Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Fantastic story from The Atlantic today on the newest Cristo Rey High School, which started its second year in Columbus in September in a newly-renovated historic building downtown. Very nice profile here, especially if you’re not familiar with the innovative Cristo Rey model. (The Atlantic)
     
  2. Speaking of schools getting it right, here’s a nice profile of Mansfield schools’ Spanish immersion program. It’s so popular that it is attracting students – and funding – from outside the district. The story is great, the online comments are less so. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  3. The Reynoldsburg strike is already ancient history for us outsiders after just a week, but there are at least two more districts in Ohio whose teachers are working without contracts and in which negotiations are – thankfully – ongoing. Some good progress, it seems, in Lexington schools yesterday. Earlier stories, searchable from the News Journal’s website, indicate that one of the biggest sticking points here is the district’s current teacher evaluation processes. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  4. We mentioned earlier this week that it is the season for districts’ 5-year budget forecasts. Mentor City Schools got downright philosophical in their budget presentation: “You can only save a dollar once. Once we cut an expense, we will figure out a way to do without ... but once you have done that you can’t do it again.” There is also an update on the district’s use of their Straight A Fund grant. Hint: MacBooks are involved. (Willoughby
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  1. As with many others across Ohio, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce staunchly backs Common Core. They held an event yesterday focusing on “the business case for the Common Core” to explain, again, why. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, here’s an interesting look at changes in teacher training programs in Ohio in the wake of adoption of Ohio’s New Learning Standards four years ago. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  3. The PD takes on the question of whether there is too much testing in schools these days, checking in with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools for their take. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Well that’s a turn up for the books. Board members at an Imagine charter school in Columbus agree with their detractors that their lease deal is a drag on the budget and have asked their landlord for a fix. Interesting. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. I’m sure the terms “territory transfer” and “abolish the district” are required legal-ese in Ohio’s Byzantine system for school district mergers, but they seem to be unnecessary tripping points for folks in the proposed merger of the Cardinal and Ledgemont districts. The respective superintendents are supportive of the merger for a number of reasons, but they seem to be facing a tough sell. We’ve been following this story for almost a year now, and it will probably go on quite a bit longer, although the results of a levy request
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  1. You would think that interest in the 2013-14 school report cards would be waning by now, a few weeks after publication, and you’d be right. The PD, fresh from breaking the news that things actually are improving measurably in Cleveland schools, is already turning its attention to next year’s report cards, noting that the introduction of PARCC exams may delay results by months…a lot of them. Part of the anticipated delay is that state education officials want to wait to see how kids did on the tests before determining new cut scores, and therefore the report card results for test scores. Luckily, Fordham’s Aaron Churchill was there to set the record straight: most schools should brace for some lower-than-average performance. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. This is the story of John Carter, 24, of West Carrollton, a man who not only beat the odds to simply survive but also took good advantage of all the assistance and opportunities available to him to thrive. There are a lot of players in his story, including his family, a local church, a charter school, and Sinclair Community College. But the story, and the success he is making of his life against some long odds, is entirely his. Congratulations, Mr. Carter. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Last night’s “Evening with Teachers” edition of Ohio’s Common Core repeal hearings was a bit of a fizzle. In the end, not many teachers opposed to Common Core got to speak, at least one who did had been
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  1. The latest legislative assault against Common Core in Ohio is rumbling back to life this evening with what is supposed to be testimony from teachers who support repeal of the Common Core. Ahead of this testimony, the Chillicothe Gazette looked at some specific math problems aligned to Common Core and solicited responses on them from teachers and professors on both sides of the issue. Some good stuff here…much of which will not be part of tonight’s hearing. (Chillicothe Gazette)
     
  2. Discussion of yesterday’s story about the facilities funding set up of Imagine charter schools continues in the expected corners today. The Blade’s piece is typical of them all, with the blasting and the demanding. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Springfield City Schools approved a one-to-one technology plan for students in grades three through twelve. But those new laptops and software packages have to be teacher-tested first. This is a story about that. Apparently, there was “a lot of oohing and ahhing going on” during the training sessions last week. (Springfield News-Sun)
     
  4. It is that time of year again: school district treasurers releasing their five-year funding forecasts. Canton City Schools continues to lose students – EdChoice vouchers are the main cited culprit – although the number of exiting students seems to be smaller than in the past. Interestingly, the district foresees the end of state “funding guarantees” in the near future and is attempting to adjust their budgeting accordingly. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Speaking of school budgets,
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  1. We’re back after a short break, and there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to it. The board chair of Fordham-sponsored Dayton Leadership Academy penned a guest column in the Dayton Daily News last Friday, highlighting signs of success for DLA students buried deep in this year’s report card data. Nice. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in a story from yesterday’s Dispatch, looking at the lease deals under which Imagine charter schools occupy the buildings in which they operate. There’s probably some more info required to make sense out of these numbers. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. I don’t want to argue causation, but just as soon as Gadfly Bites took its hiatus, a breakthrough occurred and the Reynoldsburg teachers strike ended. (ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News)
     
  4. The Big D took a look at the details of the new contract in Reynoldsburg – as far as they were known at the time – and tried to parse what this will mean for teachers (and students) for the next three years. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. There are still a few issues to work out in Reynoldsburg as teachers return to the classroom. Today’s article addresses the issue of when and how much teachers will be paid for days worked just before and just after the strike. Hint: it’s complicated. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  6. One concern that came to the fore before the end of the strike was that of student grades for the
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Last week, the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC) hosted a terrific conference at Ohio State University which brought together the state’s education research and practitioner communities. The focus of the one-day conference was teacher quality—why it matters, and how Ohio’s teacher-quality initiatives are playing out in the field.

