Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has put the future of teacher evaluations firmly in the hands of states. Ohio is now in full control of deciding how to develop and best implement its nascent system.

It should come as no surprise to folks in the Buckeye State that the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has significant room for improvement. Since its inception in 2009, approximately 90 percent of Ohio teachers have been rated in the top two categories and labeled “skilled” or “accomplished.” Unfortunately, there isn’t significant evidence that the system has impacted the quality of Ohio’s teacher workforce, perhaps because there is no statewide law that permits administrators to dismiss teachers based solely on evaluation ratings. Meanwhile, OTES also doesn’t appear to be delivering on the promise to aid teachers in improving their practice.

A quick glance at the ODE-provided template for the professional growth plan, which is used by all teachers except those who are rated ineffective or have below-average student growth, offers a clue as to why practice may not be improving. It is a one-page, fill-in-the-blank sheet. The performance evaluation rubric by which teachers’ observation ratings are determined...

As a form of credentialing, high school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. When meaningful, the diploma mutually benefits individuals who have obtained one—it helps them stand out from the crowd—and colleges or employers that must select from a pool of many candidates.

In recent years, however, Ohio’s high school diploma has been diluted to the point where its value has been rightly questioned. One of the central problems has been the state’s embarrassingly easy exit exams, the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). To rectify this situation, Ohio is phasing in new high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2018. Under these new requirements, students must pass a series of seven end-of-course assessments in order to graduate high school, or meet alternative requirements such as attaining a remediation-free ACT score or earning an industry credential.

The end-of-course exams have proven tougher for students to pass than the OGT, leading to concerns that too many young people will soon be stranded without a diploma. One local superintendent called the situation an “apocalypse,” predicting that more than 30 percent of high school students in his...

Italy has an achievement gap—one that may sound familiar to Americans. PISA scores show a marked gap between Italian students and those of other OECD countries in both math and reading. Digging into the data, Italian education officials found their own in-country gap: Students in the wealthier north perform far better than students in the poorer south. As a result of all of this, starting in 2010, schools in Southern Italy were offered an opportunity to participate in an extended learning time program known as The Quality and Merit Project (abbreviated PQM in Italian). A new study published in the journal Economics of Education Review looks at PQM’s math and reading intervention, which consisted of additional teaching time after school in four of the poorest—and lowest-performing—regions in the country.

A couple of things to note: PQM intervention was focused not on improving PISA test scores, but on improving scores on the typical tests taken by students in lower secondary school (equivalent to grades six to eight in the U.S.). There is no enumeration of which/when/how many tests these students typically take and the researchers are not attempting to make a connection between the intervention and PISA test scores....

  1. Our own Chad Aldis is among the list of Ohio officials and experts (by process of elimination, Chad must be one of the latter) deploring the uncertain future for education in Ohio in the wake of the presidential election. Rhetorical question: does anyone think the future of education in Ohio would have been certain if the election had turned out differently? For a possible non-rhetorical answer, read on. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 11/20/16)
     
  2. It seems that several Youngstown-area school district officials were unable to make it to last week’s rally of superintendents in Columbus. But they took time to chat with the Vindy about their concurrence with the notion that Ohio’s new graduation requirements are too demanding of students even before they’ve been phased in. (Youngstown Vindicator, 11/21/16) Editors on Akron weighed in this weekend on the supes’ concerns/demands, somewhat unhelpfully seeing both sides of the issue. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/18/16)
     
  3. I know, I know. He’s NOT back. But Doug Livingston is still digging into charter school contract disputes in Northeast Ohio with his usual verve, even if he’s not back. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/18/16)
     
  4. Back in the real world, here’s a nice piece from
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  1. Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers (“Get a life!”) will recall that Dayton City Schools is facing a funding decrease due to declining enrollment. As a result, some staff reduction has already been undertaken and more has been mooted by the school board president. Newly-proposed reductions seemed to be getting too close to the classroom for some folks’ liking. (Dayton Daily News, 11/15/16) DDN stalwart Jeremy Kelley, however, has done some simple math – and called ODE – to determine that Dayton City Schools’ financial woes from declining enrollment are not quite as woeful as first reported. (Dayton Daily News, 11/16/16). Perhaps because of this revelation – or perhaps because of the weird and raucous board meeting (seriously, is there any other kid these days?) – further staff reductions have been postponed in Dayton, although much chaos and confusion continues. (Dayton Daily News, 11/17/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Schools supe Mary Ronan this week announced that she would retire at the end of this school year. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/17/16)
     
  3. Editors in Youngstown this week opined strongly in favor of a bill pending in the Ohio Senate that would, they say, provide a “realistic and promising cure for
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  1. Patrick O’Donnell wrote up a summary of the statewide ESSA listening tour. His take: educators and parents who contributed to the discussions say there has been too much change in education recently. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/15/16)
     
