Ohio Gadfly Daily

Nuggets of wisdom are often found in unexpected places. I’ve found wisdom—not in columns of the Acropolis, in the stones of Sinai, or in the lecture halls of the Sorbonne. No, instead it’s hidden in the recesses of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

The age-old debate about what kids should be reading attracted my attention this week. As my colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee observed last week, two camps seem to have emerged in the “what kids should read” debate: those who want more literary fiction in the classroom and those who want more informational non-fiction.

But should what kids read supersede the question of why kids read? ODE’s English language arts’ 11th and 12thgrade model curricula elegantly answers this question:

“They [students] must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, challenging texts and develop the skill, concentration and stamina [emphasis in original] to read these texts independently and proficiently.”[1]

Notice that ODE doesn’t prescribe book lists or even specific genres to read—there’s no specification of what kids read—so long as the texts are of “high-quality.”[2] Even more importantly, notice the statement’s purpose clause: “to develop the skill, concentration, and stamina” of the student.

The purpose clause in ODE’s statement on reading has significance for why we teach reading, and secondarily, has implications for how we teach reading.

Let me illustrate with an anecdote. I was recently surprised to learn that the med school entrance exam is...

Education and politics go hand and glove. When it comes to education the question isn’t just whether or not a policy is right or smart, but whether it can politically fly. The debates swirling around Senate Bill 316 – part of Governor Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review – is an interesting case study in that it seeks bold policy change but collides with political calculations and complications.

In late March, Governor Kasich introduced his education proposals and major components included:

  • A greatly strengthened third-grade reading guarantee—Ohio has had a version of this guarantee on the books for years, but it has gone largely unenforced;[1]
  • An A-F school-rating system that more accurately reflects schools’ true performance and is more straight-forward than the current one (“continuous improvement”, etc.);
  • Increased charter-school accountability, including for drop-out recovery schools, which have been outside the state accountability system for more than a decade, and changes to how sponsors are ranked;
  • Increased reporting and tracking of student data, including tracking public preschool students through K-12, and reporting the performance of graduates of the state’s teacher preparation programs;
  • Required development of digital and blended learning policies at the state level;
  • Increased accountability for publicly-funded preschool and child-care programs; and
  • Necessary tweaks to the teacher-evaluation legislation passed last year, and various other small clean-ups to state education law.

After the painful referendum defeat borne by the governor and his fellow Republicans per Senate Bill 5 – the collective bargaining reform bill – in November 2011, reformers were pleasantly...

In addition to the policy and advocacy work that we do at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, our sister organization the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation sponsors eight charter schools in Ohio. In August Fordham will sponsor three new start-ups (one each in Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland). Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA) opened in 2008, and it has now launched the newly-formed United Schools Network, a nonprofit charter management organization (CMO). United Schools Network will consolidate the operations of CCA and launch the new 6-8 Columbus Collegiate Academy- West Campus.

To learn more about all this we sat down with CCA founder Andrew Boy to hear first-hand what he hopes to achieve through the United Schools Network. 

Q. Why did you decide to form the United Schools Network (USN)?

A. While launching a high-performing, high-need, school in Columbus is challenging and satisfying, we want to do more. We recognize that we have a unique opportunity to do so. If CCA can create excellence in our flagship school, then there is no reason we cannot similarly create excellent schools in other areas of Columbus and in other parts of the Midwest. It is in pursuit of this goal that we have created an organization to support the growth and replication of schools based on the United Schools Network model. 

Q. What will be the main function of USN?

A.  A “home office,” which will house the Chief Executive and other key senior leaders of the organization, will centrally direct USN operations....

For more than 20 years Teach for America has been working to help teach children in some of America’s toughest schools. Yet, this school year will be the first time TFA will have teachers in the Buckeye State. Last fall Governor Kasich signed legislation that paved the way for TFA to place 90 teachers in 14 schools in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky over the next three years. Partner districts and schools include Cincinnati Public Schools, Covington Independent Public in northern Kentucky and Dayton-area charter schools (two sponsored by Fordham).

