Ohio Gadfly Daily

Elementary-school teachers might think twice before plastering their walls with paintings, posters, and pin-ups. This small-scale experiment found that Kindergarten students in a decorated classroom were more likely to be “off-task” and less likely to demonstrate learning. To conduct the study, researchers had twenty-four children participate in six science lessons: three of them were held in a decorated classroom and three in a largely undecorated (“sparse”) one. The decorated room had an assortment of posters, student artwork, and maps on the walls; meanwhile, the walls of the sparse room contained only materials directly related to the lesson. The study utilized video recordings to document on- and off-task behavior and pre- and post-tests, to measure learning. When it came to time on task, the children were off task 39 percent of the time while in the decorated classroom, versus 28 percent off task while in the undecorated one. (Students looking in the direction of the teacher or at the learning materials were deemed on task.) Meantime, children showed greater learning gains in the undecorated room. The average gain in tests scores—the difference between the pre- and post-test—was 33 percent in the sparse room, compared to 18 percent in the decorated one. The bottom line: students can become easily distracted. And this study, while small and for only one age group, suggests that teachers could at least clamp down on one source of distraction—classroom decor—to the benefit of student learning.

Source: Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin, and Howard Seltman, “Visual...

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  1. Another development yesterday in the case of a Cincinnati-area charter school trying to find a new sponsor in order to stay open. ODE – ordered by one court to take over as sponsor – appealed and was granted a stay…for now. Story developing. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Akron’s Firestone High School has had “a couple of stellar years” of performance by its students in International Baccalaureate exams and is seeking to bolster its IB participation by creating a middle school feeder system. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: good educators do not fear Common Core or the associated tests. Latest example: Amherst Schools. Says Michael Molnar, education services director in the district: “We will not teach to the test.” Additionally, he promised that educators won’t “kill and drill”. To the question of anticipating lower scores on harder PARCC tests, Molnar says, “I’m confident that we’ll continue to be excellent. No one can predict what our scores will look like when these tests come out.” Sounds just about right. (Amherst News Times)
     
  4. Stop the local budget-cutting madness! Save Safety Town! (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  5. Mansfield’s Spanish Immersion program is undergoing some growing pains – not only are local parents increasingly opting to send their children, but families from outside can access it via open enrollment as well. Some MSI parents say at least one additional teacher is needed, although the district says it doesn’t have the money right now. (Mansfield
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  1. Editorial content looms large in today’s edition. First up, Fordham’s own Jessica Poiner with a letter to the editor of the Dispatch published on Saturday in response to their recent editorial in support of public records access for organizations seeking to inform the public about voucher options. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. The Dispatch’s Saturday letters pages are typically extensive and often include the higher-profile letters they have received during the week. Along with Jessica’s, there was a letter from the superintendent of Springfield City Schools, also responding to that pesky editorial. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Finally in the realm of the flagged editorial content, Dispatch editors weighed in on the merits of Reynoldsburg’s teacher merit pay contract proposal. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. I mention “flagged editorial content” because much of what passes for education news these days is simply journalists covering expressions of folks’ opinions. Case in point: one state rep speaking about Common Core at a townhall event last week. I do like the “Freedom Summer Day” recognition bill proposal though. Good luck with that one. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  5. The Vindy published a profile of the new head of the Youngstown academic distress commission over the weekend, talking to current and former colleagues of Joffrey Jones. My favorite quote:  “People better be ready to hear what he has to say.” Talk about intestinal fortitude. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  6. Republican Governor John Kasich joined Democratic Mayor Michael Coleman in Columbus to announce that the state will help in funding
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1. Editors in Columbus get out in front on the issue of charter school oversight with today’s editorial. (Columbus Dispatch)
 

Sadly, the other editorials on this issue in media outlets across the state – and there are a lot of them today – are mislabeled as “news stories” and are not clipped here today. If there is any actual proper news reporting, I’ll find it and bring it to you.
 

2. The summer reading blitz in Columbus City Schools ended yesterday with a big celebration. Many students have taken – and passed – the third grade reading test and will not need to be held back next year. A number of others are waiting for results or will take a final shot at the test this weekend. Kudos to all the dedicated adults – teachers, volunteers, parents – and kids who buckled down and got to work. Looks like a great program with an emphasis on all the different ways that reading can be fun and interesting and all the different learning styles needed to reach kids to impart this vital skill. But remember that those children who don’t pass should be greeted next year with nothing less than another full-out blitz of remediation and support and instruction and opportunities to succeed. Just like the football team that comes up short in the big game--pick up, dust off, figure out the new strategy, work hard, win the next one. (Columbus Dispatch)
 

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In a related post, we examined the relationships between eighth-grade proficiency in reading and mathematics, high-school graduation rates, and college remediation-free rates. Broadly speaking, we established that school districts’ test scores, as measured by student proficiency, correlate to high school graduation and college remediation-free rates. In this post, we take a more in depth look at the link between proficiency and remediation.

Consider Figure 1, which represents each Ohio school district’s eighth-grade proficiency and remediation data as a point on the graph. Proficiency data from 2007-08 are coupled with remediation data for first-time college students beginning in fall 2012 in order to compare a somewhat similar cohort of college-going students. (It is important to note that the actual cohort for any particular district would not be the same from 2008 to 2012, as student mobility between districts (or states) is not accounted for, nor are dropouts or grade retentions included. Additionally, remediation only applies to college-going students. These factors change the composition of the cohort.)

