Ohio Gadfly Daily

Today on the Learning Matters blog (an affiliate of PBS) check out a discussion on teacher training programs and teacher quality, featuring New?Leaders for New Schools'?Jon Schnur, Allan Odden, Public Impact's Julie Kowal and Sharon Kebschull Barrett, and yours truly (among many others).

My piece is below in full but be sure to check out the full discussion online and leave your own comments.

?Know it when you see it?? Hardly.

We can't improve the quality of our nation's educators or teacher training programs without a serious dialogue around what good teaching looks like, especially for the most at-risk students for whom excellent teaching is most vital. Further, policies must be structured in ways that tease out the attributes and skills of excellent educators and identify and develop these in less effective teachers.

In Ohio, we frequently hear that it's just not possible to do this fairly. But experiences from other states and districts prove otherwise. We interviewed teachers evaluated under the District of Columbia's IMPACT system ? which measures hallmarks of strong instruction like checking for understanding, engaging students, and delivering content clearly. Overwhelmingly DC teachers believed that it correctly identified high and low performers as well as identified tangible ways they could improve.

We heard a similar theme when we interviewed Mike Miles, superintendent of Colorado's Harrison School District 2. HSD2 measures teacher quality according to curricular alignment, classroom management, student engagement, and student growth, among many indicators....

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This week the U.S. Department of Education awarded grants totaling $25 million to charter school networks that have been extremely successful in raising student achievement. The grants went to nine different charter networks across the country, all of which serve mostly low-income students. Arne Duncan made it clear why these charter networks deserved to be recognized when he said:

Several high-quality charter schools across the country are making an amazing difference in our children's lives, especially when charters in inner-city communities are performing as well, if not better, than their counterparts in much wealthier suburbs.

One recipient of the grant money was Breakthrough Charter Schools from Cleveland, Ohio. Breakthrough serves more than 1,400 K-8 students across six schools, of which 95 percent are minority and 80 percent are considered low-income. Despite what some would call challenging conditions, Breakthrough has managed to outperform the city of Cleveland and state average on every single test in every single grade.

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Source: Breakthrough Charter Schools

This is quite the accomplishment and one that should be applauded. ?The U.S Department of Education awarded Breakthrough $3,488,060 to open eight new schools and expand three schools that they already have in Cleveland. One Breakthrough school in particular, Citizens Academy, was also recently recognized for their commitment to accelerating student growth and preparing their students for college. Citizens Academy was named a National Blue Ribbon Schools of 2011....

Voters in Ohio support restrictions on collective bargaining (60% support restrictions), and strong majorities (62%) oppose service cuts as a means of keeping public employees at current salary and benefit levels. ??These findings from Douglas E. Schoen ??? pollster for President Bill Clinton ??? should encourage supporters of Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which seeks to weaken the collective-bargaining power of about 360,000 public workers in the Buckeye State. But, the same poll also found that a majority of Ohioans oppose the specific collective bargaining changes in the bill. This conflict in attitudes suggests Ohio's voters are confused about the connection between changing collective bargaining rules and controlling public employees' costs and benefit packages.

Whatever the outcome of the November 8th referendum (and both sides are investing millions in television ads to sway voters to their side), Schoen's survey findings make clear Ohioans, and Americans more generally, are fed-up with how elected officials run their states, with the generosity of public sector employee wages and benefits, and with the overall fiscal health of their states.

Two-in-three American voters express frustration with the direction their state economies are moving and say their state is on the ???wrong track.??? A plurality (48%) blame their elect officials for their state budget problems, and a plurality (47%) say cutting government spending is the best way to address the problem facing states, while 31% would require public employees to contribute more towards their benefits. Just 13% of voters think the best way forward is...

