Additional Topics

  1. Not much for the Gadfly to bite into today, so we’ll make the most of what we have. Starting with this very nice profile of Fordham-sponsored Village Prep :: Woodland Hills school in Cleveland. The story centers on the pervasive college-prep mentality in the school, down to the classroom doors all decorated with college logos/flags/mottos. "It's a literal and figurative door to college," says Head of School Chris O’Brien, and the students interviewed echo that mindset. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There is very little mention above of the economic conditions of Village Prep students, but it is noted that many students come to the school behind in their learning and that the school works hard to bring their students up to grade level as quickly as possible. Editors in Columbus are thinking on similar lines as they opine on the quandary of raising the achievement levels of economically disadvantaged students when non-academic factors weigh so heavily against them. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The website WalletHub has released a study ranking states based on the best opportunities for teachers. Among the 18 metrics used are median starting salary and teacher job openings per capita. Ohio ranked 8th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This in itself is fascinating, but I would be remiss if I did not note that the Plain Dealer, from which I clipped this story, is the only major daily paper in Ohio whose website is still free and open to the
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DEMOCRACY REQUIRES PATRIOTISM
“In the long and deadly battle against those who hate Western ideals, and hate America in particular, we must be powerfully armed, morally as well as materially,” writes historian Donald Kagan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT
Former President Bill Clinton made waves with “stunning remarks” arguing charters that don’t outperform public schools should be closed. If “stunning” means saying the same thing charter advocates have been saying for twenty years, responds NACSA head Greg Richmond, “then yes, his remarks were stunning.”

“NOBODY WANTS TO BE ATLANTA”
The Wall Street Journal reports on “a burgeoning industry in detecting cheating on standardized exams.” School districts from Delaware to Idaho are hiring anti-cheating consultants, buying software to spot wrongdoers, and requiring testing companies to offer anti-cheating plans when seeking contracts. 

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH
Literacy expert Tim Shanahan enters the fray on teaching with complex text, not just “leveled” text. “Teachers should pay attention to evidence—not opinion,” he writes. Read Fordham’s take by Mahnken and Pondiscio here.    

HISTORY LESSONS
In Philly, students are required to take a one-year course in African American history, but many find the course frustrating, says the New Republic. And teachers “sometimes fear that introducing current events and encouraging interpretation and debate will lead to...

  1. Gongwer Ohio discussed Aaron's Poised for Progress report on Friday, looking at new report card data from the perspective of the distribution of high-quality seats in Ohio's urban areas. OAPCS's report card analysis is covered as well. Nice! (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How did the Big D get wind of the fact that Columbus City Schools is losing high schoolers to other districts and schools? Football. 8 teams were downgraded to smaller leagues based on student population. No matter. This fact spurred an investigation to find that most other Franklin County districts are losing high schoolers as well. No one has any idea why or even where specifically kids are going. Conjecture from our education professionals include competition from those pesky charter schools and the ease of public transit (?!) making changing schools easier. If only there was a study about this sort of thing though…. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. According to StateImpact, among those high schoolers who do find the right fit and stick it out, four-year graduation rates are improving among Ohio’s Urban 8 districts. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. This weekend’s talks between Reynoldsburg teachers and the district were unsuccessful and teachers are back on the picket line this morning. On the upside, sounds like Friday’s football game went off OK without any “spillover”…minus the loss to Pickerington Central that is. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. A number of districts in Stark County have tightened up their truancy policies this year – at least one of them citing
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  1. What could be worse than extended weeks of daily school transportation delays? Perhaps having your transportation up and functional for a couple of weeks, only to have it stopped with the explanation that you shouldn’t have had this bus service these last few weeks anyway. Oops. Our bad. For the love of Pete – please find another way to do this. (ThisWeek News/Bexley News)
     
  2. Cleveland’s Brent Larkin opines on the (lack of) substantive education discussion going on during the gubernatorial contest in Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Speaking of the gubernatorial race, gubernatorial challenger Ed FitzGerald visited the picket line in Reynoldsburg yesterday. I will leave the question as to why a Clevelander visiting central Ohio was covered most fully in the Toledo paper up to others to answer. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Gubernatorial candidate FitzGerald only gets a brief passing mention in the Big D’s Reynoldsburg story today….probably because things have taken a turn for the bizarre there. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. Recall that there is a law on the books in Cleveland that parents must meet with their children’s teachers. There are no consequences, as you might imagine, but Year 1 numbers for parent visits were significantly higher than in previous years. It’s Year 2 now, and the fall parent meeting numbers are trending even higher than last year. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. We stay in Cleveland for our final Gadfly Bite today: The Sound of Ideas this week featured a formerly homeless
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DEPARTMENT OF GOOD NEWS:
Hispanic children, the fastest growing group of young people in the U.S., are seeing improvements on many academic measures, including increased math proficiency and lower dropout rates.

DEPARTMENT OF BAD NEWS:
The number of charter schools has nearly doubled over the past decade, but federal and state assistance for funding school facilities and renovations, a major obstacle for many charter schools, has declined.

COMMON CORE UNFOLDS IN LOUISIANA:
In spite of the legal furor surrounding the implementation of Common Core in the Pelican State, the standards have seen a mostly encouraging reception in the classroom, Will Sentell reports in the New Orleans Advocate.

YALE BEATS HARVARD, 20.2-15.4:
Yesterday we pointed you to a Wall Street Journal story highlighting Harvard’s somewhat lackluster 15.4 percent investment gains in fiscal 2014; today brings the news that archnemesis Yale posted a 20.2 percent return over the same period. Meanwhile, the Crimson's investment arm has brought on a new chief executive....

