Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last week, we cautioned that Ohio’s opt-out bill (HB 420) offers a perverse incentive for districts and schools to game the accountability system. The bill has since been amended, but it is no closer to addressing the larger issues Ohio faces as it determines how best to maintain accountability in response to the opt-out movement. 

Current law dings schools and districts when a student skips the exam by assigning a zero for that student when calculating the school’s overall score (opting out directly impacts two of ten report card measures). The original version of HB 420 removed those penalties entirely. Instead of earning a zero, absent students would simply not count against the school. Realizing the potential unintended consequences under such a scenario, including the possible counseling out of low-achieving students and larger numbers of opt-outs overall, the drafters of the substitute bill incorporated two changes.

First, the amended version requires the Ohio Department of Education to assign two separate Performance Index (PI) grades for schools and districts for the 2014–15 school year—one reflecting the scores of all students required to take exams (including those who opt out) and another excluding students who didn’t participate. Second, in...

This progress report from Education Superhighway, a nonprofit aimed at upgrading Internet access for America’s public schools, is worth the acronym dictionary you’ll need to decipher it. Researchers examine data from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate program (a federal initiative that defrays the cost of internet in schools) and deliver much good news about connectivity status for the average K–12 classroom. From 2013 to 2015, twenty million more students were connected to high-speed broadband (that which meets the FCC’s minimum Internet access goals), representing 77 percent of all districts. This is up from 30 percent of districts in 2013. Even though 21.3 million students nationwide still miss the FCC’s mark, lacking the connectivity necessary to fully reap the rewards of digital learning, the report declares that “those left behind are not disproportionately rural or poor.” In 2013, the most affluent districts were three times as likely as low-income ones to meet FCC goals; by 2015, “the E-rate program [had] effectively leveled the playing field.” If nothing else, that’s a whopping success.

In Ohio the news is mixed: Three out of four school districts are adequately prepared for digital learning in terms of broadband speed. The report commends...

  1. The Washington Post took a look at the Youngstown Plan from its own perspective. “It all began in June, 2015…” (Washington Post, 2/1/16) Here is another perspective on the state of play in Youngstown’s elected school board. Closer, and more current. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/1/16)
     
  2. Here is an update on EdChoice voucher applications for the 2016-17 school year, using a mix of rhetoric. That headline alone should come with a whiplash warning. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/2/16)
     
  3. Charter schools are the educational equivalent of Sharknado, says this guest commentator in the MJ’s Another Viewpoint series. Now, about the first viewpoint… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/2/16)
     
  4. High school teachers in Toledo City Schools, concerned about dropout rates, are trying a brand new, never-before-utilized dropout prevention strategy. It’s labor intensive for them and requires a ton of effort, but will be great if it works. Without any precedents at all, this is forging new ground. Good luck to all! (Toledo Blade, 1/31/16)
     
  5. Dayton City Schools is thinking along the same lines, but with 7th and 8th graders being the point of concern. Students in those grades have the highest suspension rates, says the supe, and
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“The Proper Perspective” is a discussion between Jamie Davies O’Leary, senior Ohio policy analyst for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio. Interested in many of the same data points and research questions, they decided to share some of this exchange more publicly, helping both to illuminate trends in Ohio public education and formulate policy recommendations through their insights. This is the second edition of the series. The first can be found here.

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Ohio’s K–3 literacy scores: Is the third-grade reading guarantee living up to its promise?

The first round of school report card data came out in January (expect the second batch February 25), shedding light on (among other things) how schools are doing in K–3 literacy. (Note that ninety-six schools have appealed their K–3 literacy grades, and data is under review for another seven schools, so take all of this with a cairn of salt.)

This year’s report cards are the first to include a letter grade for K–3 literacy, a metric that measures the improvement that schools and districts have made in moving...

  1. Another notice for last week’s Quality in Adversity report. The good folks at Gongwer have taken a pretty thorough look at our latest report. Thanks guys; appreciate you zeroing in the important issues. (Gongwer Ohio, 1/29/16)
     
  2. Our own Aaron Churchill is colorfully quoted in this teaser piece on the topic of charter school funding. The stunt of districts “billing” the state for funding “lost” for students who leave for charters is getting attention from media now, so you know it’s a real thing. The real story is behind the pay wall at DDN (including a reference to the Quality in Adversity report findings); you get zilch in the way of details from the teaser. (Dayton Daily News, 1/31/16)
     
