Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. As the song says, “There’s a war goin’ on out there somewhere.” It seems to be a war on knowin’ stuff and it’s being waged in the state board of education. First up, the board seems disposed to extend the “temporary” diploma pathways for the Class of 2018—the ones that sidestep end of course exams—to the Classes of 2019 and 2020 at least. Happy Hanukkah kids! Chad is quoted here with this pearl of wisdom: “Tests aren't the problem… The problem is that too many Ohio students are finishing high school without adequate math and reading skills.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/17) Additionally, the state board approved a recommendation to the state legislature to eliminate three sets of tests statewide. These are the English I exam, WorkKeys, and tests given to students which are used to evaluate teachers. Merry Christmas kids! (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/17)
  2. In his comments on the graduation requirements issue, Chad noted that the bar was previously raised in part because businesses were saying they were having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill in-demand jobs. Probably coincidentally, Governor Kasich was reminding business leaders of that lack-of-qualified-applicants situation yesterday. His fix, once again, centers

The gap in vocabulary for children growing up in poor households compared to their higher-income peers is well documented in research, especially for the youngest students just entering school. But shouldn’t the start of formal education begin to mitigate that gap? Research has shown that, unfortunately, initial gaps tend to persist, leading to a steep uphill climb by the time students are “reading to learn” in fourth grade and up. A group of researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and San Diego State University recently studied whether the pernicious effects of socioeconomic status (SES) might negatively affect not only base vocabulary size but also the typical processes of word learning, which would serve to increase a child’s vocabulary going forward.

They recruited a group of 68 students ages 8 to 15 to take part in an experiment that required participants to use the surrounding text to identify the meaning of an unknown word. Each exercise included three sentences, all with a made-up word at the end. For example: “Pour some water in my raub.” This was the last of a three-sentence triplet designed to lead a reader to that “raub” means “cup.” All of the words...

In a recent blog post, University of Virginia cognitive scientist Dan Willingham posits three possible types of personalization in personalized learning—children learning at their own speed, pedagogical tailoring, and individualized content. I have sought out all of these variations for my children over the years and, as Willingham notes, they are not mutually exclusive. But neither are they equally important. Let me make the case, as a father of two high school girls, that personalized pacing is a must-have, personalized pedagogy is a nice-to-have, and personalized content is largely to be avoided, at least until the end of the K-12 experience.

Personalized pacing and pedagogy

My children’s experience at The Metro School, a 6-12 STEM-focused early college school in Columbus, shows that students learning at their own speed is the prime mover of successful personalized learning (PL).

Metro’s model generally compresses what would be year-long courses in traditional schools into one semester. Course material is divided into discrete units and subunits, with each having clear goals for students and teachers and clearly connecting to the next. It moves fast, the expectations are high[1], and there is little downtime. Students’ progress is assessed regularly along the way,...

  1. Can you stand a couple more media hits on Fordham’s Back to the Basics report? Me too! First up was a really good write up I missed upon release of the report last Thursday. It hails from the Xenia Daily Gazette and gives a summary of the report followed by reaction from a number of officials from local school districts. Seems that everyone read and seriously considered the report, even if they disagreed in part or in whole. Nice. (Xenia Daily Gazette, 12/7/17) Gongwer’s coverage from Friday was a little more perfunctory, but we appreciate it just the same. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/8/17)
  2. The PD’s Patrick O’Donnell has been pretty quiet in recent weeks, but he was back with a vengeance this weekend. What’s he been up to? Crunching the number on both out-of-school and in-school suspensions at schools and districts across Northeast Ohio and around the state. He seems none-too-pleased with the patterns upon which he is reporting. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/10/17) I don’t know if it was to cheer himself up or simply to show the other side of the coin, but Patrick also reported on 108 schools across the state who were last week
  3. ...
  1. In case you missed it, Fordham released a new report yesterday, offering up a redesign of Ohio’s school report cards to be fairer to schools and clearer for parents. Media response was generally pretty good. First out of the gate was statewide public media, who connected our report to a thematically similar national report released by the Data Quality Campaign earlier in the week. (WCBE-FM, Columbus, 12/7/17) The Blade has a very thorough overview of the report and talks to local district officials about it and about the issue of how complex current report cards are. Nice. (Toledo Blade, 12/7/17) Ditto for the Dayton Daily News, who also reached out to the Ohio Department of Education to get their take on our report. ODE said they “appreciated our input” on the topic. To which I say, “You are very welcome.” (Dayton Daily News, 12/7/17)
  2. As noted earlier in the week, outgoing Columbus schools supe Dan Good seems to have a lot to say in his waning days at the helm. I came out of this piece with the main impression that he was reporting incidences of in-class profanity are down by 20% in the district
  3. ...

