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Imagine you are a first-year social studies teacher in a low-performing urban high school. You are hired on Thursday and expected to teach three different courses starting Monday. For the first two weeks, you barely eat or sleep, and you lose fifteen pounds you didn’t know were yours to lose. For the first two months, your every waking minute is consumed by lesson prep and the intense anxiety associated with trying to manage students whose conception of “school” is foreign to you. But you survive the first semester (as many have done) because you have to and because these kids depend on you. You think you are through the worst of it. You begin to believe that you can do this. Then, the second semester begins…

Your sixth-period class is a nightmare, full of students with behavior problems that would challenge any teacher. But as hard as sixth period is, your third-period class is the most frustrating and depressing, because (for reasons only they are privy to) the Powers That Be have seen fit to place every type of student imaginable into the same classroom: seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, kids with behavior issues, kids with attention issues, kids with senioritis, kids who have taken the class before and passed it but are taking it again because the registrar’s office is incompetent. And, of course, a few kind, sweet, innocent kids. Who. Cannot. Read.

This is impossible.

Or so you tell the Powers That Be. Your seniors can do...

  1. Editors in Cleveland opine on two current bills – HB 2 and the governor’s budget – which aim to reform Ohio’s charter school law. Good timing, as Gov. Kasich is in Cleveland today – at a Breakthrough-operated charter school – touting his plan. PD editorial on charter reform. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Speaking of the governor’s budget, while Kasich himself is on the road selling, his budget director is on the hot seat in the Ohio House, answering questions from legislators. Yesterday, it was detailed questions about K-12 education. This go-round was just about traditional district funding, although I’m sure the proposed changes to transportation funding will end up affecting charter and voucher students as well if enacted. Hopefully, for the better. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. Speaking of transportation, the results of a two-year study of school transportation in Stark County were released earlier this week. I am almost speechless at its findings (almost) but will say that only a study produced by this particular group of players could find savings by hiring a hoard of new employees across multiple districts. I wonder to whom the work will fall to organize the centralized driver training and mechanic facilities? What noble entity will work this plan all out, save districts a bunch of money, and then consider “expanding” it to include vocational/charter/voucher school students? (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Speaking of altruists, here’s an update on the efforts to unionize teachers at one Columbus charter school. Spoiler alert: nothing has
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2009 it ain’t.

Back in those heady days, the new president, fresh off a comfortable electoral victory and with congressional majorities as far as the eye could see, had the power to drive the agenda. Though Capitol Hill’s budget process was broken, with the electorate behind him and congressional allies to spare, President Obama’s budget submission had to be taken seriously.

Today, the president possesses platinum-level lame-duck status. He’s in the homestretch of his tenure, his approval rating hasn’t hit 50 percent in nearly two years, and Republicans have significant congressional majorities.

It is through this lens that we should view the Obama administration’s FY2016 budget request, released yesterday. Given today’s political conditions, the education request is actually quite savvy. It retreats where necessary, digs in where possible, and has an eye on history. There are plenty of good summaries of the education request as a whole and descriptions of specific line items. But here’s how I’m seeing the ask:

Concessions

For six years, the Obama administration, breaking with generations of practice, gave every indication that it saw few limits to the role of the federal government in primary and secondary schooling. The chickens have come home to roost.

There’s now widespread resistance to many of its initiatives, especially to ESEA waivers. Per the zeitgeist, Congress is eager to take aim at one of the administration’s favorite budget categories: competitive grant programs. Once broadly seen as a valuable tool...

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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