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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...

The late Don Meredith, beloved color commentator from the glory days of Monday Night Football, liked to break into song when a game hit garbage time, or a big play put the game out of reach. “Turn out the lights!” he would sing in his folksy Texas twang, channeling Willie Nelson. “The party’s over!” Dandy Don’s voice was ringing in my ears as I read a new report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future. The publication dares to ask out loud how much longer we can thrive as a nation when a vast segment of our society—Americans between sixteen and thirty-four who will be in the workforce for up to fifty more years—“lack the skills required for higher-level employment and meaningful engagement in our democracy.” Seldom have I read a more depressing report.

“Despite having the highest levels of educational attainment of any previous American generation,” writes ETS’s Center for Global Assessment Director Irwin S. Kirch in the report’s preface, “these young adults on average demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments compared to their international...

  1. In what is likely a first, a participant in one of Ohio’s new Standards Review Committees has given an interview to his local newspaper. He is a long-time science teacher in Mansfield, which is likely very good experience for evaluating science standards. But I honestly can’t decide whether he’s defining his mandate too broadly (he seems to be on a vendetta against Common Core, which has nothing to do with Ohio’s homegrown science standards) or too narrowly (“That will be my focus: What is best for the Mansfield community,” he says, as if he wasn’t on a statewide commission). But either way, if you think Ohio consists only of Mansfield and the “affluent suburbs of Columbus”, you might not be the best candidate for the job anyway. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  2. It’s time for another round of the game I like to call “If This Were a Charter School, the Response Would Be...” An internal audit reveals that the phone system used to route incoming calls for transportation questions and issues in the Columbus City Schools is a giant steaming pile of fail on about every possible front. Message priority, call routing, hold times (“If the caller is
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  1. I complained last week that Ohio’s whiz-bang Straight-A Day – wherein recipients of innovation fund grants got to show off their tech success to legislators and the public – was covered in the Ohio press with a single boring AP piece that included no pictures at all. The folks at Getting Smart have a far more robust round up of the event with lots of cool project details. Nice to see this get coverage via a bigger platform, but seriously, does no one carry a camera anymore?  (Getting Smart)
     
  2. Evaluation of teachers and classroom practices can take place in lots of ways. Ohio has a new-ish formal process through OTES, but this story is about a “snapshot” style of classroom evaluation in Lorain – a sort of “walk-through diagnostic”. These have been conducted in Lorain middle and high schools for 10 years, says the district superintendent. They are best practices with which he says that principals can “take the pulse” of a classroom and give helpful feedback to both teachers and students to improve the learning environment for everyone. Lorain has been in academic distress and overseen by a distress commission since 2013. And all the adults
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Cheers to Cardinal Schools in Geauga County. Experts in autism education have deemed the district an exemplar of best practices for inclusion and support. Their “model classrooms” were videotaped in action earlier this month, and the footage will be shared with educators across the state and the country. Of additional note: Cardinal is connected to two district merger proposals that would, if successful, bring their expertise directly to students with autism in three other county districts.

Jeers to the board, administration, and sponsor of Gateway Academy, a charter school in Franklin County. Last week, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost announced that the school’s financial records were “incomplete, unauditable and inexcusable.” Thankfully, annual audits of charter schools are mandated under law in Ohio, and sponsors are held accountable when those audits uncover a mire such as this.

Cheers to wider publicity for the EdChoice Scholarship voucher program, no matter how it happens. Dayton City Schools would rather hold students hostage than let thousands of eligible kids leave with a voucher due to the persistent poor performance of their schools. Fortunately for families, the Dayton Daily News covered the district’s determination in a lot of depth…including a full list of...

