Additional Topics

It feels like we’ve been talking about charter sponsor evaluations and the Youngstown Plan for so long that there hasn’t been room to report on much else. Today, we leave both of those elephants back in their rooms and look at what else is happening in education news…at least in the northern part of Ohio:

  1. What’s a school district to do when it surveys the community and gets double the number of expected responses? Ask for even more. That is the situation in Orange City Schools in Pepper Pike, Ohio. While they were pleased with the large response, they felt that a broader segment of the community was not represented, specifically families of color, senior citizens, and private school families who many never have even stepped foot into an Orange district school. And they are going all out to engage those folks because “a healthy school system contributes to a healthy community”. For everyone. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/21/15)
  2. Here’s another interesting story about school districts with shrinking enrollment numbers. It seems to be
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I had an economics professor in grad school who told us that every civilized household should use the most recent edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” as a coffee table book.

For one hundred thirty years, the “Stat Ab” has been was an annual federal publication packed to the rafters with data: page after page of data tables on every imaginable aspect of our lives—demographics, jobs, transportation, health, agriculture, the military, and more.

When our class laughed at the idea of replacing a book of Ansel Adams’s photos with one that included “Table 925. Energy Supply and Disposition by Type of Fuel,” our professor excitedly (and without irony) replied, “But there’s just so much you can learn from these numbers!”

The same could be said of the “2015 Condition of Education” recently published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For years, Congress has required this federal agency to annually produce a report on the state of U.S. schools. If it were up to me, it would be mandatory professional development for everyone working in K–12 to spend ninety minutes with this report.

We should all stay up to speed with the...

  1. Following last week’s firestorm over its charter school sponsor review process, ODE on Friday rescinded all previously-announced sponsor rankings, including the “exemplary” rating earned by Fordham. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/17/15) This turn of events was also covered by the Beacon Journal, and included a quote from a blog post by our own Aaron Churchill on a different but related subject. To call the ABJ story “wide-ranging” would be an understatement. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/15)
  2. The fallout continued over the weekend as the leader of the school choice section of ODE resigned in the wake of the controversy over the sponsor review process. Coverage of the resignation was widespread and included the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/19/15), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/20/15), and various other outlets via the Associated Press (Columbus Dispatch via AP, 7/19/15)
  3. Even before the resignation was announced, the editorializing had begun. First up, editors in Akron opined in favor of immediate investigation of ODE, preferably by the state auditor (I know) in regard to the sponsor review process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/18/15). Same goes for editors in Cleveland, although they went ahead and updated their opinion in light
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  1. As we told you already, the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school sponsor review process came under fire in the State Board of Education earlier this week. The piling on has begun, but obviously when State Auditor Dave Yost (I know!) weighs in, folks listen. Fordham’s VP for Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted in the Dispatch’s piece, stressing once again the importance of proper sponsor reviews: “ ‘We’ve got a real quality issue with charter schools in Ohio,’ she said. And sponsors play a role in that… ‘They’re the ones that can let a bad school go on indefinitely.’” Well said. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/15/15)
  2. Additional coverage of the sponsor review brouhaha can be found in various outlets via the Associated Press (AP, 7/16/15), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/16/15), and the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/16/15)
  3. The Dispatch also touches on the charter sponsor review situation while opining – again – in favor of swift charter law reform. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/15)
  4. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as irony or satire, but teachers at three charter schools in Youngstown voted to unionize this week. Yep. That should take
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A new study in the scientific journal Brain and Language examines how the brain responds when presented with two different methods of reading instruction. It examines a small sample—sixteen adults (with an average age of twenty-two) who are native English speakers and do not face reading disabilities.

Participants took two days to undergo training, whereby they learn an invented language based on hieroglyphics. Each participant was taught two ways to associate a set of words read aloud to a corresponding set of visual characters (or “glyphs”). The first was a phonics-based approach focusing on letter-sound relationships; the second was a whole-word approach relying on memorization. After training, the participants took part in testing sessions during which they were hooked up to an EEG machine that monitored their brain response. They were then instructed to approach their “reading” using one strategy or the other.

Scientists found that the phonics approach activated the left side of the brain—which is where the visual and language regions lie, and which has been shown in prior studies to support later word recognition. Thus, activating this part of the brain helps to spur on beginning readers. This approach also enabled participants to decode “words” they had...

