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Many people tune out when education discussions turn to data and statistics. For whatever reason, some folks just don’t like numbers. So a discussion about the development of education data is likely to attract an audience rivaling that of a paint-drying contest.

But if you care about K-12, you should definitely care about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This is the government body responsible for collecting and reporting a wealth of data on our schools—data that’s voluminous, comparable across years, and typically above reproach in terms of reliability.

I say “typically” because there is some reason for worry. Late in 2013, I scolded the federal government for massaging NAEP TUDA data, which reports on the performance of large urban districts. In short, we should’ve been deeply alarmed by the results, but the packaging gave the opposite impression.

This would’ve been troubling enough. What bothered me even more was that an advocacy organization that represents and serves large urban districts was an integral part of the release process.

But what happened next truly opened my eyes to the extent of the potential problem. The then-head of NCES quickly responded to my piece. He...

  1. As we noted on Friday, report cards are out in Ohio for buildings and districts. Analysis of those report cards continued in the media over the weekend. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in Gongwer’s large-scale coverage, focusing on districts and what the results mean in Ohio’s largest cities. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. No one has dug much into charter schools’ grade cards just yet. That will come. But in the meantime, check out this editorial from the Dispatch, nailing the analysis of a number of long-standing flaws in Ohio charter school law and opining strongly for change. Now. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. I say “no one has dug much” into charter schools’ report card. Here is the first analysis out of the gate: Gongwer discussing the performance of Ohio’s dropout recovery schools. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  4. The PD wants to allay the potential fears of Clevelanders by fully explaining the grade for value-add on report cards this year. Especially, what a “C” grade means. To wit: "A C is perfectly acceptable," said Tom Gunlock, vice president of the state school board.  "That's one year's worth of growth.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. Lima City Schools took advantage of some options
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  1. The K-12 education committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission met yesterday. I am hopeful that what is reported here – basically whether the members wanted education in Ohio to be “controlled” by the legislature or the courts as a result of changes proposed – is not all that was discussed. Perhaps the rest of it was drowned out by the snores of the bored spectators. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How did the Hope4Change Academy saga in Cincinnati—which you’ve heard a lot about here in Gadfly Bites—get so far? Here’s a bit more detail on the hows and whys from the perspective of ODE and the Portage County ESC. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. So, what’s the big deal about the PCESC trying to “reorganize and reopen” LEAD Academy as Hope4Change in Cincinnati? Well, aside from the bait and switch perpetrated on families there, there’s the small matter of a ton of money likely owed back to the state from the original iteration of the school. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Lest you miss your daily fix of Common Core opinion, here’s a letter signed by 12 education school deans from universities across Ohio urging the state to keep Common Core.
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  1. I’m not exactly sure this qualifies as either real news (probably why it was on a Dispatch blog and not in print) or real clairvoyance, but Governor Kasich prognosticated on the content of the report cards to be issued tomorrow for Ohio’s urban school districts while on the stump this week. His prediction: not pretty. (Columbus Dispatch –Daily Briefing blog)
     
  2. I wasn’t going to clip this because I thought it wasn’t necessary to reiterate how many school districts are vocally and publicly supportive of Common Core in Ohio. But it looks like it might still be necessary after all. Another week of repeal hearings, anyone? (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. A proposal is being floated in suburban Beachwood that would consolidate three elementary schools into one building – the newest and largest of the three. The public pitch is around efficiency and good use of public dollars—enrollment trends are steady now, but how long have those buildings been underutilized?—but I suspect that everyone’s really just salivating over the flashy sports facilities proposed for one of the two closed schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Remember that story from several weeks ago which indicated that the Norwalk school board had
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The Florida Education Association, state school boards, and the Florida PTA have filed a lawsuit in a Florida court challenging the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program (for the second time this summer). The suit argues that the program violates clauses in the state constitution that require educational uniformity and bar state aid to religious organization. There are multiple problems here. First, the plaintiffs should be ashamed that they’re advancing a narrow agenda by jeopardizing the program's 69,000 participants—largely poor and minority students seeking a better education. Second, the U.S. Constitution permits tax credits for donations to religious organizations; if this challenge goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blaine Amendments might be in trouble. The big question is the uniformity clause, which mandates a single, uniform state education system. Hopefully, the Florida Supreme Court interprets the state constitution in a way that doesn’t harm tens of thousands of disadvantaged youngsters.

