Ohio Gadfly Daily

The nineteenth edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report is out, and while Ohio outperforms over thirty states, the results show that there is still much work to be done. The 2015 report, which has a new evaluation system that focuses on outcomes rather than policies and processes, indicates that the nation as a whole declined from a C+ in 2013 (when grades were last given) to a C in 2015. Ohio also declined, moving from a B- in 2013 to a C in 2015. The report rates states’ quality along three key dimensions: Chances for Success, which takes into account indicators like family characteristics, high school graduation rates, and workforce opportunities; K–12 Achievement, which rates academic performance, performance changes over time, and poverty-based gaps (as measured by the NAEP assessments); and school finance, which includes measures of  funding equity across schools. Ohio’s overall score, which is the average of the three categories, was 75.8 out of 100 possible points, which earned a ranking of eighteenth in the nation. In the Chances for Success category, Ohio earned a B-. Most indicators in this category show that Ohio is close to the national average, including preschool enrollment (46.5 percent of...

In the past year, Ohio policymakers have turned their attention to strengthening vocational education. Rightly so; too many non-college-bound students exit high school without the skills to enter the workforce. Blue-collar businesses in Ohio, for example, continue to express concerns about the “skills gap”—the mismatch between the technical abilities they need and the actual skills of their workers. But retrofitting vocational education to meet the demands of today’s employers remains a work in progress. As Ohio schools retool vocational education, they should seek examples of those who have accomplished this very task, and a new paper from the Pioneer Institute provides five case studies of technical high schools in Massachusetts that are well worth reading. A common thread emerges: All of the schools are thriving with the support of their local businesses. These companies have advised the schools on program design (e.g., what skills and jobs merit emphasis), and they have driven fundraising efforts. A couple examples are worth highlighting. One technical school worked closely with advanced manufacturing companies in the area to raise half a million dollars to outfit the school with cutting-edge metal working machines. (Previously, the school had provided technical computer skills, but not actual...

James R. Delisle took aim at differentiated instruction (DI) in his commentary in the latest issue of Education Week, noting the challenge of making this nice-sounding idea work with the reality of many of today’s classrooms.

As our own Mike Petrilli wrote in 2011: “[T]he enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom” is the greatest challenge facing America’s schools. The implication is that those teachers seeing success with differentiated instruction—however few they may be—simply have less variation in learning levels among their students and, therefore, have less differentiation to do. (Oh, and that they have the right training, full understanding, endless diligence, and loads of time.)

So what’s the answer? Delisle wants to bring back ability grouping to fully replace DI. It is hard to deny  that America’s classrooms have changed greatly over the last few decades, so perhaps it’s time to toss out “one or the other” thinking and go for something new—a hybrid of sorts.

How about curriculum-based mastery instead? A content sequence with multiple check points along the way (yes, that’s testing). Master it, move on. Don’t master it, remediate until you do. In such a case,...

  1. Fordham’s two reports on charter schools in Ohio – released a month ago – are still resonating in media circles. Then Enquirer’s latest prognostication on policy initiatives likely to take center stage in 2015 includes charter school law reform, and notes Fordham’s reports as support. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Commentator Marilou Johanek is pessimistic that the fix to charter law will come as promised, despite the CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham reports. I think what she means is that she’s sure something will be done with regard to charter law in 2015, but probably not what she and the Blade are hoping for. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. In the only other news of relevance I could find today, it seems that the administration and the teachers union have something of a differing view of how things are going in Middletown schools these days. The union said a pretty emphatic no to the idea of allowing the district supe to retire and be rehired. Not because they oppose the practice – perish the thought – but because they paint a far less rosy picture of the state of the district than the supe does. (Middletown Journal News)
     

RESEARCH BITES...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill appeared on WCPN’s Sound of Ideas yesterday, as part of a panel talking about charter schools in Ohio. Great discussion with some important details and nuance presented. You can check out IdeaStream’s brief report on the story here. And you can get the full audio here. Big thanks to WCPN and host Mike McIntyre for doing a whole hour on this important topic and for having us join in.
     
