Additional Topics

  1. The state board of education is this week discussing whether to move forward on “safe harbor” provisions allowed in the recent MBR - giving a year's grace to districts' report cards based on the new PARCC exams. We'll see how that goes, but there has also been some discussion as to whether “safe harbor” provisions should be extended to teachers in the wake of the new exams as well. Delaware City Schools has already moved ahead with changing their teacher evaluations, tying 50% of a teacher’s “grade” to student-growth measures. “Students who perform well on tests are most likely performing well in the classroom,” the Supe reasons. (ThisWeek News/Delaware News)
     
  2. Must be the season for moving alternative schools and programs around. We told you about one last week and here’s another. The Madison-Champaign ESC is moving its hybrid program for students at risk of dropping out from a classroom in Urbana to a modular space in Bellefontaine 25 miles away. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  3. A giant embezzlement case involving the Springboro Athletic Boosters organization dating back nearly five years is having continuing consequences for the district. The group still has not
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There’s not a ton of stories today, but those few clips are pure gold:

  1. Let’s start with a sad and silly follow up to yesterday’s clip about the Youngstown Schools’ superintendent’s annual evaluation. Turns out that the copies of the evaluation given to reporters and the public omitted the written notation from the Supe that “I don’t agree with the evaluation”. Who knows how the intrepid journalist figured this out but when it was confirmed, she and others were quick to call public records foul. My favorite bits include: board members disagreeing about who did the copying, the description of the copier follies whoever it was encountered in trying to make the thing work (“We were all pressing print.”), and best of all is the fact that the evaluation form itself is for the “Younstown” City Schools. No wonder the Supe disagreed! (Younstown Vindicator)
     
  2. Let’s keep to the theme of the ridiculous for a minute and talk about the “Freshman Fresh Start” doctrine which is in force in Cleveland Metropolitan School District for the first time in 2014-15. This allows 8th graders with poor grades to regain eligibility
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  1. A little-noticed provision in the recently-passed education MBR bill allows up to 10 school districts or other entities to obtain waivers from parts of Ohio’s accountability system (testing, teacher evaluation, etc.) if they are members of the Ohio Innovation Lab Network. The waivers, requiring alternative assessments/accountability to be approved by ODE, will likely be written in 2014-15 with implementation for those whose waivers are approved beginning in 2015-16. The list of ILN members thus far (i.e. – eligible for waiver consideration) is a mixed bag of high-flyers, known innovators, and question marks. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The K-12 education subcommittee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Committee meets again today. Expect some more thoroughly efficient fireworks. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. Homeschoolers, by definition, have opted out of the traditional education system as far as their states will allow. In Ohio, it’s pretty hands-off, so surely the Common Core shouldn’t bother homeschooling families that much. Well, the Midwest Homeschoolers Convention is going on in Cincinnati this week, and Common Core is apparently a big topic, at least to this one mom who was interviewed. Why? The impending alignment of college entrance exams – which even homeschoolers need to think about
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Balanced literacy is off balance

NEA saber rattling, a teacher-quality decree from the White House, and balanced literacy crawls from the grave yet again in NYC. Amber spills about TFA spillover effects.

Amber's Research Minute

Examining Spillover Effects from Teach For AmericaCorps Members in Miami-Dade County Public Schools by Michael Hansen, Ben Backes, Victoria Brady, and Zeyu Xu (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, June 2014).

I’ve never been to the annual conference of the National Education Association and I’ve never regretted it, but it would have been fun to be a fly on the chandelier at last week’s shindig in Denver.

For starters, the delegates voted to ask Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign. Similar resolutions had been introduced at previous NEA conferences but never passed. Media coverage indicates that it was Duncan’s (muted, even ambivalent) response to the Vergara court decision in California that “broke the camel’s back.” Education Week’s ace journalists note that Duncan has for some time served as flak catcher for the NEA’s mounting unease with various Obama administration policies, enabling the union to “shoot the messenger” rather than denouncing a President that it ardently supported in both 2008 and 2012. (Duncan scoffed at the resolution.)

Then Dennis Van Roekel, outgoing from the NEA’s presidency after six long, slow, boring years, gave a long, rambling valedictory speech. It wasn’t surprising that he attacked Michelle Rhee—but the other “corporate reformers” whose “onslaught” he described include Democrats for Education Reform!

