Ohio Gadfly Daily

Two months into the school year, teacher help is still wanted in Cleveland. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report, Cleveland Metropolitan School District is still attempting to fill eighty-four teacher vacancies, mainly in the areas of special education; English-language learning (ELL); and high school math, science, and English.

What a pity.

Eric Gordon, the district’s superintendent, told the newspaper that late retirements, a new teacher-hiring process, and enrollment uncertainty have all led to the staffing shortfall. There is no doubt that he’s right. But it also comes as no surprise that vacancies in these content areas are going unfilled, for it’s a well-known fact that schools face systemic shortfalls in qualified applicants for special education, math, and science. Here’s the evidence:

  • In a 2013 report, the Minnesota Department of Education found that nearly half of its schools (41 percent) said special-education vacancies are “very difficult” to fill. Over one-quarter of schools reported that chemistry and math vacancies (28 and 26 percent, respectively) are “very difficult” to fill. By comparison, only 2 percent of schools said elementary and social-studies teacher vacancies are “very difficult” to fill.
  • A 2008 study from the Wisconsin Department of Education found that there are a whopping sixty-seven applicants for every elementary teacher vacancy and sixty-five applicants for every social-studies vacancy. Meanwhile, there were only fifteen applicants per learning disability and chemistry vacancy and twenty-four applicants per math vacancy.
  • Back home in Ohio, 90 percent of Dayton Public Schools principals told NCTQ
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Ohio has long struggled with the issues related to charter school quality. While policy improvements have been made in recent years, it is refreshing to see State Superintendent Dick Ross and his team walking the walk, when it comes to cracking down on poor charter-authorizing practices. One can read the details in a Columbus Dispatch piece that cites unacceptable conditions—including fights, spotty food service, inaccurate tracking of students, and failure to educate students—at two brand-new charter schools authorized by the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center.

Charter school authorizers, of which Fordham is one, play a critical yet largely unrecognized role in the life cycle of a charter school. For those unaware, authorizers (also called “sponsors”) are the entities responsible for reviewing new school applications; granting a charter (or not); monitoring the school’s educational, fiscal, governance, and operational health once the school is up and running; making charter-renewal decisions; and, when necessary, closing schools. In Ohio, a charter school authorizer may be a nonprofit organization (like Fordham), a traditional school district’s board of education, a state university, an educational service center, or the Ohio Department of Education.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) acknowledges that authorizing is complex work that requires specialized knowledge, skills, and commitment. Authorizing also requires adherence to professional standards; indeed, NACSA’s Principles & Standards are widely recognized in the field as the gold standard of charter school authorizing. Institutions that do authorizing well purposefully develop internal structures and devote human and...

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Quick! Name the Ohio school-choice program that has provided students the opportunity to attend a school not operated by their resident school district for the longest period of time. Charter schools? Nope, strike 1. The Cleveland voucher program? Try again, strike 2. Unless you guessed open enrollment, that’s strike 3. Before heading back to the dugout, read on to learn more about this established school-choice program.

Open enrollment, first approved by the legislature in 1989, allows school districts (if they choose) to admit students whose home district is not their own. Perhaps against conventional wisdom, it has become a popular policy for districts. We even analyzed the trend in an April 2013 Gadfly.

According to Ohio Department of Education records, over 80 percent of school districts in the state have opted to participate in some form of open enrollment. There are 432 districts that have opened their doors to students from any other district in the state, and another sixty-two districts have allowed students from adjacent districts to attend their schools.

This year's budget bill (HB 59) created a task force to study open enrollment. The task force is to "review and make recommendations regarding the process by which students may enroll in other school districts under open enrollment and the funding mechanisms associated with open enrollment deductions and credits.” The task force’s findings are to be presented to the Governor and legislature by the end of the year.

In a recent Columbus Dispatch article highlighting the...

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“In the implementation stage, the project confronts the reality of its institutional setting.” – Paul Berman and Edward W. Pauly, RAND (1975)

In recent months, the Common Core has faced a cascade of criticism that has permeated into Ohio’s statehouse and media. But while the fight to preserve or rescind the Common Core has been waged in the public square, frontline educators are not resting on their laurels as politicos bicker. Rather, many educators are implementing these new, rigorous academic standards in English and math with all due haste.

