Ohio Gadfly Daily

For our full report on student mobility, please visit http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/student-nomads-mobility-in-ohios-schools.html

Introduction

Imagine for a moment you’re a school teacher. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you teach at Southmoor Middle School, located on the south side of Columbus.  To start your year, you have 25 of Columbus’ most eager, bright-eyed sixth graders in your classroom. Their enthusiasm is fresh like a new textbook and bubbles like a science fair volcano.

Fast forward to May and your classroom has changed considerably. During the school year (you have an average Southmoor classroom) five new students came to your class while eight students departed at some point for another school. For incoming students, you had to make mid-year assessments of those students’ learning levels and quickly integrate them into your lesson plans and classroom culture. You likely did all this without the assistance of a student record (as those can take months to find their way to you), while also maintaining the pace of learning for those students who have been with you all year.  Student mobility complicates things.

Pioneering Research

The nomadic-like nature of the Southmoor Middle School student body is not an outlier when it comes to student mobility. In fact, it’s one of many schools in Ohio—and across the nation—that copes with a revolving door of students—students who enter and leave a school during the year. 

Student mobility complicates things

Yet, despite the scale and scope of student mobility, the research on it is slim; as...

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The Fordham Institute sends out hearty congratulations to Mayor Frank Jackson and his staff, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, the city’s business community, district supporters, teachers, students, and the voters of Cleveland on the passage of the district’s levy—a key component of the Plan for Transforming Schools. It was a hard-fought campaign that was successful in the end due to the day-to-day and door-to-door diligence of its supporters.

As Fordham’s Ohio VP Terry Ryan wrote on this very blog back in February, this effort to make Cleveland one of the nation's school-reform leaders – with its sights fixed firmly on finding, funding, and nurturing what works in education for the sake of the students themselves—is a significant step forward for all Cleveland families. And on this morning of November 7, implementation is now at hand.

All involved with that implementation must be mindful of what was promised and what must be delivered:

  • Increasing the number of high-performing schools, both district and charter, while closing failing schools;
  • Maximizing enrollment in Cleveland’s existing high-performing district and public charter schools;
  • Investing in promising schools by giving their leaders additional resources, the freedom to build high-performing teams, and the ability to make financial and instructional decisions based on their students’ needs;
  • Seeking (and finding) flexibility in the hiring, retention, and remuneration of teachers; and
  • Sustaining both district and public charter transformation schools.

We applaud the work done to create and to pass the plan and look...

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My colleagues in Washington D.C. recently published a state-by-state analysis of teacher union strength in U.S. Their report is trenchant, timely, and relevant. Why? Because it shows the ongoing influence that teacher unions have on our schools--despite the fact that labor unions, overall, have declined in the U.S. (We ranked Ohio 12 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in teacher union strength.)

Digging in at a more local level, let’s consider the story of the City of Springfield, population 60,000, located an hour outside of Columbus. Springfield is a city in decline: Since 1960, Springfield has lost 25 percent of its population and its median household income is $34,000 per year, below the state average. The city is mostly White (75 percent). Springfield has 3 charter schools and 1 traditional school district.

Now, let’s consider three of Springfield’s schools: Springfield Academy of Excellence (SAE), a Fordham-sponsored charter school, Fulton Elementary School, and Perrin Woods Elementary School. Springfield City School District (a traditional public school) operates Fulton and Perrin Woods. I’ve selected these schools because of their similar demographics and academic performance (table 1).

Table 1: Demographic and academic performance data for selected Springfield school buildings, 2011-12.

Source: Ohio Department of Education, 2011-12 Preliminary Data

Pretty similar: SAE, Fulton, and Perrin Woods all have a majority Black and Hispanic students in their school. (These represent 3 of the 4 elementary schools in Springfield that have a...

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Too many of our schools dramatically shortchange students by advancing them on to higher grades without the ability to read. Ohio lawmakers took action last year to finally curtail this practice. Sadly a group of misinformed people have announced their intention to undo this literacy improvement strategy before it has even had a chance to take effect. Ohio’s most disadvantaged children will suffer terrible harm if they succeed.

Every child has a window of opportunity in the critical early years. It’s not impossible to learn to read once aging out of this window any more than it is impossible for you to become fluent in a foreign language as an adult, but it becomes increasingly difficult as you get older.

For too long, and despite earlier efforts to provide a third-grade reading guarantee, the state’s children simply get passed on to the next grade. Each year, the curriculum becomes more challenging, but students lack the skills to rise with it. Children going through this cruel farce will describe themselves as bored, and they often become disruptive. They know they will never be going to college, and they inevitably start to wonder why they go to school at all.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a study that tracked a cohort of students through their entire K-12 careers. The study found that 88 percent of 19-year-old dropouts had failed to score as proficient readers as third graders. Ohio schools don’t just suffer from a dropout problem;...

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In May 1953, Edmund Hillary and his trusty sherpa Tenzing Norgay stood on the top of the world. They had conquered the impossible: climbing Mount Everest and all 29,000 feet of it. Later on Hillary would look back on his accomplishment with pride, saying that, by climbing Everest, "the unattainable had been attained."

Like Hillary and Norgay in the spring of 1953, Cleveland's schools face a long, uphill climb to reach the summit of educational excellence. Is the summit unattainable? It'll be hard at least. Consider Cleveland's 2010-11 academic performance data: Approximately one in two of Cleveland’s students failed their math exam and two in five failed their reading exam. More than 35,000 public school students, or 60 percent of all of Cleveland's public school students, attended a failing district or charter school.