  2. There’s no denying that charter schools are the biggest area of interest in education policy in Ohio at the moment. Editors in Columbus once again opine on the subject of charters today, giving kudos to the Ohio Department of Education for their tougher stance on the “recycling” of closed schools and the authorizers who, well, authorize such things. And then they call again upon the General Assembly to overhaul Ohio charter law. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about expansion of dual enrollment in Ohio the last couple of weeks. That is, high school students taking college courses for credit through various avenues. Officials at Dayton’s Sinclair Community College are celebrating a record number of high school students doing just that
  4. ...
  1. Editors in Cleveland opine strongly against retire-rehire/double-dipping among the ranks of superintendents in Ohio. Choice words they used: “shameless”, “ridiculous charade”, “pension jackpot”. Ouch.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Fourteen people have applied to fill a recently-vacated seat on Reynoldsburg City Schools’ board, including the guy who sued the district last year to force the schools to close until the teacher strike concluded. Nuts and bolts version here from ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News. (Of note, this is the same publication that famously used the phrase “scab firm” in a headline about district strike prep.) A more discerning version of the story was in the Dispatch yesterday, where the guy was actually asked about it and wrote, for the record, “While often times my disagreements with board policies are what get noticed in the community, it is unfortunate that my much more frequent agreements and positive support for our schools goes unnoticed.” Would be a fun job interview to sit in on…if there is one.
     
  3. This story on Middletown schools’ ongoing funding woes – property tax revenues are projected to be down $1.3 million over the next two years – seems innocuous enough. Property taxes are an issue
  4. ...
  1. Tired of reading about calls for fixes to Ohio’s charter school law? Me neither. Chad Aldis has a guest commentary in the Enquirer today on that very topic. “It is past time,” he says, “for Ohio's charter sector to leave its troubled past behind.” Yes indeed. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Akron are also still keen to opine on education fixes as well. They laud the leaders of the new 131st General Assembly for their verbal commitment to education this week but warn of similar previous rhetoric that went nowhere. Interestingly, they use their soapbox to urge legislators to utilize specific data and research to inform their work. I won’t spoil the surprise and let you read it yourself to see of whom they are speaking. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. Members of the Youngstown school board say they agree with an outside consultant’s recommendation that communication needs to be improved between the board and the district superintendent. Just not so much that they think it a good idea for the supe to attend all their meetings. Go figure. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. From the “haven’t we been down this road before?” file: A local church was the
  5. ...

Before Christmas, we gave you the rundown of all the media outlets that focused on charter quality and policy thanks to two Fordham-sponsored reports:  Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report on Charter School Performance in Ohio and Bellwether Education Partners’ The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio's Charter School Sector. The holidays are over now and we’re nearly a week into the new year and media outlets are still talking about the reports and largely concur on the need to improve Ohio’s charter sector. In case you missed the rash of editorials over the past two weeks, here’s a quick look at what they say:  

On Christmas Eve, Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared in the Columbus Dispatch with commentary about the relationship between bad law and bad charter schools. He focused first on the results from the CREDO report, which found that Ohio charter students, on average, lose an equivalent of 14 days of learning in reading and 43 days of learning in math relative to their district peers. Chad pointed out that while these numbers are bad in their own right, they are even more appalling when compared to charter...

  1. The 131st Ohio General Assembly kicked off its first session yesterday – mostly with housekeeping and welcoming activities. But the Senate president did set a bit of a tone in his opening remarks by calling for “education deregulation” in Ohio, urging his members to recognize the diverse nature of school districts when proposing sweeping education measures and asking, "Why do we hold everybody to the same structure?” Fascinating. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The Dayton Daily News reported on yesterday’s opening sessions in both the House and Senate.  Seems like both chambers are interested in tackling education issues, including the clarion call for charter law reform. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. The Beacon Journal’s series on racial diversity in schools continued yesterday with a piece about efforts in Akron schools and elsewhere to hire more minority teachers and what it means for students to have a teaching staff that attempts to mirror the growing diversity of the student body. Of particular note is the case of Akron’s Buchtel High School, whose principal has been given a dispensation by the local teacher’s union to hire directly rather than to accept transfer requests and merit assignments. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  1. The Big D promised us a look at ECOT – Ohio’s largest and oldest virtual school – and here it is. Aaron is quoted in this story, which notes some pluses of the statewide virtual model along with all of the usual minuses. But honestly, why does no one involved seem to want to know WHY so many students are choosing online education, despite some obvious quality issues? Until that question is asked and the myriad answers fully understood by folks on both sides, no improvement can possibly be made. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Lest we think the Dispatch is only about charter school hit pieces, here’s an editorial from the weekend where “the Columbus Plan” is reinvoked very positively. Many have already forgotten the Columbus Education Commission and its 55 recommendations – and with Mayor Coleman heading for the sunset, some serious mojo behind those recommendations will be lost – but the Big D has not. They note that some progress has been made on more than half of them, but that many of the biggest recommendations languish, mainly due to lack of funding. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of editorials, the Blade returns to discussion of the “5
  4. ...

Pages