Ohio Gadfly Daily

In a previous post, I outlined the current landscape of teacher policy in Ohio and pointed out some areas in need of significant reform. The largest problem—and perhaps the most intractable—is teacher preparation. Despite consensus on the need for reform, some solid ideas, and an abundance of opportunities over the last few decades, schools of education have changed very little. Ohio is no exception, and many of the Buckeye State’s teacher preparation programs are in need of an overhaul. Here are a few recommendations for how policy makers and preparation programs in Ohio can start making progress in the impervious-to-change area of teacher training.

Rethink ways of holding teacher preparation programs accountable 

Uncle Ben may not have been thinking of education when he said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but the shoe certainly fits. Teachers have an enormous impact on their students, and it makes sense that taxpayers, parents, and policy makers would want to ensure that the programs entrusted with training those teachers are accountable for their performance. Ohio leaders recognize this and have already taken some tentative steps toward judging teacher preparation programs on the performance of their graduates. Unfortunately,...

  1. Big discrepancies found during a detailed attendance check at Provost Academy, a small Ohio e-school, have resulted in the school being ordered to pay back nearly $800,000, some 80 percent of the state funding the school received. What’s that you said? Can’t hear you over the baying. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/1/16)
     
  2. It’s also really noisy in the realm of report card fallout. First up, how much the zeroes given to students whose parents opted them out of testing last year affected performance index scores for their schools. This is the Central Ohio version of this story. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/1/16) Secondly, how much did online testing vs. paper/pencil testing affect value added scores for the schools who chose between these options for test taking last year. This is the Northeast Ohio version of this story. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/1/16)
     
  3. Finally, the cult of Our Lady of Oyler could get a big boost in Columbus next year. But first, a bond issue must pass. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/2/16)

The “college preparation gap” among students graduating from high school is real and persistent. There are some signs that it has been stabilizing in recent years, but the fact remains that too many holders of high school diplomas aren’t ready for college-level work. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the realm of community college, where 68 percent of students require at least some form of remedial coursework (also known as “developmental education”) just to get to square one. Perhaps four-year colleges should face facts and refuse to admit students who aren’t ready, but we’re not there yet. For better or worse, community colleges have their doors wide open when it comes to “underprepared” students who still want to give college a go. But do they have their eyes similarly wide open? Two recent reports highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly among community colleges’ efforts to build successful students via remediation.

First up, a report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) surveying approximately seventy thousand students from more than 150 of its institutions across the country. The vast majority (86 percent) of the incoming students surveyed believed they were...

Leading up to this year’s report card release, some school districts expressed concern about the negative impact of students opting out of state assessments on their report card grades. In response, lawmakers proposed a well-intentioned but shortsighted bill attempting to mitigate the impact of opt-outs—first by erasing non-test-takers from their schools’ performance grades and then (after being amended) by reporting two separate Performance Index grades. The Ohio Department of Education devised a temporary reporting solution: Performance Index scores would be reported as normal (including the impact of non-test-takers, as per current law), but a “modified achievement measure” would be made available to illustrate how districts would have scored if non-test-takers didn’t count.

A quick look at the data shows that the impact of opt-outs last year (2014–15) was minimal for the vast majority of Ohio school districts. As depicted in Table 1, fifty-two districts (8.5 percent) experienced a letter grade change because of their non-participation rates (shaded in green). This was most likely driven by the opt-out movement. It’s hard to say for sure, though, because Ohio only captures test participation rates and not the reasons for non-participation—which might include excused or unexcused absences, truancy, or opting...

America’s schools are staffed disproportionally by white (and mostly female) teachers. Increasing attention has been paid to the underrepresentation of teachers of color in American classrooms, with research examining its impact on expectations for students, referral rates for gifted programs, and even student achievement. This paper by American University’s Stephen Holt and Seth Gershenson adds valuable evidence to the discussion by measuring the impact of “student-teacher demographic mismatch”—being taught by a teacher of a different race—on student absences and suspensions.

