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SEVENTH TIME'S THE CHARM?
The New York Post has absolutely maddening coverage of an apparently bulletproof first-grade instructor. At a recent termination hearing, the New York Department of Education declined to fire the Teflon teacher in spite of her six consecutive unsatisfactory ratings. She was reassigned to a pool of substitutes and allowed to keep her generous salary even though she was absent or late sixty-four times in the last school year.

THAT'S A REALLY BIG BUCKET
Much of the recent debate surrounding testing and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act stems from the belief that states spend too much money issuing standard assessments. However, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy, Matthew Chingos, clarifies that the $1.7 billion price tag on the assessments is a “drop in the bucket” amidst a $600 billion annual education allotment. 

WHILE YOU WERE OUT
You may have missed the news dump out of Louisiana if you left early for Super Bowl weekend: On Friday afternoon, Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order authorizing parents to opt their children out of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments. The move is yet another manifestation of Jindal’s noisy and petulant campaign against the standards, now more than a year in the making. Chas Roemer, chairman of the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), claimed that "the executive order has no constitutional binding for BESE. While he can...

Research Bites: Education in Ohio’s State of the State cities

Last week, Governor John Kasich announced that Wilmington will host his 2015 State of the State address. While Ohio governors have traditionally given their State of the State at the capitol, the address has been held outside of Columbus since 2012. This led me to wonder about education in the cities that have hosted the address ever since Governor Kasich has taken it on the road. The cities are Steubenville (2012), Lima (2013), Medina (2014), and Wilmington (2015). Here’s a quick look at the education in these four Ohio towns, district only, since just Lima has brick-and-mortar charters (two of them). As you’ll notice, Medina and Steubenville have relatively strong student achievement, while Lima lags behind. Given the sluggish student performance in Lima, it is of particular concern that the district does not have a single A-rated school along the Ohio’s value-added measure, which estimates the academic impact of schools measured as achievement gains tracked over time.

Student Enrollment (left) and % Economic Disadvantage (right), 2013-14

Medina City Schools is by far the largest and most affluent of these school districts. Lima and Steubenville are of similar size and practically all of their students are considered economically disadvantaged. Wilmington has considerably fewer economically disadvantaged students than Lima or Steubenville, though it is of similar size.

3rd Grade Reading Proficiency (%), 2013-14

Steubenville City Schools takes top honor in the percentage...

  1. Editors in Toledo opined on HB 2 – the charter school law reform bill – citing Fordham’s recent reports  while doing so. (Toledo Blade)
     
  2. HB 2 is not the only mechanism by which charter school quality can be improved. The new state budget – to be unveiled later today – will include a number of proposals designed to do just that via funding mechanisms, including facilities funding and access to local funding for operations for the first time. But with those new sources of funding would come increased accountability, especially for sponsors. Bellwether Education Partners’ recent policy recommendations – a report sponsored by Fordham – are cited as part of the basis for these budget proposals. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. School districts may be in line for some funding changes as well in the governor’s new budget. The Big D takes a look at this among other items in their budget preview. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Lest you think that improving charter sponsor quality is a new endeavor for the state of Ohio, this story should be a good reminder of the work that the Ohio Department of Education is already undertaking in this regard. The Portage County ESC has been under scrutiny by ODE for more than a year for its poor sponsorship practices, despite having a couple of high-performing individual schools in its portfolio. It is already barred from adding new schools and now it seems that it will be going out of the sponsorship
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GIRLS RULE, BOYS DROOL
In terms of educational performance, girls appear to be on the way to running the world. Seventy percent of the countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation and Development showed that girls are outpacing boys in math, science, and reading. It remains unclear why boys are falling behind, but potential causes range from harsher disciplinary action against male students to a lack of male teacher role models in schools.

HOW "COMMON" IS COMMON CORE?
The Brookings Institute’s Tom Loveless provides a great look at a thorny question facing parents and students as school districts begin adapting to the Common Core State Standards: Will universal standards force schools to ditch accelerated curricula for high-achievers? As he asks, “Will CCSS serve as a curricular floor, ensuring all students are exposed to a common body of knowledge and skills?  Or will it serve as a ceiling, limiting the progress of bright students so that their achievement looks more like that of their peers?” For more on the topic, see Loveless’s paper for Fordham’s Education for Upward Mobility conference. And stay tuned for more on the topic in an upcoming policy brief from Fordham.

MEMPHIS: A REFORM STORY
Memphis is the site...

  1. With typical diligence, Patrick O’Donnell took his time in covering the introduction of HB 2 – the charter reform bill. His piece came out late yesterday, including an interview with our own Chad Aldis on the significance of the bill and of the high-level media coverage that preceded its introduction. "I think they got a lot of the really important things," Chad says of the bill. "This is a great start for looking at charter reform.” Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. O’Donnell also was able to garner a direct and specific response to the bill from the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. She calls the bill “tweaking” and “window dressing”, as you might expect. She also seems to have coined a new pejorative: “educaneurs”, which I can’t find anywhere else on the internet. Kudos. I have t-shirts already on order. They'll pair well with my bright yellow scarf. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Canton opine on the need for – and the apparent bipartisan interest in – charter law reform. They reference CREDO’s Ohio charter school performance study and the State Auditor’s recent report on charter school attendance in their argument. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Here’s a fascinating piece covering a public forum in Cleveland Heights-University Heights titled "The Myth of Failing Teachers" and discussing “the damaging effects of high-stakes
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AGAINST THE GRAIN
Chalkbeat New York covers New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial plan to evaluate and promote teachers, one that focuses on increasing assessment-based ratings to count for 50 percent of an evaluation and lowers the weight of principal observation and feedback. Fordham’s sensational tag team of Mike Petrilli and Andy Smarick weigh in on the plan, saying that Cuomo is moving in the opposite direction of other state leaders.