At its November meeting, the State Board of Education reopened the debate over Ohio’s graduation standards. To facilitate this discussion, the Ohio Department of Education unveiled a concept paper that set forth various options. Among them was a route to graduation that would permit students to receive diplomas under alternative criteria such as satisfactory GPAs, attendance rates, capstone projects, internship or work hours, and several other possibilities. Dubbed the “alternative knowledge demonstration pathway,” this proposal would extend such options to the class of 2019 and beyond.

This may sound familiar. Rewind to earlier this year and recall that state policymakers approved alternatives such as these in lieu of meeting achievement targets on end of course exams (EOCs) or the ACT/SAT, or earning industry-recognized credentials and demonstrating workforce readiness[1]—the three “original” pathways under Ohio’s updated graduation standards. Such alternatives were extended only to the class of 2018, the first cohort expected to meet the new requirements.

As state board members ponder once again the direction to take on graduation requirements for succeeding classes, they should keep the following points in mind.

  1. Remember the board’s own vision statement declaring the aim that “all Ohio
  2. ...

Today, Fordham released a new report suggesting changes to Ohio’s school report cards to help parents and taxpayers get the best information about the performance of their schools and districts. This is the preface to that report.

Most of us can remember getting report cards as kids. Sometimes the grades would be a validation of a job well done; sometimes they were disappointing, considering all the effort we had made in class. Sometimes—let’s admit it—the grades were low but also fair, given the quality of our work or the lack of effort we had put into it.

Regardless of how we felt at the time, most of us recognize that report cards played an important, if not always pleasant, role in our education. We needed the feedback that they generated in order to know our strengths and weaknesses, and they were important to parents and guardians who could offer help when our grades signaled that greater support was needed.

Likewise, the educational health of our schools hinges in no small part on periodic reviews of how they’re...

The annual “parent power index” published by the Center for Education Reform raises worthy questions—how much power is afforded to parents, and what can they do to acquire more? Despite its various flaws, the index attempts to quantify the extent to which options and information are available to parents so they can make good decisions for their child’s education—a useful lens unto itself.

A plethora of other groups evaluate how well states are doing on education—doling out grades on the strength of charter laws or a bevy of other education policies like funding, test scores, or teacher quality. Even if we disagree with how some scorecards are calculated or the mischaracterizations that can flow from them, such grades can be informative. They provide a look at how states compare to their peers and how policy or legislative improvements can set the right conditions for success though of course not guaranteeing it. (As we know from a long journey to charter reform in Ohio, those conditions matter a lot.)

Yet even achieving wins in policy areas I think matter most for kids—like teacher quality or school choice—offers no guarantee that such reforms...

  1. I don’t usually clip blog posts, but the Ohio-centric nature of this piece from Citizen Ed was too much to resist. It describes a panel event called “The Faces of Education Reform,” held at the recent Excellence in Education annual conference. Two of those faces belonged to Ohioans—Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was prosecuted (and persecuted, it seems) for residency fraud in Akron, and Walter Blanks, a current college student who credits the EdChoice Scholarship Program for getting him where he (impressively) is today. (Citizen Ed blog, 12/5/17)
  2. Seasoned veteran reporter Cathy Candisky from The D seems to have been present for some reason when a lawyer from the Ohio Department of Education reported to a hearing officer some of its recent attendance audit findings for ECOT. Or maybe she just read the notes. Anywho, some questions are raised. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/17) Meanwhile, a cub reporter for The D drew the short straw and had to attend ECOT’s board meeting yesterday, in which it was revealed that water is wet. By which I mean, ODE’s clawback of previous funding due to prior attendance audit findings is affecting the school’s bottom line. As promised. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/17)
  3. Columbus
  4. ...
  1. The Associated Press published a story looking at the racial diversity of students who’ve opted into charter schools across the country and were very alarmed by their findings. I’m assuming that many news outlets across Ohio will be localizing the story in the days to come. First out of the gate here in Ohio was the Dispatch, and our own Chad Aldis was on hand to discuss the school choice aspect of the story. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/3/17) You can see the full AP version in outlets such as the Vindy. (AP, via Youngstown Vindicator, 12/3/17)
  2. Companion bills in the Ohio General Assembly would make some big changes to the state’s voucher programs if passed. Not least of which is moving from a failing schools model of eligibility to a financial need model. This piece discusses the status of the bills and the moves afoot to help them gain passage. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/1/17)
  3. Speaking of legislation, here’s an update on the “Seal of Biliteracy”, created in state law and available for the first time to this year’s graduating seniors. It is a laurel that would be included on a student’s final transcript to indicate that
  4. ...