Ohio Gadfly Daily

  • Educator "speed-dating" is being tested as a means to fill numerous teaching vacancies in Cleveland. And it actually kind of works!
  • Ohio's Got (Math) Talent: Lancaster High School student Jaydeep Singh is one of only eleven students in the entire world to get a perfect score on his AP calculus exam.
  • Ohio’s state school board and its members have been scrutinized in the Akron Beacon Journal’s series of investigative reports.
  • The Columbus Dispatch’s editorial board opines on charter school quality and comes out (again) in support of the Common Core.

Public education is a brier field of policy issues. Among the thorniest of all is how to educate America’s high-need students—those who are severely disabled, either physically or mentally. Though they make up a small portion of students, the education of high-need students can have widespread impacts.

In order deliver an adequate (if not excellent) education to those students, schools may need to hire instructors with specialized skills and a full-time nurse, or they may need to purchase expensive equipment. For a small school district or a charter school, serving just one high-need student could stress budgets—and crowd out resources that would have been otherwise allocated to general-education students.

Nevertheless, a civil society should provide good educational opportunities for all children, including those with special needs. But this objective presents policymakers with a seemingly intractable problem: How can states and districts provide the necessary resources to educate high-need students without breaking the bank or straining services for general-education students?

A recent brief by Daniela Fairchild and Matt Richmond, my Fordham colleagues, offers sensible solutions to this conundrum. To begin, they define “high-need students” as those who cost at least three times more than a typical general-education student. In Ohio, this definition would cover students who are identified as multi-handicapped, deaf, blind, or autistic or students who have had a traumatic brain injury.

The authors put forth three recommendations for policymakers: (1) Create “cooperatives,” which would serve high-need students from multiple schools, thereby taking advantage of economies of scale; (2)...

Fordham's Mike Petrilli testifies before the House Education Committee at midnight on November 21. Photo credit: Fordham Institute

On November 20, the Ohio House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would prevent the state board of education from continuing its efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards. The committee previously entertained sponsor testimony on the legislation from Representative Andy Thompson, but this was the first opportunity for the public to testify on this bill.

Hundreds of concerned Ohioans, both supportive of and in opposition to the Common Core, descended upon the Statehouse to make their thoughts known, some arriving up to two hours before the 5 PM hearing. As the hearing time approached, the crowd outside the committee room swelled, and frustration grew as it became apparent that the committee room, the largest in the Statehouse, would not be able to accommodate everyone in attendance. To make matters worse, debate on the House floor ran late, delaying the start of the committee until almost 7 PM.

Undeterred, the mostly anti–Common Core crowd remained and filled the committee room and the Statehouse Atrium (an overflow area that received audio of the committee proceedings). More than forty people signed up to testify before the committee and were split roughly evenly between Common Core supporters and opponents. In the more than six hours of testimony—the hearing ended just after 1 AM—legislators were treated to a good...

A sea of changes in education policy have begun to affect classrooms across Ohio. Schools are implementing the Common Core, the state has overhauled teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, new assessments will undergo field-testing this year, schools are scrambling to comply with the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee and to address the accompanying staffing issues, and the first portion of Ohio’s new statewide accountability system has been phased in with the release of the completely overhauled 2012–13 school and district report cards.

We at Fordham recently analyzed student achievement statewide and in Ohio’s eight largest urban cities in Parsing Performance: Analysis of Ohio’s New School Report Cards. In the interests of transparency and accountability, we reported in our annual sponsorship report how our own portfolio of sponsored schools fared under the new academic performance requirements.

Prior to delving into our results, allow us to refresh your memory on the new system and its implementation timeline. Schools were graded on a set of components for 2012–13 and will be assessed against additional components in 2013–14, still more in 2014–15, and all components when the system is fully implemented in 2015–16. Although schools will be graded on component parts of the report card in 2012–13 and beyond, schools will not receive an overall rating (i.e., the sum of the components) until 2014–15, at which time each building will be assigned an A to F grade for overall performance.

Graph I, below, details the performance of Fordham’s sponsored schools under two key components...

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the endless lines at Best Buy on Black Friday, there is an annual gathering in Cincinnati that compels folks to camp out for days on end. They leave most of life behind in pursuit of a single goal: a coveted spot in a magnet school.

The campers are parents of incoming Kindergarten students who are convinced that the desired magnet school is the right place for their children. This year, the tents began popping up at the first school nearly two weeks before the opening of the lottery. The parents should be commended for their commitment and dedication.

But what does this annual ritual really signify?

Does it mean that Cincinnati schools are so bad that families will do anything for a better option? Probably not. These are families trying to attend a handful of high-quality magnet schools. The quality and desirability of these schools is a positive development for Cincinnati Public Schools. With over 15,000 students in district schools that received a D or F rating on their performance-index scores last year, the real question is this: Why there aren’t more schools like these? A long line for scarce seats is not a new development in Cincinnati.

Does it mean that Cincinnati’s lottery system is broken? Probably. A two-week campout in November in Southern Ohio seems more like the set up for a reality-competition show than for quality education outcomes. And while Cincinnati Public Schools neither condones nor discourages the...

