Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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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Like the Cleveland Browns on a Sunday afternoon, the Ohio General Assembly is fumbling about with the state’s value-added system. One month ago, I described two bizarre provisions related to value-added (VAM) that the House tucked into the state’s mid-biennium budget bill (House Bill 487). The Senate has since struck down one of the House’s bad provisions—and kudos for that—but, regrettably, has blundered on the second one.

To recap briefly, the House proposals would have (1) excluded certain students from schools’ value-added computations and (2) changed the computation of value-added estimates—the state’s measure of a school’s impact on student growth—from a three-year to a one-year calculation.

I argued then that the House’s student-exclusion provision would water-down accountability, and that reverting to the one-year estimates would increase the uncertainty around schools’ value-added results.

The Senate has struck down the House’s exclusion provision. Good. But it has failed to rectify the matter of the one-versus-three-year computation. In fact, it has made things worse.

Here’s the Senate’s amendment:

In determining the value-added progress dimension score, the department shall use either up to three years of value-added data as available or value-added data from the most recent school year available, whichever results in a higher score for the district or building.

Now, under the Senate proposal, schools would receive a rating based on whichever VAM estimate is higher—either the one-year or the three-year computation. (Naturally, schools that just recently opened would not have three years of data; hence, the “as available” and “up to” clauses.)

Huh?...

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  • Two new bills were introduced in the Ohio House yesterday, with the intent of changing charter school accountability. Here is a good but wonky piece talking about that legislation (Gongwer Ohio).
  • Several weeks ago, we reported that the Lorain County ESC conducted a survey of registered voters in the county on education issues. They touted the results at the time as a clear indication that state legislators were out of touch with voters on education issues and vowed to take action in their county. Before we get to the punchline today, let me note that there are over 202,600 voters in the county and that the ESC’s survey was returned by approximately 620 voters. If this month’s primary election’s turnout was “abysmal” at 14.75 percent, how much more abysmal is a survey return of this size? Anywho, the “action” part of the ESC’s master plan seems to be cranking up just as school is ending for the year. A panel discussion took place earlier this week with a group of superintendents from districts in Lorain County. Here are three takes on that event:
  1. We’ll start with the tiny Chronicle-Telegram, which notes that Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer was participating and cheering the supes on, but there’s tons of unsubstantiated talk about Common Core and charter school funding in here that I can’t tell if it comes from the speakers or the journalist or a combination of
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