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Michele Cahill, Leah Hamilton

In Mike’s post on Monday, he asks if our schools have “an answer” for students who are unprepared for high school—a group that makes up, as he says, as much as 80–90 percent of students. He also points out, correctly, that all that many districts offer these students is a chance to muddle through four years (or more) in a large, comprehensive high school, in hopes of earning a diploma that by no means signals readiness for college or a career. It is an indictment of our educational system that many do not achieve even that.

Fortunately, there are models out there that show that it is indeed possible to structure high schools to do much more for underprepared students. A recent book by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge of American Educationfor example, describes what the authors call “high schools that improve life chances,” pointing in particular to small, nonselective high schools created in New York City by the Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools. Explicitly designed according to a set of design principles that stress academic rigor and personalization, attention to youth development, strong community partnerships, and accountability for results, these schools have produced powerful results for students—many of whom fall squarely within the cohort of the “underprepared.” 

Extensive studies of these same schools by two independent teams of researchers, one from Duke and MIT and one from MDRC, found that it is indeed possible to provide...

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  1. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has come out swinging in opposition to changes in charter school oversight passed by the Ohio House in the education MBR. He is particularly vexed by language addressing the Cleveland Plan’s efforts to promote successful charter schools in Cleveland while choking out those not successfully educating children. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel wades into the education world in a big way - touting his love for vocational education loud and clear - in the Wall Street Journal no less! (Wall Street Journal)
  3. Several papers in central Ohio are touting the new Innovation Generation initiative, intended to link local students to a community college/employment pipeline, generously funded by J.P. Morgan Chase. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. Speaking of community college, the PD reports on new research that shows transfer students with associate degrees were 49 percent more likely than those who didn’t complete a two-year degree to complete a bachelor’s degree within four years. A link to the research study is available from the PD as well. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  5. Last stop in Cleveland today: an update on parent/teacher meeting numbers in the district so far this year. And they’re actually pretty good. Note that this is the first year such statistics are being tracked and reported…and that it’s actually the law in CLE for parents to
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Some music scholars believe that 50 years ago, the blues—the primordial indigenous American musical form—was on the brink of extinction. Its progenitors were fading away, mainstream America was uninterested, and the unsympathetic forces of musical evolution were marching on.

But across the pond, in the 1950s and early 1960s, a gang of teenaged Brits, hailing from a nation still reeling from World War II’s devastation, happened upon imported records by U.S. blues legends like of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. These lads, connecting with the music’s enigmatic blend of sadness and hubris, studied with awe.

Years later, they would make it to our shores, with names like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, reintroducing the United States to something of its own creation and using it to plot an extraordinary path forward.

In 1993, Massachusetts passed the “Education Reform Act,” legislation that touched every important area of K–12 policy: increasing funding, toughening standards, upping accountability, introducing chartering, reforming teacher preparation, and more. It was arguably the most important state-level action of the standards-and-accountability movement.

Beyond it’s comprehensiveness, two aspects of the law stand out. First, over the next two decades, regardless of political party, the state’s leadership (governors, education commissioners, and state board members) remained faithful to its vision. Second, it helped Massachusetts emerge as one of the nation’s highest-performing states: as of 2013, according to the Nation’s Report Card and international assessments...

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  1. I’m just catching up to this story from last week, but it’s not often you get a state board of education member on the record, so here it is. District 1 Rep Ann Jacobs discussed Common Core, charter schools, urban schools, education for special needs students, and the Straight A Fund, among other topics.  (Lima News)
  2. As we have mentioned before, Lorain City Schools are currently being overseen by an Academic Distress Commission. Well, it's progress report time, including a review of governance, leadership, curriculum instruction, professional development, assessments, fiscal management, and student support, among other topics.  (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
  3. We’ve reported this already, but I think it bears mentioning again, especially after yesterday’s frankly ridiculous story from Zanesville: only minor bugs were evident in the first PARCC field tests across Ohio earlier this month. And the results don’t count because it was a system test. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  4. You've got to dig to get to the main point here, but there’s a lot to it if you do. We have reported on the education of juvenile prisoners before, and because Common Core is the law of the land around here, aligned materials are making their way behind bars also. The story is about the bid/buy process that the DRC has to go through for educational
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Of all of the responses to my “you’re-not-college-material” post, there’s one I find most compelling—and worrying. Namely, kids who aren’t “college material” aren’t “career- and technical-education material” either. Springpoint’s JoEllen Lynch says it well:

It’s a myth that CTE meets the needs of low performing kids from low performing schools. So, it depends on what problem we are trying to solve. Are we just looking for more models for students who enter high school fully prepared, or are we trying to create models that will address the needs of kids who are not? I think many people feel that CTE is an answer for the unprepared; this notion is not based on data or an understanding of the demands of good CTE schools.

