Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. What could be worse than extended weeks of daily school transportation delays? Perhaps having your transportation up and functional for a couple of weeks, only to have it stopped with the explanation that you shouldn’t have had this bus service these last few weeks anyway. Oops. Our bad. For the love of Pete – please find another way to do this. (ThisWeek News/Bexley News)
     
  2. Cleveland’s Brent Larkin opines on the (lack of) substantive education discussion going on during the gubernatorial contest in Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Speaking of the gubernatorial race, gubernatorial challenger Ed FitzGerald visited the picket line in Reynoldsburg yesterday. I will leave the question as to why a Clevelander visiting central Ohio was covered most fully in the Toledo paper up to others to answer. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Gubernatorial candidate FitzGerald only gets a brief passing mention in the Big D’s Reynoldsburg story today….probably because things have taken a turn for the bizarre there. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. Recall that there is a law on the books in Cleveland that parents must meet with their children’s teachers. There are no consequences, as you might imagine, but Year 1 numbers for parent visits were significantly higher than in previous years. It’s Year 2 now, and the fall parent meeting numbers are trending even higher than last year. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. We stay in Cleveland for our final Gadfly Bite today: The Sound of Ideas this week featured a formerly homeless
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  1. We noted busing woes in a few parts of the state at the beginning of the school year. Sadly, a shortage of drivers in the Cincinnati area is extending transportation woes for families in district, charter, and private schools far into the school year. Please can we think up a new way of doing this? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. I’m tempted to comment on the use of the phrase “traditional charter school” here, but the story is just too good to mess up with snark. A charter school in the Toledo area is partnering with a center for children with autism to help transition students into a more typical classroom setting. Gregory, for one, seems to be doing very well so far. (WTVG-TV, Toledo)
     
  3. Pickerington Central High School’s band will not be performing at tomorrow night’s football game against Reynoldsburg. Apparently band parents were concerned about “spillover” from the ongoing teachers strike in Reynoldsburg and Pickerington pulled the plug on the performance. I don’t know what “spillover” is but the fact that every adult involved on all sides of this strike didn’t rush out to reassure, “Every visitor to our stadium will have a good time and be just fine, like always,” probably says all you need to know. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Officials from North Olmsted and Bay Village schools are talking Common Core this week in their local paper; specifically, the current legislative assault against it. There’s a lot in here but this quote probably
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  1. Today’s scheduled Common Core repeal hearings were themselves “repealed”, so no live tweeting for Chad today. What do the bill sponsors propose for future hearings? Evenings with teachers in October. Could be interesting. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, the director of the Center for Mathematics and Science Education was speaking of Common Core at Bluffton University in Northwest Ohio yesterday. There were even math problems to do. Awesome! (Lima News)
     
  3. Sticking with some more out-of-the-way places in the state, the value of income-based vouchers are extolled in rural Ohio. (Logan Daily News)
     
  4. Back in the big city, the state Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in the case questioning who owns the assets of a charter school contracting with a for-profit management company. You can check out coverage from Gongwer Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and StateImpact Ohio. Is this a battleground over charter school accountability or just a question of contract law?
     
  5. Speaking of accountability, here’s the second in the Morning Journal’s series on “the new era of accountability” in Ohio’s schools. I don’t know if this is the point of the piece, but it seems that officials’ perception of their district’s performance on recent report cards guides their opinion on the usefulness of new standards and new tests coming down the pike. Districts who did as well as they wanted are already moving on to other things (arts, extracurriculars); districts who fared less well than they think
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  1. Here’s an interesting in-the-classroom look at teaching today, addressing issues of new Common Core-influenced standards and less-new 21st Century Learning techniques. Sounds like a lot of great work from teachers here. NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories looking at the reality of new accountability measures for Ohio students and their school districts so I’m sure we’ll feature more of these as the series continues. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  2. Speaking of the “new era of accountability”, here’s a story from a couple of days ago where one official from a district in Licking County expresses shock and disappointment at his district’s report card and another admits to having “no idea” where “they” got those numbers. Anybody want to buy a house in Pataskala? (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. Luckily, officials in Cleveland Metropolitan School District are taking a different approach, taking time to read and understand where “they” (that’s the Ohio Department of Education for our friends in Licking County) came up with the information presented on state report cards (from the data provided by the districts, of course). The district’s official presentation on the data will occur at its annual State of the District event on September 30. The PD itself is also taking its time to digest and understand the data as well. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Editors at the Dispatch seem to have made up their mind already on what the report cards mean here in Columbus. They opine today in
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Heated debate has erupted over changes to Ohio’s new standards, assessments, and accountability policies. Most significantly, the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics has triggered efforts to roll back the new standards and the assessments associated with them. In addition to the Common Core, the state is undertaking other bold but controversial reforms, including the Third Grade Reading Guarantee—aimed at improving early literacy—and evaluations of teachers and principals that factor in student achievement.

These policy reforms reflect a shifting paradigm in K-12 education. For years, it was assumed that schools would provide an adequate education for all students. Since the early 2000s, prodded by federal law, states adopted policies whereby students have been required to meet “proficiency” benchmarks on state tests. This policy framework has moved the achievement needle forward: Disadvantaged students, for one, have demonstrated gains over the past decade on national assessments.

Yet the academic standards in Ohio and in many states across the nation remained too low, and student outcomes mediocre. The minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do failed to match the demands of colleges and employers. As a result, Ohio and other states are raising academic expectations: “adequacy” and “proficiency” in K-12 education is passé. In its place, a new paradigm aims to ready students for college and career.

