Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Ohio Education Study: Spend 16%-31% More

We have yet another study about education spending in Ohio. The education community has been waiting for this for a while. This one is from the Human Services Policy Center at the University of Washington.

The Akron Beacon Journal apparently got wind of it and put in a public records request that secured them a copy prior to the release. The basic conclusion: Ohio should be spending between 16% and 31% more on schools. Total price tag: $2.4 to $4.8 billion.

(And yes, I've neglected the education beat lately. I'll try to at least put some links together for the other studies that have come out.)

Strickland’s budget office was briefed on a working draft of the study. The Akron Beacon Journal apparently got wind of it and put in a public records request that secured them a copy of the draft prior to the release.

Because the ABJ received an advanced copy, the study isn't yet online, so we have to rely on Dennis Willard's pull quotes to get the gist. (By the way, hosting the study and announcing in your print edition that you have done so would be a pretty good way of using the new media. Yea, copyright issues, but it's worth exploring. Unfortunately, ABJ rarely thinks outside it's digital-version-of-print-product box.)

Willard did a pretty good job getting into the specific of the study. Among the highlights:

  • The eight scenarios [contemplated] range from keeping the current 168 days of classroom instruction, but extending the school year to 188 total days, to year-round schooling divided into three semesters, with 185 classroom days and 205 total days.
  • [T]eachers are underpaid in Ohio . . . the starting salary should be increased to $30,000, with 4 percent pay raises annually.
  • The pay for teachers in high-demand areas like math and science should be 25 percent higher on average[.]
  • At the same time, there should be more teachers. The study calls for two or three fewer students per classroom in poor districts. This means that in poor districts, the teacher-student ratios should be 15-1 in elementary schools, 20-1 in middle schools and 22-1 in high schools.
  • Recommendations include five to 10 days for teacher development, coaching and mentoring new teachers, but the report also notes that classroom instruction days should not be sacrificed for teacher development, student assessment, parental meetings or administrative tasks.
  • [T]he study contends there is no evidence that student aides improve results, especially as children grow older, so the report recommends placing assistants only in kindergarten classes.
The study will be cited heavily by both proponents and opponents of the GIRFOF. Proponents will note the academic research supporting their contention that more money is necessary. Opponents will use the 31% figure as a baseline for the increased costs, and talk about how much taxes would have to be raised to support that.

Thinking ahead, it seems likely that GIRFOF opponents proponents will have to defend the methodology, whereas opponents can take advantage of the study whether it is sound or not. If the methodology is sound, the study offers a price tag. If the methodology can be attacked, it offers a price tag, plus an example of how a bad study can inflate school costs post-GIRFOF.

On methodology, Willard offers only says, "Researchers generated recommendations for a variety of school settings by talking to education officials who were part of state- and school district-level teams."

What sort of academic scrutiny those recommendations got is unclear. We don’t know, for example, the extent to which researchers reviewed the ideas of education officials against the literature. That’s essential to know whether those recommendations would actually improve student achievement. The discussion of teacher aides indicates that the study includes a literature review component, but that’s where this thing will really be put under the microscope.

As I said, we’ve been hearing about the U. Washington study for a couple of years now. The website of the Center that put it together gives not indication when they will release the final version. Stay tuned.

CORRECTION per comments.

5 comments:

Eric said...

GIRFOF opponents will have to defend the methodology, whereas opponents can take advantage of the study whether it is sound or not.

Clearly you meant "GIRFOF proponents will have to defend the methodology."

Other than the cost, confusion over the implications of "fundamental right," need to define "duties of citizenship" and "high quality," what's not to like?

BTW, what analog to Daubert might apply to an analysis of "high quality." Or is the definition of "high quality" easier to fudge than the definition of, say, pi?

Anonymous said...

I teach in a school that works well and meets its students needs. What we do as a staff is meet two extra weeks per year to plan, collaborate and work with quality in-service people who address our school population's specific needs.

We have an added-value education which means more teachers. (extra arts teachers in this case) We cost more but we bring in more from out of district than any other school in Akron. In other words, people want their kids to come to our school and will drive great distances to bring them every day.
We are a success and what we do is ignored.

That study has some good points but it is still a top down kind of deal. Yes, in general more time and money invested at an earlier age is going to have better results. But what specifically should the money be spent upon?

Look at what is working and ask, why isn't it in every elementary school in our urban district. An arts integrated curriculum should be in every elementary school. The arts provide a vehicle for teaching with the multiple intelligences. Kids learn how to express themselves while collaborating with others. Every art springs out of an academic subject and jumps back into it with new insights. It is a positive and challenging environment and I think it can help soothe the troubled mind. And by the way, it also encourages self-discipline, higher thinking skills, and the idea that hard work produces pleasurable results.

I would like to try the all-year school format. Rafe Esquith teaches in that kind of system and I can see that it would help to have that consistancy with less time to fall into "street" habits and exist in conditions of deprivation and/or violence.

Can't argue with higher teacher salaries either. I deserve to be paid more. My work is very difficult and stressful. I'm totally dedicated to it and that is another key to finding a solution to the education problems. Finding and funding dedicated professionals willing to work as a team in each school along with parents and community.

Pho said...

Eric:

Daubert? Oooh, I'm not going there. I will note there's a difference between admissability of evidence and the analysis for defining a term in the Constitution. The Damn Good Question you raise is whether the Supreme Court should be in the business of defining a constitutional phrase in terms of outcomes.

Hmm. I guess I am going there.

Pho said...

Anon:

I can personally attest to the effectivness of the school you are talking about. We are very pleased.

That said, I think the lesson we should take away from the experience at that school is that schools can do well by respecting different learning styles. It may go as far as recommending different schools with different curricula -- the so-called "Portfolio schools" approach. This was the hope among liberals when charter schools came online, but it hasn't happened much in Ohio because the system is so badly flawed.

Paul A. Miller said...

Precisely how would this study differ from one prepared directly by the Ohio Education Association?

More money overall ... more teachers ... more money for teachers ... longer school year to justify more money for teachers ... fewer aides - leaving more money for teachers!

"Studies" like this are precisely the reason so many Ohioans, myself included, are extremely skeptical of most "reform" proposals. I might direct everyone to the fine work of Dayton Daily News reporter Scott Elliott at Get on the Bus. After studying 15 years of "reform" efforts, he finds precious little to show for it. The conclusion of the University of Washington study is just like every other union-and-administrators, top-down oriented study we've seen for these past 15 years: Do the same things, but give us more money to do them.

Ohio has given more money, with no accountability at all (except of course for the poorly-served students), year after year after year - and our education system is by many measures the worst it has ever been.

Until accountability to local boards and parents is increased, the power of the OEA checked, the state and federal bureaucracy slashed and fundamentals emphasized over social issues, Ohio schools will continue their spiral, moving downward faster with the weight of all those fresh tax dollars.