  1. In case you missed it, Fordham was namechecked in an op-ed on charter law reform wherein editors lament lack of legislative action on same. (Findlay Courier, 7/14/15)
  2. We promised you an update on Monday’s community meeting on the Youngstown Plan, and here it is, courtesy of the Vindy. There’s too much here for me to comment on in this forum, but this is, I think, a must-read article – and a must-follow debate – for anyone who cares about urban education reform. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/14/15)
  3. The State Board of Education was talking about the Youngstown Plan this week also. Approximately the same dichotomy of views seen in the Vindy piece above is seen here as well, although perhaps more predictable a split on the board than in the community. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15). The State Board of Ed is also on the same page as editors in Findlay, going so far as to pass a resolution urging the legislature to pass charter law reform as soon as possible. As the old paraphrase goes: victory has many parents, failure is an orphan. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15)
  4. The State Board of Ed also did some digging into
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was quoted in two stories about urban education this weekend. First up, the ABJ is talking about a new nationwide online rating system for schools which, they say, attempts to “correct” for the effects of poverty in existing ranking processes. Aaron points out that while an overall single grade for a school is helpful for parents looking for information, if the components of that grade don’t include value-added data (which the new site doesn’t), then it’s not a fully accurate measure. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/12/15) Second is a look at the state of play in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton. The story is wide-ranging and Aaron is brought in to talk about how the so-called “Youngstown Plan” might take root in Dayton should it tip into academic distress status. But Aaron, as usual, digs a little deeper. “I think raising the academic standards in terms of Common Core, as well as the new science and social studies standards,” he says, “raises expectations for kids who have had low expectations for years.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 7/12/15)
  2. Speaking of Common Core (takes you back, doesn’t it?), editors in Toledo see the legislative prohibition on Ohio’s
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As I’ve previously written too many times to recall, for all its iconic status, the Head Start program has grave shortcomings. Although generously financed and decently targeted at needy, low-income preschoolers, it’s failed dismally at early childhood education. Additionally, because it’s run directly from Washington, it’s all but impossible for states to integrate into their own preschool and K–12 programs.

I could go on at length (and often do.) But you should also check out these earlier critiques, both by me and by the likes of Brookings’s Russ Whitehurst and AEI’s Katherine Stevens.

The reason this topic is again timely is because the Department of Health and Human Services recently released a massive set of proposed regulations designed to overhaul Head Start. These are summarized by Sara Mead, with her own distinctive spin.

What to make of them? Yin and yang.

On the upside: A mere seven years after Congress mandated this kind of rethinking, HHS is finally taking seriously the need to put educational content into the country’s largest early childhood program. These regulations would clap actual academic standards and curricular obligations onto the hundreds of Head Start...

  1. A rally was held yesterday in Youngstown by folks opposed to the so-called “Youngstown Plan”, which is really a sharpening of the Academic Distress Commission protocols in Ohio…although targeted fairly specifically at Youngstown. Hundreds turned out, many not from Youngstown it seems, and a public meeting was announced for Monday in which some alternative to the Youngstown Plan will begin to be discussed. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/8/15)
  2. Speaking of city-based education plans in Ohio, here’s an update on the Cleveland Plan, which is a bit twisty. One of the main goals of the Cleveland Plan in 2012 was to triple the number of students attending high-performing schools. Changes in Ohio’s report card system for schools since 2012 have altered the depth at which schools’ performance is tracked and measured. This has led the mayor, the CEO, and the Transformation Alliance to rethink their own definition of “high-performing” schools and, in fact, to craft their own. Applying this new criteria lowers the baseline number of students who, in 2012, were in high-performing schools to begin with. Depending on your perspective, this either means they’ve moved the bar lower for their own success (tripling 3,568 is easier than tripling 11,466)
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  1. It’s been a long time since we last did a roundup of education news in Ohio, and we seem to have left things at a critical juncture. In case you missed it, the state legislature – with the governor’s help – last week made it illegal for Ohio to spend money buying tests from the PARCC consortium, ending many years of prep and one year of actual testing in the Buckeye State. Very quickly, state supe Dick Ross announced that AIR would take up the reins of math and ELA testing next year. Here is coverage of that announcement. Columbus Dispatch (7/1/15), Dayton Daily News (7/1/15), Toledo Blade (7/3/15), and Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/1/15)
  2. The PD ended its first AIR piece with the phrase, “We'll have more to add here soon,” and journalist Patrick O’Donnell was true to his word. Here are two further stories. First up is a look at AIR’s track record with math and ELA tests in other states, as well as discussion of how they did with Ohio’s science and social studies tests this year. I think the term is “mixed bag”. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/2/15). Second is a look
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