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  1. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lorain City Schools was undergoing its first review since coming under the auspices of an academic distress commission. That review is now nearly complete and in the fine tradition of good news/bad news, the district gets the good news first.  Among those pieces of good news: cooperating with the distress commission and “working to build the culture of high expectations” as determined by fully aligning its ELA and math curricula with the Common Core. It’ll be another couple of weeks before the bad news is made public. I’ll stay on the lookout. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  2. The dean of Ohio’s distress commission work is Paul Marshall, who has been doing the fiscal distress side of the work around the state for many years. I look forward to his eventual book on the work because it will be fascinating. Case in point: Mansfield City Schools, where the current oversight commission had to suspend work on a fiscal plan earlier this week due to tussles with staff over custodians. On an unrelated note, I declare the “Keep Calm and…” t-shirt trend to have jumped the shark as of publication of this piece. (Mansfield News Journal)
     
  3. Streetsboro’s Board of Education recently approved an option for students with disabilities to "opt-out" of algebra II and one advanced science course beyond biology and to trigger an “individual career plan” process that seems geared to direct students
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The beach forecast is looking warm and sunny. You need your edu-reads. Here’s installment two!

When I was working for a state department of education, I had the chance on several occasions to meet with groups of award-winning teachers. In every case, I learned a great deal. Their thoughts on policy issues were always insightful and often different than the positions staked out by the reform crowd and unions. I was reminded of those experiences by this new report from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. It summarizes survey results of state and national teachers of the year; they hold forth on the professional experiences that most contributed to their impressive performance. Anyone interested in educator effectiveness ought to read it…and we all should think of ways to make more use of this organization in the future.

Several of my Bellwether colleagues have written a terrific report on the use of student surveys in teacher evaluations. This subject ended up in lots of headlines after the release of findings from the MET study and as states developed new rules for educator evaluations. But there’s been a paucity of reporting on what’s actually happening. No more! This report finds that the use of student surveys is still quite limited in districts and preparation programs, though a growing number of high-performing charter operators have adopted this approach (often at the...

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It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry over the demand by U.S. college students for “trigger warnings” to alert them that something they’re about to read or see in one of their classes might traumatize them—apparently a new trend, according to the New York Times. Ditto for off-beat campus sculptures, placards displayed by protesters and more.

Poor dears. These are the same kids who would riot in the streets if their colleges asserted any form of in loco parentis when it comes to such old-fashioned concerns as inebriation and fornication. God forbid they should be treated as responsible, independent adults! After all, they’re old enough to vote, to drive, even (though it’s unlikely) to join the army.

Yet they want their professors to shield their precious eyes from anything potentially offensive. In the words of a course-syllabus guide produced by Oberlin College’s Sexual Offense Policy Task Force, that means flagging “all forms of violence” and examples of “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression.” Although the Oberlin faculty has temporarily tabled the document, the school’s Office of Equity Concerns already admonishes instructors to “take steps to make the classroom more inclusive for … individuals of all genders, gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations.”

Just how, aside from inviting all of one’s students to take their seats, is a teacher supposed to manage that? Does the history professor refrain from...

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  1. In case you hadn’t yet heard, Fordham’s Aaron Churchill has a fantastic op-ed in the Dispatch today, who graciously allowed him to rebut the paper's recent report on charter schools and segregation by running the numbers and continuing the important conversation. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. We have long championed Reynoldsburg City Schools as a district where reform and innovation are welcomed in the name of helping students succeed. Today, we are learning about a proposal to change teacher compensation to what looks like a full merit pay system – along with a cash payment in lieu of district-provided health insurance. The Big D got the info on this proposal via a public records request (yeah!) and no one in the district is quoted on the record, but the teachers union and BASA are. Could get interesting folks. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Ohio's new report cards got a big thumbs up from both parent reviewers and wonky researchers in a new study from the Education Commission of the States. Reviews cited breadth of measures, ease of interpretation, and easy accessibility among other things. Best of the best, baby! (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. StateImpact's Bill Rice was paying attention to the K-12 education MBR last week and produced this piece talking about Common Core changes proposed in the legislature. Important moves underway with regard to standards in Ohio. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  5. Editors in Akron were also paying attention to the State Senate last week, and late yesterday they opined
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On Friday, the Oklahoma legislature voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Common Core. The bill also requires that they be approved by the legislature, which will “bring representative government into the process”—a surefire recipe for a hot mess. Regardless of your views on the Common Core, or any standards, do you really want what the next generation learns to be determined by who wins the next election? The future of high-quality educational standards in the Sooner State is now in the hands of Governor Mary Fallin, who has until the end of next week to decide whether to sign the bill or let it die via a pocket veto. We hope she makes the right decision.

Yesterday, the New York Times’s David Leonhardt rounded up evidence finding that college is “clearly” worth the cost, highlighting two new studies in particular: one from the Economic Policy Institute and another by MIT economist David Autor (published in Science magazine). EPI found that the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else reached a record high last year, and Autor found that the true cost of a college degree is negative $500,000 over the average lifetime. However, Autor notes that the calculation doesn’t control for preexisting differences between college grads and non-grads—and that’s the rub. If you’re well prepared for college, it’s worth it—but we can’t ignore the fact that many are not....

