Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. So, yesterday we took a look at open enrollment in one part of Ohio from the perspective of the districts and seemed to conclude that it was “just business” – net “winner” districts are happy, net “losers” are not and it’s all about dollars. Well, today we catch up with another open enrollment story – one that focuses squarely on why students and parents participate in open enrollment and where the call of “it’s just business” did not fly. To refresh your memory: a “net winner” district in Northeast Ohio started feeling guilty about taking so much money from its neighbors and decided to trim the number of open enrollment seats it would fill in 2014-15 (I’m sure the green eye shades were out to work over those numbers), but as that number was well below the number of kids currently in the district from elsewhere, it seemed inevitable that they would have to kick some kids out. Despite assurances to the contrary, the district did just that, non-renewing nearly three dozen students who had been open enrolled and attending in the district for years. An extremely predictable stink arose and last week the school board was forced to retreat, reinstating all the kicked-out students who wanted to return, although honestly those parents and kids have got to wonder if they are really welcome there or if they are “just business”. (Willoughby News Herald)
  2. There’s not much play on this story outside of Columbus yet, but
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Students who cannot read early in life are barreling toward dropping out, adult illiteracy, and perhaps the welfare rolls. Someone has to intervene in these young lives—and the earlier, the better. Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee requires schools to take early action, including retaining youngsters who do not pass their standardized reading exam. This isn’t punitive, as some critics claim, or unnecessarily harmful to kids. Rather, such interventions could be the force that knocks these kids off the dreaded “school-to-prison pipeline.”

And they’re sorely needed, as witnessed by the recently released data revealing that more than 16,000 Buckeye third graders are in serious jeopardy of not entering fourth grade, as a result of failing their reading exams. Many of these children are from Ohio’s poorer areas (over one-quarter of them live in the “Big Eight” urban districts), but thousands more reside in middle-class communities. These youngsters did not earn the minimum score on their reading exam for either the Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 rounds of testing.[1] Now they have one last chance—if they want it—to take the state’s assessment this summer or to pass an alternative one.

The fact that 10 percent of Ohio’s third graders need heavy-duty summer remediation or will probably have to repeat third grade—and that hundreds more barely passed—should give us pause. Granted, many schools are struggling valiantly to help young readers, and hats off to Ohio’s educators for upping their attention on early literacy.

But...

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Greg Harris

In our last Ohio Gadfly, we analyzed recent changes to Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and suggested ways it could be improved. This guest commentary by Greg Harris, Ohio State Director of StudentsFirst, emphasizes the critical importance of evaluations.

Ohio’s new Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) is a significant step forward in improving the quality of instruction for our K–12 students. For the first time, teachers will be evaluated, at least in part, on their impact on student learning gains. (Traditionally, teachers have been evaluated only through observation.) OTES also elevates the role of principals by having them play a more active role in observing and developing their teachers—hence, reconnecting them to classrooms and making teacher quality their priority. In creating such a process, Ohio has established a robust framework for identifying its strongest teachers, as well as spotting and improving the performance of its less effective teachers.

But with the sudden emergence and quick passage by the Senate of Senate Bill 229 in December 2013, OTES was unexpectedly put on trial only half way through its first year of implementation. The bill actually seemed reasonable at first glance. Its sponsors maintained that by exempting teachers rated in the top two categories (“Accomplished” or “Skilled”) from annual evaluation, schools could focus their energies on developing weaker teachers. The problem, however, is that under previous evaluation systems, the majority of Ohio teachers had been rated in the top two tiers. If this trend held true, SB 229...

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The recent repeal of the Common Core State Standards in Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma has given renewed the hopes of Ohio’s Common Core detractors. During the just-completed Mid Biennium Review (MBR) process, the legislature agreed to a number of compromises to address their concerns, but critics remain unsatisfied. This small but vocal minority is now agitating on behalf of a discharge petition for House Bill 237, which would repeal the state’s adoption of the Common Core.

A discharge petition is a little-used legislative tactic that, if the petition is signed by fifty House members, allows a bill that fails to get committee approval to move directly to the floor for consideration by the whole chamber. Supporters for HB 237 have, thanks to the leadership of Chairman Stebelton and other members, found little success in the Education Committee and have resorted to the discharge petition process.

It’s worth noting that even if the discharge petition is successful (i.e., if it gets fifty signatures and removes the bill from the Education Committee), HB 237 would still need to secure approval from the House, Senate, and governor to become law. Although these chances are slim, consider the potential consequences.

Consequence #1: If the Common Core standards are repealed, Ohio must find something to replace it. Shockingly, shortly after South Carolina chucked the Common Core, a state administrator admitted, “We don’t have time to do that [i.e., write new standards].” It seems like the Palmetto State will substitute...

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It’s a good-news-bad-news state of affairs for Ohio’s teacher-preparation programs. Let’s start with the good: the Buckeye State is the proud home to five of the nation’s best elementary and secondary programs, according to new rankings by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Ohio State’s graduate along with University of Dayton and Miami University’s undergraduate programs earned top-ten honors out of the 1,167 elementary-teacher programs that NCTQ examined. Meanwhile, among the 1,137 secondary-teacher programs, Miami University’s undergraduate and graduate programs earned top-ten recognition. On the other side of the coin, twenty Ohio programs—out of seventy-one in the state that NCTQ was able to rate—fell into the bottom half of NCTQ’s ratings. (Programs rated in the bottom half did not receive a numerical ranking.) Unfortunately, sixteen Ohio colleges refused to participate in the analysis. Caveat emptor: in Ohio, as elsewhere, we see that some programs provide a stellar training while others are mediocre or worse. Discerning employers—and college-goers—would be wise to consult this report when making their decisions.
 

