Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Not much to report on in terms of education news over the weekend. We begin with a bit of a rerun: Editors in Columbus opine again in favor of eliminating the mandatory teacher pay schedule in Ohio. They reason that “Making seniority and extra college coursework the primary basis for rewarding teachers has created a system that is incapable of recognizing and promoting those teachers who actually are best at helping their students. In a field desperate for effectiveness, a teacher who is a miracle worker is treated the same as one who is just marking time.” Why the reiteration of their position? Because the bill including this provision passed the House last week and is now on to the Senate for debate. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Ohio’s teacher evaluation system is on Patrick O’Donnell’s mind in Cleveland. He goes to great lengths to explain how value-add calculations will be done for high school teachers starting this year. He focuses on the way in which “previous year” data will be amalgamated for subjects such as physical science, American history and American government in order to compare to current year data. Skepticism abounds. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Also on the minds of Northeast Ohio reporters this weekend: population loss and declining enrollment in school districts throughout Cuyahoga County. The Greater Cleveland-Akron area's median age increased from 37.2 in 2000 to 40.3 in 2010; Ohio's birthrate has dropped from 14 births per 1,000 women 2003 to 12.6 births in 2012;
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  1. In case you missed this yesterday, the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would limit state testing of K-12 students to just four hours per subject per year. On the Senate, as the old song goes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The above news should be music to the ears of editors in Canton, who broke from the message of some of their fellow big-city editors around the state and earlier yesterday opined in favor of the testing time-limit bill. They call it “a start”, so are obviously looking for more accountability changes. (Canton Repository)
     
  3. The superintendents of Mentor and Reynoldsburg schools were among a group of school leaders who visited the White House yesterday to help the president “spread the word” about the value of online learning. He’s making a push to get high-speed internet to more schools across the country and both Mentor and Reynoldsburg were held up as prime examples of what computer-based education and blended learning can accomplish. Nice! (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Clyde-Green Springs school district auctioned off some vacant land, which was bought by the local church. Nice and smooth and everybody seems happy. Can someone please forward this story to the folks in Monroe schools? (Sandusky Register)
  1. Well, Governor Kasich sure impressed some folks with his appearance with a group of fellow GOP governors in Florida yesterday. Some are talking about presidential aspirations for Kasich; we’re just appreciative of his comments cutting through the BS on Common Core in Ohio at crunch time. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Kudos to journalists still keeping their eyes on the outcome of last year’s third grade reading tests. Because the process is still ongoing, and will be for the foreseeable future. New information released by ODE this week reveals that just over 4 percent of last year’s third graders were retained at some level across Ohio. The Plain Dealer looks at these numbers from the Cuyahoga County perspective, noting that Cleveland Metropolitan School District had a 600 percent increase in retention for third graders between 2012-13 and 2013-14. The Dayton Daily News includes charter schools’ scores in its local reporting. DECA Prep was top of the heap in passage rates among charters, Dayton Leadership Academy was lowest. None of this is bad news IF every one of those students is receiving the help he needs to read on grade level and move forward with the proper skills in place.
     
  3. Editors in Akron opined yesterday against the testing-time limiting provisions proposed in HB 228. They say that “a consensus has formed around the notion of repairing the testing regimen,” but are clear that a proper fix will “take time and thought, two elements in short supply during
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  1. The school choice sign-up campouts in Cincinnati are over for another year. It got very cold. This is a twisted system in more ways than one that has for some reason become a “rite of passage”. Check it out for yourself. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Cleveland opine today against HB343. Specifically, against the provision to remove minimum salary requirement language for teachers from state law. But the headline and the major objections to the provision indicate a much larger problem the editors have. See if you can spot where their cart and their horse have ended up. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about churches and schools interacting in the past, with some negative consequences reported for districts trying to sell buildings to churches or for districts holding school events in churches. That latter instance was exemplified in the Canton area during last school year’s graduation season. However, it seems that going the other way – churches renting out district space for services and events – is not only hunky dory in Canton, it’s downright lucrative. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. The Hubbard school district has a record retention problem. As in, an outside contractor is retaining their records and refusing to return them. It’s a twisty tale of digitizing gone awry, hard drive destruction (or did they?), and restraining orders. A giant and expensive mess that will likely be dragged out in court for a while yet. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
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Flanner House Elementary, an Indianapolis charter school, closed just weeks into the 2014–15 school year by a vote of its board (under heavy pressure from the mayor’s office, which was the school’s sponsor) after an investigation revealed widespread cheating on tests in previous years. This seems like a prudent course of action, given the information known and despite the havoc it wreaked on the lives of its students. A protracted closure process would have been far worse for them.

The most striking thing about this story is the praise received by the mayor’s office in the wake of the closure decision. As reported in Education Week

[The Indianapolis mayor's office]…assigned charter-office employees to communicate with parents on a biweekly basis.

"We had a tracker that listed when we called families, the nature of that communication, next steps that we agreed to, and then we worked with those families to meet their needs," which included buying school supplies and new uniforms, Mr. Brown said.

The mayor's office also hosted two enrollment fairs where parents could talk with leaders from nearly 30 schools and could enroll their children on the spot.

"What we saw is that we had a lot of angry families at first that, over time, came to really value the support we gave them, to the point that we had multiple families call our office and say, 'We are so thankful that you made this decision,' " said Mr. Brown. "We didn't feel...