Do you share my sense that perhaps the historic coupling of the NEA and the Democratic Party is ...

  1. We’ve told you a number of times about the student journalists being used by the Beacon Journal and the Vindicator to attack charter schools from all angles, including the lovely Jacob Myers who came at us a couple months back by phone leading off with, “Are there any good charter schools in Ohio?” Well, once we ascertained what he was really interested in, Aaron gave him a ton of great information and lo and behold Jake actually wrote about what he learned. I think these two pieces from the student journalists’ blog are a couple of months old, but worth sharing anyway for the heavy use they make of Aaron’s Parsing Performance report card analysis from last fall. Plus it’s a slow news day. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  2. Sandusky schools have taken over management of a two-year-old online alternative program targeted to students ages 14 to 22 who “don't fit the mold of a traditional classroom education.” Students in the program can also participate in traditional extracurriculars within Sandusky schools. Previously, the local ESC managed the program – open to students from any district – but now Sandusky will do the work and collect the
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  1. The tone is a bit condescending, but we’ll take the media hit: StateImpact Ohio takes a look at Fordham’s Lacking Leaders report. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  2. Dispatch editors weigh in decidedly in favor of School Choice Ohio’s legal action against two school districts on the topic of public records. This legal action will be resolved soon with or without this support, but my favorite bit is on another related topic: “The more successful School Choice Ohio is in getting the word out [about voucher eligibility], the more students may leave public schools via vouchers. Public schools understandably want to avoid this, but they should fight against it by making their schools safer and more effective — not by scheming to prevent families from knowing about their options. Scheming in defiance of state law would be even worse.” Wow. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We are still feeling the effects of the bitter winter weather in central Ohio. No, not by skiing in July, but by the aftereffects of legislation aimed at helping districts whose calendars were hard hit by the weather. Districts and charter schools can now count their instructional time in hours rather than in days. And with that in
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Just as the education-reform movement is starting to figure out how to use test-score data in a more sophisticated way, the Obama administration and its allies in the civil-rights community want to take us back to the Stone Age on the use of school-discipline data. This is an enormous mistake.

We all know that there are real problems with the ways that discipline is meted out in some American schools today. You can find campuses where huge numbers of students are suspended or expelled, particularly African American and Latino teenagers and mostly boys. Those young people are extraordinarily likely to end up in America’s bloated prison system as adults, causing all manner of societal suffering along the way, not to mention blighting their own lives. “Zero tolerance” policies—by removing administrator discretion and treating all offenses as equally injurious—have arguably made things worse.

I whole-heartedly support efforts to improve the ways that schools handle these issues; tips and training on creating a positive school culture and reducing suspensions and expulsions are welcome. Nor do I doubt that some of America’s 100,000-plus schools discriminate against minority children. Russlynn Ali,...

Teach For America (TFA) is one of the nation’s largest alternative routes into the teaching profession. In the 2013–14 school year, there were 11,000 corps members reaching more than 750,000 students in high-need classrooms all around the country, including nearly 150 TFA members in the Cleveland and Cincinnati-Dayton areas. Yet even with TFA’s growing scale, its teachers are a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the country’s teaching force of approximately 3 million. This raises the question of how best to allocate these young, enthusiastic teachers. Should corps members be dispersed widely across a district’s schools, or should they be “clustered” into targeted schools? Would having a high density of TFA members in a few, high-need schools provide positive learning benefits even for students with non-TFA teachers (“spillover” effects)? This new study analyzes the impact of clustering TFA members in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), using district level data from 2008–09 to 2012–13. TFA altered its placement strategy in M-DCPS in 2009–10 and began to cluster members in a smaller number of turnaround schools. For example, among middle schools with a TFA member, 18 percent of the school’s teaching staff was, on average, TFA in 2012–13,...

The Education Tax Policy Institute in Columbus released a new report that says the tax burden in Ohio has shifted significantly since the early 1990s, from businesses onto farmers and homeowners, to the detriment of school districts and local governments. Much hay is being made over this report by the usual suspects, including the alphabet soup of education groups (BASA, OASBO, and OSBA) who commissioned it. Here are a few examples of media coverage the report has garnered:

While this report is interesting and describes changes to the state’s property-tax policy over the years, it doesn’t offer much in the way of...

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