Gadfly Bites 11/26/18 – In search of the lost plot, or rigor is in the eye of the beholder

  1. The topic of graduation requirements remains on the front burner for Ohio’s education reporters. First up, a prediction from the Dispatch that at least some portion of the lowered, non-academic requirements from 2018 will extend into 2019 via legislative action. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted here with his usual blunt wisdom: “Somewhere along the line they lost the plot, and they became more concerned with the number of kids walking across the stage. It’s a disservice to kids who need the most help and aren’t going to get it.” Quite. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/25/18) The Dayton Daily News concurs with the above prediction, quoting state Senator Peggy Lehner as saying, “I don’t think we’ll agonize over (the details) too much. We’ll just get it done … very, very soon.” Oddly enough, she is also quoted as saying, “We’re very anti-testing these days. But tests are part of school,” arguing that the state had set a “pretty low bar” for passing scores. “What’s going on in our schools that kids are having so much trouble taking tests? Are the tests too hard? I don’t think so.” These statements seem at odds with one another if you ask me. (Dayton Daily News, 11/22/18) It’s a little hard to tell where editors in Akron stand on the issue as well. Their editorial lauds the state for “aiming” for higher standards for students and yet lambastes the “fits and starts” by which those standards were rolled out. No fault is assigned here, but I have a suggestion. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/24/18) Personally, I think the truth can be found in this on-the-ground look at the progress toward graduation made by the Class of 2019 in Springfield City Schools. Between last year and this year, even fewer students are on track to graduate using the end-of-course exam score pathway. How is this possible after you had more than five years to get the EOC pathway in place AND when you watched your previous class struggle? The Class of 2019 had one full extra year and are farther behind than ever. Given that some folks here think that the worst possible thing is for a kid not to get a diploma (no one says “earn” one, mind you), perhaps Ohio should just print them on the back of newborns’ birth certificates and call it a day? (Springfield News-Sun, 11/25/18)
     
  2. In Dayton, however, the path is going forward again, according to Josh Sweigart. Two new pieces in his series regarding the academic issues in Dayton City Schools were posted over the weekend. First up, he takes a look at the overall quality of Dayton’s teachers. He describes the abysmal review the district’s teaching received from a recent Ohio Department of Education analysis, reminds us of the fact that there have been “rolling shutdowns” going on across the district—day-long closures to allow teachers to gather en masse for additional training to improve their practice, and then attends one of those training sessions to give us details on what teachers are learning. Then he seems to undercut the whole thing by interviewing important researchers who indicate that one-day mass gatherings are not particularly effective in increasing the quality of instruction. (Dayton Daily News, 11/25/18) The second piece goes to one specific 7th grade math classroom to observe and report on two “rock star” teachers. This piece tells us—while trashing the state’s teacher evaluation system—that folks know a good teacher when they see one. Important to keep that in mind as you read. (Dayton Daily News, 11/25/18)

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Jeff Murray
Jeff Murray is the Ohio Operations Manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,