Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The Innovative Learning Pilot program was created in the previous Ohio General Assembly session last year. The program involves the use of alternative standardized tests that schools develop on their own to match their educational programming. It is possible that the outcome of the pilot project could influence testing policies for all schools in the future. Yesterday, the list of “already-innovative” districts and independent STEM schools chosen to be part of the pilot program was announced. You can read a straight-up account from Gongwer Ohio (4/6/15). The coverage from the Columbus Dispatch (4/7/15) misses out on the provenance of the pilot project and indicates this is a brand new venture. But it does include a quote from Fordham’s own Chad Aldis, where he laments the “choose your own adventure” nature of this effort. Forget about space; standardized testing appears to be the final frontier these days.
     
  2. A bill was introduced in the Ohio House yesterday that would require all students to learn cursive writing between Kindergarten and fifth grade. NOTE: This would have been a funny clip if our CMS allowed a cursive font. But it doesn't, so it's not. (Dayton Daily News, 4/8/15)
     
  3. Montessori
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Rick Hess opens his book, The Same Thing Over and Over, by asking readers to imagine the following scenario:

How would you respond if asked for a plan to transform America’s schools into a world-class, twenty-first century system?

Then imagine that there is one condition: you must retain the job descriptions, governance arrangements, management practices, compensation strategies, licensure requirements, and calendar of the existing system.

Hopefully, you would flee just as fast as you possibly could.

Red tape stifles innovation, dynamism, and entrepreneurship in public schooling, while creating a culture of risk aversion and defensiveness. These latter two are hardly the features of nimble organizations that can adapt to a changing world; rather, they are the marks of decaying institutions.

Here in Ohio, state leaders are taking note. On several occasions, both Governor John Kasich and Senate President Keith Faber have expressed their desire to “deregulate” public education. That is great news. Yet the task of deregulation is not a simple one. It requires carefully distinguishing the areas where the state has a valid regulatory role from those where it should defer to local, on-the-ground decision making.

The regulatory framework that we at Fordham have advocated...

We recently looked at an analysis of New Orleans school leaders’ perceptions of competition and their responses to it. The top response was marketing—simply shouting louder to parents about a school’s existing programs, or adding bells and whistles. If schools are academically strong, this is probably fine. But if academically weak schools can pump up their enrollment (and their funding streams) by simply touting themselves to parents more effectively than competing schools, then the intended effect of competition—improved performance among all players in the market—will be blunted or absent all together.

In New Orleans, it appears that the more intense competition is perceived to be, the more likely schools are to improve academic quality as a means of differentiation. Is a similar thing happening in the Buckeye State? Here’s a look at some anecdotal evidence on quality-centered competition effects.

New school models

Large urban school districts in Ohio have long decried the students “stolen” from them by charter schools, and nothing rankles diehard traditionalists like online schools. So it was a little surprising to find that Akron City Schools’ proposed 2015–16 budget contains a huge technology component, including plans to start an in-house online charter school....

Back in January, the Education Research Alliance (ERA) for New Orleans released a study looking at patterns of parental choice in the highly competitive education marketplace. That report showed non-academic considerations (bus transportation, sports, afterschool care) were often bigger factors than academic quality when parents choose a school. It also suggested strongly that it was possible for other players in the system (city officials, charter authorizers, the SEA) to assert the primacy of academic quality by a number of means (type and style of information available to parents, a central application system). A new report from ERA-New Orleans follows up on this by examining school-level responses to competition, using interview and survey data from thirty schools of all types across the city. Nearly all of the surveyed school leaders reported having at least one competitor for students, and most schools reported more than one response to that competition. The most commonly reported response, cited by twenty-five out of thirty schools, was marketing existing school offerings more broadly. Less common responses to competition included improving academic instruction and making operational changes like budget cuts so that the need to compete for more students (and money) is less pressing. These latter...

  1. Anyone who’s been following Gadfly Bites for a while knows that we’ve been keeping an eye on Geauga County district merger discussions. Legislation was passed last year that would forgive the debt of tiny Ledgemont Schools if they successfully conclude moves to merge with neighboring Berkshire Schools before June 30 of this year. Oddly, Gongwer is reporting additional merger legislation in the works that would include two other county districts and a new STEM high school that seemed like it was already on track to happen without additional legislation. Not sure what’s up here, but we’ll continue to keep an eye on it. (Gongwer Ohio, 4/3/15)
     
