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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) six others require or encourage actual NACEP accreditation.

States and districts working to encourage the completion of truly college-level coursework in high school should, as ECS recommends, ensure that educators are prepared to teach such rigorous work. They should also ensure high schools are being honest with students so they...

An abundance of choice in Milwaukee has led to families leaving the district for charter and private schools. A new study by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) examines the facility challenge the city now faces as a result. The analysis estimates the “utilization rates” of every public school in the city for the 2013–14 year. This is determined by dividing a school’s enrollment by its maximum capacity, defined as twenty-seven students in each regular classroom.

A few key findings:

  • Out of 123 buildings, twenty-seven are operating at below 60 percent capacity; thirteen of those are below 50 percent capacity. Many of these schools are the lowest-performing, most at-risk schools in the city, with declining enrollments and questionable safety. (For instance, they have twice as many 9-1-1 phone calls per student than other public schools.)
  • At least seventeen Milwaukee Public School buildings are vacant, costing taxpayers over $1.6 million since 2012 in utilities alone. They have been empty, on average, for seven years.
  • Eighty percent of the underutilized schools—twenty-two buildings in total—received either an F or a D on their most recent state report card. Moreover, a severe shortage of quality public schools exists in the vicinity of the underutilized schools. Out of the fifty-two closest schools, only seven scored a C or better on the state report card.

The authors—not surprisingly—recommend that private schools in the choice program, public charter schools, and traditional public schools be allowed to expand into the unused and underutilized MPS buildings. They’d...

  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.  (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  4. Elsewhere in the General Assembly, SB 3, the so-called “education deregulation” bill is not generating a ton of interest. Its first big hearing yesterday garnered only one proponent and a gaggle of interested parties testifying together. Are stakeholders not interested in unfettering the high flyers or
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A couple weeks ago, I created a graphic to help explain the contours of the debate about federal accountability in the ESEA reauthorization process. My immediate purpose was to show that the blanket term “accountability” actually includes four dimensions, each of which includes a range of possible policies. I organized each of the four along a continuum, with “minimum” and “maximum” federal accountability representing the two ends.

The ultimate purpose of the graphic was to serve as a tool for assessing various proposals and, hopefully, revealing where a final compromise might be found.

Since then, I’ve read all the major proposals, speeches, press releases, and news accounts I could find. In this post, I focus only on what I’ve learned about testing.

I’ve plotted on the continuum the highest-profile proposals. Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. Apart from the congressional bills, the proposals are somewhat vague, and trying to turn words into images involves some artistic license. These caveats notwithstanding, three major lessons were revealed.

1. Emerging Consensus

In the middle-right, you’ll see a group of proposals with a blue bracket. All of these either explicitly embrace the NCLB suite of tests or strongly imply that this is their preference. The left/right orientation of the bracketed proposals doesn’t convey additional meaning; all of these proposals are virtually the same on this dimension. I’ve listed them above the bracket...

  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 in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana: the means by which high school students can get college credit for courses taken while still in high school. There are a number of avenues in each state, but the availability and the processes vary greatly from high school to high school. Ohio is working
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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 is particularly startling:

Asked recently, for example, about a multiyear study showing that students who attended the small high schools started by the Bloomberg administration were more likely to graduate and attend college than their peers at larger schools, [Chancellor Fariña] dismissed its conclusions. “It’s one view of things,” she...

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 receiving scores from PARCC the first time around. As we told you yesterday, there are new “safe harbor” provisions for PARCC takers in the works, and bills to strictly limit the amount of time spent on testing. And then there’s the whole “let’s just stop all testing” rhetoric. I think
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  • A recent cover story in the Economist called the highly educated “America’s new aristocracy.” Basically, education (and the greater earnings with which it is correlated) has become increasingly heritable. Educated, clever people tend to marry other such people and raise their kids to emulate that model. This is all well and good for those people, but it’s widening the income gap and leaving behind children born into educationally (and financially) impoverished homes. So what’s to be done? The article has some suggestions, such as early intervention. We have a bunch of ideas of our own. To be sure, it’s a very complicated problem with myriad causes. Nevertheless, it’s a nut we need to crack.
  • In a time of broad national attacks on testing, the George W. Bush Institute has published an important essay that shows how much achievement has increased in the age of NCLB testing. Beginning around the turn on the century, the federal government began tying annual tests to school accountability, complete with sanctions for inadequate performance. Since that time, significant achievement gains have been made in math and reading, especially among minority children at age nine; scores for white students in 2008 were the highest ever in both reading and math for nine- and thirteen-year olds. “What was good for poor and minority students was good for all students,” they note. Meanwhile the achievement gap between white kids and their black and Hispanic peers has shrunk. Testing is surely overdone in
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