It is reasonable to expect that a district with higher proficiency would tend to have a lower remediation rate—success on standardized tests should provide some indication that students are on-track to mastering the skills required for college coursework. For the most part, we find that our data follow this expected trend. In both math and reading, high proficiency rates correlate negatively with participation in developmental (a.k.a. “remedial”) math and English, as demonstrated by the descending trend line. However, we find that a substantial number...

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  1. Here’s a great story about the value of having clear academic standards and four years of lead time to create/align curriculum. Teachers and administrators in Fairfield City Schools, in southwest Ohio, have worked hard since 2010 to create a program that can meet and exceed the targets set by Ohio’s New Learning Standards (which of course include Common Core in ELA and math) so as to implement a dual-enrollment program. They are ready, their partnership with Cincinnati State is ready, and now the path is clear for Fairfield students to meet the standards and then move on to free college credit-bearing courses while still in high school. Nice. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  2. Dispatch editors took a bit of time to digest the Vergara ruling before issuing their opinion on the issue of tenure for teachers. Bottom line: “Teacher tenure is a relic… It made sense in 1886 Massachusetts, where female teachers were fired for getting married, becoming pregnant or wearing pants.” Yowza. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. How do you say “scrunch up there” in Turkish? The State Auditor’s office is jumping on the investigate-Horizon-charter-school bandwagon, becoming the third entity do so. Not saying it’s not warranted, but it’s probably gonna be a very long line to get to the file cabinet for a while. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. But seriously, on the front page of the Dayton Daily News today, State Sen. Peggy Lehner says – in response to questions about the Horizon allegations – a full review
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Tom Vander Ark

NOTE: This is a repost of a blog that originally appeared on the Getting Smart website on July 16, 2014.

Accountability is a gift. We don’t often think of it that way but, done right, it’s a bargain that provides autonomy, resources, and supports in return for a commitment to a set of desired outcomes. That’s how it’s supposed to work with your kids; that’s how it’s supposed to work with schools. At work accountability provides role and goal clarity like when your boss explains, “Here’s what I expect and how I’ll support you; if you don’t achieve desired results, here’s how the situation will be remedied.

The University of Toledo and and its designee to authorize schools, The Ohio Council of Community Schools (OCCS), hosted a  school leaders conference today to discuss the next generation of accountability. As the Fordham Institute Ohio staff noted, there were a number of changes made to Ohio testing and accountability system in the last session including accountability provisions.  Following is a discussion of how accountability should work–from students to universities–with a few comments about where Ohio is on the curve.

Outcomes. Let’s start with the question, “Accountable for what?”  I’ve come to believe that instilling an innovation mindset is at least as important as teaching basic skills. However, I’m not comfortable with states incorporating grit and curiosity and the like into an accountability framework. Schools and districts should embrace these important career-readiness skills and dispositions and provide regular feedback...

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  1. As you all know, I don’t usually clip letters to the editor, but this one is in response to an egregious story about an anti-Common Core resolution passed by a school district in Northwest Ohio so was totally worth it. Oh, and it was written by me. (Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune)
     
  2. Chad is quoted extensively in Tom Vander Ark’s excellent and thorough NextGen Accountability blog post, focusing on Ohio’s recent accountability changes. (Getting Smarter)
     
  3. Governor Kasich spoke on the record about Common Core yesterday during a campaign swing through the north central part of the state. The whole piece is clipped below, but here’s the relevant bit: “The governor also defended the Common Core, saying while the plan sets overall goals for educational achievement, local school boards must approve the curriculum to achieve those objectives. Common Core is a set of common standards for math and English/language arts.” That’s a fairly flexible definition of the word “defend”, but it’s excellent to hear the Governor talking Common Core on the stump. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Rhetoric – and outside agitation – is ramping up in Reynoldsburg over the proposed new teacher contract. Still can’t tell whether the issue is really the merit pay provision or the cash in lieu of health insurance provision…or perhaps something else. Honestly, if the district teachers have actually resigned in the numbers quoted in this story, it means that there are more folks from outside the district complaining than from inside.
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  1. As we told you yesterday, the state board accountability committee was to decide whether to recommend a year’s “safe harbor” from grading for schools and districts on results of the new PARCC exams. The committee recommended to do so. The full board will likely vote on this at its September meeting. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Today, the board is going to hear testimony about some allegations made nearly 10 years ago against Concept/Horizon/Noble charter schools. We’ve mentioned these to you – as well as the less-than-substantial claims being made over those allegations (and likely unrelated FBI investigations) by charter foes in Ohio. Here is a nice, calm, factual report on the issues at play from the Dispatch’s ace education reporter Jennifer Smith Richards. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. While the Horizon issues are namechecked in this Vindy story, it seems that State Auditor David Yost is more interested in processes and oversight in the charter school sector. So much so that he’s conducting a special audit of those processes. Not sure how far he’s gotten, but he told the Vindy editorial board, “The whole system as far as oversight is in need of reform.” Sounds good.
  4. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  5. Remember back in May when ODE took an unprecedented step and warned three charter school sponsors that they were not to open their proposed new schools for the 14-15 school year…or else? Well, one of those “new schools” was actually the decade-old VLT Academy looking for a new sponsor when its
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