Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. It took a little while, but the Enquirer finally noticed the Southwest Ohio winners of Straight A grants from the state. Quite a mixed bag among the winners: Common Core, reading proficiency, arts assessments, and technology access are all in there. Also of note: the journalist includes the number of students projected to be affected by each project, and there’s a district/online charter school collaboration in there that probably raised some eyebrows. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Speaking of technology, Mansfield City Schools recently underwent a tech assessment which revealed a number of deficiencies (old equipment, lack of backup, lack of disaster recovery plan, etc.), many of which the Supe says are being addressed over the summer. But buried in this story appears to be the news that both the firm paid to do the assessment and the contractor being paid to fix some of the problems seem to be owned/run by the same person. Not sure if I’m reading it right or not, but if so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this one soon. (Mansfield News-Sun)
     
  3. In somewhat happier (and clearer) technology news, a team from Newark Digital Academy was in Portland, Oregon last week, presenting at the NWEA conference on the ways that they use testing data to help their at-risk e-school students improve. Very nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. Some nice insight here from the superintendent of Hilliard City Schools. A straightforward question about alternate pathways to third grade promotion opens up a discussion
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a guest on The Ron Ponder Show in Canton yesterday, talking about third grade reading, as were OEA’s new president and a member of the state board of education talking separately about Common Core. The audio for Chad’s segment is here. If you’re interested, you can find the others at this link. Just click on the “audio vault” tab and look for the June 30 segments. (WHBC radio, Canton)
     
  2. OEA’s new president Becky Higgins also called in to public radio in Cleveland yesterday, noting that she was on her way to Denver for the NEA annual convention, where she expected Common Core to dominate the agenda. Her take on CCSS in Ohio? She firmly supports the standards and is “cautiously optimistic” that districts statewide will allow a one year safe harbor provision before teachers are evaluated based on PARCC exam scores. (IdeaStream radio, Cleveland)
     
  3. Editors in Youngstown opine most strongly on the difficult job ahead for the new academic distress commission chair overseeing Youngstown City Schools’ attempt to climb out of the achievement basement. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Speaking of oversight by the state, Monroe schools are almost out from under their fiscal oversight after nearly two years. Just a few more things to button up….like figuring out how to forward mail in the summer from dormant school buildings to central office. Hope they can crack that code soon. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  5. And speaking of district finances, sounds like
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Yitz Frank

Earlier this year, two articles published in the Columbus Dispatch claimed that students using vouchers to attend private schools in Ohio perform worse than their peers attending public schools. The focus of the March 8 article and the subsequent March 16 editorial was on extending the third grade reading guarantee to students using vouchers (a measure eventually signed into law). In an effort to bolster this argument, the article referenced data suggesting that 36 percent of third-grade voucher students would be retained compared to only 34 percent of public school students. Other articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Canton Repository made similar comparisons that negatively portrayed the performance of students using an EdChoice Scholarship. However, Test Comparison Summary data released this week by the Ohio Department of Education shows a very different picture of how voucher students are performing. The key is using the right comparison group.

The data used in the articles referenced above incorrectly grouped the results of all public school students in the state, including many affluent public schools, and then compared their results with those of voucher students. However, these scholarships are not available to all students. Students are only eligible for a traditional EdChoice Scholarship if they attended or otherwise would be assigned to a “low-performing” public school. Many such schools are located in Ohio’s less-affluent urban areas. Accordingly, the most accurate comparison is to examine the test results of students receiving EdChoice vouchers with the...

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  1. The Akron suburb of Woodridge debated school building issues for most of their meeting last week. But the superintendent wanted to talk about some nuts and bolts good news as well. Such as the great work being done to make sure all third graders pass the reading test and move on to fourth grade, explaining what Common Core means for the district and how good the new standards are, and that the district is ready for PARCC exams. Nice. (Akron Online)
     
  2. How is this possible?! As noted in the above story, there are plenty of high-level resources available to districts to help them reach the goals of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. How, then, did that train-wreck of a volunteer reading tutoring program in Akron that we mentioned last week get over 100 kids signed up? (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. What do you think of when you hear the term “foreign language immersion school”? It’s a school for folks who want their children to learn a foreign language, right? Unless that term has changed meanings over the years (could be, I’m kinda old), I think that Toledo Public Schools may be unfamiliar with the concept as they seem to think that a Spanish Immersion School is mainly for children who speak Spanish as their primary language. While the effort to reach out to the growing number of Spanish-speaking families in Toledo is very important, a different name (International School, Welcome Center, etc.) seems to be in
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While some folks are busy marching and complaining and “going to war” over ed reform and school choice efforts. And while pundits are looking for the next big thing to boost student achievement and promote the best and brightest in teaching and accountability, there is one place where the arguments are already settled.

I found a little bit of peace last week in this place - an oasis where all school choice is fait accompli. All options coexist happily and productively, geography doesn’t matter much, and student success is the only thing on folks’ minds.

Where is this Shangri-la? The school uniform store.

In this serene place, charter schools commingle with district schools and with private schools of all stripes (Catholic, Christian, nonsectarian). Schools from a 25-mile radius are all represented there with no turf battles or rivalries, even though their various sports gear is side-by-side.

The staff of the store is friendly and helpful to all who come in, whatever school they have chosen, and they are knowledgeable about the requirements for all those schools and make sure that parents know that this skirt is required and that top is optional. To them, it’s all about the right fit. Literally.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could substitute the word “uniform” for “options” and everything else stay the same?...

