Additional Topics

  1. The good folks at The 74 Million blog referenced Fordham’s blockbuster school closure and student achievement report while discussing the same topic in terms of New York City school closures earlier this week. What; you don’t know about this particular bit of Fordham awesomeness? Shame on you. Go check it out right now. Partially because it’s the end of the year and we’re trying to max out on our stats, but mainly because it is – as I mentioned before – awesome. (The 74 Million, 12/2/15)
     
  2. Thanks for checking out our school closure and student achievement report. Glad to have you back with us here at Gadfly Bites. Last week in this very spot, we noted that Columbus City Schools had five days or so of tech hell when several systems melted down at once and moving to backups was found to be more difficult and time consuming than expected. I can sympathize and am happy to report that a previously-planned full-blown tech audit for the district has been moved up in the schedule as a result. Once again, CCS, I know a great tech consultant if you’re looking bidders. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/4/15)
     
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Is there such a thing as too much parental involvement in a student’s education? Lack of parental involvement is often cited anecdotally as an impediment to student achievement. On the other hand, so-called “helicopter parents” can run their children’s education like drill sergeants. The goal is educational and occupational success, but there is increasing concern that such intense involvement could instead lead to dangerous dead ends. A new study in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds much-needed data to the discussion. (Disclaimer: The study is from Germany, so mind the culture gap.)

There have been a number of studies over the last forty years looking at parents’ aspirations for their children, which is a useful way for psychological and sociological researchers to measure parental involvement. However, the current study’s authors noted two gaps in previous research. First, temporal ordering of effects was not generally considered (i.e., it was assumed that parents’ involvement led to certain academic outcomes in the future, but the current research supposes that kids’ past achievement could lead to more/different parental involvement in the future). Moreover, little effort was made to separate parental aspiration (“We want...

  1. As a rule, Ohio’s education journalists are shall we say wary when it comes to education reform issues. For most of today’s clips, however, I fear we’re looking at “wary” in the rearview mirror. Let’s start with a PD piece about online charter schools. Its opening paragraph reads “Poor test results at online schools are creating divisions in the charter school community in Ohio and nationally, leading some national leaders to question whether e-schools should even be part of the charter school movement anymore.” It quotes Nina Rees as saying, “If you were to eliminate the (test scores of) online schools, the performance of the state would dramatically improve." All fairly factual, but I can’t help but wonder what the opener would have been if there was any doubt about those claims. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/30/15)
     
  2. The Dayton Daily News is claiming credit for “persuading” Ohio’s treasurer to ask charter schools to join his push for opening their expenditures for online inspection by the public, along with other public entities statewide. The treasurer said his oversight in not asking charters previously to join his voluntary program was inadvertent, but that doesn’t satisfy the DDN who dig into
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  1. The pointed language and slant in this story about busing of K-12 students in Akron (all students that is – district, charter, and private) is impossible to miss, and a number of pertinent facts about how busing actually works in Ohio are absent or elided. I’m going to avoid the obvious bait and simply point out that if families weren’t choosing to go to schools other than Akron City Schools, the “problem” would be far less than is presented here, even without changes to current busing rules. And that the lone parent interviewed gave a pretty cogent reason for choosing another option. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/30/15)
     
  2. Perhaps the good folks at Akron City Schools should take a break from the echo chamber and read this piece instead. After decades of serious decline, Cleveland Metropolitan School District is cautiously reporting a possible gain in its student population. If it proves to be true, officials in the CLE will have some celebrating to do. What is most instructive at this point, however, is that district officials are crunching the numbers daily and actively trying to figure out where new students are coming from, what district schools they are choosing,
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  1. Fordham is namechecked and Vladimir Kogan’s guest post for the Ohio Gadfly is discussed in this article about the whole “Similar Students Model” vs. Value-Added conundrum currently doing the rounds here in Ohio. Cage match, anyone? (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/24/15)
     
  2. Here is a ton more detail on committee proposals for fixing Ohio’s charter sponsor review process. Interesting if esoteric stuff. The public comment period on these proposals runs until December 7. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/23/15)
     
  3. My kids got their PARCC test scores in the mail earlier this week. All is well in the Murray household. This piece discusses the full process of informing families of the students’ test scores – individually, districts, and statewide. One question from me not answered here or in earlier stories about this: what impact will opter-outers have on the emerging data? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25/15)
     
  4. Quick – what were YOU doing in 2005? I was watching the first series of the newly-revived Doctor Who. The Ohio Department of Education was reducing what are known as “foundation payments” for three of the largest school districts in the state due to lower-than-expected enrollment. Those reductions have been contested by the districts
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NOTE: State Sen. Cliff Hite is holding a series of events around Ohio to discuss the topic of extracurricular activities and the fees being charged by schools for those activities. He intends to introduce a bill soon that could call for the banning of so-called pay-to-play fees. Chad Aldis spoke at one such event today. These are his written remarks.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment today on pay-to-play fees.

