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  1. Most of the discussion of the governor’s education funding proposals so far has focused on districts, the funding formula, and winners/losers. Now it’s time for media and pundits to take a look at what funding changes may be afoot for charter schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Here’s more discussion of proposed charter funding changes…with charts. And something else to note: the PD is the only major daily in the state whose comments section is free and open to all. As I publish these clips, there are well over 300 comments on this story with no sign of slowing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. If you can stand it, here is one more piece on charter school funding proposals. That story is packaged with another, which features the good folks at Innovation Ohio discussing charter law reforms in both the budget and other legislation currently in hearings in the General Assembly. Interestingly, while they seem supportive of the mainly “sponsor-centric” reforms on offer, they add highlight other changes they’d like to see, which are much more “school-centric”. To wit: “swifter closure of failing charters, transparency standards equal to district schools, and funding that does not punish districts.” Worth a read.  (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  4. Elsewhere in the General Assembly, SB 3, the so-called “education deregulation” bill is not generating a ton of interest. Its first big hearing yesterday garnered only one proponent and a gaggle of interested parties testifying together. Are stakeholders not interested in unfettering the high flyers or
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A couple weeks ago, I created a graphic to help explain the contours of the debate about federal accountability in the ESEA reauthorization process. My immediate purpose was to show that the blanket term “accountability” actually includes four dimensions, each of which includes a range of possible policies. I organized each of the four along a continuum, with “minimum” and “maximum” federal accountability representing the two ends.

The ultimate purpose of the graphic was to serve as a tool for assessing various proposals and, hopefully, revealing where a final compromise might be found.

Since then, I’ve read all the major proposals, speeches, press releases, and news accounts I could find. In this post, I focus only on what I’ve learned about testing.

I’ve plotted on the continuum the highest-profile proposals. Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. Apart from the congressional bills, the proposals are somewhat vague, and trying to turn words into images involves some artistic license. These caveats notwithstanding, three major lessons were revealed.

1. Emerging Consensus

In the middle-right, you’ll see a group of proposals with a blue bracket. All of these either explicitly embrace the NCLB suite of tests or strongly imply that this is their preference. The left/right orientation of the bracketed proposals doesn’t convey additional meaning; all of these proposals are virtually the same on this dimension. I’ve listed them above the bracket...

  1. Two years ago, I spent part of Presidents Day listening to Terry Ryan address the Columbus Education Commission. Yesterday, I spent part of Presidents Day listening to Chad appearing as a panelist on public radio’s Sound of Ideas program talking about the “new era” of testing in Ohio. (WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
     
  2. Chad is also quoted in this story from the Advocate, which is perceptive in noting that much of the charter law reform currently being proposed in Ohio is sponsor-centric. That is, putting the onus on sponsors to make sure their practices are of the highest order with the belief that that will improve schools…or at least spotlight the poor performers which can then be acted upon.  (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. The Ohio Board of Regents released a report last week on teacher preparation programs in the state, tracing results from the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System back to the university program that prepared the educator. Some of the data is limited, but this is the third year such a report has been done and BOR folks think they’re seeing some important changes in teacher prep practices as a result. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  4. Nice look at dual enrollment in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana: the means by which high school students can get college credit for courses taken while still in high school. There are a number of avenues in each state, but the availability and the processes vary greatly from high school to high school. Ohio is working
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Community stakeholders in Cincinnati – including philanthropy, education, and more – have formed a coalition whose goal is to transform education outcomes for students in the Queen City by creating an ecosystem of high-performing schools accessible to all children.

The nascent non-profit organization is called The Cincinnati Schools Accelerator, and they are looking for a dynamic leader who believes in the mission of attracting and growing proven school models – regardless of type – and building the talent pipeline needed to fuel a local system of high-performing schools. 

To learn more about the Cincinnati Schools Accelerator organization and to apply for the CEO position, click here. Application deadline is March 25, 2015.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference for families in Cincinnati and Ohio Gadfly applauds the efforts.

For advocates of evidence-based urban education policy, a recent New York Times profile of New York City Schools’ Chancellor Carmen Fariña should offer serious cause for concern. That Fariña has worked to dismantle several of the promising Bloomberg-era education reforms is not the main offending issue. (The former is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected from the current administration.) As Robert Pondiscio has previously pointed out in this space, far more worrisome is Fariña’s apparent view of the proper role of research in education policy—one seemingly rooted in the bad old days when high-quality empirical research was dismissed or ignored.

Chancellor Fariña plainly nurtures none of the previous administration’s fondness for data, preferring a more “holistic” approach. Nor, for that matter, does she even require test scores to know which schools are performing well. The chancellor, perhaps with Spidey-sense, knows a good school when she sees it.

To be fair, I’m open to the claim that perhaps some of the Bloomberg reforms were too technocratic. And no one could have reasonably expected Chancellor Fariña to be an empirical data junkie. But her recent statements reveal a remarkable disdain for science’s role in formulating education policy. The following New York Times passage is particularly startling:

Asked recently, for example, about a multiyear study showing that students who attended the small high schools started by the Bloomberg administration were more likely to graduate and attend college than their peers at larger schools, [Chancellor Fariña] dismissed its conclusions. “It’s one view of things,” she...

