Gadfly Bites 8/27/18 – Putting forth the effort…or not

  1. Round two of the Dayton Daily News series The Path Forward dropped over the weekend, another huge set of articles trying to get to the heart of why Dayton City Schools’ academic success rate is so poor and how to turn that around. I got an uncomfortable sense while reading this intro that some folks see the looming threat of an Academic Distress designation for the district—and everything that goes along with it—as the primary motivating factor for taking action to improve just now. You would think that someone would have suggested that the years of kids being moved up from grade to grade without having been taught to read at grade level might play some part in the current desire to change the status quo. But maybe that’s just me. (Dayton Daily News, 8/26/18) As noted, this series is huge. So I won’t be summarizing every one in detail. But every word is worth a look. The theme of the series is that the visible “achievement gap”—the fact that data shows lots and lots of kids perform poorly year after year vs. some other kids—is more accurately an “opportunity gap” between those children. With that in mind, here is a rundown of the topics: we start with a piece intent on defining the “opportunity gap” for children in Dayton—most specifically, poor black children—which spends good deal of time discussing integration via school options as a possible counter; recruiting more black teachers is a goal in the district these days, a problem which folks believe can now be solved since the district has recently been so generous with its money; unfortunately, as has been reported regularly in Bites over the years, Dayton City Schools has had trouble hiring enough permanent teachers of any background, resulting in heavy use of a rotating roster of long-term subs, most pronounced in the lowest-performing buildings; student absenteeism has been high across the district for years as well—lack of transportation is given as one potential cause, and increasing extracurricular activities is given as one potential solution; absenteeism rates due to out-of-school suspension have also been very high over the years in Dayton (and elsewhere), concentrated heavily on black male students; as with the first round of Path Forward stories, round two ends with a piece meant to be upbeat and positive, focusing on one pre-K/elementary school whose principal says students there face all of the gaps in opportunity but are starting to close the achievement gap—no data is provided to support the latter point. (Dayton Daily News, 8/26/18)
     
  2. Meanwhile, in nearby Trotwood-Madison schools, the possibility of an Academic Distress designation—and everything that goes along with it—is front of mind for everyone. State report cards, released in just a few weeks, will be the deciding factor. However, as we have noted in Bites since April, the district has been moving proactively (and quickly) to implement what looks very much like a turnaround plan even without the designation. That includes, apparently, the firing of a number of teachers who “really weren’t putting forth the effort” previously. (Dayton Daily News, 8/26/18)
     
  3. Speaking of districts operating under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission—and everything that goes along with it—here’s yet another look at the dress code situation in Lorain. Sounds like things have settled down from before the school year started, but how jealous are Titan nation at neighboring Elyria City Schools—not under an ADC, not that it matters—whose administration just unbanned jeans in the new dress code? (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 8/26/18) There’s no mention here about the technology situation in Elyria, but all students from grades six through twelve in Lorain will be getting laptops this year. The reporter trotted out a familiar journalist adult trope about kids and computers, making sure readers know, “The units are not just for video games, Instagram or hacking to change student grades.” Good one, Jimmy Olsen. Sure hope Matthew Broderick doesn’t try to launch any missiles with ‘em either. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 8/26/18)
     
  4. We end today with a rarity here in the Bites: discussion of higher ed. Specifically, here is a fascinating look at college teaching in 1965 compared to 2018. The author has been a professor of economics at Ohio University in Athens that entire time. Wow. Wonder if there are any j-school professors down in Athens who could do a similar comparison? (Forbes, 8/27/18)
     

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