Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The latest legislative assault against Common Core in Ohio is rumbling back to life this evening with what is supposed to be testimony from teachers who support repeal of the Common Core. Ahead of this testimony, the Chillicothe Gazette looked at some specific math problems aligned to Common Core and solicited responses on them from teachers and professors on both sides of the issue. Some good stuff here…much of which will not be part of tonight’s hearing. (Chillicothe Gazette)
     
  2. Discussion of yesterday’s story about the facilities funding set up of Imagine charter schools continues in the expected corners today. The Blade’s piece is typical of them all, with the blasting and the demanding. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Springfield City Schools approved a one-to-one technology plan for students in grades three through twelve. But those new laptops and software packages have to be teacher-tested first. This is a story about that. Apparently, there was “a lot of oohing and ahhing going on” during the training sessions last week. (Springfield News-Sun)
     
  4. It is that time of year again: school district treasurers releasing their five-year funding forecasts. Canton City Schools continues to lose students – EdChoice vouchers are the main cited culprit – although the number of exiting students seems to be smaller than in the past. Interestingly, the district foresees the end of state “funding guarantees” in the near future and is attempting to adjust their budgeting accordingly. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  5. Speaking of school budgets,
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  1. We’re back after a short break, and there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to it. The board chair of Fordham-sponsored Dayton Leadership Academy penned a guest column in the Dayton Daily News last Friday, highlighting signs of success for DLA students buried deep in this year’s report card data. Nice. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in a story from yesterday’s Dispatch, looking at the lease deals under which Imagine charter schools occupy the buildings in which they operate. There’s probably some more info required to make sense out of these numbers. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. I don’t want to argue causation, but just as soon as Gadfly Bites took its hiatus, a breakthrough occurred and the Reynoldsburg teachers strike ended. (ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News)
     
  4. The Big D took a look at the details of the new contract in Reynoldsburg – as far as they were known at the time – and tried to parse what this will mean for teachers (and students) for the next three years. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. There are still a few issues to work out in Reynoldsburg as teachers return to the classroom. Today’s article addresses the issue of when and how much teachers will be paid for days worked just before and just after the strike. Hint: it’s complicated. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  6. One concern that came to the fore before the end of the strike was that of student grades for the
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Last week, the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC) hosted a terrific conference at Ohio State University which brought together the state’s education research and practitioner communities. The focus of the one-day conference was teacher quality—why it matters, and how Ohio’s teacher-quality initiatives are playing out in the field.

In his keynote address, Eric Hanushek of Stanford University set the table, zeroing in on the economic value of a high-quality teacher. He showed that students who are fortunate enough to have high-quality teachers are more likely to have higher lifetime earnings than those less fortunate. The implication was easily understood: It cannot be left to chance as to whether students get a high-quality educator.

But here’s the rub: Less clear is what policies help to ensure that every Buckeye student is taught by a great teacher from Kindergarten through high-school graduation. Hanushek pointed out that several variables commonly used to measure teacher quality—including Master’s degrees, experience after a few years of teaching, and participation in professional-development programs—only weakly correlate to actual effectiveness.

A panel discussion wrestled with the ambiguity and complexity involved in raising teacher quality. (The slide decks are available here.) The panel, moderated by Rebecca Watts of the Ohio Board of Regents, included Christopher Burrows, superintendent of Georgetown Exempted Village (a district an hour east of Cincinnati), Lawrence Johnson of the University of Cincinnati, and Belinda Gimbert of Ohio State University. The panelists raised some of the prickly issues that face practitioners when it comes to...

Note: Gadfly Bites is taking a break for the rest of the week. Back on Monday with a round up.

  1. Patrick O’Donnell has dug into Cleveland schools’ value add scores and teased out what the district believes are substantive gains in this area for students tested over the last two years. There’s some speculation that charter school students in the district’s portfolio helped bring up the grade, but even more speculation that important aspects of the Cleveland plan are starting to bear fruit: observable, data-based fruit. But, says CEO Eric Gordon, "we can't afford simply to meet (expected progress). We have to exceed the state's expectations for my kids to step up… But you have to start somewhere…2014-15 will be about exceeding." Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The board of education in Strongsville is concerned about unpaid fees from its families, for things such as art supplies and participation in sports, to the tune of about $170,000. They voted unanimously to withhold report cards and online access to grades—among other steps—for those delinquent families. I am certain that their students rose up in a unanimous cheer when this was announced. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. The court-ordered mediation between district and teachers union continues in Reynoldsburg today, in conjunction with the lawsuit seeking to close the district’s schools for the duration of the strike. These are based on the safety concerns of the parent who brought the suit, but most observers are quietly hopeful that some contract talks
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A 2014 report  from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) shows that the number of first-year teachers in the United States rose from 84,000 in 1987–88 to 147,000 in 2011–12. While this change is largely demographic (fueled by baby boomer retirements), it also means that over 1.7 million teachers—roughly half the workforce—has ten or fewer years of experience. While the new infusion of talent, energy, and ideas a new teacher can bring is positive, many aren’t sticking around for very long. In fact, the CPRE report notes that more than 41 percent of beginning teachers left the profession within five years. While not all teacher turnover is bad—no one wants to force weak teachers to stay merely to improve retention rates—there are also talented teachers who are leaving—and students are the ones paying the heaviest price.

Much ado has been made over why beginning teachers leave . You’ll hear different accounts of how to fix it on different “sides” of the education reform debate. One such argument provided by Richard Ingersoll, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania’s education school (and a former high school teacher), faults the isolating “sink or swim” experience that most beginning teachers face. Ingersoll notes that beginning teachers are “frequently left to succeed or fail on their own within the confines of their classrooms” and goes on to explain that some commentators even refer to teaching as a profession that “cannibalizes its young.” Perhaps Ellen Moir said...

