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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) undoubtedly increased the federal footprint in education. As Congress debates how to rewrite the law, a new analysis from Bellwether Education Partners couldn’t be timelier.

The report starts with a look at the history of federal involvement in K–12 education and how NCLB tilted the balance of power toward Uncle Sam. Although NCLB started as a bipartisan bill with broad support, critics multiplied as the deadline for universal proficiency approached, interventions for low-performing schools mounted, and conditional waivers from the law were granted by the Department of Education. Among its shortfalls, NCLB included “over-prescriptive” provisions that mandate how a state education system should be run and a misguided one-size-fits-all approach.

But the law wasn’t all bad. Evidence suggests that NCLB’s accountability measures were effective in improving schools and student performance. These improvements were particularly evident among black and Hispanic students. The authors of this report applaud a requirement that states break down testing data into disadvantaged subgroups, thereby shining a light on students who are most at risk.

So how can policymakers keep the good (transparency and accountability) while ditching the bad (micromanagement)? The Bellwether analysts turn to the charter concept and argue...

  1. The California “similar students” measure of achievement – as proposed for charter schools in the currently-stalled House Bill 2 – gets another bashing in the media. Our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here, in favor of sticking with value added measures. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/25/15)
     
  2. Like it or not, Ohio is living in a “post-5-of-8 world”. The state board of education earlier this year removed a decades-old support staffing requirement for districts. Instead of mandating specific numbers of librarians, art and music teachers, and counselors based on student population, districts can now decide their staffing needs on their own. It’s probably a bit too soon to tell for sure, but the media says that either the sky is already falling (librarians are going the way of the printed book, says the Columbus Dispatch, 7/27/15)….or it’s not (art and music teachers seem safe…for now, says the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, 7/26/15).
     
  3. As you all may know, Ohio’s Straight A Fund survived the state budget process, but at a level much reduced from the last biennium. The governing board of the fund – designed to reward educational innovation – was last week mulling how best to proceed and get
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  1. The state legislature is largely adjourned for the summer, but that’s not stopping folks who are interested in the issue of charter schools from reporting and opining about legislation left on the table. You can read about the opining below, but here are two pieces of journalism to start with. First up is a look at what is called the California "Similar Students" measure of school performance, essentially a replacement for value-added measures, which is proposed in the currently-stalled House Bill 2. The piece links to Ohio Gadfly Daily posts by our own Aaron Churchill and guest blogger Vladimir Kogan of Ohio State University, both denouncing the proposed switch. Kogan calls the California Model “the poor-man’s value-added.” Yowch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/22/15)  But the PD’s Patrick O’Donnell is a true journalist and wants to hear every side of the story. A companion piece to the above digs deep into the who and the why of the California “Similar Students” model push in Ohio. The model, supporters say, adjusts school evaluations based on percentages of students with disabilities, economic disadvantages, limited English proficiency, and students in their current school for less than one year. It is, they say, a
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It feels like we’ve been talking about charter sponsor evaluations and the Youngstown Plan for so long that there hasn’t been room to report on much else. Today, we leave both of those elephants back in their rooms and look at what else is happening in education news…at least in the northern part of Ohio:

  1. What’s a school district to do when it surveys the community and gets double the number of expected responses? Ask for even more. That is the situation in Orange City Schools in Pepper Pike, Ohio. While they were pleased with the large response, they felt that a broader segment of the community was not represented, specifically families of color, senior citizens, and private school families who many never have even stepped foot into an Orange district school. And they are going all out to engage those folks because “a healthy school system contributes to a healthy community”. For everyone. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/21/15)
  2. Here’s another interesting story about school districts with shrinking enrollment numbers. It seems to be
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I had an economics professor in grad school who told us that every civilized household should use the most recent edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” as a coffee table book.

For one hundred thirty years, the “Stat Ab” has been was an annual federal publication packed to the rafters with data: page after page of data tables on every imaginable aspect of our lives—demographics, jobs, transportation, health, agriculture, the military, and more.

When our class laughed at the idea of replacing a book of Ansel Adams’s photos with one that included “Table 925. Energy Supply and Disposition by Type of Fuel,” our professor excitedly (and without irony) replied, “But there’s just so much you can learn from these numbers!”

The same could be said of the “2015 Condition of Education” recently published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For years, Congress has required this federal agency to annually produce a report on the state of U.S. schools. If it were up to me, it would be mandatory professional development for everyone working in K–12 to spend ninety minutes with this report.

We should all stay up to speed with the...

