By JULIE CARR SMYTH
The education overhaul that Ohio Gov. John Kasich unveils this week is likely to bear the marks of several of America’s best-known — if not universally popular — school reformers.
Among big names whose ideas have stirred the Republican governor’s interest as he crafted the proposal are: education finance pioneer Eric Hanushek; former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee; the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s Marguerite Roza; and Google’s Sebastian Thrun, a digital education innovator.
While Kasich has remained close-mouthed on details of the legislation, he has signaled interest in some of the big ideas these individuals helped develop.
A look at their research areas may provide clues as to what Kasich’s education overhaul will look like. The bill marks the latest attempt by an Ohio governor to address an unconstitutional school funding system that the courts have said is overly reliant on property taxes.
ERIC HANUSHEK: Using student performance to measure teachers.
Hanushek, an author and research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is regarded as the father of education economics.
He has advanced a variety of seminal school-funding theories that Kasich’s plan is likely to embrace, including the outcome-based approach to measuring teacher effectiveness. This would be a departure from former Gov. Ted Strickland’s evidence-based model, which sought to define an adequate education and then fund its components.
Hanushek is credited with pioneering the concept of measuring teacher quality by the learning gains of students.
The idea is divisive and disliked particularly by teachers’ unions, whose members argue such an approach disregards demographic variations among students, in classrooms, at buildings and in districts.
Hanushek is a frequent expert witness in school funding lawsuits, including one in Texas this month. He says his research has proven that spending more on schools doesn’t necessarily improve student achievement.
MICHELLE RHEE: Increasing parental control.
Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Rhee is an aggressive reformer whose latest advocacy venture, StudentsFirst, has identified Ohio as a key battleground for its 37 policy goals. The group has fought tenure and “last in, first out” seniority systems for teachers, and promotes handing greater control over school dollars to parents.
Rhee told The Associated Press her group wants to see Kasich’s bill include a weighted funding formula that takes into account the challenge, and presumably expense, of educating certain subsets of kids. That could take the shape of an expanded voucher program for students in low-performing schools, making funding less “overly bureaucratic” and more flexible. However, Rhee has withheld her support from the idea of providing a funding that follows every child.
Rhee said StudentsFirst is also advocating more public reporting — including for-profit charter schools — on what schools spend, as a way of reining in waste.
MARGUERITE ROZA: Money that follows the student.
Roza is director of the fiscal analytics unit at Georgetown University, and a fellow with the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.
Roza focuses her research on the classroom impacts of particular federal, state and district fiscal policies and, on the flip side, on the effects different education policies can have on school budgets and spending.
In hiring her for as a senior data and economic adviser in 2010, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “Her calculations of dollar implications and cost equivalent trade-offs have prompted changes in education finance policy at all levels in the education system.”
Roza’s work has focused on the idea that money for educating a student should follow them if they choose to leave a struggling public school for a different education option, say a public or for-profit charter school.
How much goes with the pupil has been a bone of contention with public school districts, which argue that certain overhead costs — such as buildings or buses — can’t be eliminated when students leave.
Roza has found that offering educational alternatives works best when those options are sufficiently funded.
SEBASTIAN THRUN: Expanding digital education options to integrate businesses.
Sebastian Thrun is a fellow at Google, a computer science research professor at Stanford University and the chief executive officer of the interactive learning website Udacity.
Kasich recently told repor-ters Thrun “has some ideas for things we can do with remediation, some things we can do with AP (Advanced Placement) courses.”
The governor said he’s embraced Thrun and will work aggressively with him. Both men were attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this past week.
“We also think a part of this answer in education is to get the businesses fully integrated with the education system,” Kasich said. He said that will mean offering more diploma and degree credit for real-world experiences.