Additional Topics

  1. If you can stand one more story from last week’s education writer’s conference in Colorado, I can. Fordham’s Mike Petrilli said, “Ohio needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector” during one of the final panels at the event. As noted in the article, the state budget and another House bill included dozens of provisions to do just that. The state auditor will be adding his valuable input on reforms tomorrow morning, and the Senate is poised to do the same soon. Sounds like progress. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There are those who say that Mike’s comment is, shall we say, plain as the nose on one’s face. And since we’re going there, here’s another one: Columbus City Schools needs regular audits of many of its systems, processes, and departments. So opine the editors of the Columbus Dispatch today. They focus heavily on the example of the steaming pile of fail that is the district’s transportation department, as revealed last week in an internal auditor’s report. Small item not mentioned: actions needed to fix up this vital system may be budgeted for next year. Unless of course those rigorous audits unearth anything else that needs fixing even more urgently. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. In what might be called a case of “synergy”, two different newspapers are following the same story today: substitute teacher shortages in their areas. First up, Montgomery County. Journalist Jeremy Kelley talks mainly to suburban districts, all of which have been having trouble finding
  4. ...

The sudden departure of Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, caught many by surprise—including Starr. That’s a depressing sign of a dysfunctional school board, one whose members failed to signal serious concerns with their superintendent, even as recently as last fall’s school board elections.

If the board has any hope of recruiting a talented new leader for MCPS, among the largest districts in the country with more than 153,000 students, it needs to be crystal-clear about the direction it wants the system to take. As an MCPS parent and incorrigible education reformer, let me offer a few suggestions.

First, MCPS needs to recommit to its core mission: dramatically raising student achievement. As Starr’s struggles with the board burst into public view, he made a last-ditch effort to convince its members, and MCPS’s many ardent constituents, of his commitment to narrowing the achievement gaps between poor and minority students and white and Asian students. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But the achievement gap is measured primarily by test scores, and Starr made his name by speaking out against tests. At the least, he sent a mixed message about his commitment to academic achievement.

It’s not entirely fair to blame him for that. Starr was hired in part because he represented a change in style...

  1. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill is quoted in this piece taking a good long look at online charter school ECOT. The headline probably says a lot about where the article intended to go from the outset: “turnover common at e-school.” That turnover is real, to be sure. The numbers don’t lie. But after reading the piece, I think that several someones at the Big D likely had their eyes opened a little about what really causes said turnover. As Aaron puts it: “The cost to make that transfer…is essentially zero.” As the ECOT rep puts it: “People [need] a short-term situation for a bullying situation, parents splitting, or they have a child… They have instability for that moment that doesn’t lend itself to a traditional school and how it’s structured.” And as a former ECOT student who didn’t complete a year in the school puts it: “It’s all you, pretty much…. You don’t really have a teacher standing over your shoulder telling you what to do, so I fell behind really fast. I think a lot of people are thinking it’s the easy way out. Honestly, that’s what I thought. But it really wasn’t.” Which of those statements makes you reevaluate what you think you know about online charters? (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Aaron wasn’t the only Fordhamite in the Ohio papes this weekend. Mike Petrilli was bonding with education writers in Colorado this week, including the Beacon Journal’s Doug Livingston. Doug reported this weekend on
  3. ...
Peter Sipe

I’ve always liked Fridays as much as the next guy, but this year I especially like them: Every Friday, my students and I read an obituary together. If that sounds morbid, let me tell you what I tell the kids: An obituary is the story of a life; death is just the detail that gets it printed.

How do I select the weekly life story we read? I don’t. I have other people do it for me. I’ve been asking folks around town—elected officials, businesspeople, civic leaders, colleagues, and friends—this question: If you could pick one person from the past whom you wish kids would learn about in school, who would it be?

With their introductions, we’ve made the acquaintance of Phyllis Jen, a beloved family doctor, Ruth Batson, a civil rights activist who helped desegregate our schools, and Tom White, a businessman who gave away his riches to the poor. In upcoming weeks, we’ll be reading about a firefighter, a judge, and a rowing coach. And I’ve got lots more in my pile, all marvelously interesting—and inspiring. It’s embarrassing to admit that I’d never heard of most of these people before, but I’m glad to have finally met them. And I’m very pleased to introduce them to my students.

For a teacher, obituaries are useful classroom texts. They offer short history lessons, excellent vocabulary (for example, “ephemeral” and “posterity”), and align well with the new Common Core standards. But the greatest value of the obituaries we read is this:...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined on the value of standardized testing in schools and the small but vocal opter-outers making noise on the topic. They’re right on the money here, noting the slippery slope that could result from curtailing testing (farewell accountability system, farewell Common Core) while also noting some practical changes that could be made to testing protocols in the state to “dial down the anxiety”. Nice There’s a number of good quotes in here, but my personal favorite is:  “No 9-year-old has reason to fear a PARCC test unless an adult has instilled that fear.” Exceedingly true. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Last year, editors in Youngstown practically begged the state to take over the local schools – mired in years of fiscal and academic crisis and beset by bickering and turf warfare among adults who seem to have little interest in actually bettering education for students. Following Governor Kasich’s State of the State speech earlier this week, in which he said, “... anybody in this state that supports a reform agenda to put our children first, please come and see us… We will help you.” Today, those same editors renew their call for the district to reach out to the state with a plan for shaking up the status quo, and they throw in a plea to Youngstown State University to do the same. Yowza! (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. State Auditor Dave Yost is scheduled to testify on charter law reform in the Ohio House next week. I think
  4. ...
  1. Senate Bill 3 had another hearing yesterday. That’s the “education deregulation” bill that would, among other things, allow a raft of exemptions to districts which meet certain criteria as “high performers.” Yesterday’s testimony focused on the proposed definition of a high quality district, some witnesses asking for a broader and some a narrower definition. As it stands now, the Senate Bill’s provisions would allow 125 districts to be considered high performing and therefore be eligible for regulatory relief in areas such as testing and teacher licensure. The state budget has a different definition of a high-performing district, under which just 20 districts would qualify. Hearings will continue. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. I am reasonably certain that suburban Pickerington City Schools would be considered “high quality” by both of the proposed measures. (Full disclosure, I have nieces and nephews who have graduated from and are currently in high school in P’town.) But in practice, Pickerington’s superintendent isn’t satisfied. Her “state of the district” report highlighted what’s going right and what’s not, especially as enumerated on the district’s most recent state report card. She spoke of plans in place and in development to address areas of poor grades – including a D in gifted programming and missed indicators in math and science in certain grades. That’s right folks – test data driving changes in the way a school district does business. Shocking, eh? (ThisWeek News/Pickerington Times-Sun)
     
