Ohio Gadfly Daily

NOTE: The Ohio Gadfly Daily News is going on spring break for the rest of this week. Back on Monday with a full roundup. 

  1. Chad’s Ohio Gadfly piece this week on the state of play in Cleveland has drawn quite a bit of interest from Northeast Ohio. You can check him out talking about that very subject at StateImpact and hear the audio from IdeaStream here. (StateImpact Ohio/WCPN-FM Cleveland)
  2. A 24-year veteran teacher in Avon tells it like it is. She has seen many changes in students, curriculum, testing, everything. But her eye is on the prize all the time: “My hope for the future is that my students’ love of learning continues throughout their whole lives. It’s why I teach and it’s what Avon Schools are all about.” Fantastic. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
  3. There are two pieces in today’s Education Insider from the Dispatch. The first one is slightly interesting, but my concern is with the second one. A Columbus parent sued the district in regard to the well-publicized data scrubbing, alleging that the scrubbing - and subsequent change in school report card rating - resulted in his own child being unable to obtain a voucher. He got his first day in court…and lost. He has vowed to appeal. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. Ohio currently has a half dozen standalone (i.e. – non-district) STEM schools
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  1. Several folks have a big problem with changes to value-add calculations proposed in the education MBR bill which passed the House last week and now heads to the Senate. We couldn’t agree more, as we noted in this week’s Ohio Gadfly. (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. The MBR is also on the minds of folks in Cleveland; specifically, a provision that would extend EdChoice Scholarship eligibility to some Cleveland students for the first time under specific conditions. We’ll see if that one survives the Senate. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Budget forecasting in Akron is complicated by two factors: the state’s new counting methods, going into use next year, and the continued loss of students to vouchers/charters/etc. Still no one asking why the kids are leaving in the first place and what might be done to stop it. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. Very twisty story here regarding the impending closure of a charter school in Akron. White Hat/former White Hat/copywriting of names/moving from building to building/the impending Ohio Supreme Court case/etc. Why did it close? Very simple: not enough students to remain financially viable. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  5. The influence of the Beacon Journal is outsized these days in the Ohio ed reform world. This observation is reinforced by this editorial from the Salem News, a paper
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  1. We’ve heard a lot about parents opting their kids out of testing. In Columbus, that number is now up to two. Yes, two parents. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Two down, two to go. Governor Kasich has appointed a new member of the state board of education. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. “It is astonishing that we can predict so well in Kindergarten how well kids will be able to read in third grade.” So says a researcher from Ohio State University, sounding what might be a new salvo in the arguments about Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Fascinating (Dayton Daily News)
  4. This is a fascinating dig into data on enrollment changes in districts all around the larger central Ohio area. Open enrollment openings and closings are mooted as big motivators on the changes, but surely population fluctuation and the economy have got to play larges part here. Don’t they? (Columbus Dispatch)
  5. This story has more twists and turns than an O. Henry story. Less than a week after the approval of a use permit that would allow Horizon Science Academy to buy and move to the Toledo YMCA building, Toledo Public Schools has come out of left field to propose to locate not only a currently non-existent Head Start program to the Y building, but
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No one said it would be easy. Two years ago, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, along with the city’s business, philanthropic, and education leaders, came to Columbus and asked Governor Kasich and the General Assembly to help them with legislation to reform the city’s long-struggling school system. The result, the “Cleveland Plan,” has drawn attention from around the state and across the nation.

The effort held promise that it would allow Cleveland to emerge from the bottom of the national heap in student achievement. The summer legislative victory in Columbus was followed by a successful levy campaign in Fall 2012, and the school district was off to the races busily trying to implement the components of the plan.

Reform plans, if they’re actually going to work, change the way a school district does business—and as anyone who follows education reform knows, that’s hard to do. It should come as no surprise, then, that Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon’s implementation of the plan has come under fire. Let’s take a look at some of the most recent challenges.

Impatience

Rising expectations are essential for a struggling school district trying to improve its academic performance, but when the improvement plan requires additional local support from the community through a property-tax levy, those expectations extend beyond the schools and to every corner of the community. As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, test scores in Cleveland’s investment schools (the lowest-performing schools “targeted for extra attention for improvement”)...

Last week, I attended a forum at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, hosted by our friends at KidsOhio.org, which showcased efforts in the city of Columbus to meet the challenge of Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The district’s work thus far is impressive: multiple citywide family literacy events held over the last four months, recruitment of “literacy-buddy” volunteers for in-school service, extensive training for reading interventionists, and even mustering the support of school-bus drivers to encourage reading every day. Is all of this effort going to make every third grader pass the reading test before the start of fourth grade? No. Is it going to improve upon the 48 percent passing rate achieved in the district last fall? Yes—and when it does, one long-standing barrier to achievement in my hometown schools will be overcome for hundreds of children.

