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GadflyA fierce school-choice debate rages in Alabama—but the threat to the Common Core standards has receded, for now. When it became clear that the Senate Education Committee would not approve a bill to revoke the Heart of Dixie’s commitment to the standards, the sponsor of the bill himself withdrew it from consideration. This is well and good. Now maybe they can get back to safeguarding the separation of powers—and implementing the Common Core.

South Dakota has the (dubious) honor of being the first state to explicitly authorize school employees to carry guns to work. State groups representing teachers and school boards expressed concern that the bill had been rushed to a vote, did not actually make schools safer, and ignored other approaches to safety, such as employing armed officers. In related news, a Texas school employee recently shot himself at a concealed-carry class for teachers.

Boston has approved a new school-assignment plan that reflects not just geography but also school quality—amounting to the greatest change in the way that the city assigns students in twenty-five years and “finally dismantling the remnants of the notorious [1970s] busing plan.” Mike Petrilli is optimistic; for his take, check out this week’s Education Gadfly Show podcast.

The opposition to KIPP DC’s plan to build a new high school is indicative of challenges that most charter schools face: Its future neighbors...

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Special-education funding is a thorny landscape, within which lie sundry footpaths whereby dollars are allocated via intersecting trails of state, local, and federal statutes and regulations. More difficult still is that few states offer trail maps for this complex terrain. Data are cumbersome; evaluations of program effectiveness are rarely undertaken. This is what makes this account from Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor so refreshing. The mixed-methods report explains the characteristics and costs of special education in the Gopher State, as well as the practical effects of the state’s special-ed requirements—and offers recommendations for the state legislature on how to lower special-education costs and streamline compliance regulations. In Minnesota, for example, the number of special-education students increased 11 percent between 1999–2000 and 2010–11, and spending on this group bumped up 22 percent (this while overall student enrollment dropped 3 percent). According to district leaders, this has meant that “school districts have had to divert a substantial portion of general education dollars and local operating levies to pay for special education expenditures.” The report offers the legislature a number of suggestions for how to counteract these trends. For example: Supply districts with comparative data on different staffing patterns and their costs. As special-education costs rise (even as disability identification in the nation continues to decline), more such mapping and bushwhacking must be done. Expect more from Fordham on this front in the upcoming months.

SOURCE: James Nobles, Jody Hauer, Sarah Roberts Delacueva, and Jodi Munson Rodriguez, Evaluation Report:...

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With findings reminiscent of those from the Gates Foundation’s recent MET study or Chetty’s teacher-effectiveness research, this CALDER paper widens an already well-worn trail. Using a comprehensive, five-year dataset of student-test scores for beginning teachers in New York City, the authors find that early value-added results (though imperfect) are strong predictors of educators’ long-term effectiveness and that relative teacher performance (based on student test scores) remains fairly constant. Among math teachers whose performance was in the lowest quintile after their first two years on the job, 62 percent still performed in the bottom two quintiles in their third through fifth year and only 19 percent ended up in the top two quintiles. Similarly, if a school adopted a policy of firing the bottom 10 percent of new teachers (averaged over years one and two), it would rid itself of almost one third of the future lowest-performing teachers and absolutely none of the future top performers (according to years three, four, and five averages). They also find that value-added in years one and two explained 27.8 percent of the variance in average future performance (compared with only 2.8 percent explained by a number of combined “input” metrics including teacher demographics, credentialing scores, and competitiveness of undergraduate institution). The implications are clear: Cage-busting leaders should simply not keep the low performers around long enough to let them gain tenure.

SOURCE: Allison Atteberry, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff, “Do First Impressions Matter? Improvement in Early Career Teacher Effectiveness” (Washington,...

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Hope Against HopeThe Friedman-ism that “every crisis is an opportunity” has, in the eyes of many, found dramatic and fitting vindication in the city of New Orleans. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the teachers union was washed away, while the city’s traditional public schools were almost entirely supplanted by a host of new charters, many of them answerable to a new state-level governing body. The value of these changes has been frequently quantified by test scores, college-attendance rates, and similar informative (yet reductive) data. Sarah Carr’s Hope Against Hope offers a rare view from the ground—one that humanizes education reform in the Bayou City. She profiles a trio of figures (a novice teacher, a veteran principal, and a high school student) as well as a handful of charter schools. The conflicts at the core of Carr’s book—between different measurements of and causes for student success (or failure) and between guarding community culture and finding pathways to the middle class—transcend the Big Easy. But do not look for conflict resolution here. Carr’s intent, instead, is to articulate vividly what’s at stake. Her vignettes, particularly her story of a popular and promising teen’s fateful night out (and subsequent incarceration), show how out-of-school factors can easily destroy students’ futures—simultaneously reminding readers that school quality is not the whole story and that intensive efforts to transform student culture (think the “no excuses” charter...

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  • The state Board of Education selected Richard Ross as state superintendent of public instruction. Ross is currently the director of Governor Kasich’s Office of 21st Century Education and former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools.
  • This year’s state Report Card marks the final year that districts will be graded on its current rating scale. In 2014-15, Ohio will move to an A to F system.
  • State Auditor Dave Yost put forward policy recommendations intended to improve the way that the Ohio Department of Education tracks student data.
  • Akron Public Schools has upgraded its Internet bandwidth and computer software in advance of the Common Core and its aligned assessments, the PARCC exams.
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America’s fragmented, decentralized, politicized, and bureaucratic system of education governance is a major impediment to school reform. In Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century: Overcoming the Structural Barriers to School Reform, a number of leading education scholars, analysts, and practitioners show that understanding the impact of specific policy changes in areas such as standards, testing, teachers, or school choice requires careful analysis of the broader governing arrangements that influence their content, implementation, and impact.

Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century comprehensively assesses the strengths and weaknesses of what remains of the old in education governance, scrutinizes how traditional governance forms are changing, and suggests how governing arrangements might be further altered to produce better educational outcomes for children.

Paul Manna, Patrick McGuinn, and their colleagues provide the analysis and alternatives that will inform attempts to adapt nineteenth and twentieth century governance structures to the new demands and opportunities of today.

* Copublished with the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress

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Governor Kasich’s budget plan, now being debated in the House, calls for expanding the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship program. This statewide voucher program is one of four public voucher programs currently available to parents and students in the Buckeye State. Together these programs allow about 22,500 students to use publicly funded vouchers to attend a private or parochial school of their choice. The governor’s proposal would provide, on a first come first serve basis, vouchers starting in 2013-14 for any kindergartner with a household income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level – about $46,000 a year for a family of four. Voucher amounts would be up to $4,250 a year, and participating schools could not charge tuition above this amount.

In 2014-15, voucher eligibility would extend to all students in grades K-3 in a school building that gets low marks in the early literacy measure on the state’s new report card. The funding for the voucher will not be deducted from a school district’s state aid, but rather be paid out directly by the state. Kasich’s budget allocates $8.5 million in fiscal year 2014 for 2,000 new vouchers and $17 million in 2015 for up to 4,000 new vouchers.

Despite the modest scale of this proposed growth, and the fact the state will cover the voucher amounts, district educators are up in arms about the expansion. Yellow Springs’ Superintendent Mario Basora captured the view of many district officials across the state when he told the Dayton Daily...

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Gifted students are our future engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and job creators; as such, we will depend on them to keep our state competitive with the rest of the country--and the world. Despite this, the majority of these students aren't receiving the education they need in order to reach their full potential. Learn more about the state of gifted education in Ohio and how to improve it at Educating Our Brightest: Improving Gifted Education to Boost Ohio’s Prosperity and Success.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Ohio Associated for Gifted Children are partnering to host an exciting discussion about gifted education and its impact on Ohio’s prosperity.

The event will feature a presentation from Fordham’s President Chester E. Finn, Jr. as well as a panel discussion moderated by the Columbus Dispatch’s Jennifer Smith Richards.  The panelists will include:

*Marty Bowe, superintendent of Perry Local School District (Stark County)

*The Honorable Bill Hayes, Ohio House of Representatives

*Carol Lockhart, principal of John Hay Early College High School (Cleveland Metropolitan School District)

*Ann Sheldon, Ohio Association for Gifted Children

Location: Columbus Museum of Art (MAP)
480 E. Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

March 20, 2013 at 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM

The event is free and open to the public. Light breakfast will be served. To register for the event, click here....

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The Center on Reinventing Public Education has released a new study by Marguerite Roza and Monica Ouijdani that examines the cost of class size reduction – what it would cost per student to create smaller classes, and how those costs can add up significantly. And perhaps more importantly, the authors discuss whether the funding needed to create those smaller classes could be more effectively utilized elsewhere in the education system.

The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-by-State Spending Analysis begins with an attempt to downplay the rhetoric about “skyrocketing” class size and to determine just what the average class size is state by state. This is made difficult by the fact that the most-current class-size information nationwide hails from 2007-08. The authors suggest that this lack of current information is what allows anecdotal evidence of class size expansion nationwide to trump any sober analysis of the numbers.

Roza and Ouijdani, using both National Education Association (NEA) and National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) data on student-teacher ratios (generally available through 2012), generated an estimate of average class size in all states where reliable information was available. Sadly, Ohio’s reported data from NEA and NCES in 2011-12 were not in agreement and so no estimate was able to be generated for the Buckeye State. But the results show, in general, that average class size across the United States (38 states and the District of Columbia were included in the study) has decreased since 2007-08.This downward trend has...

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Fordham’s gadflies have been buzzing over the past weeks, discussing Governor Kasich’s budget, Common Core, and Student Nomads. If you’ve missed any of these items, here’s your chance to catch up!

  • In a Columbus Dispatch editorial, Terry Ryan wrote in favor of the governor’s school funding plan. The plan, Ryan argues, is worthy of support because it “recognizes the fact that more and more of the state’s students attend schools other than their neighborhood district schools.” And by acknowledging this fact, Governor Kasich’s plan attempts to “target children and their schools as the locus of public funding, as opposed to funding just school district.” For more analysis of the governor’s funding plan, please see Steps in the Right Direction, a report conducted by esteemed school finance professor Dr. Paul Hill.
  • Emmy Partin was a guest on National Public Radio’s The Sound of Ideas, discussing Ohio’s impending transition to the Common Core State Standards in 2014-15. The conversation, which included representatives of the Ohio Department of Education, State Impact Ohio, Cleveland Teachers Union, and callers from the general public, spotlighted changes in classroom instruction, Ohio’s standardized exams, and graduation requirements that are and will occur under the new academic standards.
  • Fordham facilitated a community discussion around student mobility in Dayton and Cincinnati, the third and fourth in a series of such conversations about mobility. (See here for the recaps of the Columbus and Cleveland events.) The discussions, which included Dayton Public Schools’ superintendent
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