From its inception in 1996 with one unusual school in Chicago, the Cristo Rey education model set out to honor its Catholic roots while simultaneously embracing a new way of preparing economically disadvantaged high school students for future success—not an easy balancing act to pull off. A new report from the Lexington Institute profiles the Cristo Rey model and also looks at how its newest school in San Jose is using an innovative blended-learning approach to move the existing model forward. The success of the network to date has been tremendous. Today, Cristo Rey is a nationwide network of twenty-eight private schools serving 9,000 students, including one school in each of Ohio’s three largest cities. Ninety-six percent of network students are minority (largely Hispanic) and 100 percent are economically disadvantaged (defined as families earning less than 75 percent of the national median income). Each student's family contributes an average of $1,000 toward tuition. Employers in the school's corporate work-study program provide most of the balance needed to cover operations. The work-study model requires students to work at least one day a week in the community while keeping up with rigorous high school coursework; in lieu of wages, companies donate money to the schools. (More than 2,000 employers invested upwards of $44 million in the Cristo Rey Network of schools in 2013–14.) Cristo Rey’s school day and year are extended, including a summer preparatory program to get students up to speed on both academic and work life. The results are...

Can a state’s charter school sector improve over time? Yes, finds this new study of Texas charter schools. Using student data collected from 2001 to 2011, a period of explosive charter school growth in Texas, researchers examined trends in the charter-quality distribution, as measured by value-added results on math and reading test scores. They discovered that in the early- to mid-2000s, charter-sector quality fell considerably short of district quality. But by 2011, the charter-quality distribution improved, converging to virtual parity with district quality. The magnitude of the quality shift in Texas charters, note the researchers, is large and substantial (0.11 and 0.20 standard deviations in math and reading, respectively). What is the source of the quality improvement? The main reason is strikingly straightforward: Lower value-added charter schools tended to shutter over time, while higher value-added schools entered the sector. Meanwhile, schools that remained open throughout the whole period also demonstrated improvement over time. The researchers next peel back the layers of the sector-improvement onion. They discover three contributing factors: First, Texas charters have attracted students of higher achievement levels (i.e., positive “selection”), possibly leading to positive peer effects captured in the value-added results. Second, charters have experienced less student turnover as the sector has matured. Third, the analysts find evidence that the growth of schools classified as “no-excuses” charters has propelled overall sector quality. The policy takeaways for Ohio are twofold: One, it takes time for high-quality schools to edge low-quality ones out of the school marketplace. (And authorizers...

  • Cheers to Katie Nethers of Cincinnati. When life circumstances required her to leave high school before finishing in 2013, Katie strove to earn her GED. She ended up having to travel to West Virginia to do so because Ohio law required a superintendent sign off on GEDs for people under the age of 19, and her district’s supe wouldn’t sign. But rather than stopping there, she campaigned and testified to change that sign-off requirement (and the minimum age for a GED as well). The changes were signed into law and just went into effect this fall.
     
  • Jeers to kicking the can down the road. The failure of a property tax levy in the Ledgemont school district earlier this month seemed a strong indication that district residents were interested in merging with nearby Cardinal schools—an outcome already favored by both districts’ superintendents and made easier by legislation passed in Columbus earlier this year. However, neither district’s board took the action required of them to set the plan in motion. By voting down a “territory transfer,” elected board members are leaving it up to outsiders—the county ESC and/or the state of Ohio—to actually force the transfer that most folks already want.
     
  • Cheers to the Beavercreek school board, who voted last week to accept as a gift from FedEx (which also earns a cheer) a decommissioned Boeing 727. The intention is to convert the plane to a STEM classroom for students anywhere to visit and study in. “That
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis has been having a sort of radio revival this week, returning to a number of radio stations to talk Common Core for the second or even third time. Sadly, the questions haven’t really changed, and even discussion of the status of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio isn’t prevalent. Odd. First up today, WSPD-AM in Toledo, where Chad answered questions from host Scott Sands and callers for nearly half an hour. Next up, WFIN-AM in Findlay, where it was just Chad and host Chris Oaks. Chad’s part starts at about the 2:45 mark.
     
  2. Chad’s testimony on HB228 from last week, urging the legislature to slow down on their efforts to place an arbitrary time limit on the amount of state testing, is referenced in this piece from Marion published yesterday. A bit old news, but we’ll take it. (Marion Online)
     
  3. So, what’s the up-to-date haps on HB228 (the kids still say “what’s the haps?”, right?)? It was recommended by the House Education Committee yesterday by a vote of 12-3 to send the bill to the full House. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland opine on NCTQ’s latest report, evaluating a number of teacher training programs across the country. Ohio universities whose programs were graded low are bothered by several points. The PD’s editors are not unsympathetic, but they fall upon the side of rigor and anything that legitimately detracts from rigor should be investigated and improved.
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis had a whole 30 minutes on the air on WHBC radio in Canton on Saturday morning, talking about the Common Core with host Joe Palmisano. Link is here. Common Core discussion begins at about the 38 minute mark, but stick around for the caller Q&A afterward too. Fascinating discussion. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, math teachers and administrators in Heath are uneasy about the uncertainty surrounding Common Core. Most seem optimistic that repeal won’t happen in Ohio, but just the possibility that years of work and $100,000 in materials and training could go for naught (and may have to be repeated twice more) is still disconcerting. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. We’ve all heard the stories of parents having difficulty helping their children with their “Common Core” math homework. Apocryphal or not – Common Core or not – math teachers in Newark really want to make sure that parents have all the tools they could want in order to help their elementary school students succeed. Thus, the Parent Math Academy was born. The online academy “teaches parents the concepts their children are learning in school, including new vocabulary words and an overview of any graphics or strategies the students might see.” Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. Journalists retrenched after the internet blowup over Ohio’s “5 of 8” rule last week, and spent the weekend digging in and trying to understand what the rule means in its present form, how it manifests itself in local practice,
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