Ohio Gadfly Daily

Tom Vander Ark

NOTE: This is a repost of a blog that originally appeared on the Getting Smart website on July 16, 2014.

Accountability is a gift. We don’t often think of it that way but, done right, it’s a bargain that provides autonomy, resources, and supports in return for a commitment to a set of desired outcomes. That’s how it’s supposed to work with your kids; that’s how it’s supposed to work with schools. At work accountability provides role and goal clarity like when your boss explains, “Here’s what I expect and how I’ll support you; if you don’t achieve desired results, here’s how the situation will be remedied.

The University of Toledo and and its designee to authorize schools, The Ohio Council of Community Schools (OCCS), hosted a  school leaders conference today to discuss the next generation of accountability. As the Fordham Institute Ohio staff noted, there were a number of changes made to Ohio testing and accountability system in the last session including accountability provisions.  Following is a discussion of how accountability should work–from students to universities–with a few comments about where Ohio is on the curve.

Outcomes. Let’s start with the question, “Accountable for what?”  I’ve come to believe that instilling an innovation mindset is at least as important as teaching basic skills. However, I’m not comfortable with states incorporating grit and curiosity and the like into an accountability framework. Schools and districts should embrace these important career-readiness skills and dispositions and provide regular feedback...

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  1. As you all know, I don’t usually clip letters to the editor, but this one is in response to an egregious story about an anti-Common Core resolution passed by a school district in Northwest Ohio so was totally worth it. Oh, and it was written by me. (Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune)
     
  2. Chad is quoted extensively in Tom Vander Ark’s excellent and thorough NextGen Accountability blog post, focusing on Ohio’s recent accountability changes. (Getting Smarter)
     
  3. Governor Kasich spoke on the record about Common Core yesterday during a campaign swing through the north central part of the state. The whole piece is clipped below, but here’s the relevant bit: “The governor also defended the Common Core, saying while the plan sets overall goals for educational achievement, local school boards must approve the curriculum to achieve those objectives. Common Core is a set of common standards for math and English/language arts.” That’s a fairly flexible definition of the word “defend”, but it’s excellent to hear the Governor talking Common Core on the stump. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Rhetoric – and outside agitation – is ramping up in Reynoldsburg over the proposed new teacher contract. Still can’t tell whether the issue is really the merit pay provision or the cash in lieu of health insurance provision…or perhaps something else. Honestly, if the district teachers have actually resigned in the numbers quoted in this story, it means that there are more folks from outside the district complaining than from inside.
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  1. As we told you yesterday, the state board accountability committee was to decide whether to recommend a year’s “safe harbor” from grading for schools and districts on results of the new PARCC exams. The committee recommended to do so. The full board will likely vote on this at its September meeting. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Today, the board is going to hear testimony about some allegations made nearly 10 years ago against Concept/Horizon/Noble charter schools. We’ve mentioned these to you – as well as the less-than-substantial claims being made over those allegations (and likely unrelated FBI investigations) by charter foes in Ohio. Here is a nice, calm, factual report on the issues at play from the Dispatch’s ace education reporter Jennifer Smith Richards. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. While the Horizon issues are namechecked in this Vindy story, it seems that State Auditor David Yost is more interested in processes and oversight in the charter school sector. So much so that he’s conducting a special audit of those processes. Not sure how far he’s gotten, but he told the Vindy editorial board, “The whole system as far as oversight is in need of reform.” Sounds good.
  4. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  5. Remember back in May when ODE took an unprecedented step and warned three charter school sponsors that they were not to open their proposed new schools for the 14-15 school year…or else? Well, one of those “new schools” was actually the decade-old VLT Academy looking for a new sponsor when its
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Since the inception of standardized tests in our schools, many debates have raged regarding their value. Critics often contend that schools are “testing students to death”, while supporters argue that testing allows for accountability at the student, teacher, and school level. The dispute may continue, but for now, let’s examine whether standardized test results provide any indication of the future educational attainment of the students who take them. It turns out that in districts across Ohio, proficiency on standardized tests (in both reading and mathematics) correlates moderately well with high school graduation and college remediation rates.

First, let’s examine the relationship between proficiency and high school graduation. Figure 1 represents the eighth-grade proficiency and graduation rate for each Ohio district as a point on the graph. Proficiency data from 2007-08 are paired with 2011-12 graduation rates, since eighth-grade students in spring 2008 were scheduled to graduate in spring 2012 under the conventional pathway to graduation.[1] For the most part, we observe a positive correlation between the two variables—the line that best fits the points trends upward.  Our R-squared values[2] (the measure of the “goodness” of the trend lines’ fit through the points), and the correlation coefficients[3] indicate that this link is moderate in strength.

Districts with higher proficiency rates tend to have higher graduation rates and vice-versa. Generally speaking, this suggests that test results are linked to high-school graduation. Yet a district’s proficiency rate isn’t the only factor...

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  1. The state board of education is this week discussing whether to move forward on “safe harbor” provisions allowed in the recent MBR - giving a year's grace to districts' report cards based on the new PARCC exams. We'll see how that goes, but there has also been some discussion as to whether “safe harbor” provisions should be extended to teachers in the wake of the new exams as well. Delaware City Schools has already moved ahead with changing their teacher evaluations, tying 50% of a teacher’s “grade” to student-growth measures. “Students who perform well on tests are most likely performing well in the classroom,” the Supe reasons. (ThisWeek News/Delaware News)
     
  2. Must be the season for moving alternative schools and programs around. We told you about one last week and here’s another. The Madison-Champaign ESC is moving its hybrid program for students at risk of dropping out from a classroom in Urbana to a modular space in Bellefontaine 25 miles away. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  3. A giant embezzlement case involving the Springboro Athletic Boosters organization dating back nearly five years is having continuing consequences for the district. The group still has not won back its 501c3 status and therefore cannot function without strict district oversight. The district is ready to end its scrutiny, but cannot do so until the group is back in the IRS’ good graces. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. This is a curious piece. Editors in Columbus took the
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There’s not a ton of stories today, but those few clips are pure gold:

