Ohio Gadfly Daily

Gadfly Bites is back from vacation and catching up on some older news reported during the hiatus:

  1. The deadline for candidates to run for State Board of Education seats in November has come and gone. State Board of Education President Debe Terhar did not file paperwork and so will not run for another term. Newly-appointed board member Ron Rudduck will be running for a full term, as promised, and an open seat will be contested by two others besides former State Rep. Robert Hagan, as we noted last week. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. This is probably the stalest of old news: more piling on to the “investigate Horizon/Concept Schools for X” bandwagon. But, I include this for variety. (Gongwer Ohio)
  3. I say “variety” because the rest of our old news is about the Common Core. I went on vacation sure that hearings on the new legislative assault on the Common Core in Ohio would start while I was gone. But no. Turns out that the legislators leading the assault actually want to have some text in their bill before debate begins and so have delayed the start of hearings until at least next week. Nice. (Gongwer Ohio)
  4. In the meantime, lots of folks are weighing in on various aspects of Common Core in Ohio. First up: this op-ed piece from Wooster. Says the author: “Embrace the initiative. It’s something we
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Representative Andy Thompson and Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman have introduced new legislation to repeal the Common Core, and hearings start today (Monday, August 18). But they’re not telling you the whole story. Read on to find out what they don’t want you to know and why their reasoning doesn’t make sense. 

[All opponent statements are direct quotes from this press conference]

1. Ohio was ahead of the game in wanting change: It began reviewing its academic standards back in 2007—long before governors and state superintendents started to talk about creating Common Core.

What opponents said:

[We] want to make sure Ohio is in the driver’s seat in this process.

The truth: By the time the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) started work on replacing state standards that were sorely lacking, the Buckeye state had already begun to respond to educator concerns about Ohio’s standards. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education conducted an international benchmarking study in 2008 (published in 2009) that laid out some guiding principles for revised Ohio standards—principles that Ohio stuck to when they started considering the Common Core.

2. Ohio played a significant role in crafting and revising the Common Core.

What opponents said:

Ohio’s kind of been […] tied to the railroad tracks here on this mission.

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Ohio’s new teacher-evaluation system requires evaluators to conduct two, formal thirty-minute classroom observations. Yet these legally prescribed observations seem ripe for compliance and rote box-checking; in fact, they may not be quite the impetus for school-wide improvement that policymakers had hoped for.

If this does end up happening in practice, all is not lost. Rather, as I discuss below, informal channels for teacher feedback might actually be more conducive to helping teachers (and their schools) improve than formal procedures.

Consider Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s recent work on New York City’s charter schools. The research duo takes great pains to uncover what school-based factors make a great school tick. In my estimation, one of their key findings is how strongly the frequency of informal teacher feedback correlates to school effectiveness.

Dobbie and Fryer measure school effectiveness in two ways. For the full sample of thirty-nine schools, they use a statistical model (a matched student-pair approach) to estimate a school’s impact on achievement. Second, for twenty-nine of the schools, lottery-admissions data were used to estimate school effectiveness. Lottery-based computations are typically considered preferable, because researchers can approximate a random experiment. The researchers then probe the schools’ “inner-workings” during the 2010-11 school year, to gauge which school-based factors differentiate higher- and lower-performing schools.

The study concludes that a “bundle” of practices and attitudes—generally those associated with a “No Excuses” charter-school model—are linked with more-effective schools. Overall, this might be expected, given the powerful research findings on KIPP charters and...

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NOTE: Gadfly Bites is going on vacation from Wednesday, August 6 through Tuesday, August 12.

