Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. If you can stand one more story from last week’s education writer’s conference in Colorado, I can. Fordham’s Mike Petrilli said, “Ohio needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector” during one of the final panels at the event. As noted in the article, the state budget and another House bill included dozens of provisions to do just that. The state auditor will be adding his valuable input on reforms tomorrow morning, and the Senate is poised to do the same soon. Sounds like progress. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There are those who say that Mike’s comment is, shall we say, plain as the nose on one’s face. And since we’re going there, here’s another one: Columbus City Schools needs regular audits of many of its systems, processes, and departments. So opine the editors of the Columbus Dispatch today. They focus heavily on the example of the steaming pile of fail that is the district’s transportation department, as revealed last week in an internal auditor’s report. Small item not mentioned: actions needed to fix up this vital system may be budgeted for next year. Unless of course those rigorous audits unearth anything else that needs fixing even
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  1. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill is quoted in this piece taking a good long look at online charter school ECOT. The headline probably says a lot about where the article intended to go from the outset: “turnover common at e-school.” That turnover is real, to be sure. The numbers don’t lie. But after reading the piece, I think that several someones at the Big D likely had their eyes opened a little about what really causes said turnover. As Aaron puts it: “The cost to make that transfer…is essentially zero.” As the ECOT rep puts it: “People [need] a short-term situation for a bullying situation, parents splitting, or they have a child… They have instability for that moment that doesn’t lend itself to a traditional school and how it’s structured.” And as a former ECOT student who didn’t complete a year in the school puts it: “It’s all you, pretty much…. You don’t really have a teacher standing over your shoulder telling you what to do, so I fell behind really fast. I think a lot of people are thinking it’s the easy way out. Honestly, that’s what I thought. But it really wasn’t.” Which of those statements
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  1. Editors in Columbus opined on the value of standardized testing in schools and the small but vocal opter-outers making noise on the topic. They’re right on the money here, noting the slippery slope that could result from curtailing testing (farewell accountability system, farewell Common Core) while also noting some practical changes that could be made to testing protocols in the state to “dial down the anxiety”. Nice There’s a number of good quotes in here, but my personal favorite is:  “No 9-year-old has reason to fear a PARCC test unless an adult has instilled that fear.” Exceedingly true. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Last year, editors in Youngstown practically begged the state to take over the local schools – mired in years of fiscal and academic crisis and beset by bickering and turf warfare among adults who seem to have little interest in actually bettering education for students. Following Governor Kasich’s State of the State speech earlier this week, in which he said, “... anybody in this state that supports a reform agenda to put our children first, please come and see us… We will help you.” Today, those same editors renew their call for the district to reach out
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  1. Senate Bill 3 had another hearing yesterday. That’s the “education deregulation” bill that would, among other things, allow a raft of exemptions to districts which meet certain criteria as “high performers.” Yesterday’s testimony focused on the proposed definition of a high quality district, some witnesses asking for a broader and some a narrower definition. As it stands now, the Senate Bill’s provisions would allow 125 districts to be considered high performing and therefore be eligible for regulatory relief in areas such as testing and teacher licensure. The state budget has a different definition of a high-performing district, under which just 20 districts would qualify. Hearings will continue. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. I am reasonably certain that suburban Pickerington City Schools would be considered “high quality” by both of the proposed measures. (Full disclosure, I have nieces and nephews who have graduated from and are currently in high school in P’town.) But in practice, Pickerington’s superintendent isn’t satisfied. Her “state of the district” report highlighted what’s going right and what’s not, especially as enumerated on the district’s most recent state report card. She spoke of plans in place and in development to address areas of poor grades – including a
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When Governor John Kasich released his proposed budget bill (House Bill 64), it generated immediate buzz in the Ohio education arena. Most of the conversation focused on charter reform and the proposed funding formula. What’s gotten less attention are the policy proposals related to teachers. Here’s a quick look at the most impactful provisions.

Easing requirements for consistently high-performing teachers

HB 64 mandates that by July 2016, the state board must not only define the term “consistently high-performing teacher,” but must also adopt rules to exempt said teachers from completing additional coursework for renewal of their licenses. The provision goes on to also exempt these teachers from any requirements prescribed by professional development committees—committees in local districts that are responsible for determining if coursework and professional development meet state requirements for renewing teacher licenses. This seems like a decent idea for rewarding our best teachers for their talent and hard work, particularly since professional development has a bad reputation and the coursework in education programs is equally questionable. That being said, an inadequate definition from the state board of a consistently high-performing teacher could make this provision troublesome.

Changes to the Ohio Resident Educator...