In his keynote address, Eric Hanushek of Stanford University set the table, zeroing in on the economic value of a high-quality teacher. He showed that students who are fortunate enough to have high-quality teachers are more likely to have higher lifetime earnings than those less fortunate. The implication was easily understood: It cannot be left to chance as to whether students get a high-quality educator.

But here’s the rub: Less clear is what policies help to ensure that every Buckeye student is taught by a great teacher from Kindergarten through high-school graduation. Hanushek pointed out that several variables commonly used to measure teacher quality—including Master’s degrees, experience after a few years of teaching, and participation in professional-development programs—only weakly correlate to actual effectiveness.

A panel discussion wrestled with the ambiguity and complexity involved in raising teacher quality. (The slide decks are available here.) The panel, moderated by Rebecca Watts of the Ohio Board of Regents, included Christopher Burrows, superintendent of Georgetown Exempted Village (a district an hour east of Cincinnati), Lawrence Johnson of the University of Cincinnati, and Belinda Gimbert of Ohio State University. The panelists raised some of the prickly issues that face practitioners when it comes to...

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Note: Gadfly Bites is taking a break for the rest of the week. Back on Monday with a round up.

  1. Patrick O’Donnell has dug into Cleveland schools’ value add scores and teased out what the district believes are substantive gains in this area for students tested over the last two years. There’s some speculation that charter school students in the district’s portfolio helped bring up the grade, but even more speculation that important aspects of the Cleveland plan are starting to bear fruit: observable, data-based fruit. But, says CEO Eric Gordon, "we can't afford simply to meet (expected progress). We have to exceed the state's expectations for my kids to step up… But you have to start somewhere…2014-15 will be about exceeding." Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The board of education in Strongsville is concerned about unpaid fees from its families, for things such as art supplies and participation in sports, to the tune of about $170,000. They voted unanimously to withhold report cards and online access to grades—among other steps—for those delinquent families. I am certain that their students rose up in a unanimous cheer when this was announced. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. The court-ordered mediation between district and teachers union continues in Reynoldsburg today, in conjunction with the lawsuit seeking to close the district’s schools for the duration of the strike. These are based on the safety concerns of the parent who brought the suit, but most observers are quietly hopeful that some contract talks
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A 2014 report  from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) shows that the number of first-year teachers in the United States rose from 84,000 in 1987–88 to 147,000 in 2011–12. While this change is largely demographic (fueled by baby boomer retirements), it also means that over 1.7 million teachers—roughly half the workforce—has ten or fewer years of experience. While the new infusion of talent, energy, and ideas a new teacher can bring is positive, many aren’t sticking around for very long. In fact, the CPRE report notes that more than 41 percent of beginning teachers left the profession within five years. While not all teacher turnover is bad—no one wants to force weak teachers to stay merely to improve retention rates—there are also talented teachers who are leaving—and students are the ones paying the heaviest price.

Much ado has been made over why beginning teachers leave . You’ll hear different accounts of how to fix it on different “sides” of the education reform debate. One such argument provided by Richard Ingersoll, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania’s education school (and a former high school teacher), faults the isolating “sink or swim” experience that most beginning teachers face. Ingersoll notes that beginning teachers are “frequently left to succeed or fail on their own within the confines of their classrooms” and goes on to explain that some commentators even refer to teaching as a profession that “cannibalizes its young.” Perhaps Ellen Moir said...

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Next-generation learning models—“technology-enabled” education, if you will—are designed to personalize education in any way necessary to help students at all performance levels meet and exceed goals. As with any innovation introduced into American education, next-generation models have met resistance and in many cases have been either halted altogether or subsumed into the by-the-book system. In their new issue brief, Public Impact’s Shonaka Ellison and Gillian Locke argue that charter schools are the ideal place for next-generation learning models. Charter-school autonomies, inherent in their DNA, provide the best platform for tech-driven innovations like ability grouping, mastery-based promotion, student-paced learning, separation of administrative and instructional duties for teachers, and online learning. The researchers show these practices are carried out in various combinations at a number of charter schools around the country. No mention is made in the brief about solely online schooling, whose model would seem to be synonymous with much of the innovation described here but whose results have too often fallen short of expectations. In fact, having a building in which to attend school seems to be an unstated requirement for creating the type of next-generation models the authors examine. And while Khan Academy and ASSISTments can extend the school day into the home, building a brick box just so students can come inside and use these tools inside seems somehow less than innovative. But the use of technology also requires the hard work of quality implementation. “Positive student results heavily depend on quality implementation,” the authors note. They make...

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These days, the words “Massachusetts standards” cause hearts to flutter among some in Ohio. And not without reason. The Bay State had solid pre-Common Core academic-content standards. But less known is how demanding Massachusetts set its performance standards—the cut-score for achieving “proficiency” on its state tests. This bold action bucked the No Child Left Behind trend, whereby many states, including Ohio, set dismal performance standards. (Under NCLB, states were allowed to set their own bar for “proficiency.”) In this new study, we see just how high Massachusetts set its performance standard relative to other states. To rate the “stringency” of state performance standards, Gary Phillips of AIR created a common scale by linking state NAEP results from 2011 to international tests. Looking at fourth-grade math and reading, Massachusetts had the most stringent performance standards in the land. And in eighth grade, Massachusetts tied with a few other states for the most-stringent standards. Meanwhile Ohio’s performance standards were woefully mediocre compared to other states. Importantly, the study also points out that higher performance standards also led to lower state-reported proficiency rates. Massachusetts, for example, reported roughly 40–55 percent proficient in these grades and subjects; in contrast, Ohio reported 70–85 percent proficient. But this doesn’t mean, of course, that Ohio students actually know more than Massachusetts students: The NAEP results—a standardized test given to a sample of students in all states—actually show the reverse. Higher “standards” are not just content standards—i.e., the expectations for what students should know at...

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