And as for the mighty Columbus Metropolitan Library, voted more than once the number-one library system of its size in the country? Well, they’re trying really hard. Panelist Alison Circle noted several times that she and her staff are “out of their comfort zone” in an effort of this type. Nevertheless, they should be applauded for supplying books, recruiting volunteers, and making sure that schools and families know their doors are open to all in support of this “all-hands-on-deck moment” in our community.

It is fitting that attendees seemed most impressed with the stories told—of Columbus superintendent Dan Good’s mother joining him at a family literacy event and...

The House Education Committee tucked two provisions into the Mid-Biennium Review bill that would alter the state’s calculation of student progress. They both relate to the value-added model (VAM), the state’s method for computing a school or district’s impact on student-learning progress over time.

Value added is a statistical model that uses student-level data, collected over time, to isolate the contribution of a school on learning. This calculation is a noble and necessary undertaking, given what research has shown, time and again, about the significant influence of out-of-school factors on students’ educational success (e.g., parents, tutoring, private art and music lessons, faith-based education, etc.).

If the objective is to gain a clearer view of the true effectiveness of a school—its educators and their approach to curriculum, behavior, scheduling, and so forth—we want to minimize the influence of the out-of-school factors. Increasing clarity to school performance applies both to high-wealth schools, which can skate by on the backs of upper-middle-class parents, and to low-wealth schools, which can be handicapped in an accountability system based on raw proficiency measures.

I believe—and yes, to a certain extent, based on faith—that the state is moving in the right direction with its approach to value added.[1] But in my view, the House is making two missteps in its proposed changes to VAM. The following describe the provisions and why the state legislature should remove them as the bill heads to the Senate.

Provision 1: Changes value added from...

Most of us are aware by now that Franklin Regional High School, near Pittsburgh, was recently the site of a terrible act of violence. That district also happens to be my home school. There, I had the good fortune to learn under the tutelage of many superb educators. The tragic consequences of the human condition struck home for me, as I’m sure they have for the families of Chardon, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and just last week for the parents and students of Liberty Elementary in Columbus. 

Yet I also caught a glimpse, through the news feeds, of humankind at its finest and bravest: Principal Sam King—a good man whom I remember from my high-school days—helping to disarm the assailant and young men and women casting themselves into harm’s way to save each other’s lives. The light of men shone through, even in the darkest moment. My prayers and best wishes go out to my alma mater.

We invite you to check out our new Ohio Gadfly daily news blog posts, rounding up the most relevant education news stories from around the state and serving them up with a side of Fordham-style commentary by yours truly.

Here’s a taste of what we were commenting on last week:

  • Fordham’s Chad Aldis had the best time ever on the radio yesterday morning, talking Common Core with two knowledgeable hosts and debating with Rep. Andy Thompson and Dr. Terrence Moore with their feisty assistance. It was great fun to listen to, and the comments underneath the post on the website are insightful as well. (IdeaStream/WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
  • Lots of newspapers around the state and into West Virginia today note that the education MBR bill passed the House yesterday and is headed on to the Senate, with lots to talk about for dropout recovery, charter-school accountability, voucher programs, and all the things we love. Here is the Dispatch's take on the bill. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Speaking of dropout recovery, here is a story in the continuing series about high-school dropouts in Ohio—a very personal one about a woman from Cleveland who actually dropped out of school in seventh grade due to early reading difficulties. She is now a mother of three and has learned to read at age 30. What a great story. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  • Budget cuts in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s 2014–15 budget have been reduced from $21M to $5M, and maximum cuts for the
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Elsewhere in this issue, I write at length about my take on last week’s event talking about Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee and what it means to students in Columbus. As you read, the mantra was “all hands on deck,” even while hosts and presenters and audience members alike betrayed a worrying language of “reading is hard” and “tests are icky” that could easily undo a ton of great work.

And it didn’t stop at the door of the event.

Case in point: the Columbus Dispatch’s coverage of this event, which comprised two subtly different stories by the same journalist.

So maybe this is just perception, or maybe I’m being too sensitive, but the messaging concerns me. This is an important effort that must succeed and must continue to succeed for year upon year....

  1. Fascinating discussion on the first proposal of a modernized education section of Ohio's Constitution. Among the proposals, removal of that favorite sacred cow: “thorough and efficient system”. Let the fireworks begin! (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. Yesterday’s clip barrage failed to note specifically that the "loophole" exempting students using vouchers from the provisions of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee  would be closed if the House-passed education MBR bill remains unchanged in the Senate. Most of the big players are singing from the same hymnal on this one, so expect it to go through. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. In what is likely a sign of things to come in Columbus, the Dispatch today reports on some identified data scrubbers in other districts – including two superintendents – who will lose their licenses forever over their part in data tampering. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. This is interesting: discussion of PARCC field testing in a Bowling Green-area vocational school. Technology was not a problem, difficulty of the test was remarked upon by kids and adults alike, the potential “hammering” of students with testing next year was remarked upon only by adults. (Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune)
  5. Community Learning Center advocates have descended on Cincinnati this week, discussing best practices to help schools fully support the students and families they serve. Yesterday’s guest commentary in
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