The study uses student-level longitudinal data for over one million North Carolina students from kindergarten through fifth grade between the years 2006 and 2010. The researchers simultaneously controlled for student characteristics (e.g., gender, prior achievement) and classroom variables (e.g., teacher’s experience, class size, enrollment, etc.), noting that certain types of regression analysis are “very likely biased by unobserved factors that jointly determine assignment to an other-race teacher.” For example, parental motivation probably influences both student attendance and classroom assignments. The researchers conducted a variety of statistical sorting tests and concluded that there was no evidence of sorting on the variables they could observe, and likely none occurring on unobservable dimensions either. All of which is to...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill continues to be the go-to explainer of Ohio’s school and district report cards for media outlets across the state. Here he is on the radio early this morning in Columbus. (WTVN-AM, Columbus, 2/29/16) Here he is over the weekend in print in Dayton, where report card data looks particularly gloomy. (Dayton Daily News, 2/27/16) And here he is in print in Northern Ohio, where the mixed-bag of results has folks scratching their heads a bit. I am just glad, as always, that Aaron is there to explain. (Norwalk Reflector, 2/27/16)
     
  2. “You can’t have a computer plumb a house” is the theme of this piece looking at career tech education in Columbus City Schools through the lens of a new report from KidsOhio. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/29/16)
     
  3. You learn something new every day in this job. Today, it’s “overload pay”. That is, bonus pay for teachers whose classrooms are “oversize”. This story is about Cincinnati Public Schools, but reporter Hannah Sparling says other districts have this in their teacher contracts as well. How many? How much? No one keeps track of this statewide, but someone probably should. Cincy’s overload pay expenditures
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  1. In case you missed it yesterday, full report card data for Ohio schools and districts were released. Our own Aaron Churchill was front and center in major media coverage, as he usually is for these things. Aaron’s main point was that, while generally lower for everyone, the scores better reflect how students and their schools actually performed last school year. The Dispatch put that notion at the very top of their coverage, although the print headline (front page, above the fold) conveys that thought better than the online one. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/26/16). Aaron is farther down in the quote mix in this piece, likely reflective of the high-profile folks who came out swinging against the data even before the report cards were available, let alone analyzed. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/25/16) In Fordham’s home city of Dayton, things look pretty bleak. The district is the bottom of the heap statewide and folks there are taking it hard. Kudos, however, to West Carrollton supe Rusty Clifford for this quote clearly stating his opinion on the state’s value added measure: “It’s a lark. It’s a joke. It’s phooey data… “We don’t look at it, we don’t use it. … You’ve heard
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Today, the ratings bubble burst for Ohio’s schools and districts. With rising standards associated with the state’s New Learning Standards and next-generation assessments now fully in place, as expected, student proficiency rates fell throughout Ohio. Correspondingly, school ratings declined as well. This much-needed reset of academic expectations will better ensure that parents and the public have an honest gauge of how students and schools are performing.

Still, state policymakers have work ahead to guarantee that parents and the public gain the clearest possible picture of students’ college and career readiness. Based on 2014-15 test results, roughly 55 and 70 percent of Ohio students were deemed “proficient” depending on the grade and subject. While these proficiency rates are indeed a more accurate gauge of achievement than in previous years—when Ohio regularly labeled more than 80 percent of students as proficient—the number of students meeting rigorous academic benchmarks continues to be overstated.

When utilizing a more demanding standard for achievement, state testing data indicate that between 30 and 45 percent of students statewide are on track for college and career success. These achievement rates—the percentage of students reaching Ohio’s advanced and accelerated levels—better match the Ohio’s proficiency results on NAEP, the best...

  1. The dust is currently settling on SB 3, the education bill we reminded you of earlier this week, which was potentially being amended in some not-so-good ways. Well, that didn’t happen in the House Education Committee, but the media didn’t let it go. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on some of those not-so-good amendment proposals in both this piece of journalism from the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/23/16)…and in this op-ed from the Dispatch. Editors there opined in agreement with Chad on this one. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/23/16) The same is to be said of editors in Youngstown, although they didn’t quote Chad to help make their point. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/22/16)
     
  2. No, Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, you may not meet yet. Not until that definition of “teacher” is well and truly settled. What? No. You should have thought of that before you sat down. Next “expedited” court date: April 7. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/24/16) One of the arguments used in court to continue stonewalling the new ADC is that kids in the district are “achieving academically” and that the school district “is not in immediate doom”. So the courts should allow this definition of teacher thing
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“The Proper Perspective” is a discussion between Jamie Davies O’Leary, senior Ohio policy analyst for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio. Interested in many of the same data points and research questions, they decided to share some of this exchange more publicly, helping both to illuminate trends in Ohio public education and formulate policy recommendations through their insights. This is the third edition of the series. The first can be found here, the second here.

Ohio won a $71 million federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant last fall, but after backlash about the original grant application (which described Ohio as a beacon of charter oversight and overstated the performance of the charter sector), the U.S. Department of Education put a hold on the money. Ohio’s latest response to the feds was on January 29. Jamie and Steve have both been writing on the topic recently and...

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