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The #Kimye edition

After discussing what the research says young North West’s likelihood of educational success are, Mike and Michelle get down to brass tacks on Oklahoma’s possible Common Core repeal, the value of a college degree, and what makes Boston’s charter sector so high quality. Amber grades America’s public pension plans.

Amber's Research Minute

The State of Retirement: Grading America's Public Pension Plans by Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, and Benjamin G. Southgate, (Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2014).

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror and Labor Day far over the horizon, miles and miles of beach-filled days stretch ahead of us. Nothing complements SPF 325 and drinks with umbrellas like some high-quality recent edu-reads.  Here’s the first installment of some good stuff I’ve come across; you’ll get tranche two tomorrow.

More to come as researchers’ keyboards allow and sunny days demand.

I recently wrote about my evolving thinking on the “public” in public education, especially as it relates to “local voice” and “system-wide coherence” in increasingly choice-based urban locales. If these issues interest you, I highly recommend a paper by Ashley Jochim and Michael DeArmond presented at a recent conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy. They explore the influence that choice-based “fragmentation” has on “collective action.” Unlike too many conference papers, this one is not only informed by recent policy developments and current activities, it also has timely, actionable recommendations. Great stuff from the team at CRPE.

Andy Rotherham and Ashley LiBetti Mitchell, my colleagues at Bellwether, recently penned Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges: A Decade of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms, which captures and analyzes the major efforts to improve educator effectiveness over the last several decades. Readers will learn about the research findings and policies that predated today’s focus on growth scores, teacher evaluations, and preparation programs. The report also provides a list of sober recommendations for an area of work prone to bingeing.

Speaking of educator-effectiveness...

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1. Lots of talk about dropout rates this weekend - in Ohio and in Akron specifically in a series published in the Beacon Journal:
● We start with a piece about charter schools’ dropout rates in the state, which the journalist says are making the overall number look particularly bad. Well, specifically dropout recovery schools…Well, specifically dropout recovery schools run by White Hat Management. This piece was also reprinted by the Dispatch this morning.
● Next up, a quick run through the numbers comparing Akron to Ohio's other urban districts…and LifeSkills Centers statewide and district-run dropout programs.
● Finally, an in-depth piece about a dropout recovery charter school that used to be part of the White Hat family, now on its own.

2. There was also a locally-written story in Columbus about dropouts this weekend as well, but the numbers previously reported by Columbus City Schools now appear to have been fictitious, caught up in the data manipulation we’re all tired of hearing about. (Columbus Dispatch)

3. In other news, Governor Kasich has made an appointment to the state board of education, filling one of two remaining seats. (Columbus Dispatch)

4. Speculation on the existence of “corporatization” runs through this story about business taking renewed interest in education in Ohio, but it seems like a pretty benevolent to me: "There's...

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Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaursaquatic lifeinsectsfrogs and other amphibiansreptilesbirdsmammalshuman evolutionearthquakes and volcanoesAncient Asian Culturesearly American civilizationsAncient GreeceAncient RomeNative American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of DiscoveryColonial America and the Revolutionary War; the American founders; the Lewis and Clark expeditionmovie adaptations of classic children’s books, and American folk heroes.

Understanding outer space is, quite literally, a huge undertaking. Thankfully, Netflix and the other streaming sites are here to help explorers young and old, with tons of great content about this fascinating subject. To infinity—and beyond!

Special thanks to research interns Andrew McDonnell, Elisabeth Hoyson, and Liz McInerney for helping to compile these lists.

Best videos on outer space

The Planets

1. The Planets

This documentary series examines cutting-edge discoveries about the planets, explores the origin of the sun, considers life on other worlds and more.

Length: Eight 50-minute episodes

Rating: TV-G

Provider: Netflix

How the Universe Works

2. How the Universe Works

Join host Mike Rowe for a...

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  • Two new bills were introduced in the Ohio House yesterday, with the intent of changing charter school accountability. Here is a good but wonky piece talking about that legislation (Gongwer Ohio).
  • Several weeks ago, we reported that the Lorain County ESC conducted a survey of registered voters in the county on education issues. They touted the results at the time as a clear indication that state legislators were out of touch with voters on education issues and vowed to take action in their county. Before we get to the punchline today, let me note that there are over 202,600 voters in the county and that the ESC’s survey was returned by approximately 620 voters. If this month’s primary election’s turnout was “abysmal” at 14.75 percent, how much more abysmal is a survey return of this size? Anywho, the “action” part of the ESC’s master plan seems to be cranking up just as school is ending for the year. A panel discussion took place earlier this week with a group of superintendents from districts in Lorain County. Here are three takes on that event:
  1. We’ll start with the tiny Chronicle-Telegram, which notes that Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer was participating and cheering the supes on, but there’s tons of unsubstantiated talk about Common Core and charter school funding in here that I can’t tell if it comes from the speakers or the journalist or a combination of
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