Additional Topics

  1. Not much to report on in terms of education news over the weekend. We begin with a bit of a rerun: Editors in Columbus opine again in favor of eliminating the mandatory teacher pay schedule in Ohio. They reason that “Making seniority and extra college coursework the primary basis for rewarding teachers has created a system that is incapable of recognizing and promoting those teachers who actually are best at helping their students. In a field desperate for effectiveness, a teacher who is a miracle worker is treated the same as one who is just marking time.” Why the reiteration of their position? Because the bill including this provision passed the House last week and is now on to the Senate for debate. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Ohio’s teacher evaluation system is on Patrick O’Donnell’s mind in Cleveland. He goes to great lengths to explain how value-add calculations will be done for high school teachers starting this year. He focuses on the way in which “previous year” data will be amalgamated for subjects such as physical science, American history and American government in order to compare to current year data. Skepticism abounds. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Also on the minds of Northeast Ohio reporters this weekend: population loss and declining enrollment in school districts throughout Cuyahoga County. The Greater Cleveland-Akron area's median age increased from 37.2 in 2000 to 40.3 in 2010; Ohio's birthrate has dropped from 14 births per 1,000 women 2003 to 12.6 births in 2012;
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LICENSE TO FAIL
The pass rate for teacher-licensing exams is usually about 90 percent. However, only 68 percent of candidates passed New York’s new licensing test, which emphasizes understanding of the new Common Core ELA standards and ability to instruct English language learners and special needs students. This data comes at a time when many argue that teaching licenses are awarded too easily, resulting in too many unprepared teachers in America’s classrooms.

NEW LOOK FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOES
NPR has a fascinating story on the novel approach taken by an organization militating against prevailing affirmative action policies. The Project for Fair Representation, run by activist Edward Blum, charges that Asian American applicants are disproportionately kept out of elite institutions like Harvard and the University of North Carolina by racial balancing formulae that arbitrarily cap the number of spaces allotted to students of their ethnicity. If true, the allegation would confirm some of the arguments in Ron Unz’s mammoth study of the corruption of Ivy League admissions

TRUTH TO POWER
During a panel with fellow Republican...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the fifth post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See herehere, here, and here for prior posts.]

It's one thing to practice skills in the controlled environment of a residency; it is quite another to practice when you are formally in charge of a school. Each of the alternative leadership programs examined in this blog series recognizes this truth and provides its graduates various kinds of support, sometimes as long as five years. Much as research has demonstrated about teaching—that teachers tend to become more effective over the first four or five years in the classroom—the same is likely true of school leaders: Their first few years in the position may be when the job is mastered (or not). These exemplar programs try to make those early years an additional learning experience.

This is hardly a new idea. Many school systems provide some sort of coaching or...

  1. In case you missed this yesterday, the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would limit state testing of K-12 students to just four hours per subject per year. On the Senate, as the old song goes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The above news should be music to the ears of editors in Canton, who broke from the message of some of their fellow big-city editors around the state and earlier yesterday opined in favor of the testing time-limit bill. They call it “a start”, so are obviously looking for more accountability changes. (Canton Repository)
     
  3. The superintendents of Mentor and Reynoldsburg schools were among a group of school leaders who visited the White House yesterday to help the president “spread the word” about the value of online learning. He’s making a push to get high-speed internet to more schools across the country and both Mentor and Reynoldsburg were held up as prime examples of what computer-based education and blended learning can accomplish. Nice! (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Clyde-Green Springs school district auctioned off some vacant land, which was bought by the local church. Nice and smooth and everybody seems happy. Can someone please forward this story to the folks in Monroe schools? (Sandusky Register)

CAPITAL OF CHOICE
According to new data, school choice is working incredibly well in D.C., where nearly half of public school students attend charters. Parents are exercising their freedom of choice, and it’s showing: Excellent charters are growing and underperforming charters are closing. This is a big win for charter advocates, as it goes to show that, when done well, school choice can lead to better outcomes for students. For more on this story, read Andy Smarick’s characteristically smart new post.

A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS...AND STUDENTS
When President Obama rolls out his executive action on immigration in a primetime address this evening, those of us involved in education must consider how his plans will affect students with undocumented parents. This Huffington Post article outlines how the new immigration policies might create some stability in these children’s home lives by assuaging fear of parental deportation. 

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE
School reformers talk about changing a lot in education: School financing, governance, teacher quality, school size, accountability, testing, the works. We don’t talk a lot about where most learning is done—that is, the physical space of the classroom. Lennie Scott-Webber offers a terrific take on how the arrangement of learning stations can affect the way students learn.

PROFILE OF THE WEEK
The Hechinger Report has the heartrending story of D’Andre (last name withheld), a twelve-year-old raised by his grandmothers in Newark. The long profile depicts his splintered family life, zeal for learning, and...

Gabriel Sanchez Zinny

Educational systems around the world are in a critical state. Nearly everywhere, they struggle with poor-quality schools, persistent inequality, and local administrations with restricted budgets—which all combine to compromise the educational opportunities of a large portion of the student-age population.

