Ohio Gadfly Daily

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...

Categories: 

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...

Categories: 

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...

Categories: 

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...

Categories: 

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...

Categories: 

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...

Categories: 
  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in a story about an important state Supreme Court case scheduled to begin tomorrow. The case addresses the issue of charter schools that hire for-profit management companies with public money and who then owns the assets of those schools should things go sour in the relationship. There is much more at stake in the decision however, which Chad was kindly allowed to point out. (Akron Beacon Journal). Chad gets a twofer out of this as the same story ran in the Youngstown Vindicator as well.
     
  2. Here, also, is a companion piece to the above story, running a few numbers on who owns the buildings in which Ohio charter schools operate. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. Editors in Cleveland opine on the need for charter school reform in Ohio…and offer a bit of advice to state senators on how not to do it. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. We mentioned last week about the report card analysis doing the rounds that shows a link between poverty and performance index scores for districts. Interestingly, one solution proposed in this story about that analysis is a fund analogous to Ohio’s Straight A Fund which would target interventions for low-income students. Legislative hearings on this topic are in the offing. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. One puzzling aspect of the Common Core hearings we’ve endured here in Ohio since last November is the notion that “no one knows who their State Board of Education representative is”, despite
  6. ...
Categories: 
  1. The Truth in Numbers review of State Auditor candidate John Patrick Carney has been published in the PD. Fordham is name-checked in discussion of charter school quality in Ohio, and a link is made to last year’s Parsing Performance report by our own Aaron Churchill. The detail of the piece shows Patrick O’Donnell’s typical journalistic excellence and it was good to have him assess the (lack of) truth of this politician’s statements, but really the bottom line is that auditors don’t really have much say in education funding regardless of their political leanings. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Patrick O’Donnell is clearly the hardest working education journalist out there these days. Here’s his look at another of the allegations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland: diagnostic testing allegedly used to determine admission. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Crap. Late evening negotiations didn’t take. Reynoldsburg teachers are on the picket lines today; the first time since 1978. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Editors in Toledo opine upon their own analysis of the district’s report card. They praise the district where they can, tout for the upcoming levy, and bash charters and vouchers. (Toledo Blade)
     
  5. We may have noted this before, but it bears repeating. Monroe Local Schools is to be formally released from fiscal emergency and thus oversight by the state next month. In just over two years expenditures are down by millions, a stabilization loan is almost fully repaid, and ODE says the district had shown “great improvement
  6. ...
Categories: 
  1. Editors at the Vindy opined yesterday upon the need for immediate assistance from the state for the failing schools in the Youngstown area. They did not neglect the higher-achieving schools in the area, opining in praise of those schools and urging the constructive use of report card data to continue to improve. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. The BASA/OASBO folks have put out their analysis of Ohio’s report cards, and they conclude that performance index scores “closely followed” the percent of students in a district that are economically disadvantaged. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. Editors in Akron have read the above report and have opined in sympathy with its conclusions. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. There’s a nicely-detailed look at the report cards of a number of charter schools in Springfield. Some interesting insights from the school leaders interviewed. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  5. Some excellent journalistic investigation in this piece by Patrick O’Donnell digging into the accusations against Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland. Specifically, allegations that the school “dumped” low-performing students before state testing in order to improve their results. Definitely worth a read. Having already been through this with Columbus City Schools and other districts around Ohio, both ODE and the education journalists should know what to look for…and what to do if they find it. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. The Lorain Academic Distress Commission has parsed the district’s report card and is discussing their take on it in the press. The takeaway: “bubble kids” are the answer
  7. ...
Categories: 
  1. More report card analysis today. This time, charter schools in Cincinnati go under the journalistic microscope with the invaluable assistance of Fordham’s Aaron Churchill. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. An even greater level of detail is applied to the report cards of charters in the Dayton area, including an in-depth look at Fordham-sponsored Dayton Leadership Academy. The picture is bleak, but there are clear signs of improvement. Kudos to journalist Jeremy Kelley for his work. (Dayton Daily News) As a bonus, here’s a TV piece looking at DLA. (WHIO-TV). And as an Easter Egg, there’s a cameo from former Fordhamite Bianca Speranza in the DDN piece as well.
     
  3. More Horizon charter school have been added to the list of buildings under investigation by the Ohio Department of Education. One in Columbus (Columbus Dispatch), and one in Cincinnati. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  4. These additional investigations were announced the same day that parents, students, and staff members of Horizon Schools were rallying in front of ODE HQ - that is to say, across the street from Fordham Columbus HQ – and speaking before the State Board of Education in support of their schools. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
     
  5. Speaking of board meetings, the small item of 20 schools being eligible for parent-led reorganization in Columbus under Ohio’s “parent trigger” law was discussed at yesterday’s school board meeting. The Dispatch’s coverage focuses on the questions left unanswered after last night’s meeting but at least the highly-reasonable “let’s wait and see
  6. ...
Categories: 

Pages