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  1. Editors in Canton opine on Ohio's new teacher evaluation protocols…and the even newer tweaks made to them by the legislature. (Canton Repository)
     
  2. St. Paul Lutheran School in Union County has closed its doors after 122 years. It is not noted in this article that St. Paul took students on the EdChoice Scholarship for some years. Its closing leaves just two EdChoice-participating private schools in the county. Interestingly, both are Lutheran schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Yesterday’s PD piece on whether or not there will be a “safe harbor” for teachers from evaluations based on PARCC exams apparently grew out of this longer and more in-depth interview with ODE’s data-guru Matt Cohen. In it, he answers questions about how value-add will be calculated when tests switch from OAA (RIP) to PARCC (OMG), among other intricacies. I was happy every time I read the phrase “in simple terms”. I can only imagine the level of detail Mr. Cohen was able and willing to provide! (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. In case you think being in charge of a state-mandated commission overseeing school districts in fiscal trouble is a glamorous business, this story will probably change your mind. There appears to be no shortage of people scrutinizing the custodial budget and operations in Mansfield schools at the moment. Looking at privatization didn’t yield the savings hoped for and now discussion turns to making in-house services more efficient, although as the Supe says: he’s “not sure how a more efficient custodian
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  1. It wasn’t on his Year One to-do list, but apparently it will be going forward. Columbus schools supe Dan Good says that future district budgets will be more than one page long and contain some details which are not currently provided. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. As I write this, teachers in Reynoldsburg are standing on some street corner actively protesting the new contract offer from the district. The piece doesn’t specify what they don’t like, but you can probably read the FAQ to get some ideas. (ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News)
     
  3. As the dust settles around the K-12 education portion of the MBR, certain provisions are getting a deeper look. That includes the fact that the legislature’s "safe harbor" provision relating to Common Core implementation likely won't extend to teachers, especially in districts like CMSD where teacher evaluation based on student test scores is already well-established. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. We’ve been following this story for a few months now, and it ends where all but the most die-hard folks thought it would: AB Graham Digital Academy, a charter school in the Springfield area, has failed to find a new sponsor and will not reopen in the fall. Remember this is the fairly successful online/in class academy for at-risk students sponsored by and largely run by Graham Local School district. The district decided to establish its own program and ended sponsorship. No new sponsors stepped up and ABGDA is done.  (Springfield News Sun)
     
  5. Immaculate Conception School in
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  1. A tale of two tests. Or three tests. Or four. Reporters in Zanesville checked in with local districts to get their take on whether the alternative assessments available to determine if third grade students can read well enough to move on to fourth grade are comparable or simply a lowering of the bar. Nice piece. (Zanesville Time Recorder)
     
  2. Even if the bar was lowered, nearly 12 percent of third graders in Ohio still have not scored high enough on any assessment to be promoted. In Columbus City Schools, they are focusing on numbers – specific individual children who have not yet passed – and teachers and administrators are hitting the streets this summer to meet families in their homes and make sure they know of the considerable resources available to them through the district. Despite the sports metaphor (“blitz” is, I think, related to American football and can often result in some violent tackling), this seems like a fantastic innovation for the district and is to be applauded mightily. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. As noted earlier this week, Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s immense facilities plan is at an important crossroads. The PD’s editorial board weighs in today on the state of the plan as it stands now and what they’d ideally like to see instead. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. The Toledo school board voted yesterday to place a “new money” levy on the November ballot - 5.8 mils above the current millage. Voters in that city have
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  1. So, yesterday we took a look at open enrollment in one part of Ohio from the perspective of the districts and seemed to conclude that it was “just business” – net “winner” districts are happy, net “losers” are not and it’s all about dollars. Well, today we catch up with another open enrollment story – one that focuses squarely on why students and parents participate in open enrollment and where the call of “it’s just business” did not fly. To refresh your memory: a “net winner” district in Northeast Ohio started feeling guilty about taking so much money from its neighbors and decided to trim the number of open enrollment seats it would fill in 2014-15 (I’m sure the green eye shades were out to work over those numbers), but as that number was well below the number of kids currently in the district from elsewhere, it seemed inevitable that they would have to kick some kids out. Despite assurances to the contrary, the district did just that, non-renewing nearly three dozen students who had been open enrolled and attending in the district for years. An extremely predictable stink arose and last week the school board was forced to retreat, reinstating all the kicked-out students who wanted to return, although honestly those parents and kids have got to wonder if they are really welcome there or if they are “just business”. (Willoughby News Herald)
  2. There’s not much play on this story outside of Columbus yet, but
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Students who cannot read early in life are barreling toward dropping out, adult illiteracy, and perhaps the welfare rolls. Someone has to intervene in these young lives—and the earlier, the better. Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee requires schools to take early action, including retaining youngsters who do not pass their standardized reading exam. This isn’t punitive, as some critics claim, or unnecessarily harmful to kids. Rather, such interventions could be the force that knocks these kids off the dreaded “school-to-prison pipeline.”

And they’re sorely needed, as witnessed by the recently released data revealing that more than 16,000 Buckeye third graders are in serious jeopardy of not entering fourth grade, as a result of failing their reading exams. Many of these children are from Ohio’s poorer areas (over one-quarter of them live in the “Big Eight” urban districts), but thousands more reside in middle-class communities. These youngsters did not earn the minimum score on their reading exam for either the Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 rounds of testing.[1] Now they have one last chance—if they want it—to take the state’s assessment this summer or to pass an alternative one.

The fact that 10 percent of Ohio’s third graders need heavy-duty summer remediation or will probably have to repeat third grade—and that hundreds more barely passed—should give us pause. Granted, many schools are struggling valiantly to help young readers, and hats off to Ohio’s educators for upping their attention on early literacy.

But...

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