  1. We noted busing woes in a few parts of the state at the beginning of the school year. Sadly, a shortage of drivers in the Cincinnati area is extending transportation woes for families in district, charter, and private schools far into the school year. Please can we think up a new way of doing this? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. I’m tempted to comment on the use of the phrase “traditional charter school” here, but the story is just too good to mess up with snark. A charter school in the Toledo area is partnering with a center for children with autism to help transition students into a more typical classroom setting. Gregory, for one, seems to be doing very well so far. (WTVG-TV, Toledo)
     
  3. Pickerington Central High School’s band will not be performing at tomorrow night’s football game against Reynoldsburg. Apparently band parents were concerned about “spillover” from the ongoing teachers strike in Reynoldsburg and Pickerington pulled the plug on the performance. I don’t know what “spillover” is but the fact that every adult involved on all sides of this strike didn’t rush out to reassure, “Every visitor to our stadium will have a good time and be just fine, like always,” probably says all you need to know. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Officials from North Olmsted and Bay Village schools are talking Common Core this week in their local paper; specifically, the current legislative assault against it. There’s a lot in here but this quote probably
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Kevin Mahnken

Among opponents of the Common Core, one of the more popular targets of vitriol is the standards’ focus on improving literacy by introducing higher levels of textual complexity into the instructional mix. The move to challenge students with more knotty, grade-level reading material represents a shift away from decades of general adherence to so-called “instructional level theory,” which encourages children to read texts pitched at or slightly above the student’s individual reading level. New York public school principal Carol Burris, an outspoken standards critic and defender of leveled reading, recently published an anti-Common Core missive on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog that was fairly typical of the form. Where, she wondered, “is the research to support: close reading, increased Lexile levels, the use of informational texts, and other questionable practices in the primary grades?”

The blog post, which has already been intelligently critiqued by Ann Whalen at Education Post, expanded on remarks delivered by Burris earlier this month at an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate with Fordham president Michael Petrilli and former assistant secretary of education Carmel Martin. There, too, she demanded evidence of literacy improvements arising from the use of complex texts.

A fair request and one that warrants a thorough response. But first, for the benefit of readers who are neither teachers nor literacy specialists, a quick explainer on how these two theories of reading work: In leveled reading, a teacher listens as her...

Every child should be in a school where he or she can learn effectively. That’s not a controversial goal in itself, but the methods meant to accomplish it can become hot buttons. That was the case with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which made the goal a national policy. It’s also becoming the case with the Common Core, under which states commit to educate children to rigorous standards.

Actions taken in pursuit of the goal are controversial because they are inevitably difficult and complicated. There is a lot of work of many kinds to be done: improving teacher training, experimenting with more effective methods, and continuously enhancing learning opportunities for children. Moreover, none of these tasks are enough by themselves. What ties them together is accountability—the use of standards, measures, judgments, and remedies to ensure that students are making significant progress over time and, if some are not, to ensure that they have access to better opportunities.  

Accountability is where the rubber meets the road. And, thanks to NCLB, we have unprecedented data about schools, students, and teachers. We have a sharper focus on students who are failing in schools that serve the average student well. States and localities have new tests to provide early warning when children are not learning, and have tied these results to remedial action and school closure or replacement.

But we are still struggling to get accountability right. In particular, the current backlash...

On Monday, Paul Peterson penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that American politicians ought to stop exploiting the common, mistaken belief that most schools are getting by on a shoestring. This is also, of course, a strong argument for more fiscal transparency, something that doesn’t get enough treatment in ed reform. If states and districts were more upfront about per-pupil costs, we could start having useful conversations about how to efficiently and effectively spend money—and how to best stretch school dollars.

Over at Education Next, John Bailey and Tom Vander Ark call for democratizing school information. Most of us won’t watch a movie, buy a book, eat at a restaurant, or stay at a hotel without checking crowd-sourced and/or expert reviews. It’s appalling, then, that Americans are forced to choose where their kids attend school without this sort of fundamental, easy-to-access data. Annual school report cards, which are required under federal law and ought to the one-stop shop for discerning parents, are difficult to find, lack key data, and can be hard to understand. And GreatSchools.org, a fantastic, useful resource, often bases its ratings exclusively on test scores, falling short of providing parents a complete picture. Thus a redesign of annual report cards is in order. Fortunately, MySchoolInfoChallenge.com—a joint project from ExcelinEd, Getting Smart, and Vander Ark—is leading the charge.

Ohio recently released its school report cards for 2013–14. The results were predictable, at least when it...

Blended learning, a teaching model in which students learn from both online sources and traditional instruction, has recently seen tremendous growth. Advocates say it can improve brick-and-mortar schools and increase students’ curricular options. A new white paper written for CEE-Trust examines two new blended learning networks created by local, city-based organizations and provides a framework for others who wish to emulate their efforts. Front and center is the work of the Chicago Public Education Fund and the CityBridge Foundation (in cooperation with the NewSchools Venture Fund). The former selected sixteen teams of educators to enroll in their Summer Design Program and provided tools and support that enabled them to better recognize school shortcomings and develop novel ways to offset them—typically through the implementation of blended learning programs. Likewise, CityBridge and NewSchools created the Education Innovation Fellowship to improve the quality of blended learning programs in Washington, D.C. Twelve teachers were chosen to design and implement the model in their classrooms with constant feedback from their peers through CityBridge-organized events. They also took part in workshops and visited schools around the country that are utilizing this type of instruction. Both programs helped foster the development of innovative learning models by creating an environment in which they could succeed, and both organizations shaped their networks around five general considerations: desired outcomes; recruitment, screening, and selection; training and support; external partners; and deciding which entities should pilot the network. The paper argues that these efforts offer a serviceable blueprint for others wishing to...

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