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Peace, love, and lawsuits

Mike and Alyssa discuss a Kumbaya moment in the Common Core debate, weigh the wisdom of governors suing Arne Duncan, and confirm that charter schools ought to be about choice. Amber schools us on the evolution of teacher evaluations.

Amber's Research Minute

Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change: From 'Unsatisfactory' to 'Needs Improvement',” by Chad Aldeman and Carolyn Chuong, Bellwether Education Partners (August 2014).

  1. Back-to-school time is usually one of hope and possibility, but registration problems in Mansfield schools are causing dozens of students to simply sit and wait to start and parents and guardians to worry about lost time. The implication is that parents/grandparents haven’t done what is required in a timely fashion to register their mobile students – closed charter schools, other districts, etc. – but I can only imagine that the finger-pointing from the district is counter-productive. Suggestion to administrators: start school a day early next year for new kids only. (Mansfield News Journal)
  2. Kelli Young takes a look at the history of Stark County’s school districts and their boundaries, and gives us a fascinating piece about the way decisions from decades ago affect student assignments, taxes, transportation decisions, and governance across municipal and county lines today. There is little appetite among the Stark County ESC board to further consolidate, it seems, but Young at least asks the questions that many Stark County parents are asking. (Canton Repository)
  3. I missed this editorial from Akron over the weekend. Here it is. But seriously, how many more ways can folks opine in favor of Common Core? I assume
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  1. State Sen. Peggy Lehner was the headliner at a City Club of Cleveland event on Friday, talking about the state ofK-12 education in Ohio and about ways to improve it. As you can imagine, the Common Core repeal effort underway in Ohio was a prime topic ("This legislation would create chaos in our schools and set us back years."), but the Senate Education Committee Chair also talked about Pre-K, third grade reading, teacher quality, and expulsion policies. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Editors in Canton seem to be on board with the senator’s interests also, opining this weekend in praise of Stark County schools’ efforts to meet the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. (Canton Repository)
  3. Common Core was also in the Canton paper this weekend. A quick survey of district and ESC officials (and at least one legislator) in Stark County shows broad support for the Common Core. (Canton Repository)
  4. Here’s a very thorough report on Common Core with a national take, an Ohio take, and a Cincinnati-centric take (the latter provided by the awesome Julia Carr Smyth). The implication of this piece is that Ohio’s legislature is having “buyer’s remorse” over the
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  1. Lawyers are now involved in the kerfuffle between Portage County ESC and the Ohio Department of Education. So far it sounds mostly like trading barbs in the media, but I’m sure we’ll get to the heart of the matter soon enough: bad charter school authorization practices must end. (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. It’s been a bad PR week for Education Service Centers in Ohio. As a result, the awesome Jennifer Smith Richards is digging in to the structure, funding, and function of these public entities. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Perhaps this story highlighting the “constant tension throughout the district” explains the need for “intestinal fortitude” in Youngstown we mentioned earlier this week. A report issued this week says Youngstown school board members need more training as to the proper roles of an elected board, because they are bogged down in day-to-day operations issues. An eye-opening read indeed. (Youngstown Vindicator)
  4. Speaking of Y’town, State Superintendent Dick Ross was briefly the chair of the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission before state government called. Four years later, and from the perspective of the superintendency, he is not satisfied with progress made by the district. Seems like a theme. (Youngstown Vindicator)
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  1. Week Two, Day Two of Common Core repeal hearings was a late one. As predicted, coverage is waning as the hearings go on…unless you follow Chad on Twitter. All of today’s pieces focus on the high-caliber business leaders who testified in favor of Common Core yesterday. Coverage in Cleveland not only addressed the important testimony of Cleveland Partnership’s Joe Roman but also that of CMSD CEO Eric Gordon and Breakthrough’s Alan Rosskamm. Cleveland has had its say. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) Gongwer’s coverage remains thorough, discussing the questions asked by legislators as well as the testimony written and given. (Gongwer Ohio) The Big D, interestingly, also focuses on some of the folks who haven’t testified, including ODE. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Speaking of ODE, news broke yesterday that the department has referred the Portage County ESC’s top two leaders for investigation, saying the agency attempted to open a new charter school in Cincinnati after being warned not to due to unsatisfactory vetting processes. You can check out the just-the-facts version from the Statehouse perspective here. (Gongwer Ohio) The view from Northeast Ohio, where the ESC is located, focuses on the status of PCESC having “the second-worst academic record
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Education-policy wonks should take a long look at The Long Shadow, a book based on a twenty-five-year study by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Following 790 Baltimore first-graders in 1982 until their late twenties, this book offers a rich research account of what policy analysts across fields have long tried to figure out: How can low-income children rise out of poverty and into the middle class? The sobering answer is they don’t. Kids born into poor families grew up to be poor themselves. Nearly half of the children in the study had the same income status as their parents; and only thirty-three children of families in the lowest-income bracket moved to a high-income bracket by their twenties. The education picture isn’t any sunnier. A mere 4 percent of those from low-income families had a college degree at twenty-eight (compared to 45 percent of their higher-income peers). The long shadow of poverty stretches further for African Americans: 40 percent of blacks who dropped out of high school were now working, compared to 89 percent of white high school dropouts. Women fared worse than men. Black and white women both earned less than their male counterparts, but white women tended to be better...