  3. The principal of Hebron Elementary School in rural central Ohio brought with her a
  4. ...

A few weeks ago, I used a graphic to show the four dimensions of federal accountability, each of which has a range of options. I then used this graphic to show the consensus for preserving NCLB testing.

Here I used it to show how eleven major ESEA reauthorization proposals address the other dimensions (remember, minimum federal accountability is on the left; maximum on the right). The total picture is as confusing as subway map.

But when broken down, the graphic reveals three distinct approaches, one of which offers the best chance at reauthorization.

Federal Prescription

Several proposals that appeared in the testing-alone graphic do not appear here because they didn’t take clear positions on the dimensions beyond testing. Of those remaining, four embrace what I call Federal Prescription. Their underlying logic is: If we want states, districts, and schools to get better results, the feds must tell them what to do.

NCLB is current law and represents the most expansive federal role on the table. It mandates and specifies performance targets (100 percent proficiency, Adequate Yearly Progress, etc.); creates mandatory, specified performance categories (“in need of improvement,” “restructuring,” etc.); and spells out the activities required for struggling schools.

The plan offered by House Democrats was similar. It would’ve required states to set performance targets for all students. States would’ve been required to identify “schools in need of support”...

  • In case there was any doubt that you can fool some of the people all of the time: A new Fairleigh Dickinson poll reveals that a great many Americans have no earthly idea what’s actually in the Common Core State Standards—but they hate ‘em anyway. Over half the respondents believed global warming, evolution, and sexual education are included in the standards (they’re not). Almost comically, those who say they are most informed about Common Core are precisely those most likely to be wrong about what the standards actually contain. Thankfully, about four in ten have the honesty to tell pollsters they know nothing about Common Core.
  • Of course, standards are just part of the solution to a big national problem: Way too many high school seniors are graduating without being fully prepared for college or career. Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire has proposed a novel response: legislation that would require the state’s school districts to reimburse recent high school graduates who need remedial classes at the college level. Innovative, but terrible. It’s unrealistic to expect every graduating senior to be ready for college. Students would be better served by college entrance requirements—even for community colleges.
  • What do small rural universities, big Catholic orphanages, and sylvan nature sanctuaries have in common? According to a new ProPublica report, they all somehow authorize charter schools—and not all of them do so competently. The disparate institutions charged with regulating charters are bound by varying
  • ...

According to this Education Resource Strategies report, State Education Agencies (SEAs) possess “a gold mine of untapped material”—vast amounts of school and district data collected annually. This information is currently used for accountability purposes or to inform research and policy, but the report calls for what may be an even more important data deployment to inform local decisions that could potentially help schools make the most of limited resources. For example, Maryville Middle School in Tennessee used value-added performance data on teacher effectiveness to match educator strengths with student needs. The result? Maryville has repeatedly outperformed all other schools in the state on student growth measures

A good example, yet it’s also a fact that raw data alone are not too useful. Helpfully, the report offers several ways in which SEAs can make this information more actionable for local education agencies. They can, for example, create their own analyses providing feedback on allocations of people, time, and money. Such analyses should examine the connection between resources and student achievement so schools and districts can deploy the most effective or relevant resources to the students who need them most.

Besides such sensible (if obvious) recommendations, this report serves to highlight what well-designed data systems can do. If we want to make the most of the resources within our current K–12 systems, data may be the most powerful tool we have.

SOURCE: Stephen Frank and Joseph Trawick-Smith, “Spinning Straw into Gold: How state education agencies can transform their data to improve...

Faced with enormous budgetary shortfalls, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) opted in May 2013 to close forty-seven schools, one of the largest instances of school closures in U.S. history. CPS then set about relocating more than ten thousand displaced students into higher-performing schools for the 2013–14 year. The district called the schools that absorbed the transplanted pupils “welcoming schools.” The policy was supported by research showing that students affected by closure benefit academically if they land in a better school. The welcoming schools were all higher-performing on CPS’s internal measures of performance; they also received additional resources to ease the influx of new students (e.g., pupil safety and instructional supports). So how did the policy play out? According to University of Chicago analysts, 66 percent of displaced students enrolled in their designated “welcoming school” in fall 2013, while 25 percent attended other neighborhood-based CPS schools, 4 percent enrolled in charters and a similar number in magnets. An analysis of student records indicates that distance from home, building safety concerns, and residential mobility were all significant reasons why one-third of the total went somewhere other than their welcoming school. Interesting, to be sure, but the study does not report anything about the academic results for CPS students in their new schools. (Stay tuned for a new Fordham study of how Ohio students fare after closure.) Overall, CPS crafted a reasonable though not perfectly implemented policy for reassigning students to better schools. While few places are apt to shutter schools on...

Pages