On Sunday, The New York Times’s Motoko Rich penned a news analysis asking why more men don’t go into teaching. A good question; but she gave a suspect answer. She blamed, among other things, low teacher pay. Inexplicably, she cited perhaps the...

The history-boys edition

Michelle and Alyssa discuss the lack of male teachers, Bill Gates’s Big History Project, and rating schools with classroom grades. Amber tells us whether school superintendents are vital or irrelevant.

Amber's Research Minute

School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?,” by Matthew M. Chingos, Grover J. Whitehurst, and Katharine M. LindquistThe Brookings Institution (September 2014).

  1. The State Board of Ed met this week. What were they talking about? Among other things: fixing an “error” around new end-of-course tests for social studies classes, substitute assessments related to AP/IB students, and dropout recovery programs. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Why yes, there is a statewide race for Attorney General in Ohio going on. Why do you ask? Probably because the Democratic candidate was talking about education funding to a group of retired teachers this week. Gongwer’s coverage is probably closest to the intent of the challenger’s comments: equating the fight against drug abuse in schools with the fight against the "…‘system-wide debacle’ of charter schools”, both of which he says the incumbent is ignoring to the detriment of children. (Gongwer Ohio). The Dispatch sticks only to the charter school angle, getting wonkily down to a specific issue regarding an upcoming State Supreme Court case. (Columbus Dispatch). Interestingly, the Plain Dealer takes a totally different tack, noting that candidate Pepper decried the state education funding system as unconstitutional but also noting that as Attorney General he’d have to defend it should any challenges come up. Ain’t politics fun? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. We’ve been following the
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  1. Unless I missed something, the last (I mean it!) EdChoice Scholarship application deadline finally occurred last Friday. So it is fitting that we learn today that School Choice Ohio’s legal action against Cincinnati and Springfield school districts to get them to provide requested directory information has been 50 percent successful. To wit: a settlement has been reached in mediation with Cincinnati Schools – details to be revealed later. Mediation efforts with Springfield were unsuccessful and so that case will continue in the courts. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Late yesterday, a 10-day strike notice was filed by teachers in Reynoldsburg. There’s the brink, folks. Let’s try not to go over it. No one wants to relive 1978 again. No one. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Gov. Kasich was cornered by the Big D’s editorial board and asked about the prospects for Common Core repeal in Ohio. The full story is worth a read – just to get to know how Kasich answers questions – but here’s the gist: “Until somebody can show me we’re eroding local control, I see no reason to do anything. And I don’t think they’re (the House) going to do anything, to tell you the truth,” Kasich
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UNIONIZING CHARTERS
The California Teachers Association has its sights set on charter school organization,Education Week reports. Nationally, the NEA and AFT have been working to bring unions to charter schools, but the sector remains mostly union-free—a good thing in Fordham's view.

BILL GATES SMILES
The New York Times Magazine profiled Bill Gates and his big idea to rework how history is taught in school, but most of the online fodder is around how photographer Dan Winters got the education philanthropist to smile.

SIGNIFICANT SIG CHANGES?
Draft guidance from the Department of Education could mean more financial flexibility for SIG recipients, reports Education Week. But can SIG even be fixed

HOW TO RATE SCHOOLS WITHOUT TEST SCORES
Jay Mathews at the Washington Post takes a crack at the NCLB-aged conundrum: sure, test scores are flawed metrics, but what else can we use? Classroom grades, not test scores. Though insert "Common Core" and this turns into a strong argument for the standards and its assessments....

  1. Editors in Youngstown seem to have reached their limit with ongoing by-the-book efforts to fix the academic ills of the district. They opined this weekend that “the word dysfunction has become synonymous” with the district, said the state “can no longer sit back and let the status quo prevail”, and urged the state to “not wait for community consensus” and act now to restructure the district to benefit children who are “suffering”. Wow. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. Speaking of weekend editorials, editors in Toledo decried the “circus” of Common Core repeal hearings and urged Governor Kasich to stop the wheel spinning by declaring that he would veto any such repeal bill should it reach his desk. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Speaking of last week’s hearings, public radio reporter Andy Chow wanted to get clarification of a potentially incendiary comment made by the sponsor of the repeal bill about the number of “intelligent people” who have or have not testified on certain aspects of the Common Core. To wit: how about hearing testimony on a standard-by-standard basis with pros and cons from “intelligent people” on each side? I’m sure it would be an endless and unwieldy process – and Chad’s
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