Ohio Gadfly Daily

Community stakeholders in Cincinnati – including philanthropy, education, and more – have formed a coalition whose goal is to transform education outcomes for students in the Queen City by creating an ecosystem of high-performing schools accessible to all children.

The nascent non-profit organization is called The Cincinnati Schools Accelerator, and they are looking for a dynamic leader who believes in the mission of attracting and growing proven school models – regardless of type – and building the talent pipeline needed to fuel a local system of high-performing schools. 

To learn more about the Cincinnati Schools Accelerator organization and to apply for the CEO position, click here. Application deadline is March 25, 2015.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference for families in Cincinnati and Ohio Gadfly applauds the efforts.

Not much education news out there today. And what there is appears to be an extended “more dollars”/“lower percentage” argument about school funding proposals between Democratic legislators and staffers working for the Republican governor. There is a chart and a graph.  Enjoy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
 

RESEARCH BITES: LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS AND SCIENCE

The chart below shows the 2013-14 proficiency rates for low-income African American students in Ohio. The achievement gap between low-income African American students and white students is most pronounced in science (45 percentage point gap) when compared to math (33 points) and reading (21 points). The data shown on this chart should give us reason to consider how we can dramatically improve the scientific knowledge of low-income African American students. (Worth noting is that the highest-wage jobs today are for college graduates in engineering and technological majors.) There are some instances of science and industry helping low-income, predominately minority schools (see here and here). More investments like these need to be made.

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  1. In case you missed it on Twitter, Chad testified in favor of HB2 in front of the House Education Committee yesterday, along with several other witnesses. You can find thorough coverage from Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch. Some good questions from legislators on the important subject of charter law reform. They are clearly engaged on the issue. Chad’s full written testimony is here, if you’re so inclined.
     
  2. We haven’t been talking too much about Common Core lately. To redress that imbalance, here is an interesting and detailed look at how teachers in high-flying Hudson Schools have implemented the standards. Probably a text-book example of the fact that no matter how “common” the standards might be, the implementation – and the implications for student success – is as local as the four walls of every individual classroom. (Hudson Hub Times)
     
  3. One of the reasons why the standards themselves have not been in the news as much lately is that much of the media focus has been on testing – the first statewide test-drive of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments is upon us. In the piece from Hudson above, teachers lament the long lag time in receiving scores from PARCC the first time around. As we told you yesterday, there are new “safe harbor” provisions for PARCC takers in the works, and bills to strictly limit the amount of time spent on testing. And then there’s the whole “let’s just stop all testing” rhetoric. I think
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  1. Editors in Cleveland have changed their tune a bit after living with the governor’s K-12 budget proposals for a week. They opine that the new formula still “makes some sense” as they understand it, but say that help for poorer districts “should not come at the expense of often struggling suburban districts that are just climbing out of the Great Recession.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Editors in Toledo are opining from the same hymnal as those in Cleveland re: the governor’s proposed funding formula changes. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Elyria Schools’ superintendent has spoken up in support of his “rock star” teacher, who as we told you yesterday is leaving teaching, citing standardized testing and Common Core as the reason. Paul Rigda says, “When you have great teachers, hard-working teachers, nationally board-certified teachers questioning the legitimacy of these tests, then there may be some problems.” He goes on to cite the state supe’s recent report on testing as a good place to start the high level conversations that he says need to happen. (NorthCoast Now)
     
  4. In blink-and-you-missed-it action, the House Education Committee yesterday recommended the “PARCC test safe harbor” HB 7 to the full House. There could be a vote as early as today, even though as a number of commentators in the piece note, the bill’s provisions are “largely symbolic”. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. The state board of education yesterday got a preview of what “education deregulation” might look like – that is, what
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Thank you Chairman Hayes, Vice Chair Brenner, Ranking Member Fedor, and members of the House Education Committee, for allowing me to testify in support of House Bill 2.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization with offices in Columbus and Dayton. Worth noting given the subject matter of HB 2, Fordham’s Dayton office is also a charter school sponsor.

I’d like to start by commending the House for taking a leadership role on the issue of charter school reform. Despite bipartisan support for charter schools in much of the nation, they remain a deeply divisive issue in Ohio. My hope is that this bill could start to change that. Early reaction to the bill suggests that bipartisan support is possible. This would be a significant step forward as we work to ensure students are being well served regardless of the type of school that they attend.

Fordham has long focused on the need to improve accountability and performance in all Ohio schools. Last year, seeing an onslaught of troubling stories about charter schools, we commissioned research to learn more about the problems that the charter sector was facing.

Getting to the bottom of the issue was important to us because Fordham has long been a supporter of school choice—including charter schools. We believe that it’s critical for parents to have a variety of high quality educational choices.

Our research...

