Kasich Proposal Would Close Low-Performing Schools

By John Higgins, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio (MCT) — May 09, 2011 2 min read

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s education adviser has told school officials that schools that remain in the state’s bottom 5 percent for three years will be closed if the governor’s proposals pass the legislature.

“We believe in ranking schools,” said Robert Sommers, director of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education, on Friday. “We feel it’s time to end a school that is not providing the resources and support for students to succeed.”

Sommers spoke to a regional conference in Akron organized by the Summit County Educational Service Center to discuss alternative ways to evaluate and pay teachers.

Akron Public Schools announced plans on Wednesday to overhaul three schools that are ranked in the bottom 5 percent of the state: Buchtel High School and two alternative schools for children with disabilities and/or social and emotional problems, Bridges Learning Center and the Akron Opportunity Center.

The district is transforming Buchtel High School into a New Tech High School, based on a model developed in California that has been used in 62 schools across 14 states.

The New Tech High approach focuses on problem-solving skills and computer literacy. Students will get laptop or tablet computers that will provide them 24-hour-a-day access to the school’s online resources.

Buchtel High School and Perkins Middle School will be combined and housed in a new building under construction that will open in the fall of 2012.

All the teachers at Akron’s Buchtel High School and Perkins Middle School will have to reapply for their jobs at the end of this year. Only half of them will be retained with the other half sent to other schools in the district.

Next school year will be a transition year to prepare the remaining teachers for the New Tech model.

However, the governor’s proposed three-year clock would begin as soon as the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives this week, is passed by the senate and signed by the governor.

That means the newly reformed Buchtel High School would have two years (2012 through 2014) to get out of the bottom 5 percent or face state closure.

“When I say ‘close the school,’ what we would do is come in and take the staff out and replace it,” Sommers said. “There’s a possibility that the school district would turn the school over to either another school district or a charter management company or they could actually close it and redistribute the kids.”

But Sommers praised Akron officials and expressed optimism that state action will be unnecessary.

“Akron is, if not the highest, one of the highest performing, lowest cost major city schools in the state, so I want to give them credit,” Sommers said.

“Our hope is that the school district will do exactly that, they’ll take care of the problem and get them out of the bottom 5 percent.” Teachers in those low-performing schools may have to take tests to keep their jobs, Sommers said.

“We want in the lowest 5 percent of schools, we want to be able to test teachers on content and methodology and if they fail to pass those assessments, it will be the basis for school districts to non-renew them,” Sommers said. “We want to be, quite honestly, fairly vicious about unsatisfactory faculty.”

Copyright (c) 2011, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.