Next-generation learning models—“technology-enabled” education, if you will—are designed to personalize education in any way necessary to help students at all performance levels meet and exceed goals. As with any innovation introduced into American education, next-generation models have met resistance and in many cases have been either halted altogether or subsumed into the by-the-book system. In their new issue brief, Public Impact’s Shonaka Ellison and Gillian Locke argue that charter schools are the ideal place for next-generation learning models. Charter-school autonomies, inherent in their DNA, provide the best platform for tech-driven innovations like ability grouping, mastery-based promotion, student-paced learning, separation of administrative and instructional duties for teachers, and online learning. The researchers show these practices are carried out in various combinations at a number of charter schools around the country. No mention is made in the brief about solely online schooling, whose model would seem to be synonymous with much of the innovation described here but whose results have too often fallen short of expectations. In fact, having a building in which to attend school seems to be an unstated requirement for creating the type of next-generation models the authors examine. And while Khan Academy and ASSISTments can extend the school day into the home, building a brick box just so students can come inside and use these tools inside seems somehow less than innovative. But the use of technology also requires the hard work of quality implementation. “Positive student results heavily depend on quality implementation,” the authors note. They make...

These days, the words “Massachusetts standards” cause hearts to flutter among some in Ohio. And not without reason. The Bay State had solid pre-Common Core academic-content standards. But less known is how demanding Massachusetts set its performance standards—the cut-score for achieving “proficiency” on its state tests. This bold action bucked the No Child Left Behind trend, whereby many states, including Ohio, set dismal performance standards. (Under NCLB, states were allowed to set their own bar for “proficiency.”) In this new study, we see just how high Massachusetts set its performance standard relative to other states. To rate the “stringency” of state performance standards, Gary Phillips of AIR created a common scale by linking state NAEP results from 2011 to international tests. Looking at fourth-grade math and reading, Massachusetts had the most stringent performance standards in the land. And in eighth grade, Massachusetts tied with a few other states for the most-stringent standards. Meanwhile Ohio’s performance standards were woefully mediocre compared to other states. Importantly, the study also points out that higher performance standards also led to lower state-reported proficiency rates. Massachusetts, for example, reported roughly 40–55 percent proficient in these grades and subjects; in contrast, Ohio reported 70–85 percent proficient. But this doesn’t mean, of course, that Ohio students actually know more than Massachusetts students: The NAEP results—a standardized test given to a sample of students in all states—actually show the reverse. Higher “standards” are not just content standards—i.e., the expectations for what students should know at...

Always a hot topic for debate, charter school issues—especially those involving funding—are hotter than usual.

Let’s start at the national level, which we can see in the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ new report The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-By-State Analysis. NAPCS reports on twenty-five states and the District of Columbia, assessing the overall “health of the movement” by focusing on eleven indicators, including student-enrollment growth, innovation, and academic quality. Washington, D.C.’s and Louisiana’s charter schools come out on top, in part because of equitable funding for charters compared to district schools. Oregon and Nevada finish last for a number of reasons, not least of which being poor learning gains. Ohio finished in the middle of the pack, getting high marks for charter growth but struggling with student achievement.

The state of New York ranked fifth in the NAPCS analysis, just ten points behind Louisiana, but has experienced some well-publicized tussles over charter school issues in recent months, including a lawsuit filed by a group supportive of charter schools alleging that New York’s method of funding charter schools violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. Buckeye state officials should keep an eye on this case, as Ohio charter school students receive similarly disparate funding.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, funding of charter schools is being debated in Fordham’s home state of Ohio as well. The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools has issued their analysis of recently released Ohio report...

John A. Dues

 

John A. Dues is the Chief Learning Officer for United Schools Network in Columbus.
 

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."

                                                                                                                       -Nelson Mandela

As a society, we are in need of some serious soul searching. There is an urgent need to support and create as many outstanding schools as possible as a part of a larger plan for improving life outcomes in Columbus’s most challenged neighborhoods. In Central Ohio, outcomes for kids that grow up just a few miles from each other can vary immensely. Drive east on Main Street from Miller Avenue in the Near East Side to Capital University in Bexley and in the span of two miles you will get a snapshot of the different worlds that exist within our city. Take that same drive on Central Avenue from Dana Avenue in Franklinton to Grandview and you will have a similar experience. 

Challenges facing our students

Over the last year, there have been a series of articles in the Columbus Dispatch that provide a lens into some of these troubled neighborhoods and the crises they face. Taken together, it starts to create a picture of the environment in which many children from neighborhoods like the Near East Side and Franklinton—neighborhoods where United Schools Network’s three schools are located—are living. These students come to school with needs that are far...

  1. Less than a month until it’s all over and the gubernatorial race in Ohio is trending rather lopsided. Problem is, certain issues that typically arise during a contested race just haven’t gotten a lot of play this time around. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is briefly quoted in this piece, lamenting about the lack of specifics on K-12 education from either side. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Oddly enough, state board of education races seem to be getting more play in the media than the gubernatorial race…in certain places. We’ve clipped a few stories about individual district races before, but here’s a nice overview on all of the contested seats on the board. You would have thought that Common Core would have been a bigger issue, but it seems that charter schools are more relevant to most candidates…especially if they are Democrats. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Big changes are being promised for the education provided to students with special needs in Columbus City Schools, following a pretty earth-shaking admission that the district had routinely followed a “no-fail” policy for students on IEPs, moving young people along whether they passed or not. These changes even include efforts to allow former students to retake classes to pass on their own merit. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. A press conference was held in Chillicothe on Friday with both the founder and the current owner of a local private school, which closed its doors earlier that day. As you might expect, lack of money was the issue
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