  1. A “rock star teacher” in Elyria says she is leaving the profession at the end of this year because her “special education students are suffering under the new system based on Common Core standards and more rigorous assessments.” (NorthCoast Now)
     
  2. Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost wants to make sure state law explicitly forbids felons from serving on charter school boards after routine audits of two schools turned up individuals with felony convictions on their boards. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Madison Schools in Lake County voted to continue outsourcing a large chunk of its transportation services, approving a new five-year contract with its current vendor. Local union reps and another private company also submitted proposals, but there were issues with both of those bids, detailed here. Hopefully this will be the end of it for the next five years. I say that because the original privatization effort ended up in court back in 2009. You can probably guess why. (Willoughby News-Herald)
     
  4. It is often said that without parental involvement, schools can only do so much to help children, especially children whose economic and family circumstances are less than ideal. That sentiment was articulated again recently in Youngstown, by the city’s mayor, in reaction to the local NAACP’s expression of no-confidence in the district’s leadership. This week, the leaders of two community groups, including district school parents and grandparents, are joining in. They say they can easily get parents into the buildings but that
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has produced a three-minute video looking at the purpose of assessments. With the ongoing debate about testing (even in this issue of Gadfly), it’s easy to forget why it’s important.

 

 

Ohio Gadfly readers won’t be surprised to know that we were thrilled to see Governor John Kasich strongly endorse charter school reforms that are similar to those we proposed in December—and have been seeking for years before that. We were particularly encouraged that governor wants to combine significantly stronger charter school oversight with greater funding for high-performing schools. His is exactly the right equation.

That’s because lax quality control and paltry funding are the underlying causes of Ohio’s relatively weak charter sector. Quality has lagged in large part because Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of each actor in the charter-governing system. It also treats charters as second-class public schools. They receive less overall taxpayer funding and garner scant facilities support.

Kasich’s solution is to tie greater consequences and incentives to the state’s new Quality Sponsor Practices Review (QSPR). In particular, he would empower the Ohio Department of Education to shut down sponsors (i.e., authorizers) that receive low ratings on the QSPR; meanwhile, he would make charters overseen by high-ranking sponsors (yes, including Fordham) eligible for $25 million in additional facilities funding.

So what is the QSPR? Developed over several years, it is based on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) Principles & Standards—widely considered the gold standard for authorizing practices. It has three components:

  • Academic performance of a sponsor’s schools
  • Compliance with applicable laws and rules
  • Adherence to quality sponsoring practices prescribed by the department (and
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Like Moses in the wilderness, state policymakers have to cope with incessant grumbling—in their case over standardized testing. Last year, Ohio legislators compromised on testing and accountability, including delaying the implementation of Ohio’s new school report cards, waiving the consequences for poor performance in the 2014–15 school year, ditching the Algebra II end-of-course exam, and tweaking the teacher evaluation system by allowing schools to reduce the weight of the test-based accountability measure.

As the new General Assembly gears up in 2015, lawmakers will face even greater pressure to water down testing and accountability. Already, two high-priority bills have been introduced with provisions that, if passed, would further weaken Ohio’s new testing and accountability framework. The first provision is a test-time cap; the second is a delay on the stakes associated with Ohio’s new high school tests. Both provisions, while politically popular and seemingly insignificant, are flawed and should be rejected.

Test-time caps

Senate Bill 3 is designed to identify areas ripe for deregulation in education—a needed and overdue endeavor. Some of the recommendations in the bill are sound, like eliminating the needless third-grade test given in the fall. But one recommendation is a hard cap on testing time: No more than 2 percent of a student’s school year can be dedicated to state and district standardized tests, and less than 1 percent can be used to prepare for them (i.e., time taken on “practice” or “diagnostic” tests). If passed, the cap would apply starting in...

The 2015 legislative session is gearing up, and Common Core will again feature prominently in the education agenda. Longtime Core opponent Representative Andy Thompson told the Plain Dealer to "count on" another repeal attempt, and new House education committee chair Bill Hayes has said that he expects Common Core to continue to be a source of debate. Hayes has acknowledged the importance of high standards and local control and has pledged to “have an open ear and give everyone a fair hearing.” While the prospect of even more testimony may leave many wary of another months-long circus, continued civil discourse—from both sides of an issue—is what makes our democracy work. (It’s also a Common Core standard, for the record.)

So before the debate begins anew, let’s revisit what we learned from the many hours of testimony, media coverage, and debate that occurred in 2014.

Lesson One: There is widespread support for Common Core

It’s no secret that Common Core support in Ohio has been diverse and widespread from the start. Various newspapers have spotlighted Ohioans who support Common Core. The business community has been a staunch supporter. The governor has voiced his support. Educators have discussed how they are successfully implementing Common Core in their classrooms over and over and over and over and over  again. The lesson from hours of testimony at repeal hearings was clear: Plenty of Ohioans ...

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