Word association!

You say: John Kasich

We say: Gifted!

That’s probably the last thing you thought we would say, right? Alas, Kasich and his Ohio Legislative Syndicate have dabbled in the realm of gifted education, if only in name.  Much like everything else Kasich doesn’t understand (pretty much everything) he has mucked up this item, too. This is our 5th post in a series in which we are dissecting the new school ranking system imposed by the Ohio GOP as a part of this year’s budget bill.  You can find our first four entries at the following links:

  1. Kasich’s school rankings exemplify ignorance about K-12 education
  2. Kasich’s unfeasible school ranking system (Part 2)
  3. Kasich’s unworkable school ranking system (Part 3)
  4. Kasich’s asinine economic opinions included in Ohio’s school ranking system (Part 4)

We have reached the 6th and final ranking criteria identified by the Kasich Education Cartel, the one they obviously know the least about — gifted education.

Again, the six criteria that were adopted in the final bill as follows [bold added for emphasis]:

  1. Performance index score;
  2. Student performance growth … using the value-added progress dimension;
  3. Performance measures required for career-technical education;
  4. Current operating expenditures per pupil;
  5. Of total current operating expenditures, percentage spent for classroom instruction;
  6. Performance of, and opportunities provided to, students identified as gifted using value-added progress dimensions, if applicable, and other relevant measures as designated by the superintendent of public instruction.

The department shall rank each district, community school, and STEM school annually in accordance with the system developed under this section.

#6 – Performance of students identified as gifted using value-added.  First, let us be clear that we fully support gifted education opportunities for children and we believe that schools should provide gifted services to identified students.  The Ohio Department of Education has a website dedicated solely to Learners With Special Needs and Talents, specified as “exceptional children – children with disabilities, gifted children and limited English proficient (LEP) children.”

To be 100% clear, we support gifted education and the funding of gifted education programs, just like the Governor.  Governor Strickland, that is.

You have to understand, the inclusion of this ranking criterion is no more than a smokescreen deployed by Ohio’s GOP to make you think they give a damn about the Ohio’s highest achieving students.  In reality, they don’t care about the education these students who will easily pass the state tests.  They don’t care about extending their learning opportunities by categorizing specific state funds for districts to implement programs for all special needs children.  In May, we posted about some of this in Kasich Cuts Funding for “Best and Brightest” in Ohio.

Before we share the evidence of Kasich’s duplicity, however, let’s dismiss the measure’s misleading hook of using data, specifically value-added data, as an to attempt to pacify parents and advocacy groups of gifted children (who have been fighting the battle for gifted education longer that he has).

  1. Ranking criteria do not include specific performance measures for other exceptional children — LEP or with disabilities
  2. Value-added scores were already used (questionably) in the 2nd criterion, resulting in a district being measured twice on the same data (3 times when we count use of same assessments in #1)
  3. Value-added measures do not exist for a majority of students, and rushing them into implementation will negate any legitimate measures (see Part 2)
  4. Sample size of gifted students in many schools is too small to provide statistically reliable data
  5. Only 544 of the 1001 districts would have relevant achievement data to produce value-added scores for students identified as gifted

Maybe it’s a small victory that advocacy groups were able to get gifted education recognized as one of only 6 criteria for ranking districts.  But as a measure that can be implemented equitably, it’s a farce.  And that leads us to the funding.  After all, we must remember that this was supposed to be a budget bill.  And as John Kasich stated in his budget Reform Book about education, Budgets are about more than money. Budgets express an administration‘s priorities.

First, we’ll take a look at the 2010-2011 budget of Ted Strickland.  In order for us to know what was in place before the current administration, we must know what the prior administrations priorities were around gifted education.

Straight out of Strickland’s budget:

Note that the 2010-2011 budget was increasing district funding for Gifted Education substantially.  Elsewhere in Strickland’s budget book it explains:

John Kasich’s Republican-driven budget, the very same budget that will rank districts based on the performance of gifted students, opted for a different approach to funding gifted education — cut it.

Note that the descriptive paragraph about the program is copied directly from Strickland’s budget, except for the last three sentences where Kasich clearly states: The spending requirements for gifted education are eliminated.  Not exactly what we would term ambiguous.  What we have here is typically called an “unfunded mandate.”  This isn’t the only time Kasich’s budget bill assaults gifted education.

Other changes to Ohio Revised Code included:

  • Eliminated option for a community school to apply for funding for a gifted unit (but retained option for special needs preschool funding)
  • 3317.018 (D)(5)  …. no units for gifted funding are authorized for after fiscal years 2010 and 2011 year 2009. [strikethrough indicates language cut; underline indicates language added]
  • Cut 3317.024 (L) that appropriated money to school districts for gifted units.
  • Adopted a new provision, Sec. 3324.08, that says that any person employed by a school district, such as a principal or any other position may serve as the district’s gifted education coordinator, if qualified to do so pursuant to the rules adopted by the state board of education under this chapter (no rules exist in the chapter identifying qualifications – seems like a low bar)

And finally, despite the elimination of specific spending requirements, the Ohio Department of Education is charged with requiring each school district to report data annually so that the Department may monitor and enforce the district’s compliance with their spending of gifted education funding.  And as we’ve discussed already, ODE has SOOO much extra time on their hands as it is.

In our final post in this series, we will publish our projection of the state rankings utilizing these measures (when applicable, of course) and demonstrate why trying to implement such a rudimentary ranking system is ill-conceived at best and more likely to end up in litigation.