  1. Let’s start with a sad and silly follow up to yesterday’s clip about the Youngstown Schools’ superintendent’s annual evaluation. Turns out that the copies of the evaluation given to reporters and the public omitted the written notation from the Supe that “I don’t agree with the evaluation”. Who knows how the intrepid journalist figured this out but when it was confirmed, she and others were quick to call public records foul. My favorite bits include: board members disagreeing about who did the copying, the description of the copier follies whoever it was encountered in trying to make the thing work (“We were all pressing print.”), and best of all is the fact that the evaluation form itself is for the “Younstown” City Schools. No wonder the Supe disagreed! (Younstown Vindicator)
     
  2. Let’s keep to the theme of the ridiculous for a minute and talk about the “Freshman Fresh Start” doctrine which is in force in Cleveland Metropolitan School District for the first time in 2014-15. This allows 8th graders with poor grades to regain eligibility for high school sports and other extracurriculars. Some genius in the comments estimates that the new rules mean a student with a .85 GPA will now be eligible for HS sports. The idea, says CEO Eric Gordon, is for students just entering high school to “have a chance to
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  1. A little-noticed provision in the recently-passed education MBR bill allows up to 10 school districts or other entities to obtain waivers from parts of Ohio’s accountability system (testing, teacher evaluation, etc.) if they are members of the Ohio Innovation Lab Network. The waivers, requiring alternative assessments/accountability to be approved by ODE, will likely be written in 2014-15 with implementation for those whose waivers are approved beginning in 2015-16. The list of ILN members thus far (i.e. – eligible for waiver consideration) is a mixed bag of high-flyers, known innovators, and question marks. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The K-12 education subcommittee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Committee meets again today. Expect some more thoroughly efficient fireworks. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Homeschoolers, by definition, have opted out of the traditional education system as far as their states will allow. In Ohio, it’s pretty hands-off, so surely the Common Core shouldn’t bother homeschooling families that much. Well, the Midwest Homeschoolers Convention is going on in Cincinnati this week, and Common Core is apparently a big topic, at least to this one mom who was interviewed. Why? The impending alignment of college entrance exams – which even homeschoolers need to think about – to the standards. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  4. Youngstown City Schools’ superintendent had his annual evaluation recently, and the results are pretty much right down the middle – 3 out of 5, or Satisfactory. Good on teamwork, needs improvement in communication, etc. But interestingly the article is mostly taken up
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  1. We’ve told you a number of times about the student journalists being used by the Beacon Journal and the Vindicator to attack charter schools from all angles, including the lovely Jacob Myers who came at us a couple months back by phone leading off with, “Are there any good charter schools in Ohio?” Well, once we ascertained what he was really interested in, Aaron gave him a ton of great information and lo and behold Jake actually wrote about what he learned. I think these two pieces from the student journalists’ blog are a couple of months old, but worth sharing anyway for the heavy use they make of Aaron’s Parsing Performance report card analysis from last fall. Plus it’s a slow news day. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  2. Sandusky schools have taken over management of a two-year-old online alternative program targeted to students ages 14 to 22 who “don't fit the mold of a traditional classroom education.” Students in the program can also participate in traditional extracurriculars within Sandusky schools. Previously, the local ESC managed the program – open to students from any district – but now Sandusky will do the work and collect the open enrollment funding directly. Summer school starts July 21. (Sandusky Register)
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  1. The tone is a bit condescending, but we’ll take the media hit: StateImpact Ohio takes a look at Fordham’s Lacking Leaders report. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  2. Dispatch editors weigh in decidedly in favor of School Choice Ohio’s legal action against two school districts on the topic of public records. This legal action will be resolved soon with or without this support, but my favorite bit is on another related topic: “The more successful School Choice Ohio is in getting the word out [about voucher eligibility], the more students may leave public schools via vouchers. Public schools understandably want to avoid this, but they should fight against it by making their schools safer and more effective — not by scheming to prevent families from knowing about their options. Scheming in defiance of state law would be even worse.” Wow. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We are still feeling the effects of the bitter winter weather in central Ohio. No, not by skiing in July, but by the aftereffects of legislation aimed at helping districts whose calendars were hard hit by the weather. Districts and charter schools can now count their instructional time in hours rather than in days. And with that in place, Columbus’ Catholic schools are busily shrinking their calendars for 2014-15, some by up to two weeks. Wonder if that will result in a lowering of tuition? (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Vindy editors are first out of the gate with an editorial in support of their student journalists’ “investigation”
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Common Core watchers out there have probably heard this one before: All the teachers I know hate the Common Core.

There are undoubtedly some teachers who dislike the Common Core, but recent polls suggest that most teachers support the new standards. During my three years of teaching (completed a month ago), most of my colleagues and I liked the Common Core. One reason we supported the new standards was because they gave us more freedom. Detractors claim that standards tell teachers how to teach. But I taught Common Core after teaching Tennessee’s state standards, and while Common Core did give me expectations for what my students should know and be able to do by the end of the year (just like the previous standards did), it allowed me to decide what and how to teach.

Let’s consider, for example, the first literature standard for ninth graders (the grade I taught), which states, “Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” Most would agree that using evidence to support the analysis of a text is crucial. Students ought to know how to cite evidence instead of simply writing about their opinions and feelings.

That’s all the standard says, though. Nothing more, nothing less.

The standard didn’t tell me when in the year I should teach the skill. I could spend as much or as little time as I wanted on it and make that determination...

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