AYP, or ?adequate yearly progress,? has become one of the most derided parts of the No Child Left Behind Act and the accountability requirements it set in motion for states. Simply put, a school makes AYP if it is progressing adequately enough toward meeting NCLB's goal of having 100 percent of children proficient in key tested subjects by 2014, and fails to meet AYP if it's not. States set annual targets and have different methods for calculating whether schools are meeting these targets; Ohio, for example, is one of nine states under the federal ?Growth Model Pilot Project? allowed to incorporate its growth model into AYP calculations.

But meeting AYP is like trying to ride an escalator that speeds up with each step you take. As schools progress toward 2014 more and more are labeled as failing, in part because states set low targets in earlier years and then increasingly steeper ones in the years leading up to 2014. Even those school serving kids well have an increasingly difficult time of getting every child to proficiency. On a national level, Secretary Duncan predicted earlier this year that as many as 80+ percent of schools could fail to meet AYP. On a school level, among those that are already very high performing, good schools may inadvertently be punished (anecdotally at least, Fordham knows this to be true).

This has become a common meme in education circles. And it's intuitive, like the law of marginal returns and the...

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Continuing with our coverage of the 2010-11 report card data release, today we take a look at school performance and growth by subject and how it compares among charter and traditional district schools in Ohio's Big 8. The following charts compare the average performance of charter schools in the Big 8 to the average performance of traditional public schools. On the whole, the news for charter schools is encouraging; as a group, they outperformed traditional public schools in every state test except writing. To be sure, that comparison varies widely within each city.

Chart 1 takes a look at average proficiency rates in reading for charter and district schools. On average charter schools in the Big 8 outperformed their traditional school peers by 65 to 62 percent. Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton in particular had a higher percentage of their charter students outperforming district students. One of the most notable results comes from Fordham's hometown of Dayton where the pass rate for charter schools is 11 percentage points higher than the district's. The lowest performance in reading can be found in Canton where only 48 percent of their charter school students are proficient in reading, 27 percentage points away from the state average of 75 percent.?

CHART 1: URBAN CHARTER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE VS. OHIO BIG 8 DISTRICT PERFORMANCE IN READING, 2010-11

Chart 2 looks at charter and district school performance in math for...

For the last two weeks the Fordham Ohio team has been highlighting achievement trends in the Buckeye State's ?Big 8? districts (eight largest) and charter schools. At the same time, Ohio newspapers also have been making charter/district comparisons in their news stories (e.g., "Charters Suffer By Comparison, Slowly Catching up with School Districts" by Hannah News Service).

But in most instances, these charter/district comparisons aren't very useful (or accurate) as charter schools ? located primarily in Ohio's urban centers or other challenged districts  serve a student population that is far more disadvantaged than the statewide average. In other words, how useful is it to know that only 21 percent of charters  achieved a ranking of Effective, Excellent or Excellent with Distinction compared to 93 percent of district schools, when wealthier schools comprise the vast majority of those in the latter category? Not very.

For this reason, in our yearly achievement analysis we look at charter schools and compare them to the Big 8 districts (not the state average). With the help of our friends at Public Impact, who did this year's analysis, we also weighted the analysis such that if in 2010-11, 30 percent of charter students were in third grade, then third graders in district schools would be counted as 30 percent of the district average. Similarly, if 30 percent of charter students were in Akron, then Akron city district students would be counted as 30 percent of the district average as well.

When done...

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This week we took a look at what impact, if any, charter authorizer type (e.g., non-profit, educational service center, school district, or university) has on a school's academic performance, how high poverty urban schools perform, and why one Buckeye State charter school authorizer deserve to lose its right to sponsor schools. Today, with the continued help of our friends at Public Impact, we take a look at Ohio's E-School or Virtual School academic performance. These schools provide full-time instruction to students online. Twenty-seven charter e-schools operated in Ohio in 2010-11 and served nearly 30,000 students who hail from all but three (of 610) districts across the state. E-school students account for nearly one-third of Ohio's charter school students.

