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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...

High schools hoping to increase student success in college have often turned to an innovative solution: allow students to take college-level coursework before they graduate. The hope is that by exposing teenagers to college courses earlier, they will be more likely to think they are “college material,” earn a bit of college credit for free (or nearly free), and get acclimated to college-level rigor. (Most of these courses are taught on high school campuses by high school teachers.) A new report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), however, questions just how strong some of these courses are and examines state strategies to ensure rigor.

The ECS analysts found that states generally follow one of four approaches to ensure quality in “dual enrollment” courses: 1) Some states, including Colorado, leave decisions about whether courses are worthy of credit up to post-secondary institutions; 2) others, such as Delaware, require post-secondary institutions and high schools to reach agreements, but do not prescribe the nature of those agreements; 3) eight states have adopted the guidelines of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), which are designed to ensure quality and cover topics including curricula, faculty, students, assessments, and evaluations; and 4)...

  1. Most of the discussion of the governor’s education funding proposals so far has focused on districts, the funding formula, and winners/losers. Now it’s time for media and pundits to take a look at what funding changes may be afoot for charter schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Here’s more discussion of proposed charter funding changes…with charts. And something else to note: the PD is the only major daily in the state whose comments section is free and open to all. As I publish these clips, there are well over 300 comments on this story with no sign of slowing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. If you can stand it, here is one more piece on charter school funding proposals. That story is packaged with another, which features the good folks at Innovation Ohio discussing charter law reforms in both the budget and other legislation currently in hearings in the General Assembly. Interestingly, while they seem supportive of the mainly “sponsor-centric” reforms on offer, they add highlight other changes they’d like to see, which are much more “school-centric”. To wit: “swifter closure of failing charters, transparency standards equal to district schools, and funding that does not punish districts.” Worth a read.
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  1. Two years ago, I spent part of Presidents Day listening to Terry Ryan address the Columbus Education Commission. Yesterday, I spent part of Presidents Day listening to Chad appearing as a panelist on public radio’s Sound of Ideas program talking about the “new era” of testing in Ohio. (WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
     
  2. Chad is also quoted in this story from the Advocate, which is perceptive in noting that much of the charter law reform currently being proposed in Ohio is sponsor-centric. That is, putting the onus on sponsors to make sure their practices are of the highest order with the belief that that will improve schools…or at least spotlight the poor performers which can then be acted upon.  (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. The Ohio Board of Regents released a report last week on teacher preparation programs in the state, tracing results from the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System back to the university program that prepared the educator. Some of the data is limited, but this is the third year such a report has been done and BOR folks think they’re seeing some important changes in teacher prep practices as a result. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  4. Nice look at dual enrollment
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Community stakeholders in Cincinnati – including philanthropy, education, and more – have formed a coalition whose goal is to transform education outcomes for students in the Queen City by creating an ecosystem of high-performing schools accessible to all children.

The nascent non-profit organization is called The Cincinnati Schools Accelerator, and they are looking for a dynamic leader who believes in the mission of attracting and growing proven school models – regardless of type – and building the talent pipeline needed to fuel a local system of high-performing schools. 

To learn more about the Cincinnati Schools Accelerator organization and to apply for the CEO position, click here. Application deadline is March 25, 2015.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference for families in Cincinnati and Ohio Gadfly applauds the efforts.

For advocates of evidence-based urban education policy, a recent New York Times profile of New York City Schools’ Chancellor Carmen Fariña should offer serious cause for concern. That Fariña has worked to dismantle several of the promising Bloomberg-era education reforms is not the main offending issue. (The former is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected from the current administration.) As Robert Pondiscio has previously pointed out in this space, far more worrisome is Fariña’s apparent view of the proper role of research in education policy—one seemingly rooted in the bad old days when high-quality empirical research was dismissed or ignored.

Chancellor Fariña plainly nurtures none of the previous administration’s fondness for data, preferring a more “holistic” approach. Nor, for that matter, does she even require test scores to know which schools are performing well. The chancellor, perhaps with Spidey-sense, knows a good school when she sees it.

To be fair, I’m open to the claim that perhaps some of the Bloomberg reforms were too technocratic. And no one could have reasonably expected Chancellor Fariña to be an empirical data junkie. But her recent statements reveal a remarkable disdain for science’s role in formulating education policy. The following New York Times passage...

Not much education news out there today. And what there is appears to be an extended “more dollars”/“lower percentage” argument about school funding proposals between Democratic legislators and staffers working for the Republican governor. There is a chart and a graph.  Enjoy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
 

RESEARCH BITES: LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS AND SCIENCE

The chart below shows the 2013-14 proficiency rates for low-income African American students in Ohio. The achievement gap between low-income African American students and white students is most pronounced in science (45 percentage point gap) when compared to math (33 points) and reading (21 points). The data shown on this chart should give us reason to consider how we can dramatically improve the scientific knowledge of low-income African American students. (Worth noting is that the highest-wage jobs today are for college graduates in engineering and technological majors.) There are some instances of science and industry helping low-income, predominately minority schools (see here and here). More investments like these need to be made.

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  1. In case you missed it on Twitter, Chad testified in favor of HB2 in front of the House Education Committee yesterday, along with several other witnesses. You can find thorough coverage from Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch. Some good questions from legislators on the important subject of charter law reform. They are clearly engaged on the issue. Chad’s full written testimony is here, if you’re so inclined.
     
  2. We haven’t been talking too much about Common Core lately. To redress that imbalance, here is an interesting and detailed look at how teachers in high-flying Hudson Schools have implemented the standards. Probably a text-book example of the fact that no matter how “common” the standards might be, the implementation – and the implications for student success – is as local as the four walls of every individual classroom. (Hudson Hub Times)
     
  3. One of the reasons why the standards themselves have not been in the news as much lately is that much of the media focus has been on testing – the first statewide test-drive of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments is upon us. In the piece from Hudson above, teachers lament the long lag time in
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