WE'VE GOT TO BOOK THIS GUY FOR AN EVENT
It looks like everyone over at Success Academy Harlem East has been eating their Wheaties. On his morning visit to the New York City charter school, Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, noted remarkable behavior by both teachers and students. The dedicated instructors and quality curriculum in place at the school challenged students and gave them the opportunity to critically engage with class material and learn from their own mistakes. Perhaps this is the secret behind the charter network’s unparalleled recent test scores.

EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT: OHIO
A new bill in Ohio has many charter school backers optimistic that they will see meaningful reform, specifically in the domains of accountability and transparency. The proposed legislation calls for a number...

  1. Slightly-belated coverage of Monday’s School Choice Week event in Columbus showed up in public media yesterday. I probably shouldn’t even clip this today as it’s obviously slanted (likely why it took so long to be published). The absence of Cleveland Schools’ CEO Eric Gordon from the coverage is especially egregious, but more importantly is the very odd photo of myself while speaking. While I know my words were neither particularly eloquent or inspiring, I apparently did hold sway long enough to get my fellow speakers to all look at empty air while I gestured about something. Ah well. Can’t look like a rock star at every event. (WOUB public media, Athens)
     
  2. In actual news, Republicans in the Ohio House gave clear indications of their priorities yesterday with the introduction of a number of high-importance bills, first in the 131st General Assembly. High on that priority list is reform of charter school law – HB 2. You can read coverage of the bill itself in several media outlets today. Both Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch include reaction from our own Chad Aldis. To wit: "Our independent research clearly shows the need for better transparency and accountability, so we're pleased with the legislature's decision to make charter school reform a priority… Parents of charter school students and all Ohio taxpayers should be very happy that our elected officials are tackling these reforms." Nice.
     
  3. Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee spent their full hearing time on
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NCL-BETTER
In light of yesterday’s post by Michael Petrilli on federal accountability measures, Neerav Kingsland offers suggestions for a few more improvements to NCLB: First, the feds should require states to clearly identify their bottom 5 percent of schools and create a plan to better serve the students attending them. Second, charter school programs should be quadrupled. Finally, let the federal funding help finance more innovative education programs in the states.

THE CHICAGO WAY
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s no-nonsense education agenda has earned him a lot of points with charter advocates, but lost him some with his constituents. In 2013, the city closed fifty low-performing schools, a move that rankled a large chunk of his Democratic base. Yet a new study shows that a majority of students affected by the closures were ultimately enrolled in higher-performing schools, making it a win for local accountability.

QUICK: WHAT ARE THE THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT?
Arizona recently approved a bill that will require high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. Some say students should emerge from the education system equipped with the kind of knowledge that shapes active civic duty, and Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio says the same. As many as twelve other states are pursuing similar legislative action.

TIDE STEMMED
The past decade has brought virtually no growth in the proportion of college graduates who leave school with degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Excluding some of the...

  • National school choice week is upon us—a time to push for high-quality choices, march across the country, and wear yellow scarves. It’s also a week when stories about choice, charters, and the like get much deserved attention. Such is the case in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo recently bucked teachers’ unions and announced a grand education-reform agenda. Proposed changes include more charter schools, tougher teacher evaluations, and, most impressively, a tax-credit scholarship program designed to allow low- and middle-income New Yorkers to attend private schools. As our very own Checker Finn observed, Cuomo may very well be the first Democratic governor to propose a private school choice program. A bruising political battle is sure to come, but for now, choice advocates have ample cause to celebrate.
  • The U.S. Department of Education is out to prove yet again how tone-deaf it is. Maine is the most recent state in danger of suffering from the department’s unlawful practice of revoking NCLB waivers over teacher evaluations—an issue not mentioned once in ESEA. Arne Duncan wants student tests scores to be a more significant factor in the state’s teacher evaluations. Is that so? The Nation’s Superintendent might want to watch the video from Tuesday’s Senate hearing on ESEA reauthorization, where lawmakers across the political spectrum expressed their distaste for mandating such evaluations from Washington. Duncan should take the hint and get out of the teacher-evaluation oversight business. Now.

A new study in Educational Researcher explores changes in New York’s teacher workforce since the Empire State implemented a number of policies to improve the quality of its new teachers. Beginning in 1998, the state increased the general and content-specific coursework requirements needed for certification and raised the number of hours of required field experience. It also eliminated ad hoc alternative certification pathways like “transcript review” in favor of programs with formal requirements and discontinued emergency and temporary licenses. The authors examine whether these policy changes had an impact on who entered the teaching workforce. Their dataset, comprising SAT scores, administrative data, and licensure and personnel files, looked at two groups between 1985 and 2010: 220,332 individuals who received their entry-level certification; and from within that group, a subset of 151,747 who received certification and were hired in their first teaching positions. They found that, prior to 1999 and the new policies, the average academic abilities of new teachers were low and consistently falling. Once the new policies were adopted, the SAT scores of both the certified group and those who were hired improved substantially, with the latter enjoying the largest gains. For example, between 1999 and 2010, the share of certified teachers drawn from the bottom third of SAT test-takers decreased by 7 percent, while the share from the top third increased by 13 percent. These gains occurred across the state, in all subjects, at both rich and poor schools, and for teachers of all ethnicities. But the improvements...

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