TFA officially launched in Southwest Ohio last week when over 30 corps members spent the week in Cincinnati and Dayton visiting schools and getting to know the communities they will be working with. Corps members had the opportunity to meet with parents, teachers, and school leaders from the neighborhoods where their students reside.

As part of their Dayton visit corps members met with area students and local high school and university educators. They also participated in a half-day discussion hosted by Ben Lindy (TFA Executive Director) that  took place at Dayton View Academy– one of the charter schools that corps member will be working in this fall. The meeting brought together well respected and knowledgeable members of the Dayton community for a discussion on Dayton’s history, education challenges the city faces, and how TFA can be a driving force in change that is so badly needed. Community leaders such as Dr. Tom Lasley, former Dean of Education at The University...

I’ve seen the future of blended learning and it is exciting. The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) organized visits to three cutting edge schools and Silicon Valley-based education entrepreneurs Junyo and Education Elements. The CEE-Trust contingent included 17 educators, new school developers and philanthropists from New Orleans, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Denver, Kansas City, Rochester, NY and Nashville.

The group visited the following charter schools:

  • Aspire Eres Academy in Oakland. Eres operator is Aspire Public Schools. Aspire is one of the nation’s top-performing charter school operators and serves about 12,000 K-12 students in 34 schools across California. Aspire Eres is Aspire’s first foray into blended learning. The Eres Academy serves about 220 students in grades K-8. The student population is 98 percent Hispanic, 97 percent free and reduced-price lunch and 60 percent English Language Learners.
  • Downtown College Prep (DCP) in San Jose. DCP opened its first building in 2000 and currently operates a high school and a middle school serving grades 6-7. The flagship high school serves about 400 students, while the DCP Alum Rock middle school is currently serving about 180 students. The middle school will serve grades 6-8 in 2012-13 and expects 300 students at full capacity. Students at DCP Alum Rock spend 90 minutes a day in a learning lab run by the school’s blended learning wizard Greg Klein. Klein and his team have developed a blended learning program that provides students with a variety of offerings including Khan Academy (math), Teen Biz/Achieve3000 (ELA), MangaHigh
  • ...

The U.S. Department of Education recently granted Ohio relief from No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) most awkward mandates. To receive this relief, Ohio was required to present a school accountability plan that would put its kids on a college- and career-ready path. Ohio’s NCLB waiver request proposes a revamped accountability system based on three indicators of school quality: (1) student achievement, (2) student growth, and (3) achievement gap closure. The three indicator scores (reported as percentages) are summed and averaged—each given equal weight—to determine a school’s overall performance.[1]

The proposed system’s third indicator, gap closure, is a newly-conceived measure of how well nationally-defined student subgroups (e.g., racial, economically disadvantaged, special education, English language learners) perform on standardized tests compared to a state-designated baseline test score—an annual measureable objective (AMO). Any school building with more than 30 students in a subgroup must report its subgroup scores.

To gauge how well schools would perform under the proposed accountability system, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) simulated schools’ performance using 2010-11 data. ODE’s simulated results, however, put into question the validity of the gap closure indicator, as currently designed.

The following charts show ODE’s simulated results. Consider the distribution of Ohio school buildings’ overall rating (Figure 1). The vertical axis indicates the number of school buildings that received a certain rating, and the horizontal axis shows the rating scale, which is expressed as a percentage. We observe that most school ratings fall within a relatively narrow band between 75 and 95...

It is the aim of the Common Core (see above) that all students will be college- or career-ready by the time they graduate from high school. One organization working to make this goal a reality in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton is Learn to Earn Dayton. Last week the Fordham Institute teamed up with Learn to Earn Dayton to host a community conversation, “What does the Common Core Mean for Dayton and its Human Capital Development Strategies?”

The event brought together leaders from the business and education community to discuss the future of Dayton and the potential impact the Common Core can have on the city. The event featured Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction; Mike Cohen, president of Achieve; Ellen Belcher, author of our recent report on Common Core implementation; and David Ponitz, president emeritus of Sinclair Community College and chairman of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.



 Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction and Mike Cohen, president of Achieve

Superintendent Heffner explained that the Common Core standards will help Ohio move from the minimum toward a path that allows kids to be college and career ready. He acknowledged that the transition will be rough and that it will scare some people but in the end people will rise to the occasion, and kids will be asked to do more and better. Mike Cohen, one of the national leaders...

In a turn of events that reflects today’s economic and fiscal realities, the Reynoldsburg City Schools’ board of education approved an open enrollment policy last week. The decision is noteworthy as Reynoldsburg will become the first of Columbus’ suburban public districts to adopt an open enrollment policy.

Under Ohio’s open enrollment policy, public school districts can voluntarily admit students from other districts, at no cost to the student. Districts throughout the state have generally adopted open enrollment; nearly eighty percent of Ohio’s 664 public schools districts participate in open enrollment according to the Ohio Department of Education. However, few open enrollment districts are located near Ohio’s metropolitan areas, a fact shown in the chart below.

Figure: Number of districts adopting open enrollment by Ohio metro area, 2011-12

Source: Ohio Department of Education. Note: District count is based on the county in which the major city is located.

A district of nearly 6,000 students, Reynoldsburg City Schools serves the middle-class, eastern suburbs of Columbus. The district maintains an “excellent” rating from the state (its second-highest rating), and around eighty to ninety percent of its students reach proficiency in math and reading every year. Open enrollment risks these sterling academic marks. Due to Reynoldsburg’s proximity to Columbus City Schools, the district may absorb lower-caliber students from disadvantaged parts...

Fordham’s latest publication "Future Shock: Early Common Core Implementation Lessons from Ohio" reports Ohio’s progress in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Fordham selected award-winning journalist Ellen Belcher to interview fifteen educators to elicit on-the-ground responses about how well the Common Core is being implemented. We encourage you to read the entire report, which can be downloaded here. But to whet your appetite, we provide here a short summary and a few quotes that illustrate the unifying themes of this report.

Adopted by the Buckeye State in 2010 and to be implemented starting in 2014-15, CCSS establishes a framework for what K-12 students across the country are expected to learn. For many students, CCSS will raise their standard of learning, and our interviewees universally champion these higher standards. The transition to the more demanding standards also concerns educators, who worry about anything from training teachers to online assessments to purchasing textbooks. Kimbre Lange, an Oakwood City Schools teacher, sums up educators’ optimism for the Core but peppered with caution: "We all get the big picture, but the devil is in the details."

Buy-In for the Core

Greater Depth in Core Standards

"The horror of having too much to teach is less (under the Common Core)." Steve Dackin, Reynoldsburg City Schools

"Teachers have confidence in the Core. They believe that less is more." Eric Gordon, Cleveland Metropolitan School District

"I’m very inspired. Finally we’re being allowed to do what we knew was right." Katie Hofmann, Cincinnati Public...

The era of the chalkboard is over. Laptops, SMART boards, Wikis, YouTube, and Gaming are in. Is this progress or just distraction? That was the topic of conversation among over 250 educators at Fordham’s “Digital Learning: The Future of Schooling?” event yesterday. (Please check out the video replay here.)

Ohio State Superintendent Stan Heffner opened the event by laying out the problematic mix of technology, education, and kids: “Kids spend their nights in high-tech bedrooms and spend their days in low-tech classrooms.” 

“Kids spend their nights in high-tech bedrooms and spend their days in low-tech classrooms."

The remainder of the conversation focused on how to harness kids’ aptitude in technology for effective educational practices.

Fordham – and our event partners, KnowledgeWorks and the Nord Family Foundation –assembled an elite group of digital learning experts and Ohio practitioners to explore best practices and policies. The event’s first panel consisted of four national experts (U.S. Department of Education’s Karen Cator, Public Impact’s Bryan Hassel, iNACOL’s Susan Patrick, and Getting Smart’s Tom Vander Ark), each of whom emphasized the promise and inevitability of digital learning in the classroom.

A few of their recommendations included:

  • Colleges of education should equip future teachers to leverage technology in their classrooms.
  • Schools should exploit technology to create a multi-faceted student assessment system rather than rely on a single-test assessment.
  • Schools should leverage technology to enable excellent teachers to reach more students through video-fed lessons.

The second panel included...