  1. Following last week’s firestorm over its charter school sponsor review process, ODE on Friday rescinded all previously-announced sponsor rankings, including the “exemplary” rating earned by Fordham. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/17/15) This turn of events was also covered by the Beacon Journal, and included a quote from a blog post by our own Aaron Churchill on a different but related subject. To call the ABJ story “wide-ranging” would be an understatement. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/15)
     
  2. The fallout continued over the weekend as the leader of the school choice section of ODE resigned in the wake of the controversy over the sponsor review process. Coverage of the resignation was widespread and included the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/19/15), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/20/15), and various other outlets via the Associated Press (Columbus Dispatch via AP, 7/19/15)
     
  3. Even before the resignation was announced, the editorializing had begun. First up, editors in Akron opined in favor of immediate investigation of ODE, preferably by the state auditor (I know) in regard to the sponsor review process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/18/15). Same goes for editors in Cleveland, although they went ahead and updated their opinion in light
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  1. As we told you already, the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school sponsor review process came under fire in the State Board of Education earlier this week. The piling on has begun, but obviously when State Auditor Dave Yost (I know!) weighs in, folks listen. Fordham’s VP for Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted in the Dispatch’s piece, stressing once again the importance of proper sponsor reviews: “ ‘We’ve got a real quality issue with charter schools in Ohio,’ she said. And sponsors play a role in that… ‘They’re the ones that can let a bad school go on indefinitely.’” Well said. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/15/15)
     
  2. Additional coverage of the sponsor review brouhaha can be found in various outlets via the Associated Press (AP, 7/16/15), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/16/15), and the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/16/15)
     
  3. The Dispatch also touches on the charter sponsor review situation while opining – again – in favor of swift charter law reform. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/15)
     
  4. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as irony or satire, but teachers at three charter schools in Youngstown voted to unionize this week. Yep. That should take
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A new study in the scientific journal Brain and Language examines how the brain responds when presented with two different methods of reading instruction. It examines a small sample—sixteen adults (with an average age of twenty-two) who are native English speakers and do not face reading disabilities.

Participants took two days to undergo training, whereby they learn an invented language based on hieroglyphics. Each participant was taught two ways to associate a set of words read aloud to a corresponding set of visual characters (or “glyphs”). The first was a phonics-based approach focusing on letter-sound relationships; the second was a whole-word approach relying on memorization. After training, the participants took part in testing sessions during which they were hooked up to an EEG machine that monitored their brain response. They were then instructed to approach their “reading” using one strategy or the other.

Scientists found that the phonics approach activated the left side of the brain—which is where the visual and language regions lie, and which has been shown in prior studies to support later word recognition. Thus, activating this part of the brain helps to spur on beginning readers. This approach also enabled participants to decode “words” they had...

  1. In case you missed it, Fordham was namechecked in an op-ed on charter law reform wherein editors lament lack of legislative action on same. (Findlay Courier, 7/14/15)
     
  2. We promised you an update on Monday’s community meeting on the Youngstown Plan, and here it is, courtesy of the Vindy. There’s too much here for me to comment on in this forum, but this is, I think, a must-read article – and a must-follow debate – for anyone who cares about urban education reform. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/14/15)
     
  3. The State Board of Education was talking about the Youngstown Plan this week also. Approximately the same dichotomy of views seen in the Vindy piece above is seen here as well, although perhaps more predictable a split on the board than in the community. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15). The State Board of Ed is also on the same page as editors in Findlay, going so far as to pass a resolution urging the legislature to pass charter law reform as soon as possible. As the old paraphrase goes: victory has many parents, failure is an orphan. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15)
     
  4. The State Board of Ed also did some digging into
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was quoted in two stories about urban education this weekend. First up, the ABJ is talking about a new nationwide online rating system for schools which, they say, attempts to “correct” for the effects of poverty in existing ranking processes. Aaron points out that while an overall single grade for a school is helpful for parents looking for information, if the components of that grade don’t include value-added data (which the new site doesn’t), then it’s not a fully accurate measure. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/12/15) Second is a look at the state of play in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton. The story is wide-ranging and Aaron is brought in to talk about how the so-called “Youngstown Plan” might take root in Dayton should it tip into academic distress status. But Aaron, as usual, digs a little deeper. “I think raising the academic standards in terms of Common Core, as well as the new science and social studies standards,” he says, “raises expectations for kids who have had low expectations for years.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 7/12/15)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core (takes you back, doesn’t it?), editors in Toledo see the legislative prohibition on Ohio’s
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