  2. Our own Jessica Poiner told you about the Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools effort a week or two ago in the Ohio Gadfly Daily. Now the Dispatch is on to the story. $3.5 million in state funding, the effort includes collaborators from the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and Ohio Department of Education aimed at developing “a new kind of school principal.” Worth a look. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. There must be vinegar in the water in Youngstown these days. A weekend editorial on
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  1. Metro Early College High School in Columbus announced earlier this week that it will begin a new program next year called Metro Institute of Technology, a partnership with Franklin University (a business college) and Columbus State Community College. MIT (clever, yes?) will be a five-year high school experience at the end of which students will earn a high school diploma and either an Associates Degree or an industry credential. This program was pitched during last year’s Straight-A Grant cycle but was rejected. Additional donors and partners have allowed the school – an independent, STEM-focused school open to all students via lottery – to go forward with it. Full disclosure: I love Metro, am therefore heavily biased, and consequently wish them and their students great success with this venture. (Columbus Dispatch 4/1/15)
     
  2. Speaking of innovation, Marion City Schools has received a grant of nearly $20,000 – from an engineering/architecture firm – to buy iPads and apps for autistic students and their teachers. The app is designed to help students bridge what can often be imagery-based world and the more word-based world of education. It is also intended as an easy way for teachers to check in with their
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In his proposed budget , Governor John Kasich calls for the creation of a competency-based education pilot program. Competency-based education is premised on the idea that students only move on to more complex concepts and skills after they master simpler ones. While that sounds somewhat negative at first blush, it also means that mastering current content quickly leads to advancing sooner than the standard march from grade to grade. Kasich’s proposal would provide grants to ten districts or schools that were selected through an application process created by the Ohio Department of Education to pilot the program.

The competency-based model goes by different names in different places. In Ohio, there are schools that already utilize it but call it something different: mastery grading. (Be sure to check out how schools like Metro Early College School and MC²STEM high school, as well as districts like Pickerington, make it work.) Mastery grading assesses students based on whether or not they’ve mastered specific skills and concepts. Instead of an overall grade that takes homework completion, daily assignments, class participation, and test grades that cover multiple standards into account to formulate an average, mastery grading breaks down a student’s...

Either all of Ohio’s education journalists are on spring break this week or they’re glued to the Education Gladfly. Whatever the reason, education news and opinion is hard to come by across the Buckeye State today. Here’s is the paltry result of that dearth:
 

  1. Voters in tony New Albany-Plain Local Schools rejected two levy requests back in November and their rainy-day surplus is exhausted. The budget cuts required by this state of affairs continue to be phased in. Pay-to-play fees have already increased and the promised reduction in busing begins on April 7. Workforce reductions come at the end of the school year. All of these items were on the minds of residents during a recent school board meeting. The reactions to them are varied and interesting, especially the issue of transportation. Worth a look. (ThisWeek News/New Albany News, 4/1/15)
     
  2. Our other story today also comes from central Ohio. It is a look at home-schooled students who live within the boundaries of Delaware City Schools. It all sounds pretty nice at first; even the headline is sunny and Kumbaya-ish. Homeschoolers can, and do, participate in Delaware’s extracurricular activities including sports and band. And everyone is happy…until
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It may not be obvious at first blush, but the political fight happening in New York right now over teacher evaluations has implications for Ohio. Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing the weight of a student’s test scores to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, made possible by a proposed decrease in the weight of a principal’s observations. Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t proposed any significant changes to teacher evaluations this year, but consider this: both Ohio and New York do a poor job of objectively evaluating teachers  who don’t have grade- and subject-specific assessments, both states allow the unfair option of shared attribution, and stakeholders in each are questioning whether teacher evaluations give rise to extra hours of assessments that aren’t meaningful for students. This leads to a big question: Is there a way to fix these problems?    

Enter Educators 4 Excellence  (E4E) and their alternative teacher evaluation framework. E4E is an organization comprised of former and current teachers. Its mission is to magnify teacher voices in policy and legislative arenas where educator views are often overlooked—despite the fact that ensuing decisions significantly impact the day-to-day lives of teachers. E4E supports teacher evaluations...

  1. There was some opining on House Bill 2 this weekend. That’s the first of the charter law reform bills introduced in the 131st General Assembly, which passed both the education committee and the full House last week. Editors in Akron opined on changes to the “sponsor-hopping” provisions this weekend, provisions which were altered from introduction to passage. (Akron Beacon Journal, 3/28/15)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Chillicothe seemed more bullish as they opine on the reforms in HB 2, and the bipartisan support for charter reform that helped initiate the bill in the first place. (Chillicothe Gazette, 3/28/15)
     
  3. We close out with more editorializing. Editors in Columbus opine this morning against testing opt-outs in Columbus and elsewhere. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/30/15)

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