To learn more about the school-level implementation of the Common Core, I recently caught up with John Dues, the School Director of Columbus Collegiate Academy-Main St. Campus (CCA). Dues is a Teach for America alum who is in his fifth year as CCA’s instructional leader. A grade 6-8 middle school, CCA is part of the Excellent School Network (ESN) and is a Fordham-sponsored charter school. A high-performing school located on the rough-and-tumble east side of the Columbus, it enrolls 235 students, of which 92 percent are economically disadvantaged and 91 percent are black or Hispanic.

During my visit with Dues, I asked a number of questions about his experience implementing the Common Core. What are the everyday realities of executing these new standards within his institutional context? Is it an uphill battle? Business as usual? A wholesale reboot of school and classroom practices? And what...

College isn’t likely to be in the cards for students from poor, rural communities. Furthermore, for rural kids who go to college, they are the least likely to persist, in comparison to their peers from more affluent and/or urban areas.

In a new report, the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) slices the college-going and college-persistence rates of high school graduates (class of 2010) by the geography, income, and racial composition of their alma mater.[1] Based on these characteristics, NSC generated 6 categories of students: low income, high minority, urban; low income, low minority, urban; low income, rural; higher income, high minority urban; higher income, low minority urban; higher income, rural.  

Students from poor, rural schools have the lowest college-going and persistence rates among these 6 categories of students. Here are the alarming statistics:

  • College Going Rate: Just 50 percent of students from poor, rural schools enrolled in any type of college (2- or 4-year) immediately after high school. Their college-going rate is slightly lower than even that of graduates from poor, high-minority urban schools (53 percent).
  • 4-Year College Going Rate: Just 28 percent of them enrolled in a 4-year college immediately after high school. Their 4-year college going rate is again a slightly lower rate than for graduates of poor, high-minority urban schools (30 percent).
  • 1-Year College Persistence Rate: 79 percent of college-enrolled students from poor, rural high schools persisted into a second year of college. The 1-year college persistence rate for students from poor,
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Holding schools accountable for student growth in a rigorous manner that doesn’t systemically favor one school over another is a vital policy objective. To this end, the Buckeye State has implemented a sophisticated (though not easily understood) value-added model to rate schools by their impact on student growth over time, while ostensibly holding constant other factors that could impact growth.

In previous blog posts, I looked at the correlation between school-level “overall” value-added index scores and (1) the school’s proportion of economically disadvantaged students and (2) African American students. The correlations are low. Evidently, Ohio’s value-added model does not systemically favor high-wealth, largely white schools over poor, largely minority schools. High-poverty schools, for example, can earn high marks on value-added just the same as high-wealth schools. The school-level value-added results stand in contrast to the state’s raw student achievement component, which disadvantages schools with mostly needy students. 

In this post, I look at the changes that Ohio has made in its value-added system, and what the distribution of the state’s value-added output looks like across schools under these revisions.

RECENT CHANGES

This year Ohio made several changes to the state’s value-added system. Previously, Ohio reported a 1-year value-added index score for schools and districts. This lead to some head-scratching results (see our 2010 analysis of the year-to-year “yo-yo” effect). Evidently, to mitigate this problem, the state reported a 3-year composite average—2010-11 to 2012-13—for schools’ overall value-added scores. In addition, the state reported for the first time...

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Last Wednesday, the House Education Committee heard sponsor testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would repeal the Common Core State Standards in Ohio. For those unaware, the Common Core is a set of academic standards that the State Board of Education voluntarily adopted for English and math in June 2010. The standards replace Ohio’s old, outgoing, and clearly inferior academic standards.

In front of a packed house, the 18-member committee heard testimony from the bill sponsor, Rep. Andy Thompson. Among the reasons cited for halting the new standards included concerns about the loss of local control of schools, doubts about the rigor of the standards, and worries about the process by which the standards were adopted.

Representative Andy Thompson (far right) testifies at the House Education Committee (October 9, 2013). Photo by Jeff Murray.

