Ohio Gadfly Daily

Hearings on House Bill 597, the latest attempt to repeal Ohio’s New Learning Standards (which include the Common Core in math and English language arts), started August 18 and will continue this week. We’ve already discussed how similar HB 597 is to the Common Core. This should be a major issue for Common Core opponents—who should be mortified to find the fingerprints of Common Core all over their championed bill—but also for everyone else.  HB 597 doesn’t specifically demand much of Ohio’s to be developed standards, but what it does demand is already in the Common Core. That should leave most of us wondering why we’re even holding these hearings if what proponents want is already in place. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only problem with HB 597. Let’s take a look at some others.

The most troublesome aspect of the bill appears right at the beginning of the changes: It could all but end state oversight of public schools. The bill text reads: “no state funds shall be withheld from a school district or school for failure to adopt or use the state academic content standards or the state assessments.” Basically this means that even if the proponents of HB 597 get what they want, and Ohio goes through the grueling process of forcing teachers and students to abide by three sets of standards in four years, schools face no consequences if they choose to ignore those standards and their accompanying assessments. In other words, school districts...

  1. It’s a bit harder to be optimistic today than it was yesterday, since Reynoldsburg Schools has filed an unfair-labor complaint against the local teachers union. It may be tit-for-tat, but will that really help reach a successful conclusion to negotiations? (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. On a brighter note, first round Straight A Funds are already hard at work in 27 districts in Appalachia, providing additional paths to dual enrollment and college credit for high schoolers. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. State Superintendent Dick Ross speaks highly of the Straight A Fund in the article above and of the innovation it is fostering in schools across Ohio. Yesterday, Superintendent Ross was in Toledo to tout the early promise shown by the Third Grade Reading Guarantee as well, especially in combatting dropout. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Why yes, there is a statewide race for auditor going on in Ohio. Why do you ask? Probably because the two campaigns traded barbs over funding for charter schools yesterday. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  5. Speaking of politics and Youngstown, editors at the Vindy opine on the new legislative assault on Ohio’s New Learning Standards and mince no words. The effort is “fueled by politics” and HB597 should “die on the legislative vine”. Yowza. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  6. Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s student enrollment is down from the previous year, but by less than officials predicted. That’s likely good news, but definitely troubling is the fact that only 87% of students registered have so far showed up
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  1. I’m going to start today with some tiny rays of sunshine. The headline of this story gives you all the background: data scrubbing in Columbus City Schools has now been proven to have kept hundreds of children from being eligible for vouchers for the last several years. Wait, you say, that doesn’t sound like sunshine. What IS sunshine is that everyone – and I mean everyone – wants to fix this problem for families…if they can figure out how. “Whether you agree with vouchers or not, the fact is, it is law right now, and everyone should have equal access with the right criteria,” says Democratic state rep. Kevin Boyce. “That wasn’t the case, so folks were cheated out of it. I’d like to find a way to correct that.” This is a sea-change in attitude, putting students and families first and setting politics aside for just a few moments. I am hopeful that with bipartisan support from city hall to the school board to the statehouse, help can be found to get vouchers to families who should have had them all along. Fantastic. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. I am perhaps less optimistic that whoever allowed that “scab” headline to be published in the Reynoldsburg News last week has changed her or his tune, but I am happy to say that the most recent update on the story is both calmer and more thorough, noting clearly that some significant progress was made in previous negotiations between teachers and administration.
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  1. Chad and Fordham are namechecked in an editorial from Cleveland, opining on the status of CMSD’s academic and organizational improvement efforts and what is still to be done. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There is mention in that PD editorial of the district’s third grade reading results this year. Editors there, and in Columbus as well, raise concerns over the use of alternative tests to potentially boost passing rates. Honestly, it’s the editor’s final thought that resonates most with me: “Those strenuous efforts should be the new normal.” It’s more about the work ahead of those tests than the tests themselves. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We told you a couple of months ago about a plan to outsource the placement of substitute teachers as needed this year in Dayton City Schools. Perhaps it was just a negotiating tactic – who knows anymore? – but that plan has been shelved in favor of retaining the services of local union substitutes. There are some caveats, some strict new service goals that must be met, and dental insurance is out the window, but I’m sure everyone is happy with the situation. Hmmm…. Where’s the emoticon for “dripping sarcasm”? (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. Back in November during our first round of Common Core repeal hearings in Ohio, it was stated in testimony by CCSS opponents that “no one knows who their state school board member is”, despite the fact that every region of the state has to vote on one every four years.
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  1. Week One of hearings on the newest Common Core repeal bill in Ohio ended yesterday. Goodness me I’m tired. Here are some reactions to and coverage of Day Three. Just as hearings were starting yesterday, it was reported that the board of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District had voted the night before to support Common Core in Ohio and oppose HB597. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) Coverage in Columbus focused on concerns about standards and testing opt-out provisions in the bill. (Columbus Dispatch) As noted in the Dispatch article, committee members heard the first non-proponent testimony yesterday, in the form of “interested party” testimony from StudentsFirst. This seemed to open the door to some testy commentary from members both on and off the record. (Gongwer Ohio) Finally, the folks at Gongwer were aware of the Common Core polling results showing decreasing support for “Common Core” and this piece discusses these results in the light of testimony given so far. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Fordham’s good friend Tom Lasley of Learn to Earn Dayton penned this commentary in support of Common Core. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Yesterday, we told you that it seemed some encouraging news related to Reynoldsburg’s teacher contract negotiations was being kept on the down low, lost in the heated rhetoric and dramatic images being reported. This morning, I think I figured out why. Checking the Reynoldsburg News website at 9:00ish, I saw this headline: “Reynoldsburg board hires scab firm in case teachers strike”. It
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  1. Day Three of hearings on the newest Common Core repeal bill in Ohio has already begun. Here are some reactions to and coverage of Day Two, still with only proponent testimony on offer so far. Editors in Columbus opine once again in favor of Ohio’s New Learning Standards, citing Fordham and the mighty Jessica Poiner’s awesome “Ten things Common Core opponents don’t want you to know” piece. (Columbus Dispatch) Gongwer took the time yesterday to talk to the Chair of the House Education Committee, who has been through these wild hearings already and has been left out of this repeat performance, along with the Senate Education Committee Chair. (Gongwer Ohio) Gongwer also seems skeptical of the allegations made in testimony that teachers are afraid they’ll be fired if they speak out against Common Core. (Gongwer Ohio) Fears that intelligent design might be greenlighted in schools if Ohio’s New Learning Standards in science are replaced by the current repeal effort form the basis of two reports from big dailies (Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer) Finally, commentary from Cincinnati discusses the futility of continually moving the goalposts – a sports metaphor, I’m told – for teachers. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. In other news, Reynoldsburg City Schools’ board met yesterday and approved a contract with a “strike management firm”, just in case it comes to that. The crowd at the meeting was large and peacefully visible in support of teachers. However, if you dig down into this article,
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Hearings began this week for House Bill 597 (HB 597), the latest attempt to repeal Ohio’s New Learning Standards (which includes the Common Core in math and English language arts). The first of several days of proponent testimony began Monday. Sitting in on the hearings has offered me a chance to develop a better understanding of the opposition to the standards, and if it wasn’t clear to me before then it is now: These folks don’t want anything that even resembles the Common Core to be used in Ohio schools.