Not much education news out there today. And what there is appears to be an extended “more dollars”/“lower percentage” argument about school funding proposals between Democratic legislators and staffers working for the Republican governor. There is a chart and a graph.  Enjoy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
 

RESEARCH BITES: LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS AND SCIENCE

The chart below shows the 2013-14 proficiency rates for low-income African American students in Ohio. The achievement gap between low-income African American students and white students is most pronounced in science (45 percentage point gap) when compared to math (33 points) and reading (21 points). The data shown on this chart should give us reason to consider how we can dramatically improve the scientific knowledge of low-income African American students. (Worth noting is that the highest-wage jobs today are for college graduates in engineering and technological majors.) There are some instances of science and industry helping low-income, predominately minority schools (see here and here). More investments like these need to be made.

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  1. In case you missed it on Twitter, Chad testified in favor of HB2 in front of the House Education Committee yesterday, along with several other witnesses. You can find thorough coverage from Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch. Some good questions from legislators on the important subject of charter law reform. They are clearly engaged on the issue. Chad’s full written testimony is here, if you’re so inclined.
     
  2. We haven’t been talking too much about Common Core lately. To redress that imbalance, here is an interesting and detailed look at how teachers in high-flying Hudson Schools have implemented the standards. Probably a text-book example of the fact that no matter how “common” the standards might be, the implementation – and the implications for student success – is as local as the four walls of every individual classroom. (Hudson Hub Times)
     
  3. One of the reasons why the standards themselves have not been in the news as much lately is that much of the media focus has been on testing – the first statewide test-drive of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments is upon us. In the piece from Hudson above, teachers lament the long lag time in receiving scores from PARCC the first time around. As we told you yesterday, there are new “safe harbor” provisions for PARCC takers in the works, and bills to strictly limit the amount of time spent on testing. And then there’s the whole “let’s just stop all testing” rhetoric. I think
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  • A recent cover story in the Economist called the highly educated “America’s new aristocracy.” Basically, education (and the greater earnings with which it is correlated) has become increasingly heritable. Educated, clever people tend to marry other such people and raise their kids to emulate that model. This is all well and good for those people, but it’s widening the income gap and leaving behind children born into educationally (and financially) impoverished homes. So what’s to be done? The article has some suggestions, such as early intervention. We have a bunch of ideas of our own. To be sure, it’s a very complicated problem with myriad causes. Nevertheless, it’s a nut we need to crack.
  • In a time of broad national attacks on testing, the George W. Bush Institute has published an important essay that shows how much achievement has increased in the age of NCLB testing. Beginning around the turn on the century, the federal government began tying annual tests to school accountability, complete with sanctions for inadequate performance. Since that time, significant achievement gains have been made in math and reading, especially among minority children at age nine; scores for white students in 2008 were the highest ever in both reading and math for nine- and thirteen-year olds. “What was good for poor and minority students was good for all students,” they note. Meanwhile the achievement gap between white kids and their black and Hispanic peers has shrunk. Testing is surely overdone in
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Rural school districts are the oft-ignored middle child of our nation’s public schools, consistently snubbed in favor of their urban and suburban siblings. Through a survey of rural superintendents, this report by the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho One sheds much-needed light on the most pressing issues rural educators face—primarily rooted in educators’ struggle to deliver effective, cost-efficient education to students who live in isolated communities. Small rural districts are underfunded. Science, English, and foreign language instructors are in short supply because rural districts lack the incentives to attract them, causing faculty to teach classes that exceed their qualifications. The report’s most interesting recommendation is to increase rural technological connectivity through the implementation of blended learning, a hybrid teaching method that combines digital learning with traditional classroom instruction. This reduces the need for a large, specialized instructional staff by providing live video lectures from teachers elsewhere. Such an initiative would improve the quality of rural education and save districts money. Yet as promising as this all sounds, funding is also an issue here—a concern that the report could have addressed in further detail. Implementing successful blended curricula will require massive up-front injections of capital for things like new tech gadgets, full-time IT personnel, and teacher training. Districts already pinching pennies cannot get their hands on necessary start-up funds without significant reforms to federal, state, and local funding policies. The report briefly addresses this with both an unrealistic recommendation to alter the Title I funding and a more meritorious...

Citing insurmountable data challenges, the authors of Great Schools’ most recent evaluation of the School Improvement Grant Program argue that policymakers are left “without a clear and unambiguous picture of whether this major investment in turning around the nation’s lowest-performing schools worked as intended.” The view may be opaque, but what we can see isn’t pretty.

According to the report, between the 2009–2010 and 2012–2013 school years, SIG grantees at the elementary and middle school levels saw a cumulative increase in proficiency of only a few percentage points in most grades and subjects relative to comparison groups—a disappointing result, considering some schools saw funding increases of as much as 58 percent per student under the program. And while SIG’s restart and closure models were used so infrequently that little can be said about their effectiveness, the report indicates that there were no statistically significant differences between the rates of improvement at transformation and turnaround schools, a finding that suggests that it doesn’t much matter which one-size-fits-all improvement models the federal government prescribes—implementation is what counts.

Unfortunately, SIG’s implementation was deeply troubled, as the authors of the report document through approximately fifty interviews with superintendents, program directors, principals, and teachers. Unsurprisingly, SIG grantees experienced difficulties with “the removal and recruitment of staff, community and union resistance to school changes or closures, the ability to secure and retain sufficient resources to launch and sustain the turnaround efforts, and conflicting demands from various stakeholders.” Additionally, governance was (as always!) a barrier to...

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