  1. Governor Kasich has appointed a former Montgomery County judge to fill the final open seat on the State Board of Education. (Dayton Daily News)
  2. Here’s a well-intentioned commentary opining that STEM/technology is good but shouldn’t be sent to the fore at the expense of basics like literacy. But there’s little evidence that the author is concerned about anything more than a few hashtags finding their way into book reports. OMG. (Amherst News Times)
  3. I think this should assuage our Amherst columnist: ODE awarded $45 million in 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to 247 schools and community organizations - 61 of which are new to the five-year-old grant program. These are federal funds to support programs aimed at literacy, career readiness and drop-out prevention. For the first time, applicants were required to propose programs that would focus on literacy skills for K-4 students or literacy in addition to college and career readiness for middle and high school students. Sounds like the right way to go. (Gongwer Ohio)
  4. I didn’t want to include this story – the first hearing for one of the Columbus City Schools principals fighting to keep her job in the wake of the datascrubbing investigations – but the testimony is a pretty fascinating inside look at
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In Ohio, like many states across the nation, reading achievement has largely stalled. The state’s reading scores on the domestic NAEP assessments haven’t moved over the past decade: In fourth-grade reading, the state’s average score was 222 in 2003 and 224 in 2013. The story is the same for eighth grade. Meanwhile, on state assessments, reading proficiency rates have improved noticeably in fourth grade (from 77 percent in 2006 to 88 percent in 2013), but fifth- and sixth-grade reading proficiency rates haven’t budged. In fifth grade, for instance, statewide reading proficiency was 75 percent in 2006 and 74 percent in 2013.

Test data suggest that strong and concerted efforts must be made to stem the tide of mediocre reading achievement. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is one policy initiative aimed at improving early literacy. And in 2010, the state board adopted new English language arts (ELA) standards—part of the Common Core—in order to increase the rigor of what students are expected to know and be able to do when it comes to reading, writing, and grammar.

State leaders have created a policy framework—Third Grade Reading for foundational early-literacy skills and long-term growth under the Common Core—to improve ELA across Ohio. And now, for many Ohio schools, it’s implementation time. This made me wonder: Which schools are already making the biggest impact on their students’ reading achievement? Have any schools consistently helped their students make large gains on state assessments? Of course, past success is no...

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For decades, much ado has been made over parental involvement in schools. Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), as part of the 2012 Cleveland Plan For Transforming Schools, requires by law that all parents meet with their child’s teacher by December of every school year. About 75 percent of elementary school and 60 percent of high school students had a parent meet with their child’s teacher this past school year, the first covered by the new law. District administrators call these numbers “pretty impressive” (at least at the elementary level), but the outcomes resulting from mandating parental involvement are unclear. For starters, it’s impossible to compare the totals to previous year’s totals or even to other districts’ totals, including those of suburban counterparts, since the state doesn’t require them to keep track of parent-teacher conference attendance. Despite the good intentions of the Cleveland mandate, a question remains: is there an academic benefit to this kind of parental involvement?

The answer is complicated. Some types of involvement, such as reading to elementary students at home, discussing school activities or college plans, and requesting a particular teacher, do yield positive results. But other common practices, like helping with homework, usually don’t alter a child’s academic experience or trajectory. That’s not to say that parents should be shut out of schools. Parents deserve to know what’s happening in their kids’ schools, and if they want to be involved, there should be opportunities to be productively engaged. But instead of blanket mandates for involvement,...

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Many students in Ohio and across the nation continue to perform poorly in mathematics. In response to this chronic underachievement, schools have tried numerous interventions, including “double dosing” students who lag behind academically. “Double dosing”—most commonly utilized in middle and high schools—can be an extension of time in an existing math class or assigning struggling students to two independent math courses (one remedial, one comprised of grade-level content). In either case, the goal is to improve student outcomes through additional “time on task.” In this new study, the author analyzes student data from 2003–04 through 2012–13 provided by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) to observe whether students’ participation in two distinct math classes improves outcomes. The study examines the outcomes of middle school students scoring just below and just above the predetermined cut-off score on the previous spring’s state assessment.[1] Findings indicate that students taking a double dose of math made significantly higher gains on math assessments compared to those students who were just above the cut-off score but did not receive a double dose. Yet over time, these gains diminish. Only one year after returning to a single math class schedule, gains fell to one-half to two-thirds the original amount. Two years post double-dose, gains shrunk further to only one-fifth to one-third of the original. These results indicate that double dosing provides students a big-time short-term boost; however, there is no guarantee that short-run gains will persist in the longer term....