  1. Wow. Leave it to State Auditor Dave Yost to have his own incisive take on charter law reform. While the current media narrative is “sponsor-centric” reforms vs. “school-centric” reforms, let’s just say that Yost thinks that neither approach is 100 percent on the mark for him. His work auditing sponsors and investigating schools has led him to the central question of when a charter school is acting as a private organization vs. when they take on a governmental role in educating children. He’ll be advocating for Ohio to define the line between these functions, and he’s got a thing or two to say about monitoring/reporting attendance and online coursework. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. PARCC testing in Ohio is likely back on again today in most places as last week’s cold snap – which closed schools for days – ebbs a bit. This gave Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek time to opine somewhat confoundingly on testing, largely from the perspective of her own son. She says he was an “overconfident” test taker in the days of OAAs but that he’s now one with the “stressed-out masses”. You might think that this is because he – and she – perceives
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  1. Editors in Canton agree with Chad today while opining on charter law reforms proposed by Governor Kasich. Well, they really just take one item from his recent House testimony with which they agree, while basically saying the proposals don’t go far enough to suit them. But we’ll take the media hit…and Chad will happily accept the editors’ agreement. Both happen so rarely. (Canton Repository)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Cleveland opine on the governor’s proposed changes to charter school funding, agreeing with no one but themselves. CREDO’s report on charter school quality in Ohio – sponsored by Fordham – is name-checked and linked. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Well, PARCC testing in Ohio – and pretty much everything else – came to a screeching halt when Elsa worked her magic on us, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t Common Core news to talk about. What does it mean to align curriculum to a set of standards? How does that play out in a classroom/school/district? Journalist Chike Erokwu digs into those questions in this thoughtful piece. Spoiler alert: there is art and writing involved, group discussion, a teaching framework from a non-profit organization, and lots of direct input from teachers
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  1. It’s been cold and snowy in central Ohio for the last few days, causing traffic slowdowns and other headaches. But what were some local charter school leaders doing in the pre-dawn hours yesterday morning? Not checking to see whether they should cancel school, but instead tearing across town in the snow to get to Columbus City Schools’ facilities office to be first in line to put bids on closed school buildings. While charters getting first crack at buying surplus buildings is a step up from previous years when they were routinely shut out of bidding, I don’t think that the Death Race-style crack-of-dawn jockeying was truly the intent of the state law passed last year that put charters first in line. On a personal note, I’m glad to see my old elementary school appears to be getting a new tenant: one of the highest-rated charters in the city. Congrats. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. In the midst of the aforementioned weather misery, this week has been showtime for the state’s new PARCC tests. How’s it going? The PD’s Patrick O’Donnell gives us the Northeast Ohio perspective in this piece. Approximately 100,000 students had at least started testing as of yesterday and
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  • Politico has a look at Chicago’s fast-approaching mayoral election, in which incumbent Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces off against four challengers. Even though he leads his closest opponent, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, by nearly twenty-five points, Rahm still can’t seem to consolidate the necessary support needed to avoid a runoff. At issue is his sweeping education reform agenda, which has been credited with the closure of a raft of failing schools, the expansion of pre-K to more low-income kids, and a record spike in the high school graduation rate. Teachers’ unions and their backers are having none of it, throwing their support behind Garcia after having gone on an infamous weeklong strike at the beginning of the mayor’s term. Let’s hope Rahm sticks to his guns and broadens the growing network of Democratic figures agitating for reform.
  • The Windy City isn’t the only place handing out more caps and gowns. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. high school graduation rate reached a record 81 percent in 2013. It’s a terrific development, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan lost no time in trumpeting it as “a vital step toward readiness.” If you want
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In just twenty-five short years—it’s scarcely older than most of its current recruits—Teach For America has gone from a grassroots edu-insurgency to the largest teacher pipeline in the country and a dominant voice in reform debates. How’d they do it? In this new white paper, Bellwether analysts Sara Mead, Carolyn Chuong, and Caroline Goodson use internal TFA documents and interviews with key past and present staff members to tease out how the organization was able to maintain high quality while scaling up for the last fifteen years. Turns out it’s not rocket science, just hard work. TFA relied on regular measurement of applicants, corps members, and students. They’ve been equally diligent in expansion planning, taking care to evaluate each new region’s need for teachers, potential funding base, and local politics—as well as TFA’s ability to attract talent to live and teach in a given area. Rigorous quality-control mechanisms during new-site development and deepening ties in the places they already serve have fueled an expansion from 1260 corps members in fifteen regions in 2000 to 10,500 in fifty regions in 2013. And much of this has been successful due to TFA’s operational agnosticism (there’s not a lot of, “We do it...

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