Chart 1 compares the distribution of Performance Index Scores of e-school charters in Ohio to the distribution for traditional schools in districts enrolling e-students. (Performance Index is a measure of student achievement across all tested subjects and grades; the score ranges from 0-120, with 100 being the state goal for all schools.) As can be seen from the graph below, Ohio's e-schools trailed behind traditional schools in districts where e-school students are enrolled. Eighty-five percent of e-schools received a PI score between 65 and 85, while 77 percent of traditional schools received a PI score between 90 and 105. The highest PI score for an e-school- 92- was also significantly lower than the highest score for a traditional school- 116.

Chart 1: Distribution of Performance Index...

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As part of our ongoing look at 2010-11 Ohio school performance data, earlier this week Jamie shared an analysis showing that charter authorizer type (e.g., non-profit, educational service center, district, or university) didn't correlate to school quality. ??While this may be true about authorizer type, a deeper look at the data for individual authorizer performance illustrates that not all authorizers are equal. Specifically, there are outliers, and the troubled Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center jumps out as a true underachiever worthy of being booted from the authorizer business for good.

We took a closer look at the 10 largest authorizers (aka ???sponsors??? in the Buckeye State) in Ohio by the number of students enrolled in their sponsored schools. Taken together these authorizers sponsor about two-thirds of the state's 339 charters, and enroll about 80 percent of all Ohio charter students. In all three analyses (looking at academic ratings A-F, value-added growth, and Performance Index score) there is some fluctuation between authorizers that do well and those that struggle. For example, the Fordham Foundation stands out in Graph I because it has no schools rated in Academic Emergency, but in graph II Fordham's value-added results are lacking.

For Ashe, however, there is no fluctuation as its results are poor no matter how you cut it. ??This is backed up by the fact that Ashe has seen more of its schools closed automatically under the state's charter school academic ???death penalty??? than any other sponsor.

Graph...

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On Monday we looked at charter school performance by authorizer type and structure and learned that neither seems to matter much when it comes to school quality. Today, with the continued help of our friends at Public Impact, we take a look at high-poverty schools in Ohio's Big 8 urban areas to see if charter or district schools demonstrated better success with this student population. For the purpose of this analysis ?high-poverty? is defined as schools serving a student population where at least 75 percent of students qualify as economically disadvantaged.

Chart 1 compares the distribution of Performance Index scores of high-poverty charters in the Big 8 to the distribution for high-poverty district schools in those cities. ?A greater percentage of charter schools than district schools have performance index scores of 100 or better (PI ranges from 0-120), and 2.9 percent of charters met or exceed the state goal of a PI score of 100, compared to 0.5 percent of district schools. High-poverty charter schools also had a higher percentage of schools with a PI score of 60 or below (7.6 percent), compared to only 3.9 percent of district schools. Despite the overrepresentation at both ends of the performance spectrum, high-poverty charters overall earned an average PI score of 78.2 compared to 77.3 for high-poverty district schools.

Chart 1: Distribution of Performance Index Scores, High-Poverty Ohio 8 Charter Schools vs. High-Poverty Ohio 8 District Schools, 2010-11

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Getting academic standards right ??? specifying the knowledge and skills that teachers should teach and students should learn ??? is at the heart of just about everything that matters in K-12 education. Standards wield significant influence over what happens inside classrooms and high-quality academic standards that are the same across state lines offer the best shot at ensuring quality education for all American students, whether they live in Massachusetts, Oregon, or Ohio.

Ohio committed itself to embracing higher standards that cross state lines when it joined 45 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting the Common Core standards in math and English language arts (ELA) in June 2010. These standards, crafted by experts and practitioners convened by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are more rigorous than Ohio's current ones. In Fordham's 2010 analysis of state academic standards, outside expert reviewers found that Ohio's ELA and math standards both earned an undistinguished C, while the Common Core standards in ELA and math are rated B+ and A ??? respectively.

The Common Core standards as promulgated appear deeper, more specific, and more cogent than most state academic standards, including Ohio's. They are well grounded in what students will need in order to be successful in college and in a career. In the language of current reform efforts, the K-12 common core standards will better ensure that students are college and career ready....

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