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared that states with NCLB waivers could wait until the 2015–16 school year to start tying test scores to teacher evaluations. It’s a very welcome bit of reasonableness, widely heralded, that grants overwhelmed states a reprieve and allows steadfast locales to stay the course. Effective implementation of the new Common Core standards is Job One—this is a time to support teachers as they stretch themselves and their students to meet the new, higher expectations. The Secretary’s decision will help.

On Thursday, a North Carolina trial court judge held unconstitutional a state voucher law that allowed public money to pay tuition at private and religious schools. The decision is frustrating for choice proponents—and not just because it leaves hundreds of families in last-minute limbo. Nevertheless, some light shines through. The ruling was based on the lack of regulation and accountability at these schools. Pass a provision requiring them to test kids and report the results, and the legal reasoning disappears. There’s also the imminent appeal.

New York City’s United Federation of Teachers supported a Saturday march against aggressive policing, pitting one city union against another...

The New York chapter of the United Federation of Teachers participated in an anti-police brutality rally this past Saturday, prompting the question of what exactly does the union stand for: teachers or a political agenda? Fordham’s vice president of research and coauthor of Fordham’s union-strength study, Amber Northern, explained to Fox viewers why the UFT’s decision to support this rally undermines their chief cause.

As Northern puts it, “the zebra is showing its stripes.” 

This post is an excerpt from a speech I gave last week at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s state of the schools event.

We’re in the midst of the biggest backlash to education reform in a decade, if not a generation. While some in the movement believe we need to just improve our message, or find new messengers, my sense is that our challenges run much deeper. If we’re going to succeed over the long haul, we need to take a hard look not just at how we’re selling, but also at what we’re selling. We need to look at our reform agenda and ask ourselves: Is it working? Do the pieces fit well together? Does it diagnose the problem correctly and offer the right cures?

This is where we’ve made our biggest mistakes: getting the diagnosis wrong. Specifically, we have diagnosed all of our schools as having the same disease, and prescribed the same medicine for all of them.

In many of our reform conversations, there’s been a lot of tough talk about “failing schools,” and the need to “blow up the system.” And heaven knows there are some terrible schools out there, and...

  1. Week Two of Common Core hearings got underway yesterday here in Ohio, with testimony focused in support of Ohio’s current standards and opposing HB597 seeking to repeal them. Here is a sampling of coverage: Gongwer’s coverage of testimony is not as thorough as Chad’s Twitter-mania, but very good nonetheless, focusing on the testimony of folks in-the-know on how the Common Core was created and adopted in Ohio. (Gongwer Ohio) Marc Kovac focuses on the testimony of school officials from around the state urging Ohio to stay the course on Common Core. (Youngstown Vindicator) I’m not sure how many more ways there are to opine in favor of Common Core, but editors in Cleveland continue to do so. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) Public media reporter Andy Chow notes that those in-the-know folks were here specifically to rebut misinformation given in earlier testimony. (StateImpact Ohio) Ever the political animals, Gongwer decided to ask the repeal sponsors how they rate their chances of passage. I can’t tell if the answer is optimistic or simply dogged. (Gongwer Ohio) Meanwhile, the Granville Schools board of education passed a resolution on Monday opposing the repeal of Ohio’s New Learning Standards, not
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