Mount Everest: The mountain Cleveland's schools face

Source: Wikipedia

Despite the glum achievement results, there are a few rays of hope for Cleveland. The city has 16 district and charter school buildings rated A or A+ by the state. These include the high-flying John Hay high schools (part of Cleveland Municipal School District) and the Constellation group of charter schools. But high-quality schools are in short supply: In 2011-12, only 7 percent of Cleveland’s public school students attended one of these highly-rated district or charter school buildings.

The following report shows the data on...

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Dayton has a long tradition of innovation (think airplanes, pull-tabs, electric starters, cash registers, and even teacher unions). Yet, as the innovations of one era slip into obsolescence in the next, it should come as no surprise that the Gem City has struggled economically in recent decades. The hope for Dayton’s revival comes from innovation. And this time the innovation is in education—how  we prepare people for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

By 2018, it is estimated that almost two-thirds of jobs in America will require at least a sub-baccalaureate credential. A sub-baccalaureate credential is a post-secondary credential that includes awards like certificates, associate degrees, state-issued education credentials, corporate certificates and badges among others. Dayton, according to a fantastic piece in the Lumina Foundation’s fall edition of Focus Magazine, is quickly becoming a national leader in preparing “sub-baccalaureate graduates.”

Dayton’s economic struggles peaked in 2009 and the scale of the pain was captured by The New York Times, which  reported that the area faced a vortex of “economic and social change.” The Times continued, reporting that  “the area’s job total has fallen 12 percent since 2000, while about half of its factory jobs – 38,000 out of 79,000 – have disappeared this decade. Not only have large G.M. and Delphi plants closed, but NCR, long the city’s corporate jewel, recently announced that it would move its headquarters to the Atlanta area.”

The jobs of Dayton's past: The National Cash Register assembly line

...

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On Wednesday this week, the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

In this post, and in forthcoming posts, we'll take a look at the ODE data for Ohio's three largest districts: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and for Dayton--Fordham's hometown. We assume that the preliminary data (the release of unofficial, unverified data in June, the September release, and the October release) are sufficiently reliable for an analysis of public schools' data. In addition to an analysis of the 2011-12 data, we also provide a forecast of what proficiency rates for school districts will be when Ohio transitions to the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exams, for English language arts and math in 2014-15.

In Columbus, good, bad, and worse news can be found in its district and charter schools’ academic results for 2011-12. 

The good news first: As a group, charter school proficiency rates continued their steady climb upwards. Fourth and sixth grade math proficiency rates, for example, gained nearly 10 points compared to the year prior—and this year’s charter proficiency rates a significant improvement over rates from 5 to...

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Today, the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

In this post, and in forthcoming posts, we'll take a look at the ODE data for Ohio's three largest districts: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and for Dayton--Fordham's hometown. We assume that the preliminary data (the release of unofficial, unverified data in June, the September release, and the October release) are sufficiently reliable for a city-level analysis of public schools. In addition to an analysis of the 2011-12 data, we also provide a forecast of what proficiency rates for school districts will be when Ohio transitions to the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exams, for English language arts and math in 2014-15. 

Dayton Public Schools (DPS) and Dayton’s charter schools continued their long run of mediocre performance in the 2011-12 school year. Anywhere from one-third to over one-half of DPS students failed Ohio’s standardized exam, depending on the grade and subject. In Dayton’s charter schools, the failure rate was slightly less, but still no less troubling. By sixth grade, many Dayton students are well on the pathway toward adult illiteracy: 39 percent of...

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Dr. Diane Ravitch – a founding Board member of the modern Thomas B. Fordham Foundation – came to Columbus yesterday morning to speak passionately about her belief in the public school system. Reading from her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Dr. Ravitch called herself a reluctant crusader. But her belief in public schools as the “entry point to the American Dream” and her belief that public schools are under attack by the “reform agenda” which makes the system “ripe for privatization and private exploitation” compel her to speak out again and again.

She laid out her beliefs that charter schools don’t work, that high-stakes testing creates a negative impact on public schools, and that teachers are being systematically demoralized nationwide. The political and financial motivations of reformers are clear to her and she was adamant that those interests cannot be allowed to defeat the true purposes of education: “showing children that they have talents and abilities” and “to develop citizens”.

As quickly as Dr. Ravitch arrived, however, she was gone, leaving the rest of the 400+ attendees at the Public Common School Preservation Conference to take her words of grandmotherly wisdom borne of decades of hands-on experience…and turn it into war.

Yes, it’s war folks. Plain and simple. The public schools vs. “the privatizers”. The common good vs. “the pirates”. Money is hemorrhaging from public schools right into the hands of Captain Jack Sparrow. Home schoolers, charter school operators, Catholic schools, in league...

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Valentina is a legislative analyst for StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement working to improve the nation’s schools.

The most recent data shows that the state of Ohio spends more than $23 billion annually on education, but Ohio students are still struggling academically, with 67% of fourth graders and 64% of eighth graders reading below proficiency[1]. It’s clear that Ohio is investing in its education programs, but it’s not clear whether these resources are being used in the most effective manner.

As I recently wrote, Ohio would greatly benefit from a school letter grading system, which holds schools accountable, empowers parents with information and choices, and improves student outcomes. To maximize the full impact of a school grading system, however, Ohio must pair this information with a strong fiscal transparency and accountability system so that policymakers and the public can understand the impact of their spending decisions.  By developing a statewide, five-star rating system that links resources and investment decisions with student and school outcomes, policymakers can make better decisions regarding school funding.

However, transparency and ratings mean little without accountability. Strong but measured interventions, such as changing who makes resource decisions, must be permitted for schools and districts found to be chronic underperformers. Over time, a robust fiscal transparency and accountability system will lead to improved spending practices, which in turn will lead to increased student achievement and, in times of financial decline, will allow administrators and policymakers to make informed spending cuts.

A meaningful five-star...

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