Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. So the education news was pretty thin on the ground around Ohio this weekend…unless you count graduation coverage. Here’s one of those graduation stories that caught my eye: remember the kerfuffle we reported back in January about one district high school wanting to hold its graduation ceremony in a church…as they had done for the previous two years? Due to parental concerns, it was back to the cramped, less-accessible civic center this year but the kerfuffle was pretty well forgotten amid the tears and joy. (Canton Repository)
  2. Another case in point: the Big D was so busy doing other things that they ran a reprint of an editorial from the Chicago Tribune this morning. It was opining strongly in favor of Common Core. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. The Beacon Journal editors also opined this weekend, about how charter schools are failing dropouts and potential dropouts, following on from a similiar-sounding series of articles from last week. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. One journalist who was working hard this weekend was Casey Elliott of the Urbana Citizen. Casey went in-depth to look at PARCC pilot testing recently conducted in area districts. Most interview subjects felt that things went “smoothly” but some were concerned about a lack of typing skills among younger students that could hamper online test success. A nice piece. (Urbana Citizen)
  5. One other journalist working hard this weekend was
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  1. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lorain City Schools was undergoing its first review since coming under the auspices of an academic distress commission. That review is now nearly complete and in the fine tradition of good news/bad news, the district gets the good news first.  Among those pieces of good news: cooperating with the distress commission and “working to build the culture of high expectations” as determined by fully aligning its ELA and math curricula with the Common Core. It’ll be another couple of weeks before the bad news is made public. I’ll stay on the lookout. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  2. The dean of Ohio’s distress commission work is Paul Marshall, who has been doing the fiscal distress side of the work around the state for many years. I look forward to his eventual book on the work because it will be fascinating. Case in point: Mansfield City Schools, where the current oversight commission had to suspend work on a fiscal plan earlier this week due to tussles with staff over custodians. On an unrelated note, I declare the “Keep Calm and…” t-shirt trend to have jumped the shark as of publication of this piece. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  3. Streetsboro’s Board of Education recently approved an option for students with disabilities to "opt-out" of algebra II and one advanced science course beyond biology and to trigger an “individual career plan” process that seems geared to direct students
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  1. In case you hadn’t yet heard, Fordham’s Aaron Churchill has a fantastic op-ed in the Dispatch today, who graciously allowed him to rebut the paper's recent report on charter schools and segregation by running the numbers and continuing the important conversation. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. We have long championed Reynoldsburg City Schools as a district where reform and innovation are welcomed in the name of helping students succeed. Today, we are learning about a proposal to change teacher compensation to what looks like a full merit pay system – along with a cash payment in lieu of district-provided health insurance. The Big D got the info on this proposal via a public records request (yeah!) and no one in the district is quoted on the record, but the teachers union and BASA are. Could get interesting folks. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Ohio's new report cards got a big thumbs up from both parent reviewers and wonky researchers in a new study from the Education Commission of the States. Reviews cited breadth of measures, ease of interpretation, and easy accessibility among other things. Best of the best, baby! (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. StateImpact's Bill Rice was paying attention to the K-12 education MBR last week and produced this piece talking about Common Core changes proposed in the legislature. Important moves underway with regard to standards in Ohio. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  5. Editors in Akron were also paying attention to the State Senate last week, and late yesterday they opined
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I joined the Twittersphere yesterday for a forum on blended learning moderated by Matt Miller, superintendent of Mentor School District in Northeast Ohio. (Find the tweets at #ohblendchat.) The conversation engaged, by my estimation, fifty or so educators who in 140 characters or less discussed what “blended learning” is, how they’re implementing it, what benefits they’re seeing, and what some of the barriers and misconceptions are.

The forum was a great opportunity to learn how blended learning is playing out in the field. From the chat, I came away with three takeaways:

1.)    There is increasing definition around what blended learning is and is not. First, what it is not: putting students in front of a computer and expecting them to learn. Nor does blended learning slavishly conform to a single method of instruction (e.g., lecture, online, project-based). What is blended learning, then? A few of the key phrases used to define blended learning included personalized learning, a combination of instructional deliveries, collaborative learning, and even controlled chaos.

2.)    Teachers say their feedback on students’ work is swifter and their engagement with all students increases in a blended-learning environment compared to conventional ones. Several educators tweeted about how they have a greater feel for the educational needs of their students. Others described how blended learning allows for more one-on-one instruction and student-teacher conferences. Meanwhile, a few other educators tweeted how blended learning enables them to reach all of their students (i.e., both struggling and advanced...

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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared on two radio stations in Ohio yesterday, talking up Common Core. First up - WKBN radio in the Youngstown area (Chad comes in about the 30 minute mark on this one). Second - WCIT radio in the Lima area (Chad comes in at the halfway mark). Enjoy!
     