Before I begin, I would like to commend Senator Hite for his focus on these issues. Policies like pay-to-play may aid schools with their immediate budgetary concerns, but they also put a strain on families. While many of the proposals that you will hear about today are a good start, I encourage you to think broader and perhaps even outside the box.

For years, the Fordham Institute has focused on education as a means of social mobility. Schools have long been championed as places where we can level the playing field for low-income children. Unfortunately, that leveling doesn’t happen as often as it should or even...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill is briefly quoted in this piece taking a preliminary look at preliminary PARCC test scores. Aaron notes that this is only preliminary data. Preliminarily. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/20/15)
     
  2. I’m sorry to have found this rather remarkable series of stories at its midpoint, but I think you will agree it is worth catching up and then tuning in for the final parts over the next two weeks. Journalist Bradley W. Parks has dug deeply into Ohio’s district and school building report cards and has visited all six Muskingum County school districts to see what the report card measures mean to superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents. The result is a compelling five-part series focusing on key individual measurement areas. Part One is an overview of district report cards, discussing all of the moving parts and how those parts have been affected by other moving parts (standards, testing, etc.) Quotable: “In an effort to make everything measurable, we’ve lost sight of what is important,” said one supe. “If you were trying to come up with a system to destroy public education, I’d think you’d done a pretty good job.” (Zanesville Times Recorder, 11/7/15) Part Two
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  1. We’ll lead off today with some good news. Dayton City Schools was one of two districts in the state whose academic performance put them on a path to a possible designation of “academic distress” and all that that entails in Ohio. As a preventative measure, the Ohio Department of Education offered help. To wit: “We have flooded the district with services and support, to the total of 546 days of service from our staff,” the Dayton school board was told this week. “We’re very proud to be … welcomed by Superintendent Ward, the district leadership team and the teachers and principals who are with us on a daily basis.” Sounds great. And how are things looking in the wake of all that help? “If the district continues in the vein that it is in now, with fidelity and adherence to their plan,” ODE staff told the board, “we do not foresee that more intensive supports will have to be placed upon the district.” In other words, the “Youngstown Plan” will not need to become the “Dayton Plan”. Sounds pretty good based on my summary, right? But if you read the piece all the way to the end you will
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The Achilles’ heel of the West, I read not long ago, is that many people struggle to find spiritual meaning in our secular, affluent society. How can we compete with the messianic messages streaming from the Islamic State and other purveyors of dystopian religious fundamentalism?

It made me reflect on my own life. How do I find meaning? Largely from my role as a father, a role I cherish and for which I feel deep gratitude. But ever since I lost faith in the Roman Catholic Church of my upbringing—not long after I nearly succumbed to cancer at age eighteen—much of my life’s meaning has come from my view of myself as an education reformer.

I suspect that I am not alone. We are drawn as humans to heroic quests, and those of us in education reform like to believe that we are engaged in one. We’re not just trying to improve the institution known as the American school; we see ourselves as literally saving lives, rescuing the American Dream, writing the next chapter of the civil rights movement.

When people speak of Arne Duncan with tears in their eyes—explaining earnestly that he has always put kids first—it...

John Chubb was not only a fine scholar, tireless education reformer, and creative innovator. He was also my friend and colleague for more than two decades. I first came upon him in 1990, when he (then at Brookings) and Terry Moe published their blockbuster school choice book, Politics, Markets and America’s Schools. Two years later, we found ourselves working together at the outset of Chris Whittle’s ambitious Edison Project. We both also served as founding members of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, which led to much collaboration over more than fifteen years, as well as more terrific books, articles, and reports written or edited by John. (A good collection can be found here.)

While he was still with Edison (where he lasted a lot longer than I did), we had many dealings over that firm’s stewardship of a pair of charter schools that Fordham authorized in Dayton. He and I also found ourselves together at umpteen conferences, workshops, and board meetings. Quite recently, John surprised many of us by taking the helm of the National Association of Independent Schools. He was off to a terrific start there, fully grasping the challenges of that corner of...

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