But the House Education Committee chair, Rep. Gerald Stebelton, put to rest these fears. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Stebelton referred to the positive feedback he’s hearing from many educators, remarking, “all of the educators and superintendents I’ve talked to think this is the best thing to happen to education in Ohio in years, because it gets rid of some of the fluff, focuses on real solid basics and has a structure that builds on itself each year.” In addition, he supplied the education committee with a myth-busting document that should ease the mind of the most hardened skeptic.

With this hearing, the anti-Common Core movement in...

In this research brief, economist Joel Elvery asks whether any of Ohio’s metro areas could be considered a “brain hub.” He identifies such cities as those with a high ratio of “knowledge” to manufacturing jobs. Cities with a higher ratio have recently tended to display stronger economic growth (e.g., San Francisco, New York, D.C.). Elvery found that, of the eight major cities in Ohio, only Columbus could be considered a “brain hub.” Its knowledge to manufacturing job ratio was a robust 3.7 to 1.0 (the national average was 2.4). Cincinnati ranked second among Ohio’s cities (2.3 to 1.0), but Toledo, Youngstown, and Canton had virtually one-to-one knowledge to manufacturing job ratios (1.2, 1.1, and 0.9 respectively). The data indicate that, with the exceptions of Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio’s cities are behind and losing ground. Can they catch up, or has time passed by these blue-collar towns? Perhaps, it is simply too late. But if Ohio’s cities are to have any chance to compete in a knowledge-based economy, a world-class K-12 education will undergird city-wide transformation. In her remarks at a September College Now Greater Cleveland event, Cleveland Fed president Sandra Pianalto said: “[I]f we want to improve our region’s economy, if we want people here to have higher incomes, we need to improve the educational attainment of our citizens, especially our young people.” I couldn’t agree more. If Ohio’s cities are to get more of these prized “knowledge jobs,” it starts with dramatic improvement to our cities’...

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This new report, published in the August 2013 issue of Science magazine, looks at Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs)—attempting to determine if these pre-K evaluation systems actually lead to improved educational outcomes for students. This is important as QRISs are proliferating rapidly across the country. Ohio has a QRIS system in place (“Step Up to Quality”), managed by the Office of Job and Family Services, which gives pre-K school providers a rating of one to five stars. The rating system is based primarily on “input measures” such as staff to child ratios, pre-K staff qualifications and professional development, and other factors.

But do highly-rated QRIS preschools relate to better learning outcomes at the end of pre-school? The study raises concerns. The researchers used data sets from two previous studies: one conducted by the National Center for Early Development and Learning and the other from the State-Wide Early Education Programs (SWEEP) study. Overall, the data set for this study included 2,419 children in 673 public pre-K programs in 11 states including Ohio. These studies were chosen for their similarity to the data collected by current QRISs, which are being used in nearly half the states in the U.S.

The study finds that an omitted variable—a measure of the quality of teacher-student interactions called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System)—is the strongest predictor of children’s learning. This data was studied previously but is not currently included in any QRISs, a major finding and a major flaw in QRISs....

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Today’s whiz kids are those most apt to become tomorrow’s leaders. Our ablest students will hatch ideas for products that satisfy the needs and wants of future generations. They’ll be the engineers, investors, teachers, lawyers, and civic leaders that form the backbone of a strong 21st century economy.

Columbus’ public school system, however, by and large neglects its gifted students. This jeopardizes the city and region’s future prosperity and the diversity of its workforce.

First, the neglect of gifted youngsters isn’t such a problem in suburban communities. In fact, parents there are more likely to be accused of “pushing” their kids too hard not too little. Many upper-middle-class parents make sure their children play, for example, violin (for Pete’s sake, first chair), star in a sport (if not three), join the Key Club (why not become president), and of course do well in school (straight A’s in at least three AP courses).

It is not the well-heeled students who win spelling bees and ace their standardized exams with which I’m concerned. On the whole, suburban parents—and schools when coaxed by parents—give their girls and boys ample opportunity to excel academically.

But what happens to talented youngsters who don’t have a pushy parent around, or when their parents don’t have the wherewithal to push very hard? Indeed, what about high-potential students who are born and raised in Columbus’ poorer urban communities? Communities where a child is more likely to grow up in a single-parent home and where household incomes are low?...

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