  2. The Big D has gotten wind of School Choice Ohio's legal action regarding public records - which we reported to you last week - and provided an important update: the State Supreme Court has chosen to let a mediator look at the public records dispute first before they weigh in. Good luck to SCO and all those families who have a right to know that their children are eligible for a voucher. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The sustainability review phase of the second group of Straight A Fund projects has been completed, including an in-depth review of charter school projects to make sure that there was no bias against their submissions. 228 of 339 projects were selected to move on to the next phase of programmatic review. Gongwer has a nice overview of the projects and the process, with a special shout out to former Fordhamite Kristi Phillips-Schwartz. (Gongwer Ohio) The Big D discusses mainly Franklin County-based projects. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. The presidents of Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College addressed the CMSD school board last night. They urged the board and the public not to expect big gains on test scores this
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  • The EdChoice Scholarship Program received a record number of applications this year: over 20,800 students applied during the window, which closed on May 9, up more than 4,000 from last year.
  • The food-service chief of Lima City Schools testified before Congress last week on how well the Community Eligibility Provision is working for families in Lima. Said Ms. Woodruff, “It’s going well. The parents appreciate it, the students are participating and it’s a good fit.”
  • There is a puzzling gap in Ohio between the number of students identified as gifted and the number of gifted students actually being served. A journalist in the Zanesville area tried to demystify the numbers by digging deep into some local schools. The conclusion of her interview subjects is that the state “mandates we test for giftedness, but they don’t fund it.”
  • Piloting of the new PARCC tests are continuing up to the end of the school year in Ohio. Few problems have been reported, and it seems that kids in particular really like the online nature of the testing.
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A great deal of hand-wringing has occurred in recent years concerning the United States’ poor academic performance relative to other nations. The anxiety is no doubt justified, as students from countries like South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are beating the pants off American pupils on international exams. It’s not just the East Asian countries: even the Swiss, Canucks, and Aussies are cleaning our clocks. But what about Ohio’s students? How does its achievement look in comparison to other industrialized nations? Like most states, not well, according to this new PEPG/Education Next study. To determine how states rank compared to the rest of the world, researchers link 2012 PISA results—international exams administered in thirty-four OECD countries including the U.S.—and state-level NAEP results for eighth graders in 2011. The researchers discovered that Ohio’s students fall well short of the world’s highest performers. When examining math results, Ohio’s proficiency rate (39 percent) falls 15 to 25 percentage points below the highest-achieving nations. (Korea, the worldwide leader in math, was at 65 percent proficiency; Japan was at 59 percent; Massachusetts, the U.S. leader, was at 51 percent). In fact, Ohio’s proficiency rate places us somewhere between Norway’s and Portugal’s achievement rates in this grade and subject. Moreover, Ohio’s weak international performance isn’t just a matter of our students having lower family resources relative to other nations. For example, among students whose parents had a high level of education, Ohio’s math proficiency rate (50 percent) still fell twenty points below the international...

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Last week, School Choice Ohio sued two Ohio school districts for their failure to comply with a public-records request. The organization is seeking directory information for students eligible for the EdChoice Scholarship Program from the Cincinnati and Springfield Public Schools. Actions to enforce public-records requests are rarely exciting, but the outcome of SCO’s effort could have important ramifications for tens of thousands of students and their families across the state.

Despite being a national leader in providing private-school choice options to students—Ohio has five separate voucher programs—there isn’t an established mechanism for informing families eligible for the EdChoice Scholarship program (Ohio’s largest voucher initiative) about their eligibility. The law doesn’t require school districts or the Ohio Department of Education to perform this vital function.

Enter School Choice Ohio (SCO), a Columbus-based nonprofit organization, which has worked tirelessly since the beginning of the EdChoice program to conduct outreach to families across the Buckeye State who are eligible to send their child to a private school via a voucher. SCO typically sends postcards and makes phone calls letting families know that their children may be eligible, giving them a toll-free number to call for an information packet and answering any questions families may have about eligibility and the private-school options in their area.

This is critical work, as the EdChoice Scholarship is designed to provide students in Ohio’s very lowest-performing schools the option to attend a private school.

To conduct this outreach, SCO makes a public-records request for directory information...

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Last week, the Ohio Senate passed House Bill 487, also known as the Education Mid Biennium Review (MBR) with overwhelming support (by a vote of twenty-seven to five). The MBR contains a wide variety of education-policy changes, including some modifications that affect Ohio’s academic content standards and assessments.

Ohio’s current learning standards, adopted in 2010 by the State Board of Education, include standards for students in grades K–12 in English language arts, math, science, and social studies. When the standards were adopted four years ago, there was public input but little fanfare or controversy. That changed about a year ago, when critics began focusing on the math and English language arts standards, a.k.a. the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

As opposition to the CCSS heated up all over the country (the standards were adopted by forty-five states), the focal point in Ohio was House Bill 237, which proposed repealing CCSS completely. The bill, sponsored by Representative Andy Thompson, received two hearings in the House Education Committee, with the last hearing in November 2013 drawing more than 500 people to the Statehouse.

The Senate’s changes in the MBR address some of the chief concerns raised at the November bill hearing. The key proposed changes are described below.

  • Reinforce local control: The bill introduces statutory language designating school-district boards as the sole authority in determining and selecting textbooks, instructional materials, and academic curriculum. It also requires local school boards to establish a parental advisory committee to review
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1. Lots of talk about dropout rates this weekend - in Ohio and in Akron specifically in a series published in the Beacon Journal:
● We start with a piece about charter schools’ dropout rates in the state, which the journalist says are making the overall number look particularly bad. Well, specifically dropout recovery schools…Well, specifically dropout recovery schools run by White Hat Management. This piece was also reprinted by the Dispatch this morning.
● Next up, a quick run through the numbers comparing Akron to Ohio's other urban districts…and LifeSkills Centers statewide and district-run dropout programs.
● Finally, an in-depth piece about a dropout recovery charter school that used to be part of the White Hat family, now on its own.

2. There was also a locally-written story in Columbus about dropouts this weekend as well, but the numbers previously reported by Columbus City Schools now appear to have been fictitious, caught up in the data manipulation we’re all tired of hearing about. (Columbus Dispatch)

3. In other news, Governor Kasich has made an appointment to the state board of education, filling one of two remaining seats. (Columbus Dispatch)

4. Speculation on the existence of “corporatization” runs through this story about business taking renewed interest in education in Ohio, but it seems like a pretty benevolent to me: "There's...

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