  3. Parsing of the limited school report card data continues in the Ohio media. Aaron is quoted in this piece looking at Central Ohio charters vs. districts. Aaron’s comments are good, but seem to mean bubkis to the argument being made. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/1/16)
     
  4. A new study from Case Western Reserve University indicates that “attending preschool helps make children in Cleveland about 20 percent more ready for kindergarten,” and that “Cleveland kids have a 29 percent
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Last May, Achieve released a report showing that most states have created a false impression of student success in math and reading proficiency. Known as the “honesty gap” (or, as Fordham has long described it, The Proficiency Illusion), the discrepancy between reported and actual proficiency is found when state test results are compared with NAEP results.[1] For example, Achieve’s May report showed that over half of states showed discrepancies of more than thirty percentage points with NAEP’s gold standard. Ohio was one of the worst offenders: Our old state test scores (the OAA and OGTs) differed by thirty percentage points or more in each of NAEP’s main test subjects, with a whopping forty-nine-point difference in fourth-grade reading.

Less than one year later, new state test scores and biennial NAEP results have created an opportunity to revisit the honesty gap. In its latest report, Achieve finds that the gap has significantly narrowed in nearly half of states. Ohio is one of twenty-six states that has earned the commendation “Significantly Improved” for closing the honesty gap in either fourth-grade reading or eighth-grade math by at least ten percentage points since 2013....

  1. Quality in Adversity coverage, Round 2, includes some brief national notices on top of Ohio-based reportage:
     
  1. In other Ohio education survey news, nearly half (48 percent) of Ohio voters with children in K-12 public schools think that students do not have enough time to eat lunch at school. (PR Newswire, 1/28/16)
     
  2. And speaking of asking questions, someone is asking the right one in suburban Cincinnati: Are the local schools keeping people from moving to Hamilton? This question was asked of realtors and they said it is among the top two
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In May 2015, a coalition of stakeholders from business, philanthropy, and education organizations in Cincinnati announced a new public-private partnership called Accelerate Great Schools (AGS). AGS’s goal is to grow the number of high-quality seats in Cincinnati by developing and expanding schools and models that deliver outstanding results for kids. On Wednesday afternoon, AGS announced the recipients of its first two grants.

The first, worth $128,000, will support Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) work with TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project) on attracting, supporting, and developing school principals and assistant principals. As we’ve written before, school leadership is critically important, especially given how difficult it is to recruit and select strong candidates. At an event in October, we heard from Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward that it’s particularly difficult for large urban districts to recruit and retain effective principals. Heather Grant, from the Aspiring Principals Program in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, emphasized the importance of ongoing support and development. Thanks to AGS, principal recruitment and development are about to get a whole lot better in Cincinnati. The new CPS grant will assess how the district handles recruiting,...

  1. In case you missed it, Fordham Ohio’s latest report – Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools – was released today. Some preliminary media coverage has already taken place (huge thanks to all the outlets for that) and we expect more to follow in the next day or two. Check out the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 1/27/16), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/27/16), and the Associated Press (Salem News, via AP, 1/27/16) You can also read the full report here….after you’ve finished your Bites.
     
  2. I’ve been avoiding clipping the various iterations of this next story because it’s really just a lame PR exercise. But when public media calls, you have to answer. Various small school districts around the state have been incited to send “invoices” to the Ohio Department of Education requesting payment for all of the dubloons “deducted” from their vaulted treasure caves over the years to pay for students who were educated outside their crenellated walls in charter schools. Our own Chad Aldis discusses the “theatrical” nature of this stunt with public radio’s Andy Chow. Now, who do district parents see about getting a refund for those college remediation classes they needed?
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Late in 2015, Congress passed a new federal education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—which replaces the outdated No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The new legislation turns over considerably greater authority to states, which will now have much more flexibility in the design and implementation of accountability systems. At last, good riddance to NCLB’s alphabet soup of policies like “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and “highly qualified teachers” (HQT)—and yes, the absurd “100 percent proficient by 2014” mandate. Adios, too, to “waivers” that added new restrictions!

But now the question is whether states can do any better. As Ohio legislators contemplate a redesign of school accountability for the Buckeye State, it would first be useful to review our current system. This can help us better understand which elements should be kept and built upon, modified, or scrapped—and which areas warrant greater attention if policy makers are going to improve schools. Since Ohio has an A–F school rating system, it seems fitting to rate the present system’s various elements on an A–F scale. Some will disagree with my ratings—after all, report cards are something of an art—so send along your thoughts or post a comment.

NB: In this...

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