For years, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has consistenly fought for high standards in K-12 education. Tonight, the Ohio House Education Committee will consider testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would repeal the Common Core, the state's new and more rigorous learning standards for math and English language arts. The Ohio State Board of Education adopted the Common Core in June 2010, and schools across the Buckeye State are presently implementing the standards. As an organization committed to high academic standards, we vigorously oppose the repeal of the Common Core and as such, oppose House Bill 237. The written testimony of Michael J. Petrilli, Executive Vice President for the Fordham Institute, is printed below or can be read by clicking here. -- Editor

Representatives: It’s an honor to be with you today. My name is Mike Petrilli; I’m the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education policy think tank, advocacy group, and charter school authorizer based out of Dayton. As most of you know, we also have offices here in Columbus and in Washington, DC. I was honored to serve in the George W. Bush Administration; our president, Chester Finn, served in the Reagan Administration. Perhaps most importantly, I was raised in the Midwest and lived for two years in Clarksville, Ohio. It’s great to be back in the heartland.

As a strong conservative and a strong supporter of the Common Core, I’m here to urge you...

Class size is an incessant policy issue—something like a leaky faucet. The din of the class-size debate drips in the background while the thunderclaps roar (Common Core! Charters!). Many parents and teachers drone on about class-size reductions; fiscal hawks want class-size increases. Meanwhile, wonks have observed America’s shrinking teacher to pupil ratio, with trivial achievement gains to boot.

Education reformers—including Fordham (see our excellent, brand-new Right-sizing the Classroom study)—have urged commonsense policies that put a school’s best teachers in front of more students. Doing this may boost student achievement—perhaps, as we found in our study, more so in upper-grade levels than elementary. But oftentimes this means the scrapping maximum class size mandates etched into teacher contracts or state law, a difficult task. Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, articulates this position well, saying, “Ideally, schools would focus on increasing the number of students their best teachers have responsibility for.”

But it is MOOCs (“Massive Open Online Courses”) that have the potential to stretch the class-size debate the furthest. MOOCs could put the nation’s best teachers—not just a school’s best teachers—in front of more students. Presently, these online courses run the gamut, from an advanced high-school/freshman college course to advanced college-level courses. Professors from the nation’s top rated colleges and universities teach the courses. One can select from a smorgasbord of topics: Coursera and edX—the major players in the MOOC market—publicize, for instance, courses in Data Analysis (Johns Hopkins), Jazz Appreciation (University of Texas), and...

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Two articles from the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell last week focused on the classroom-level implementation of the Common Core, Ohio’s new learning standards. O’Donnell’s reports stand in the vein of other reports from across the nation about Common Core—for example, click on the following link for the Hechinger Report’s excellent series. The school visits were conducted at the Berea, Orange, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, and Bedford school districts, all located in the Cleveland area. It is evident from these reports that the Common Core standards are dramatically changing how instruction and learning happen in Ohio’s classrooms.

In the English classroom, teachers are now requiring students to cite evidence from the text, in order to support their conclusions. One educator remarked, “It’s not enough to just say what you think the theme [of a text] is. You need specific evidence.” Another educator compared this mode of instruction with past instructional practices: “Kids used to talk more about how they felt about the theme. . . .It was more about their feelings than the evidence.” Meanwhile, in the math classroom, teachers are creating lessons that have “real-world” twists to them, aimed at better ingraining mathematical concepts. According to one high school math teacher, under Ohio’s old standards, “You wouldn’t relate things to why you would ever need them. . . .Now the focus is much more with practical standards: Here is what actually translates to real life.”

The Common Core continues to draw fire. But these Common Core critics ought...

Do disadvantaged kids have equal access to great teaching? No. Given this, can a district policy that induces great teachers to transfer into distressed schools improve achievement? Yes. These are the findings of two new reports from Mathematica, released last week.

The first research study, “Access to Effective Teaching for Disadvantaged Students,” examined fourth through eighth grade test scores over three year spans across twenty-nine large school districts. Generally, the researchers found that low-income students experienced less effective teaching than their higher-income peers. The main culprit: the unequal distribution of effective teachers across school buildings within a district. In contrast, the analysts detected more equal access to effective teaching within a school building. Hence, there is little evidence to suggest that school-level principals systemically assign the least effective teachers to the most disadvantaged students.

The companion study, “Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers,” examined whether inducing great educators, via monetary incentive, to teach in disadvantaged schools can lift achievement. To obtain evidence, the researchers created an experiment—the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI)—which they conducted in ten school districts across seven states. The study first identified the districts’ highest-performing teachers (top 20 percent in value-added) who were not in schools with low-achieving and disadvantaged students. Then, these teachers were offered a $10,000 per-year bonus for two years to transfer into a distressed school within their district. The study found that the transfer incentive had a positive, significant impact on elementary students’ math and reading test scores. The estimated impact moved the typical pupil...

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The U.S. Department of Education released the 2013 math and reading results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) last week. The assessments were administered to a nationally representative sample of 376,000 fourth and 341,000 eighth graders from all fifty states. (Check out a national perspective on the NAEP data.)

Here in Ohio, math and reading results for public school students in both grades were flat compared to 2011. Meanwhile, fewer than 50 percent of Ohio’s fourth and eighth graders met NAEP’s proficiency standard. The proficiency rates for Buckeye State students were as follows: 48 percent in fourth-grade math; 37 percent in fourth-grade reading; 41 percent in eighth-grade math; and 39 percent in eighth-grade reading. These underwhelming statistics aside, the state continued to post scores that surpassed the national average.

One can also slice the 2013 NAEP data in many ways—by racial group, by poverty status, by special education status, and more. One can even compare charter to non-charter students, which I do in the analysis below.

The figures below display the charter versus non-charter comparison of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL), the most utilized poverty metric available. This provides a fair—though still imperfect—comparison of similar students, since Ohio’s charters enroll a relatively high number of impoverished students.

The charts show the average scaled score estimates (scale is from zero to 500) for the two groups, along with the standard errors displayed as vertical lines. The standard error, in parentheses, is...

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