Gadfly Bites - 6/7/16

  1. Kudos to Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and sister school DECA Prep (sponsored by Fordham), two of the schools admitted to Ohio’s STEM Learning Network this year. They join a consortium of high-quality tech-focused schools across the state which include charters, traditional district, private, and standalone public STEM schools. Keep up the good work everyone! (Ohio STEM Learning Network, 6/6/16)
  2. Recall that StateAuditor! Man had some strong words for the Ohio Department of Education a couple of weeks ago. In a depressingly predictable turn of events, folks from all parts of the ideological spectrum seized upon his words to advance their own agendas. The D chatted with state board members and state legislators who were all over the map with ideas about how to “fix” the department, with little apparent agreement as to what the problem was. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/30/16) Yost himself took time to expand on his thoughts about ODE’s “problems” in a commentary piece in the Plain Dealer last weekend. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/3/16)
  3. Confession time: I loathe Facebook. The level of discourse I have found there – in general – makes Twitter seem Aristotelian by comparison. Imagine my reaction, then, when the venerable Plain Dealer decided to include a Facebook post as its coup de grâce in discussing some troubling results from Ohio’s new AIR math tests. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/3/16) At issue is the response from the state board (as exemplified by just two members quoted in the PD and here) regarding much-lower-than-anticipated proficiency rates on new high school geometry and integrated math II exams administered for the first time this spring. Is it a case of a mistaken initial calibration of cut scores; are the tests misaligned to curriculum; are the tests just too hard; or is there something else afoot? Where state board members stand on this issue – Facebook posts notwithstanding – will determine what if anything will be done about the problem at the board meeting next week. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/6/16)
  4. The Dispatch last week reprinted a national story on the use (and possible overuse/abuse) of substitute teaching. It included data from NCTQ as well as the analysis of their parent company GateHouse Media. Dutifully, the D followed up with a look at substitute teaching numbers in central Ohio districts. It is interesting to me that districts are completely on their own as to how to fill substitute slots, and there are numerous methods employed with varying success. Best practices, anyone? (Columbus Dispatch, 5/31/16)
  5. A long-term sub is at the heart of concerns presented by a recent Athens City Schools graduate in regard to some high teacher attrition numbers in the district. She and others are concerned that teacher retirements and leaves of absence are not being filled but instead are being dealt with by enlarging class sizes and utilizing substitutes and hybrid positions (ex: art and gym in one position). The supe pled budget problems, one parent said it was about have and have-not schools, but who knows where this will all end up. (Athens Messenger, 5/29/16)
  6. We end the week’s catch-up posts with two pieces from Cleveland Metropolitan School District. First up, a celebration of modest success in the district for bumping up its school attendance numbers. A move from 90% to 90.4% attendance may not seem like much, but that’s 2400 students no longer chronically absent. One takes ones victories where one can, I suppose. Now, about those teacher attendance rates… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/1/16). Finally, a dispute between the Cleveland Teachers Union and CMSD received a ruling from a federal arbitrator in favor of CTU. The issue arose from a district-issued memo (since rescinded) attempting to define what constituted “serious harm” inflicted on a teacher by a student and therefore triggering punishment. Specifically, transferring an offending student to another school. CTU insisted the criteria were too stringent and the arbitrator agreed. I’m not sure who won here. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/31/16)
Jeff Murray
Jeff Murray is the Ohio Operations Manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,