Ohio report: Regional cooperation to align education services

17 Aug

A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Social Class in America

Teachers and administrators as well as many politicians if they are honest know that children arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Teachers have to teach children at whatever point on the continuum the children are. The question for those who believe that ALL children should receive a good basic education is whether there is a difference between good and effective schools.

Joanne Yatvin, is a longtime public school educator, author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She teaches part-time at Portland StateUniversity and is writing a book on good teaching in high poverty schools. Yatvin has written a thoughtful Washington Post piece, The difference between good schools and effective schools.

I just found a book review I wrote for The Elementary School Journal in 1986. The book I reviewed was McDonogh 15: Becoming a School by Lucianne Bond Carmichael.  (If you’ve never read it, you should get a copy, read it, and hold it close to your heart forever.  Better yet, buy several copies and send them to your federal and state legislators.)

Reading it reinforced and expanded my own idea of what a truly good school is and the specific things it does to empower its students and strengthen its teachers. I will quote one section of my review: a definition and description of a good school based partly on Carmichael’s experience as a principal and partly on my own.  Because I am taking the quoted section out of context and because educational terminology has changed over the years, I have altered some of it but the meaning remains the same:

To help you understand what I have learned from McDonogh 15, I will describe a good school as I know it and compare it to today’s popular ideal called an ”effective school.”  Let me start with a general definition of a good school and go on with more detailed descriptions of both types of schools:

A good school is a place where children learn enough worthwhile things to make a strong start in life, where a foundation is laid that supports later learning, and where children develop the desire to learn more.

 Specifically, a good school mirrors the realities of life in an ordered, adult society; it is rational and safe, a practice ground for the things people do in the outside world. The school creates a sense of community that permits personal expression within a framework of social responsibility. It focuses on learnings that grow through use–with or without more schooling–such as communication skills, decision making, craftsmanship, and group interaction.  It makes children think of themselves as people who find strength, nourishment, and joy in learning.

 In contrast, the effective school looks at learning in terms of test scores in a limited number of academic areas.  It does not take into consideration problem-solving abilities, social skills, or even complex academic skills.  It does not differentiate between dynamic and inert knowledge; it ignores motivation.  When we hear of a school where test scores are in the 90th percentile, should we not also ask what that school does to prepare students to live the next sixty years of their lives? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-difference-between-good-schools-and-effective-schools/2012/01/31/gIQAlQIlsQ_blog.html

There are certain elements that successful schools share. The Wisconsin Department of Education has a good guide about successful schools. Chapter One, Characteristics of Successful Schools , lists key elements:

Many school districts are in a period of flat or declining revenue. The U.S. Department of Education has a page, Pay and Manage for Results, which discusses efforts by districts to manage resources:

To deliver non-educational services as efficiently as possible and to improve payment structures to deliver better results, policy makers should pursue strategies that will enable them to pay and manage for results. Pursuing performance-based funding, performance contracting, and shared services, can result in meaningful cost savings with minimal effort.

Disclaimer The links on this page are provided for users convenience and are not an endorsement. See full disclaimer.

Performance-based funding: Performance-based funding and other structures that allocate dollars based on the educational results achieved, are gaining traction in the education field. Growing in use in higher education and adult education as well, performance-based funding is being pursued in K-12 education for its emphasis on improved outcomes and cost efficiencies….

Performance-based contracting: Many school districts, cities, and counties have taken advantage of performance-based contracting, a strategy that enables them to purchase outcomes as opposed to inputs. A number of school districts across the country use performance-based contracting for non-instructional services, particularly energy. Energy performance contracts in particular have shown to result in substantial cost savings for districts….

Strategic sourcing or shared services: Pooling purchasing when procuring goods and services can help to reduce costs. Consolidating or expanding shared services and cooperative agreements among school districts or between school districts and municipal governments can result in cost savings and quality improvements.http://www.ed.gov/oii-news/pay-and-manage-results

KnowledgeWorks funded a study of shared resources in Ohio.

Here is the press release for the report, Towards a New Model of Educational Governance for Ohio: Regional Cooperation to Align Education Services:

Ohio school districts could save millions and improve student outcomes if state provided better regional support

Ohio Education Matters releases second report as part of Ohio Smart Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 24, 2011 

Byron McCauley – (513) 929-1310

CINCINNATI — Ohio needs new regional structures to help school districts share services and to help communities better focus local resources on problems in the educational system that are holding some children back, according to a new independent report released today by Ohio Education Matters.

