130th General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate are on recess until next week.
New Superintendent Installed: Dr. Richard Ross took the oath of office at Reynoldsburg High School on March 25, 2013 to become Ohio’s 37th Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dr. Ross was selected by a majority of the members of the State Board of Education on March 12, 2013 to be superintendent after a six month search. Most recently Dr. Ross served as the director of Governor Kasich’s Office of 21st Century Education, and was the former superintendent at Reynoldsburg City Schools.
In his first official EdConnections communication as superintendent, Dr. Ross stressed the need for Ohio educators to help “all children reach their potential, regardless of their circumstance, by providing a world-class education system.” He went on to say that the state as a whole must do better to “close our achievement gap, increase the graduation rate, and reduce the need for college remediation.”
He said that he will focus on four or five issues, and that some changes will be made at the Ohio Department of Education to implement the priorities.
School Funding Town Hall Meeting in Cincinnati: Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney announced last week that he will be hosting an education funding town hall meeting to discuss the governor’s school funding proposal on April 11, 2013 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at TechSolve Inc., 6705 Steger Drive, in Cincinnati. Joining the senator will be Ohio Representative Denise Driehaus and Assistant Director of Education Policy in the governor’s office, Barbara Mattei-Smith. Parents, community members, teachers, and other school personnel are encouraged to attend. For more information please call Senator Kearney’s office at 614-466-5980.
Deadline Extended for Ohio Teacher of the Year Nominations: The Ohio Department of Education has extended the deadline to May 1, 2013 to nominate a teacher for the 2013-2014 Ohio Teacher of the Year recognition. The deadline for nominated teachers to submit their applications has also been extended to June 1, 2013.
The Ohio Teacher of the Year program is part of the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief School State Officers. Information about the program is available.
United Opt-Out Event to be Held this Week: Advocates for public education are meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 4-7, 2013 for the second annual United Opt Out National Event to protest corporate-based school reforms. The four-day event includes, among other activities, a march to the White House and a protest at the U.S. Department of Education.
The United Opt Out National Event focuses on the problems created by the corporate-based education agenda, which include school accountability systems based on standardized tests scores, and privatizing public education through vouchers and charter schools.
Joining the protesters this week will be education historian Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, veteran educator Deborah Meier, and early childhood expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige.
The United Opt Out National Event is part of a larger nationwide movement to limit high-stakes standardized testing and its repercussions.
Information about United Opt Out National Event and other nationwide activities to limit testing is available.
Common Core Opt Out: An article in Scholastic Administrator Magazine by Nancy Mann Jackson describes how some states are reconsidering the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English language arts and assessing students based on the standards. (“Core Withdrawal? Some states seem to be reconsidering their Common Core commitments” by Nancy Mann Jackson, Scholastic Administrator Magazine, Spring 2013.)
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia agreed to implement the CCSS in 2010, and most states have joined either the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers to develop and implement an assessment system aligned to the CCSS. However, some states, Utah in 2012 and Alabama in February 2013, are now pulling out of the assessment consortia, and some experts who are following this issue believe that other states might follow. According to the article, opponents of the standards are focusing on getting policy makers in Colorado, Idaho, and Indiana to drop the standards.
The author identifies those on the left and right of the political spectrum who oppose the CCSS or the standardized testing associated with the standards, based on the following reasons:
- The CCSS were developed “top down” and adopted by states after a strong promotional campaign promoted by state education agencies, the National Governors’ Association, and business interests.
- The CCSS will require even more testing of students without any research that shows that student achievement will improve. None of the standards have been rigorously piloted to see if they work.
- States and schools do not have the resources or the technology to implement the CCSS and the assessments, which will be delivered online to students.
The article is available.
GAO Report on Special Education Identification: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on February 27, 2013 a report entitled “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Standards Needed to Improve Identification of Racial and Ethnic Over-Representation in Special Education”, GAO-13-137.
The report focuses on a national concern that certain racial and ethnic groups are overrepresented in special education programs. This is referred to in the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as “significant disproportionality”. Congress directed states to address this issue by using 15 percent of IDEA funds to provide early intervening services to children who need additional academic and behavioral support. The purpose of the additional services is to remedy the deficit rather than wait until students are old enough to receive special education services.
The report noted that DOE’s oversight of racial and ethnic over representation in special education is hampered by the flexibility states have to define significant disproportionality. States have created a variety of definitions for disproportionality, and so the number of students identified and served in one state differs considerably from another state. The report recommends that the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE) develop a standard approach to be used by all states to address the over representation of racial and ethnic groups in special education.
The report is available.
Indiana Court Upholds Vouchers: The Indiana Supreme Court issued a decision in Meredith v. State on March 26, 2013. The Court upheld the Marion Superior Court’s ruling that the state’s school voucher program (Choice Scholarship Program) for low-income students is constitutional. The decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that court upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship program in 2002.
The Indiana court ruled that the vouchers are constitutional, because they “do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children by providing an opportunity for such children to attend non-public schools if desired.” The court also found that the state’s prohibition against government expenditures to benefit religious or theological institutions does not apply to institutions and programs providing primary and secondary education.
The decision is available.
Privatization of Education: An article in the New York Times by Fernanda Santos and Motoko Rich examines the trend to “redefine” public education across the nation. (“With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families” by Feranda Santos and Motoko Rich published by the New York Times on March 27, 2013)
According to the article seventeen states offer 33 programs that support private education programs with taxpayer dollars. These include tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds; state-funded education savings accounts, in which the state deposits public funds for certain students to use for private educational services; and voucher programs.