SOURCE: Julie Greenberg, Kate Walsh, and Arthur McKee, 2014 Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2014).

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You’ve already read in the Ohio Education Gadfly what we think about the third-grade reading scores across Ohio. Around the state, journalists are trying to parse what’s worked and what hasn’t and what districts will do with the approximately 12 percent of third graders who are still at risk of being held back. Here’s a sampling of what the papers are saying:

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  1. Round 2 of Ohio’s Straight A Innovation Fund grants were awarded on Friday. You can check out a description of the final determination process here. (Gongwer Ohio) There were 37 projects awarded funding statewide and we'll be covering a number of them through the week I'm sure. First out of the gate is a list of Franklin County-specific winners, courtesy of the Big D. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. I think the headline pretty much says it all, but the story is entertaining nonetheless: “Anti-Charter Groups Crash Community School Info Session, Rail Against ECOT.” Yikes. It’s all-out war this summer in Ohio, methinks. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. In the above story, charter school opponents give lip-service to school quality being of issue to them, but it really is just about money – money following children from district schools to charters. Here is a more detailed version of that same issue around the topic of open enrollment in the Hancock County area. Bottom line: net financial “winner” districts are fine with the system; net financial “loser” districts are not. And it has very little to do with why the students are moving. In fact, most district officials don’t even seem to care why large numbers of their residents are opting to go somewhere else when given the chance – even when that “chance” requires waiting in very long lines. As the headline implies, it’s just business. Fascinating in-depth look. (Findlay Courier)
     
  4. Governor Kasich says that former NY schools chancellor Joel
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  1. Fordham's Chad Aldis appeared on a much more sedate radio segment earlier this week, returning to WHK to talk more about the Common Core. The audio finally is available. Check it out. (WHK-AM, Cleveland)
     
  2. It must be a Friday during summer break because the education news in thin on the ground today. NCTQ’s new report analyzing teacher prep programs in Ohio spoke well of the University of Dayton and Miami University, and the DDN wants you to know. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Remember that governor’s race we mentioned yesterday? Education came up again; this time dueling statements on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Says incumbent Kasich: “The whole point is not that some fail and some pass… It's that everybody gets the skills." Says challenger FitzGerald: “This week's test results reinforce that in order to ensure our children are reading at grade level by the third grade we must make a real investment in early childhood education and universal pre-K.” It’s going to be a long summer in Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Graduation season is over in most schools and districts in Ohio and we’ve talked about a couple of the more unusual news stories resulting. But this is by far the most interesting: 11 teenagers “graduated” from Children’s Services custody in Butler County this week. All of them graduated from high school as well, against gigantic odds. One young woman says: “I was told I was probably going to drop out of school
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  1. I missed this piece in yesterday’s barrage of clips on third grade reading scores around the state: Fordham’s Chad Aldis gets the last word on the subject of what the passage rate numbers mean in Gongwer’s report. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Perhaps, though, I was really distracted yesterday morning by this wild ride of a radio townhall on the Common Core, in which Chad took a central role as literally the only person to have any idea of what the Common Core actually was. At one point there were a dozen open mics, Chad was asked for the sixth time (dared, really) to explain what exactly Common Core was, and got nothing but bashing for doing it. Some comments worth listening out for: “If Common Core will make kids ‘career-ready’, why doesn’t it require students to learn how to read a tape measure?”; “I know algebra, but my kids won’t need that stuff. Why put it in there if they don’t need it?”; “They’re reinventing the alphabet.”; and the inevitable reference to Communist Russia. This is long but a completely eye-opening view of what happens when Common Core haters on both left and right – with zero real information – get a wide open mic and a willing victim. The Common Core portion of the program begins at the 68 minute mark. (WSOM-AM, Youngstown)
     
  3. As we have to remind ourselves around here sometimes, there’s a governor’s race going on in Ohio. Sometimes education even comes up. Democratic candidate
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  1. As we teased yesterday, third grade reading scores are all over the news across the state today. We start our coverage in Toledo, where the pass rate stands at 76.4% of third graders as of the spring tests. So far, no students have been exempted, officials say, and the district is using the impending summer reading test as a redoubt against “summer slide” for many more third grade students than would perhaps be involved in structured summer learning in previous years.  (Toledo Blade)
     
  2. In Dayton, there’s a lot of summer opportunities for third graders who still need to pass, but the article mainly focuses on what happens if students don't pass even after all that work/additional test opportunities. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. The story from Youngstown is fairly introspective. “There’s also awareness on the part of the students,” said YCS’s executive director of teaching and learning. “They’ve really taken this on and made it their own.” But, she says, “…I won’t be happy until all of our kids pass to fourth grade.” Indeed. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Finally, the PD has a whole series of articles from various suburban districts that are worth a look. The crux of the story in CMSD: predictability. As Patrick O’Donnell write: “Cleveland's results came back almost exactly as the district had predicted. The district had estimated in March that about 1,000 students would need extra help this summer to pass the test. The new OAA results show that 999 of
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