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An Update on Ohio (T.J. Wallace)

Newsflash: More than 100,000 K-12 students are now eligible for the Ohio EdChoice Scholarship program!!

Quite a holiday gift for some 60,000 additional children was delivered by the Ohio legislature in late December.  By adjusting the eligibility criteria, one of the nation’s first K-12 statewide scholarship programs, known as EdChoice, more than doubled the number of students eligible in 2007 for the approximately 11,000 scholarships still available.

In 2005, EdChoice became permanent law and created 14,000 K-12 scholarships for an estimated 19,000 children who were attending public schools that had earned the lowest rating of “Academic Emergency” for three consecutive years on the State’s report card for schools.  Amazingly, in March 2006, the legislature expanded the eligibility to include those students attending schools rated in “Academic Watch” as well.  Thanks to this action, the number of eligible children exceeded 45,000.

About 3,000 EdChoice Scholarships were awarded for the 2006-07 school year.  This “take-up” of scholarships among those eligible compared quite well with the first year results in the nation’s other such scholarship programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida and Washington, D.C.  

Thirty-three private schools in Ohio enrolled 30 or more of these 3,000 EdChoice students in the program’s first year.  Visits by SCO staff to eighteen of these schools in Toledo, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati in late 2006 found principals pleased with how well the students and their parents had adapted to the school’s culture, academic rigor, and behavior and attendance expectations.  The administrators and each school’s teaching staff are confident that serving these children will result in graduates who are confident and capable of an expanded array of school and career choices as young adults!

Based upon school closings and several improved ratings for several of the public schools, it was estimated that about 35,000 children would be eligible for

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Teachers Go to Washington (Jeff Leer)

As I stood shivering in the frigid morning air, my mind scrolled back to all the events that have transpired to bring me to this moment.  In particular I remembered a conversation I had with a seasoned veteran teacher at my school who told me that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.  My reminiscing was brutally interrupted by the cutting wind that was blowing at 5:00 a.m. as I held on tightly to my cup of coffee, hoping to suck out every ounce of heat I could.  Here I was standing with a number of teachers on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States, hoping to get a seat to hear oral arguments in a case that had it origins some 14 years ago.

In 1992, our state had just passed a new campaign finance law that required, among other things, unions to get permission before they used members’ dues for politics.  I had always been troubled by the political leanings of our union and the fact that my money was being used to support issues and causes that I opposed.  I entered this fight when I heard of Cindy Omlin and Barb Amidon, two teachers who had started a grassroots organization of teachers to hold the union accountable, and contacted them.  They had discovered that the union had “loaned” its political arm, WEA-PAC, hundreds of thousands of dollars just prior to this new law taking effect.  They soon “forgave the loan,” resulting in our minds to be a clear violation of this new law.

Of course the union did not see it that way, nor did the Democrat state attorney general, who received support from the union in the past.  With nowhere else to turn, we asked Bob Williams of the Evergreen

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Please Save the Baby in the Bathwater, President Bush! (Matthew Ladner)

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President Bush said the following about education in the State of the Union address:

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. We must increase funds for students who struggle — and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children — and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

Having recently hopped into the skeptic column on NCLB, I decided to do a quick check on the President’s empirical assertion that students are performing better in reading and math, and that minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Since the year 2000, Math NAEP scores are up a bit. Reading scores are flat and mixed, up a bit in 4th grade, down a bit in 8th grade. Nothing much to get excited about.

On the achievement gap front, things look

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