful, and these steps are outlined on pages 19-20 of the document.

To learn more about the plan, please visit
http://education.ohio.gov/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx?page=3&TopicRelationID=1427&ContentID=61432&Content=64752

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This update is written weekly by Joan Platz, Information Coordinator for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.  The purpose of the update is to keep arts education advocates informed about issues dealing with the arts, education, policy, research, and opportunities.  The distribution of this information is made possible through the generous support of the Ohio Music Education Association (www.omea-ohio.org), Ohio Art Education Association (www.oaea.org), Ohio Educational Theatre Association (www.Ohioedta.org); OhioDance (www.ohiodance.org), and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (www.OAAE.net).

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About OAAE

Since our founding in 1974, by Dr. Dick Shoup and Jerry Tollifson, our mission has always been to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Working at the local, state, and federal levels through the efforts of a highly qualified and elected Board of Directors, our members, and a professional staff we have four primary areas of focus: building collaborations, professional development, advocacy, and capacity building. The OAAE is funded in part for its day-to-day operation by the Ohio Arts Council. This support makes it possible for the OAAE to operate its office in Columbus and to work statewide to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Support for arts education projects comes from the Ohio Arts Council, The John F. Kennedy Center, Ohio Music Education Association, Ohio Art Education Association, Ohio Educational Theatre Association, VSA Ohio, and OhioDance. The Community Arts Education programs of Central Ohio are financially assisted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. We gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the financial support received from each of these outstanding agencies and organizations.
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