  2. Perhaps in concert with the above, perhaps coincidentally, a brace of district superintendents (a clutch? a raft? an inspiration? a horde?) held a rally in Columbus yesterday to call for an end to one of those changes: specifically, they want to block Ohio’s new graduation requirements before they have even been fully implemented. Coverage was fairly gratifying for them, but varied a bit in content. The Enquirer spoke only to the supes and to state Sen. Peggy Lehner on the issue. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/15/16) The Dispatch focused primarily on the supes and Sen. Lehner, but got a few state board of education members (also meeting in Columbus that day, how convenient) on the record as well. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/15/16) Ever-thorough, the Plain Dealer started with a summary of the graduation requirement situation as presented by the Ohio Department of Education during the state board meeting. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/15/16) This was followed by a relatively drama-free discussion
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  1. Fordham Ohio’s study of the EdChoice Scholarship program was referenced in this national story about vouchers in VP-elect Pence’s home state of Indiana and how that experience will possibly influence the national Trump/Pence education agenda. (Washington Post, 11/11/16)
     
  2. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, immediately upon passage of their renewal levy on Tuesday, literally restarted the countdown clock on their website – counting down to the next time they will need to come to voters to renew in four years’ time. Is this self-confidence or torture? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/9/16)
     
  3. Superintendents from across the state are arguing that Ohio’s new, tougher high school graduation requirements must be relaxed in order to avert an “apocalypse” in their districts’ graduation rates. That is why the state board of education – meeting this week – will likely take up the issue. It is also why said supes are planning to descend upon the Statehouse tomorrow morning en masse. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/13/16)
     
  4. Back in the real world, a quirky STEM course at Canal Winchester Middle School teaches students how to build working ukuleles. Back in the day, when I attended middle school in CW’s cross-county rival district,
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KIPP Columbus achieves extraordinary outcomes for its students, predominantly students in poverty and students of color—a fact worth celebrating by itself. In 2015-16 in Ohio’s Urban Eight cities, KIPP Columbus was in the top five percent of all schools (district and charter) on student growth and among the very best (top 3 percent) in Columbus. But it’s not just KIPP’s academic data that are impressive. KIPP Columbus, led by Hannah Powell and a visionary board, has a rare knack for forging powerful partnerships at every turn—ones that strengthen KIPP students, their families, and the entire community near its campus. This year, KIPP launched an early learning center in partnership with the YMCA of Central Ohio to serve infants, toddlers, and pre-school aged youngsters. In a neighborhood lacking high-quality childcare and early learning opportunities, it’s an investment not just for KIPP students, but for the community at large. KIPP Columbus also partners with the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, Battelle Memorial Institute, and other community organizations.

This profile is about KIPP graduate Steve Antwi-Boasiako, an immigrant and first-generation college student now attending Vanderbilt University, whose entire family has been uplifted by the school. His story illustrates the depth...

  1. Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers will be aware that your humble compiler knows little about politics and cares even less. So, without any ado, here are three election-related stories from around Ohio. Columbus City Schools’ levy passed. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/8/16) Cincinnati City Schools’ levy also passed. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/9/16) And Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s levy passed too. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/8/16) Fin.
     
  2. Lakota Local Schools once had among the highest pay-to-play sports fees in the state. District officials say that dramatic reductions in those fees this school year has resulted in the first full bowling team roster in district history...and no other discernable increase in participation. (Dayton Daily News, 11/5/16)
     
  3. On Monday, both the teachers union and the school board in Louisville outlined how the ongoing teachers strike could be ended. The two lists are, it seems, at odds. (Canton Repository, 11/7/16) The only winner so far in this strike appears to be the Repository – source for the only news on the strike. They are starting a series of fact-checking reports, trying to bring some truth to the rumor mill they say is in full operation in the district. (Canton Repository, 11/7/16)
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“If schools continue to embrace the potential benefits that accompany surveillance technology,” assert the authors of a new report issued by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), “state policymakers must be prepared to confront, and potentially regulate, the privacy consequences of that surveillance.” And thus they define the fulcrum on which this seesaw of a report rests.

Authors J. William Tucker and Amelia Vance do not exaggerate the breadth of education technology that can be used for “surveillance,” either by design or incidentally, citing numerous examples that range from the commonplace to ideas that Big Brother would love. We are all familiar with cameras monitoring public areas in school buildings, but as police use of body cameras increases, school resource officers will likely be equipped with them as well. The authors note that a district in Iowa even issued body cameras to school administrators. (Our own Mike Petrilli wondered a few years about putting cameras in every classroom.)

Cameras have been commonplace inside and outside of school buses for years, but now student swipe cards and GPS bus tracking mean that comings and goings can be pinpointed with increasing accuracy. Web content filters...

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