None of these big reforms—from Common Core to new assessments to clearer accountability for schools and educators—are stress-free, without complication, or uncontentious. These...

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The 2013-14 school year marked the first year of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (TGRG), a law that requires the retention of children not reading on grade level to be retained. This initiative was modeled after similar legislation in Florida and other states. The policy is also based on research that shows that students who can’t read on grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate than a child who reads proficiently. These numbers are even higher for children who live in poverty, particularly Black and Hispanic students.

In a TGRG document posted on its website, the Ohio Department of Education notes that approximately 24,000 students drop out of Ohio high schools each year. They go on to say that most of the students who drop out do not have the reading skills necessary for future success, and that the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is a way of ensuring support for struggling readers early in life.  At Fordham, we’ve long said that reading is important to long-term success, and research shows that third grade is a pivotal year. But with all this focus on third grade, we could be missing another pivotal year that’s just as deserving of our attention—ninth grade.

In the past few years, education researchers have begun to label ninth grade as the “make or break” year for students. Research shows that more students fail ninth grade than any other grade in high school, and a disproportionate number of students who are held...

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This year’s state report cards brought a new twist for some Columbus parents—a parent trigger. Parent triggers, made famous by several high profile efforts in California and a major motion picture, allow a majority of parents in (usually) low-performing schools to force changes to how that school operates. If this sounds to you like a recipe for controversy, you’re right. Even here at Fordham, Mike and Checker have taken different views on whether the pursuit of a parent trigger is worth the effort.

As for me, I’m a huge proponent of empowering parents. Giving dissatisfied parents at low-performing schools the opportunity to take control of their school does that. I’m not an ideologue though, and care most about whatever leads to better academic and life outcomes for kids. The question then is whether the parent trigger is a tool that should be used or even expanded in Ohio.

Just the facts

Ohio’s parent trigger law was passed as part of the state budget bill in 2011 (House Bill 153). It’s designated as a pilot program affecting only Columbus City schools that have been ranked in the bottom five percent of all schools in the state on the performance index for three consecutive years. Because it requires three years of data, 2014-15 is the first year that Columbus district schools could be affected by the trigger. There are twenty-one schools eligible this year—more information on the eligible schools is below.

Exercising the trigger requires a...

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In many school districts, classroom observations make up as much as 75 percent of teachers’ evaluation scores, according to a new study published in Education Next. And these scores predict a teacher’s ability to raise student test scores the following year, as measured by value-added models. With that in mind, analysts did a deep-dive into the observation practices of four school districts. They found that score stability and the quality of the information gathered improved as the number of individual observations increased, and that evaluations by trained, independent, outside evaluators (instead of principals) were more predictive of the following year’s value-added gains. The report recommends that districts observe teachers at least two or three times annually, using an outside observer at least once. Moreover, the study draws attention to the latent bias against teachers with lower-achieving students or who teach in struggling schools. Although value-added models are careful to control for students’ backgrounds and achievement levels, there’s often no such adjustment for classroom observations. (Simply put, it can be much harder to teach a great lesson when the kids are below grade level or unruly.) Unchecked, this can push teachers to avoid assignments at more challenging schools where the need is greatest, widening the achievement gap. The authors suggest that states conduct statistical analyses to control for these variables. The implications of this study are particularly pertinent for Ohio; although the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) is now entering its second year of statewide implementation, many of the aforementioned suggestions...

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Andy Smarick, a partner in Bellwether Partners and a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow at Fordham, dropped by Columbus last week to shake up the educational status quo, discussing his book The Urban School System of the Future.

The event, co-hosted by Fordham and School Choice Ohio, began with the premise that the century-old structure of the traditional school district is “broken” in large urban areas, leading to a long-standing cycle of poor performance for students and reform efforts that merely seek to “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic” while retaining intact the flawed structure. In fact, Smarick argued that maintaining the district structure—and primacy—was often the starting point of many reforms. Charters were conceived as radical departures from the status quo—groups of teachers going off on their own to “reinvent schooling” outside the existing paradigm—but today are defined primarily in terms of how (and whether) they are better or worse than the district schools in their vicinity. Private school vouchers and tax-credit programs were born as “escape mechanisms” for families from failing district schools, without directly addressing the structural failings of the district that led to the need for escape in the first place.

Tens of thousands of students in Ohio, and many more nationwide have taken advantage of school choices and alternatives to traditional districts and yet very little reform of districts has actually happened despite the exodus occurring in every large city.

Smarick stressed the...

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Ohio’s school and district report cards were released last week, nearly a month later than originally scheduled due to inclement weather….back in February and March. No matter; they’re here now and every education stakeholder is poring over them. But to what purpose are these troves of data being put? 

Out of the gate, stories in the media focused on the “big picture” issues: urban districts (pretty bad, with some rays of hope) and dropout recovery schools (same, minus most of those rays of hope). A single grade for “overall performance” is still not being given this year but should be available in 2016. That left analysts digging through a variety of indicators at all levels. Performance index scores, value-added calculations (very confusing), graduation rates, and other factors were considered, either in isolation or in tandem, producing very different conclusions depending on how the measures were parsed or weighted by the investigators. It is tempting to say that certain foregone conclusions were bolstered by the ways in which data were considered or not considered, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that getting an analysis of such a wealth of information out the door quickly necessitates a narrowing of focus, for better or worse.

We’ve already seen some really excellent investigation of report card data this year, adding the journalist’s touch to what could just be cold recitation of numbers. We hope to see more stories making apples-to-apples comparisons between...

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