I stand corrected. Since I wrote my Slate piece, I’ve learned much more about high quality CTE programs, including one I visited in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio (the Ponitz Career Technology Center). This high school (with close ties to Dayton’s excellent community college) is even selective, only accepting incoming freshmen who score proficient on Ohio’s math or reading tests and who stayed out of trouble in middle school.

Assuming that Dayton is not an outlier and that Lynch is correct, this raises an obvious question: if CTE is not “an answer for the unprepared,” what is?

Cue RiShawn Biddle of Dropout Nation. Biddle was not happy with my “college-material” essay, arguing that it earned me...

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  1. Checker is quoted in a Dispatch editorial opining against parents boycotting standardized testing. Hope both of Columbus’ opter-outers are paying attention. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Common common common Core! The PD takes a look at Cuyahoga County’s high-flying suburbs to see what they thought of recent PARCC practice tests. Hint: they have concerns. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. I’m sure they’ve covered this in plenty of detail already, but the PD wants you to see more sample PARCC test questions. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  4. The PARCC field tests are on the minds of some school districts in the Zanesville area as well, although far from others: “As soon as they make us do it, then we’ll do it.” Great. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  5. As expected, the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Committee’s Education Subcommittee has thoroughly and efficiently agitated some folks from their very first efforts. Dispatch editors opine on the need for caution. (Columbus Dispatch)
  6. As you may know, I don’t usually link to letters to the editor, but when one is presented by the Senate Minority Leader on Ohio – and on charter school accountability no less – well, I pay attention. (Toledo Blade)
  7. The next round of third grade reading tests in Ohio
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The 2008 federal economic stimulus act invested $5 billion to support early-childhood programs, including $500 million for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which pushes states and localities to participate in the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). One of the quality measures endorsed by QRIS is the widely popular Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale–Revised (ECERS-R). Much research has shown a positive relationship between higher scores on ECERS and children’s development, including academic and social outcomes—but the measure has neither been tested in a nationally representative sample nor subjected to a robust set of controls to lessen the impact of selection bias (e.g., motivated parents might choose higher-quality child care). In this study, Terri Sabol of Northwestern University and Robert Pianta of the University of Virginia use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort (ECLS-B); they include children born in 2001, ultimately yielding a sample of roughly 10,000 kids, whom they track through age 5, and they also conduct classroom observations in 1,400 center-based providers. They measure a number of outcomes at age 5, including math and literacy, expressive language, and social skills among others—and control for numerous child, family, and center characteristics as well as demographics. The bottom line: the analysts found scant evidence that the ECERS is related to children’s academic or social development. In all, they ran over fifty different analytic models and found few significant effects between this particular measure of quality and outcomes at age 5. Further, programs that scored higher on...

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Dara and Brickman enthuse about early-talent identification programs, rue Indiana’s subpar state standards, and wonder how much is too much to pay superintendents. Amber finds little to no connection between a popular pre-K quality measure and pupil outcomes. Amber's Research Minute “ Do Standard...

South Carolina has taken today’s testing drama to new heights. A few years back, the governor, chief, and state board chair all agreed to have the Palmetto State become a governing board member of the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing consortia. But as other states withdrew and new testing options emerged, the state legislature no longer saw participation in a consortium as necessary. So several bills have been filed to force an SBAC departure. The state chief, hoping to find accord with the legislature, recommended that the state board vote to willingly withdraw. The board voted against. Now the state chief has discovered the he has the power to withdraw without the state board’s blessing. Read this letter from the chief to the board. Remarkable stuff.

Indiana is now the latest state to release disappointing results from a new teacher-evaluation system. Though many of us hoped the Widget Effect would disappear, it’s becoming clear that changing statutes and regulations are only a small part of the equation.  

In Tennessee, it’s been tough reform sledding of late. The state’s cutting-edge policy on tying certification to value-added scores is no more. Now it looks like the state may back out of PARCC and issue an RFP for future tests. On the upside, new charter-school legislation is making its way to the governor’s desk; it would enable the state board of education to authorize charter schools rejected by local school districts. Of course,...

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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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