These worrisome trends are reinforced in emerging economies, like those of Latin America. The region has seen over a decade of sustained growth and growing middle classes, and as the burgeoning “knowledge society” is impacting every sector, these expanded middle classes are demanding better education and greater opportunity.

While Latin America trails behind most of the world in its education performance, there are a number of governments taking the initiative in confronting these challenges. Leading this group are Chile, Colombia, and recently Mexico, where President Enrique Pena Nieto has successfully pushed for deep education reforms. While passing legislation cost significant political capital, and on paper the measures—including reforming the teacher tenure system—look very positive, the ultimate impact on the quality of learning will depend greatly on the implementation and follow-through of subsequent governments.

But perhaps the most surprising recent phenomenon in Latin America has been the extent to which the non-government sector, including entrepreneurs, companies, and investors, is getting involved in education. Among these disparate groups, there is a new awareness of the importance of education and an unprecedented understanding that the region’s previous commodities-based, export-led, low productivity economic model will not be enough to advance to the next stage of development. Instead, to achieve more competitiveness and...

  1. Well, Governor Kasich sure impressed some folks with his appearance with a group of fellow GOP governors in Florida yesterday. Some are talking about presidential aspirations for Kasich; we’re just appreciative of his comments cutting through the BS on Common Core in Ohio at crunch time. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Kudos to journalists still keeping their eyes on the outcome of last year’s third grade reading tests. Because the process is still ongoing, and will be for the foreseeable future. New information released by ODE this week reveals that just over 4 percent of last year’s third graders were retained at some level across Ohio. The Plain Dealer looks at these numbers from the Cuyahoga County perspective, noting that Cleveland Metropolitan School District had a 600 percent increase in retention for third graders between 2012-13 and 2013-14. The Dayton Daily News includes charter schools’ scores in its local reporting. DECA Prep was top of the heap in passage rates among charters, Dayton Leadership Academy was lowest. None of this is bad news IF every one of those students is receiving the help he needs to read on grade level and move forward with the proper skills in place.
     
  3. Editors in Akron opined yesterday against the testing-time limiting provisions proposed in HB 228. They say that “a consensus has formed around the notion of repairing the testing regimen,” but are clear that a proper fix will “take time and thought, two elements in short supply during
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The one where Mike scolds Arne

New ESEA waiver guidelines, easy and inexpensive literacy boosts, Catholic schools, and helping at-risk high school students.

Amber's Research Minute

Philip Oreopoulos, Robert S. Brown, and Adam M. Lavecchia, "Pathways to Education: An Integrated Approach to Helping At-Risk High School Students," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 20430 (August 2014).

  • On Monday, the Ohio House Education Committee approved a bill to limit annual state testing of students to four hours for any given subject. Notwithstanding the legitimate concerns that have led to such a push, placing a statutory limit is ill advised for at least three reasons. First, it’s a feel-good fix that may not solve the issue of over-testing (rampant test prep takes up geometrically more class time than the test themselves). Second, state accountability systems—the ability to say whether a student or a school is succeeding—are important and depend on assessment results. Third and finally, if we’re going to maintain test-based accountability, we should ensure that we use high-quality tests, and that requires flexibility. Having only one four-hour, super-high-stakes exam each year doesn’t allow for that.
  • The seventeen member states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of the two federally funded groups tasked with creating Common Core–aligned assessments, have approved initial achievement levels for the math and English language arts/literacy tests. Such cutoffs, which are used on other major tests—such as NAEP, PISA, and TIMSS—are important starting points for discussions about performance expectations, progress, and achievement gaps. And to that end, the consortium also approved a position paper that teachers, principals, parents, and other stakeholders can use to better interpret results. Moreover, SBAC expects more than half of kids to score below “proficient”—indicating that they are setting the bar reasonably high. It’s a major step on the country’s path to higher standards.
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At present, there are a myriad of initiatives aiming to attract and keep good teachers in so-called STEM subjects. But even if the U.S. doubled recruitment of top talent, cut top teacher attrition in half, and tripled the rate at which ineffective teachers are dismissed, this brief by Public Impact estimates about 60 percent of classrooms would still be without skilled STEM educators—those who can help students make an extra half-year of progress every year, on average, compared with typical teachers. Public Impact proposes to fix this by applying its Opportunity Culture initiative to STEM teachers. Schools identify their top teachers, expand their reach, and pay them more, within budget. These expansion efforts, which would apply to only the best STEM educators, include larger class sizes; streaming and/or recording lessons so that other students can watch remotely; ensuring that teachers only teach their best subjects; and augmenting class time with digital instruction to improve learning and maximize class size. The putative STEM superstar teachers would also be tasked with leading teams of less effective teachers, creating in-school STEM teams. Leaders would determine team curricula and tailor each teacher’s role to his or her strengths. Thirty schools in four districts located in three states are piloting the idea, says the report. By the fifth year, a “multi-classroom leader” directing a math or science team while continuing to teach could in theory earn a salary supplement of up to $23,000—not enough to close the STEM pay gap entirely, the authors say,...

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