The report, the second in the Ohio Smart Schools initiative, recommended that the state collapse fractured existing regional entities into Regional Service Agencies that would lead the state’s effort to save hundreds of millions in education spending by sharing services across districts.

In addition, the report called on the state to expand existing P-16 councils into a statewide network of regional P-16 councils. These councils would help create an infrastructure of support for local schools and districts by connecting them more closely to their local and regional service providers for children.

“Most schools and districts in Ohio do not have the ability to easily share services and get the cost efficiencies of regional service delivery,” said Andrew Benson, Executive Director of Ohio Education Matters, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. “Building a regional market for services would allow districts to reduce costs and focus more dollars and attention on the classroom.”

Likewise, P-16 councils help schools and districts better tap into community resources that can improve outcomes for children. The report highlighted the successes of two nationally known P-16 councils in Ohio: the Stark Education Partnership in the Canton area, and the Strive Partnership in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

“Both of these councils serve as great examples of what the collective impact of communities can do to improve the academic and social well-being of children,” Benson said. “They have leveraged millions in private dollars for children and reduced waste and duplication in support services for students, like afterschool programs, tutoring and health initiatives.”

The report, titled Towards a New Model of Educational Governance for Ohio: Regional Cooperation to Align Education Services, is part of the Ohio Smart Schools initiative, which comes in response to a request from the State of Ohio last year to study K-12 education spending to find more efficiencies. The independent report, funded by KnowledgeWorks with additional private dollars, is offering ideas to state leaders as they consider how to close a budget shortfall of up to $8 billion in the next biennial budget.

The report urged the state to take action in the next fiscal year to create these new regional structures so that they would be operating in FY13. The report called for the reallocation of $5 million in existing state education funds to provide matching planning grants for the creation of up to 100 new P-16 councils. The authors, citing studies in other states, conclude that regional sharing of services is a better alternative to district consolidation.

Benson said hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved from sharing services through Regional Service Agencies. As an example, the report notes that a regional collaboration to transport students who attend charter and private schools could potentially save up to $238 million a year in the eight largest metropolitan areas of Ohio.

“These proposals will focus more dollars on student-needs by wrenching more savings out of the system and better coordinating the use of private and community resources,” he said.

This report is the second in a series from the Ohio Smart Schools effort. Earlier, Ohio Education Matters released a report on school employee health care benefits, which showed that Ohio public school districts can save up to $138 million a year in employee health care costs if the state were to require them to pool together in large groups that benefit from larger economies of scale. That report also called for the state to find ways to encourage Ohio school districts to pursue lower-cost health insurance plans that could cut health benefit costs by 37 percent.

The reports are available at www.ohioeducationmatters.org and www.ohiosmartschools.org.

Ohio Education Matters, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is a statewide, public policy research organization that focuses on connecting the dots between great innovations and those in the community who can make change. As a non-partisan entity, Ohio Education Matters acts as a catalyst of education transformation by conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development that inspires others to make the system changes needed today to prepare Ohio’s children for the future.

KnowledgeWorks is bringing the future of learning to America’s high schools and creating widespread, lasting change in the communities and states we serve. Our portfolio of high school approaches includes New Tech Network high schools, EdWorks high school redesign, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Early College High Schools. The Strive Partnership is a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks.

See, KnowledgeWorks Touts ‘Resource Sharing’ to Ohio Schools http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/knowledgeworks-touts-resource-sharing-to-ohio-schools/

It is important for schools to have the resources to carry out their mission.

Schools must be relentless about the basics for their population of kids. What does it Mean to Be Relentless About the Basics:      

  1. Students acquire strong subject matter skills in reading, writing, and math.
  2. Students are assessed often to gauge where they are in acquiring basic skills.
  3. If there are deficiencies in acquiring skills, schools intervene as soon as a deficiency assessment is made.
  4. Schools intervene early in life challenges faced by students which prevent them from attending school and performing in school.
  5. Appropriate corrective assistance is provided by the school to overcome both academic and life challenges.   


Center for American Progress report: Performance-based funding in higher education                                                               https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/center-for-american-progress-report-performance-based-funding-in-higher-education/

More school districts facing a financial crunch are considering school ads                                                                 https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/more-school-districts-facing-a-financial-crunch-are-considering-school-ads/

Brookings study: State grant aid goes increasingly to the wealthy                                                              https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/brookings-study-state-grant-aid-goes-increasingly-to-the-wealthy/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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