They could be in for a surprise then, because the language of HB 597 borrows, in some significant ways, from the Common Core. During testimony on the August 18 hearing, Rep. Andy Thompson explained that he wanted to avoid the “sleight of hand” he saw in Indiana, which infamously repealed Common Core only to replace it with standards that were remarkably similar. Judge for yourselves if Ohio’s lawmakers are proposing to break new ground in HB 597 or simply recycling.

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What House Bill 597 wants

What the Common

  1. Day Two of hearings on the newest Common Core repeal bill in Ohio has already begun. I predict diminishing coverage, but Day One was of interest all over the state. Coverage from Cleveland focuses on literature and science (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Coverage from Columbus focuses on support for the Common Core, noting some inconsistencies in proponent testimony (Columbus Dispatch). Coverage from Cincinnati focuses on the testimony given (Cincinnati Enquirer). Coverage from public radio in Kent focuses on teachers and their views. (WKSU-Radio, Kent). And coverage from Dayton focuses on the local angle, where they find much support for the standards among educators. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Back in the real world, school is starting up in Scioto County, and there is talk of some of the changes in procedure for schools across the state, especially attendance procedures and the change from instructional days to instructional hours. We’ve seen a few of these “back-to-school” pieces but this is one of the few that includes charter schools’ information as well. Especially good here, because the charter schools in question are sponsored by Fordham. Hope every student in Sciotoville has a great year! (Portsmouth Daily Times)
     
  3. A bit of a bumpy start to the year in Canal Winchester Schools yesterday – persistent mechanical issues kept a whopping 1/3 of their buses from passing inspection and therefore kept them off the road for the first day of school. Some quick borrowing of equipment from districts as
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David Figlio, a researcher at Northwestern University, recently released his seventh-annual evaluation of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The study uses scholarship students’ results on national assessments, like the Stanford Achievement or Iowa Test of Basic Skills, to examine whether they are making year-to-year gains. (Elsewhere in this issue, I review the study in greater detail.) The Sunshine State’s program, which enrolls nearly 60,000 students, is akin to Ohio’s EdChoice and Cleveland scholarship (a.k.a., “voucher”) programs.

One of the study’s findings was particularly striking: Private schools in Florida, especially Catholic ones, appear to have a relatively larger impact on scholarship students’ reading scores than math. Across all schools, Figlio found that voucher students made a 0.1 percentile gain in reading but posted a loss of -0.7 percentiles in math. The overall math-reading difference may or may not be trivial—there is no test of statistical significance across the subject areas. But larger differences in reading-to-math gains appear when gains are disaggregated, for example, by religious affiliation:[1] Consider the large annual gain in reading for voucher students attending a Catholic school (1.98 percentiles) versus the slight loss in math (-0.25). True, the larger reading gains don’t hold across all school types—non-religious schools seem to make a fairly big difference in math—but it does seem like many of Florida’s private schools are having greater success boosting reading scores.[2]

Table 1: Average reading and math gains of Florida scholarship students by...

There are three terms and phrases that I wish we could ban from the education sphere--terms that I feel are standing in the way of meaningful dialogue and the proper, productive focus of discussion.

1. “Our Kids”

Except in cases of “wards of the state,” children do not belong to school districts, charter schools, city governments, or state departments of education. Yet that term, “our kids,” can be found in quotes from school-district officials all over the media when discussing transportation, open enrollment, and school funding. “Our kids,” as used in these examples, is a language of possession and ownership, usually linked to money. It is at once patronizing and simplistic, reductive, and exclusive.

Even a benign use of “our kids” in this context is archaic and out of touch with reality; in fact, the ownership sentiment has been out of touch since open enrollment began in 1989, and the pace of change only accelerated from there. Today, nearly 120,000 children attend a charter school, and another 30,000 or so students attend a private school via a voucher. More than 70,000 students attend a school outside of their district of residence through interdistrict open enrollment. And countless others participate in intradistrict choice, early-college high school programs, and a burgeoning career-tech sector.

The “assigned” district feeder pattern that locks children into a predetermined sequence of schools that “owns” them and passes them along from building to building throughout their K–12 experience is virtually extinct. The sooner...

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