  1. In what is likely a first, a participant in one of Ohio’s new Standards Review Committees has given an interview to his local newspaper. He is a long-time science teacher in Mansfield, which is likely very good experience for evaluating science standards. But I honestly can’t decide whether he’s defining his mandate too broadly (he seems to be on a vendetta against Common Core, which has nothing to do with Ohio’s homegrown science standards) or too narrowly (“That will be my focus: What is best for the Mansfield community,” he says, as if he wasn’t on a statewide commission). But either way, if you think Ohio consists only of Mansfield and the “affluent suburbs of Columbus”, you might not be the best candidate for the job anyway. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  2. It’s time for another round of the game I like to call “If This Were a Charter School, the Response Would Be...” An internal audit reveals that the phone system used to route incoming calls for transportation questions and issues in the Columbus City Schools is a giant steaming pile of fail on about every possible front. Message priority, call routing, hold times (“If the caller is
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  1. I complained last week that Ohio’s whiz-bang Straight-A Day – wherein recipients of innovation fund grants got to show off their tech success to legislators and the public – was covered in the Ohio press with a single boring AP piece that included no pictures at all. The folks at Getting Smart have a far more robust round up of the event with lots of cool project details. Nice to see this get coverage via a bigger platform, but seriously, does no one carry a camera anymore?  (Getting Smart)
     
  2. Evaluation of teachers and classroom practices can take place in lots of ways. Ohio has a new-ish formal process through OTES, but this story is about a “snapshot” style of classroom evaluation in Lorain – a sort of “walk-through diagnostic”. These have been conducted in Lorain middle and high schools for 10 years, says the district superintendent. They are best practices with which he says that principals can “take the pulse” of a classroom and give helpful feedback to both teachers and students to improve the learning environment for everyone. Lorain has been in academic distress and overseen by a distress commission since 2013. And all the adults
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Right on schedule, district officials, driven by self-interest, are airing their grievances over Governor Kasich’s school-funding proposal. Media outlets are encouraging the “winners and losers” storyline by showing funding increases and decreases for the districts in their areas.

As the policy debate on school funding gets heated—and leaves others “puzzled”—we offer three key points to help clear the air.

Point #1: The amount of overall public funding for districts is often very generous—which would be a surprise to many taxpayers.

To hear some groups tell it, public schools are grossly “underfunded.” But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Ohio spent $13,063 per student in 2010–11—significantly more than the national average ($11,948 per student).[1] Some Ohio districts spend more than others, of course, reflecting differences in operating conditions, tax bases, and student needs. According to the Ohio Department of Education’s Cupp Report, Ohio school districts spent anywhere from just over $6,000 per student to $20,000 per student in 2012–13. These statistics include all three major streams of public funding for schools—local, state, and federal funds.

Interestingly, surveys find that the public routinely underestimates the amount spent on education. A...

With all the attention that’s focused on teachers, principals must feel like the neglected stepchild of education reform. Evaluations, tenure, and the lackluster performance of teacher prep programs are all hot reform topics, and there’s no shortage of books and articles that obsess over all things teacher-relate. But what about principals? School leaders are responsible for nearly everything that happens in a school—from creating a positive culture and tracking data to evaluating instruction and hiring (or sometimes firing) the teachers who most affect student outcomes.

Research points to the challenges of recruiting and selecting effective principals. Most principals are chosen from employees who already work for the district. This isn’t a problem per se, except that districts often do a poor job of building skills in and smoothing the transition for those they select. Add to that the other hallmarks of the job, such as high pressure and low compensation, and it’s easy to understand why it’s so hard to find great talent.

This bleak picture begs the question: Is anyone doing it right?

A recent piece in Education Week looks at KIPP's principal training, which boasts “real-world practice” for its participants. One...

Greg Harris

Greg Harris is Ohio state director for StudentsFirst.

Despite fierce efforts to derail the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System midway through its first year of implementation (the 2013–2014 academic year), it survived. Now the results are in, and preliminary analysis suggests that 90 percent of Ohio teachers fared well. More importantly, a cultural shift is underway that is pushing more principals to observe and interact with teachers—and placing far greater emphasis the impact of teachers on kids.

In December 2013, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB 229, which sought to exempt teachers rated in the top two categories (“Accomplished” or “Skilled”) from annual evaluations under the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). Proponents argued that by exempting the best teachers, schools could focus their energies on developing less effective teachers.

While the bill was reasonable on its face, a deeper look showed cause for concern. Historically, the vast majority of Ohio teachers had been rated in those top two tiers and would be exempted from evaluation if trends held. This promised a sharp reduction in annual OTES participation.

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