Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Hispanic population in the United States continues to grow, with Hispanics making up nearly 17 percent of the total population. This population is young (33 percent is of school age) and is changing the demographics of schools in many states, Ohio among them. From 2000–10, the Hispanic population in Ohio grew to approximately 350,000 individuals, representing 3 percent of the state’s total population. That’s obviously smaller than in, say, Texas, but the number is rising.

Unfortunately, Hispanic students in Ohio schools are struggling. On the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA), administered in May 2013, Hispanic children scored lower than the state average in both reading and mathematics at every grade level tested. Similarly, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2013, Hispanic students in Ohio scored, on average, seventeen points lower than their white peers in fourth-grade reading and fifteen points lower in fourth-grade math. Further, only 66 percent of Hispanic students in Ohio graduate from high school, compared to 80 percent for all students. These results indicate that the achievement gap remains wide in Ohio, and with the population of minority students growing , the education challenge is only going to intensify. Demographics ought not dictate destiny.

Which brings us to early literacy. Myriad reports have been conducted on the subject, including a recent study by...

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EDITOR’S NOTE: An edited version of this piece appeared as a letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday, July 19, 2014.

School choice often engenders controversy. From districts arguing amongst themselves about the impact of open enrollment to charter schools and districts squabbling over funding and facilities, the Buckeye state—a national leader in providing education options to parents—is no stranger to the debates that arise about school choice.

In a July 8 editorial (“The law is the law”), the Columbus Dispatch called out two Ohio districts for allegedly circumventing public-records laws in order to prevent families from knowing about their school-choice options. The editorial drew attention to a current lawsuit brought by School Choice Ohio (SCO) against Cincinnati Public Schools and Springfield City Schools. Dispatch editors wrote, “Public schools understandably want to avoid this [losing students to private schools], but they should fight against it by making their schools safer and more effective—not by scheming to prevent families from knowing about their options. Scheming in defiance of state law would be even worse.”

That sums it up quite nicely. The legal and ethical implications of Cincinnati’s and Springfield’s actions are clear: hiding voucher eligibility from students and their families, many of whom are stuck in failing schools, isn’t just dishonest, unfair, and shameful—it’s also illegal. But the most compelling part of the Dispatch’s argument is that if public schools don’t want to lose students to other schools, they must...

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The latest report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) examines how cities with a significant amount of school choice can ensure that it works for more families. Starting with a case study of Detroit, a city where families have a plethora of school options but precious few that could be called high quality, the report paints a picture of the challenges faced by Motor City parents. Testing their observations from Detroit, CRPE expands its focus by surveying 4,000 public school parents in eight cities (including Cleveland). The survey shows that while families from all walks of life are now actively choosing their kids’ schools (55 percent), the majority of parents (61 percent) considered only one or two schools. One explanation might be the barriers parents face when choosing a school: 33 percent had difficulty understanding which schools their child was eligible to attend, 25 percent said they had difficulty getting information about schools, and 26 percent lacked convenient transportation. The report also found that, by and large, disadvantaged, less educated parents and parents of students with special needs are far more likely to experience difficulties in exercising choice. Finally, the report suggests that the fractured governance structure in place in many cities effectively means that no one is focused on overall school quality or removing the barriers faced by parents. Fixing the governance issues this report raises will require city and state-wide action to more efficiently align services and resources across district and charter boundaries—and that could prove...

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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)
 

3. There are ...

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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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