Most of the programs require students to meet certain requirements in order to receive a voucher. Some of the requirements include that the family of the student must meet a certain income level; the student must have a individual special education plan; or the home-school must be failing academically. However, some states, such as Georgia, allow any student to receive a tax-credit scholarship.
The article notes that the privatization programs have become a challenge to traditional public schools, which have lost state funding due to budget cutbacks during the recent recession. Public school advocates believe that the level of state funding for public schools was not adequate even before the recession, and has been compromised further as public funds have been diverted to support private education.
The results of court challenges to state laws supporting vouchers have been mixed. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program did not violate the separation of church and state, some states have stronger-worded constitutional clauses which prohibit financing religious institutions with public money. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of its state’s voucher program on March 26, 2013, while the Louisiana Supreme Court is considering a lower court ruling that upholds a legal challenge of Louisiana’s extensive voucher program. Court decisions about Arizona’s scholarship fund are pending.
Opponents believe that voucher programs undermine the quality of a public education system; do not serve all students; can select the students to admit; and are not accountable for the public funds. Research on the achievement of students in voucher programs has not shown clear improvements in student performance either, according to the article.
The article is available.
PIRG Report Rates States for Transparency: The Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG) released on March 26, 2013 their fourth report on how states provide online access to government spending data. The report is entitled, Following the Money 2013 by Benjamin Davis, Phineas Baxandall, and Ryan Pierannunzi.
According to the report accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent. For the first time in 2013 all 50 states provide some checkbook-like level of information on state spending via the internet, and in all but two states, Vermont and California, the state information is searchable.
PIRG examined state online sources and rated them based on several categories. The seven highest rated states, Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Oklahoma, have created user friendly websites that provide the public with an array of checkbook level information about state expenditures, including payments made to vendors through contracts, grants, tax credits, and other discretionary spending.
The lowest rated states, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Hawaii, California, and North Dakota, have websites that are limited and hard to use. They fail to provide information about economic development subsidies or off-budget agency spending.
Ohio received a D+ rating and is considered a “lagging state” according to the report. States in this category failed to provide detailed spending data, although Ohio does provide information on economic development tax credits.
Ohio’s website is maintained by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
The PIRG report is available.
Agriculture Art Contest Submission Deadline Extended: The Ohio Department of Agriculture has extended to May 15, 2013 the deadline for its annual “Ag is Cool” creative expressions contest for children.
Entries can include an original video, photograph, drawing, or painting that expresses a child’s personal interpretation of why Ohio agriculture is “cool”. Projects will be judged in the following age categories:
Grades K-2: Photography, Drawing or Painting
Grades 3-5: Video, Photography, Drawing or Painting
Grades 6-8: Video, Photography, Drawing or Painting
Grades 9-12: Video, Photography, Drawing or Painting
One winner from each age group and format will be chosen.
All entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that may include representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the governor’s office, the Ohio Expo Center, and professionals in video production, photography, drawing, painting, and other visual arts.
Judging will be based on the student’s visual representation of the “Ag is Cool!” theme; whether it accurately reflects 21st Century agriculture; creativity and use of Ohio images; and the quality of the work.
Students who submit an entry will have a chance to win prizes, including Ohio State Fair concert tickets. Award winners will be recognized by the Office of the Governor and other state officials at the Ohio State Fair on July 24, 2013.
A complete copy of rules and entry forms are available.
Cleveland’s Theatre Program Noted in Blog: Bruce E. Whiteacre, Executive Director, National Corporate Theatre Fund, writes that the Cleveland Play House is bringing theatre to schools in 12 Ohio counties (and up to 16,000 students) through the Classroom Matinee Touring Program. This is important, because research shows that students who study the arts in school support the arts as adults. (“With Little Resources for Arts in Schools, Theaters Bring Performances to the Classroom” by Bruce E. Whiteacre, Posted 03/26/13, Huffington Post blog)
Pamela DiPasquale, Director of Education at the Cleveland Play House, explains in the article that classroom teachers are focusing more and more time on instruction in math, reading, and science, and leaving the arts at the wayside as students have been required to take more standardized tests to meet state accountability standards. The Classroom Matinee Touring Program provides students with an authentic theatre experience without leaving school and missing instructional time. The touring program includes a set, actors, costumes, and pre-show workshops that link the production to the Common Core state standards for social studies and English language arts. The production can be performed in gyms or multi-purpose rooms. The current production on tour is a play entitled Margie and Mike.
The blog is available.
Update on NSO SMI Program: Carole Wysocki, Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Education Programs, recently released information about the number of students who applied, and those who were accepted, in the NSO’s Summer Music Institute (SMI), which will be held July 1-29, 2013.
The SMI is a component of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Education Department, and offers aspiring student musicians four weeks of private lessons, rehearsals, coaching by NSO members, classes, and lectures. Students also perform a series of free concerts on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and participate in other performances.
The SMI program received 240 applications this year from 43 states. Three students from Ohio were accepted into SMI: Vincent Disantis from Willoughby Hills – bassoon; William Kovaleski from Rushville – horn; and Joshua Lauretig from Beechwood – oboe.
Congratulations to all students accepted into the 2013 SMI program, and especially the students from Ohio!!