Ohio Gadfly Daily

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is looming on the horizon, and education leaders and policy makers are in need of accurate information regarding stakeholder perceptions and opinions. The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) recently answered that call by releasing a comprehensive survey of perceptions of K–12 assessment. The survey asked a range of assessment-related questions to superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students.    

Some of the results are unsurprising. For instance, more than seven in ten teachers, principals, and superintendents say that students spend too much time taking assessments. Their opinions on specific tests vary, however. Six in ten teachers rate their states’ accountability tests as fair or poor, but most gave a thumbs-up to both formative assessments and classroom tests and quizzes developed by teachers. The approval gap between state tests and other assessments is most likely due to their perceived usefulness. While state tests give a summative picture of student performance, they aren’t designed to provide diagnostic information or inform instruction—functions that classroom tests and formative assessments perform well. (Of course, let’s not forget that NWEA makes millions of dollars selling a formative assessment.)

In contrast to teachers and administrators, three out of four...

I recently wrote about two studies whose results showed promise in the use of co-requisite remediation (students simultaneously taking a developmental and a credit-bearing course in the same subject). The strategy is aimed at getting college students up to speed faster, thus cutting time and costs associated with degree completion (both in two-year and four-year colleges). Now two more studies on this topic offer additional insights.

First up is Iris Palmer’ plan to scale up co-requisite remediation models based on the experiences of pilot programs in five states. These pilots either a) fully replaced traditional prerequisite remediation with a co-requisite model as described above or b) created two different tracks into which students were slotted based on ACT score cutoffs identified by the community colleges. She identifies the subtle variations that different colleges employed (class size, test cutoff points, integration of remediation with credit-bearing content, etc.) and identifies the stakeholders within college hierarchies who would have the best vantage point and leverage to make the needed systemic changes. Who knew that registrars had that kind of power? I jest, but Palmer insists that redesigning an institution’s remediation process “needs to be someone’s full-time job” to be done right—and...

The Ohio State Board of Education chose Paolo DeMaria as the next state superintendent of public instruction earlier this month. Mr. DeMaria is a former state budget director, education advisor to two governors, high-level staffer with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Board of Regents, and a current principal with Education First Consulting. His dedication to improving education is obvious and is matched only by his impeccable qualifications.

Mr. DeMaria brings a calm, thoughtful, and analytical approach to the agency’s work. But there is even more to be glad about in terms of this choice: For the first time in many years, the sitting governor did not send a representative to sit in on candidate interviews for state superintendent. This deliberate move away from the politicization of the selection process is a positive step and may have played a small role in the usually fractious board unanimously selecting Mr. DeMaria (even with a number of other highly qualified candidates from which to choose). Just as impressive, DeMaria scored points with many by asking for a lower base salary than originally offered, to be supplemented by a performance-based bonus option. A class act...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on All Sides with Ann Fisher again yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the topic was charter schools. Specifically, “The Performance and Outcomes of Online Schools”. Not a bad hour of talk radio, even if Chad doesn’t come in until the half-way point. But listen especially for the couple of times when Chad takes the show “off script”. Pretty good. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 5/26/16)
     
  2. Speaking of charter schools, the data wonks over at KnowYourCharter released a new report yesterday looking at previous federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants received by Ohio…in exactly the same way that wolves look at henhouses. The message seems to be that lots of schools that received CSP grants either never opened or closed after receiving grants, raising questions to which the wolves would like an answer. Here’s one not answered: why are so many of the closed schools affiliated with school districts? The report got a little bit of play in the media. Chad’s response is quoted in response in all of these pieces, as is the response of the Ohio Department of Education (which I love, BTW): “This department has no interest in playing partisan politics with a special interest
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Like much of Know Your Charter’s (KYC) charter school coverage, today’s report, “Belly Up: A Review of Federal Charter School Program Grants,” intentionally inflates the failures of Ohio’s charter sector, makes misleading performance comparisons, and falls short on providing comprehensive facts. The report reviews Ohio’s track record with the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant. Last year, Ohio was selected to win another CSP grant worth $71 million—money that is essential to help high-performing charter schools expand. The grant is currently on hold while federal officials review Ohio’s revised application, and its loss would deny Ohio’s high-quality charters much-needed resources.

“The CSP grant may represent the best way to improve Ohio’s charter sector, as it allows the state to replicate top performers and gives a competitive advantage to schools making a difference for students,” said Chad L. Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “We agree with Know Your Charter on at least one thing: federal grant dollars should be spent on replicating success. If we don’t—and that’s what will happen if Ohio loses the current grant—we can almost certainly count on Ohio’s charter sector being worse over the long haul.”

“Belly...