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This short review originally ran in Education Gadfly Weekly on July 23, 2014. Here we present the original review with an added Ohio perspective.

This new report from the University of Arkansas compares the productivity of public charter schools and district schools, both in terms of cost effectiveness and return on investment (ROI). For the cost-effectiveness analysis, the authors consider how many test-score points students gain on the 2010–11 NAEP for each $1,000 invested; to measure ROI, the authors used, among other data, student-achievement results from CREDO’s national charter school study (that matched students via a “virtual twin” methodology). The key finding: For every $1,000 invested, charter students across the United States earned a weighted average of an additional seventeen points in math and sixteen additional points in reading on NAEP, compared to traditional district students, controlling for student characteristics such as poverty and special-education status. This translates into charters nationwide being 40 percent more cost effective. Meanwhile, Buckeye State charters are less cost effective than national charters, though still more so than their district counterparts within the state. Ohio charters averaged nine additional NAEP points in both reading and math per $1,000 in funding relative to comparable districts. The researchers calculate ROI by converting the learning gains over time by students in charter and traditional sectors into an estimate of the economic returns over a lifetime and comparing those returns to the revenue amount invested in their education. Using Eric Hanushek’s existing estimates on lifetime earnings and productivity, they find...

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For the last four months, Fordham Ohio has been publishing a daily news and commentary blog. In it, we take a quick look at education news and opinion pieces from media outlets around the state, dig into the content, add our own analysis and commentary, and offer readers a sense of what these stories mean.

It is sometimes irreverent, sometimes serious, hopefully amusing, and always thoughtful. Starting Monday, August 18, you can have the blog delivered directly to your inbox with our new Gadfly Bites email service. Click here  to sign up now.

Here’s a sample of recent clips and commentary:

  • There’s a lot to unpack in this Q&A with the five current members of the Stark County ESC governing board. Why now? Why those three specific questions? Why not ask about career tech, Internet connectivity, or inner city vs. suburban vs. rural education? Why not ask about the powerful effect of demographic changes in Stark County since these long-timers first took office? Two of these folks have been on the governing board since the George H.W. Bush administration. I’m all for “institutional memory,” but are the voters of Stark County really sure that this group is truly representative of their interests? Even a quick read reveals an antiquated mindset mired in the status quo of the late twentieth century, unsuited to the real-world needs of today’s families and students. But that’s just me. (Canton Repository, July 28, 2014)
  • We have featured the SPARK program in these clips
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NOTE: Gadfly Bites is going on vacation from Wednesday, August 6 through Tuesday, August 12.
  1. Guest commentary from Cleveland leads the clips from the weekend. To wit: two opposing viewpoints on charter schools. On the pro side is the new president of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. A blogger and former advocate for public education justice for the United Church of Christ takes the con side of the argument. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Sticking with the public common schools for a moment, here’s an update on the “confusion” surrounding the hiring of Norwalk schools’ interim superintendent, as we first told you last week. Sounds a bit less like “the wrong person was hired” and more like a swing vote gone wrong. Or, perhaps, counting one’s chickens before they’re hatched. (Norwalk Reflector)
     
  3. The editorial page editor of the Beacon Journal opines strongly in favor of the Common Core. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. District superintendents in the New Philadelphia area have their own opinions on the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio, as this report illustrates. A representative quote: “…I’d hate to think that a few legislators can completely erase everything we’ve worked for these past few years, with no solid plan of what or how the standards would be replaced.” (New Philadelphia Times Reporter)
     
  5. Some school lunch cooks from districts in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were at
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