  1. One of State Auditor! Man’s superpowers, it appears, is the ability to create two news stories with a single press conference. Case in point: his announcement on Monday of the results of an attendance audit at charter and district schools. We told you briefly in that day’s clips about the findings, but his other point – an assertion that the Ohio Department of Education might not be the best-run agency in all of state government – got as much or more attention than the audit findings. Fiendishly clever. Here you can find the full video of the press conference in four pieces. A fifth piece here includes full commentary from our own Chad Aldis on both of State Auditor! Man’s truth bombs. Y’all know I love both Yost and Aldis, so take it from me with love: fish-eye lenses are not flattering. (Ohio Capital Blog, 5/23/16)
     
  2. Chad is also quoted in these stories reporting the auditor’s press conference. First up, Jeremy Kelley focuses on the part about ODE, although Chad is quoted only on the attendance audit findings. (Dayton Daily News, 5/23/16) Public radio reporter Andy Chow economically addressed both of the auditor’s topics in his
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NOTE: This is the introduction to Fordham Ohio's latest report—Pathway to Success: DECA prepares students for rigors of college, realities of life—researched and written by former Dayton Daily News editor and journalist Ellen Belcher. You can read the full report here. It is the first in a series of charter school student profiles.

Too much of what we hear about urban public schools in America is disheartening. A student’s zip code—whether she comes from poverty or economic privilege—often predicts her likelihood of educational (and later-life) success. Motivated by this unacceptable reality, some schools have worked relentlessly against the odds to deliver excellent educational opportunities to students no matter their background. Charter schools in particular have played a role in creating high-quality choices for urban students. Many are led and staffed by incredible visionaries who hold high expectations for all students and have made it their mission to ensure that more inner-city kids make it to (and through) college. When we hear about these schools, it behooves us to pay attention—to celebrate them, study them, and do our damnedest to support them. While there’s no silver bullet for fixing what ails urban public education, there are common undercurrents of

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  1. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (!) has been absent from these pages for a bit. And here’s why: He and his team have been preparing a report of their findings during an attendance audit of charter and district schools across the state. Seems like things are generally better than last year’s audit, but a number of problems persist, especially in the district-run hybrid “site-based” charters examined. This is just a preliminary report from The D. More to come later this week, I suspect. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/23/16)
     
  2. Yet more coverage of the Win-Win Agreement in central Ohio; specifically, what local parents in the affected areas think. Surprising to see who knows about the agreement and who does not. Developing story, as they say. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/23/16)
     
  3. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has a new superintendent. He is Chris Knight, moving from the same post in Toledo. A great choice for the fifth-largest diocesan school system in the country. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/20/16)
     
  4. Central Ohio’s rural-suburban districts reported smoother testing processes this year as compared to last year, both in online and paper-and-pencil modes. You might say they were “walking on AIR”. (Newark Advocate, 5/20/16)
     
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Earlier this week, the Ohio Department of Education announced a new award for schools that exceeded expectations for student growth, the “Momentum Award.” Any school or district earning straight As on the state’s value-added measures was eligible, assuming it had at least two value-added subgroups (an idea my colleague Aaron explored last year). One hundred and sixty-five of Ohio’s 4,200 schools earned the recognition in its inaugural round.[1] The state also recognized schools and districts earning all As on every report card measure—forty-six schools and two districts achieved this outstanding feat.

We’re most excited about the Momentum Award because it gives credit to schools that make significant contributions to student growth regardless of where students enter in terms of raw achievement. In addition to earning an overall A, winning schools made gains with at least two of the following subgroups: students with disabilities, students who are low-achieving, and gifted students—populations that are often underserved or overlooked.  

It’s been said time and time again that growth measures are essential to any state’s accountability system because they show the contribution a school makes to individual student learning and because they...

  1. There are no less than three pieces about charter schools in the print version of the Dispatch today. How many does it take to officially count as “obsessed”? First up is an editorial once again lauding the awesomeness that is United Schools Network. Sponsored by Fordham, USN schools make us proud, as Chad’s quote attests. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/20/16). Next is a piece discussing SB 3. You might recall SB 3 as the “education deregulation” bill intended to exempt high-performing districts and schools from some regulation as a reward for demonstrated awesomeness. It is the end of the legislative session prior to elections, and SB 3 was perhaps going to be stuffed like a Christmas stocking prior to quick passage. One with a lump of coal in it called a “similar students” measure, which would replace Ohio’s current value-added growth measure. Chad is on record, as is governor Kasich, as being against anything which would weaken accountability for student success. SB 3 and its amendments have been declared dead until at least the lame-duck post-election session. Whew. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/20/16) You might have noticed the reference to ECOT in that last piece, the online charter school behemoth which is
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