Ohio Gadfly Daily

Piet van Lier

NOTE: All photos used in this piece were graciously provided by the Cleveland Transformation Alliance. The photo at the top of this page features HBCU Preparatory School student Meiyah Hill and school principal Tim Roberts.

Standardized test scores are the most common measure of academic success in our nation’s K-12 schools. While they are an important indicator, most observers would agree that tests don’t tell the whole story about what’s happening in our public schools.

Given the recent changes to Ohio’s assessments and standards and their impact on test scores statewide, the need to tell a deeper story about public education has become even more evident.

In Cleveland, we know that Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools is enabling both district and charter schools to create new learning environments that are laying a foundation for sustainable academic improvement. Progress is slow and not always visible from the outside, but it’s happening.

That’s why the Cleveland Transformation Alliance recently partnered with Civic Commons ideastream to share powerful stories about education in Measuring Success Behind the Numbers. The conversation included three storytellers:

  • Student Meiyah Hill talked about how HBCU Preparatory School, a charter middle school in Cleveland, made her feel
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  1. Fully online preschool, anyone? (This Week News/Canal Winchester Times, 10/5/16)
  2. In case you missed it earlier this week, the president of the Parma school board resigned abruptly at the start of a public meeting packed with fired-up constituents and walked out before discussions began on how the district would dig itself out of a multi-million dollar budget hole. None of the options on the table would go without vehement opposition and many in the crowd were more interested in finding out how they had found themselves here. This piece from the Plain Dealer tries to unravel the possible causes for Parma’s dire financial situation which seems to have occurred without anyone noticing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/6/16)

A multitude of research has shown that quality teaching is necessary for students’ achievement and positive labor market outcomes. Rigorous evaluations have been hailed as a way to improve the teacher workforce by recognizing and rewarding excellence, providing detailed and ongoing feedback to improve practice, and identifying low-performers who should be let go. While plenty of time has been devoted to how best to provide teachers with feedback, less time has been spent examining how evaluation systems contribute to the removal of underperforming teachers and the resulting changes in the teacher workforce.   

This study examines The Excellence in Teaching Project (EITP), a teacher evaluation system piloted in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2008. The program focused solely on classroom observations and used Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) as the basis for evaluation (unlike many current systems, which rely on multiple measures including student test scores). Roughly nine percent of all CPS elementary teachers participated in the first year of the pilot, which was considered a “low-stakes intervention” since scores on the FFT rubric were not officially included on teachers’ summative evaluation ratings.

Prior to the use of the FFT, teachers in Chicago were evaluated...

  1. The perennial disaster which is student transportation in Dayton City Schools continues unabated months into the school year. Jeremy Kelly provides a maddening update. Where, I ask you humbly, is the outrage? (Dayton Daily News, 10/1/16)
  2. As usual for the Vindy, it is not marked as such, but this is clearly the editorial board opining in favor of the Youngstown CEO in the recently-joined battle of Mohip v Board of Ed. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/4/16) Speaking of Sheriff Mohip, it appears that he has made his decision on the topic of school uniforms after gathering parent input. Uniforms are out district-wide and “clothing appropriate for school” is in. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/5/16) Now that they are staring a CEO-style Academic Distress Commission in the eyes, members of the Lorain school board are watching Youngstown more closely these days. Case in point, the final item described in this coverage of what sounds like an otherwise boring board meeting in Lorain yesterday. It involves the hotel tax abatement issue in Youngstown, which we have covered here for a couple of weeks. Will it be the board who decides or the CEO? For some reason that even the city planner
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According to the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) compiled by the U.S. Department of Education,[1] an alarming 6.5 million American students, more than 13 percent nationwide, were chronically absent—defined as missing 15 or more days of school— during the 2013-14 school year. Of these students, more than half are enrolled in elementary school, where truancy can contribute to weaker math and reading skills that persist into later grades. Chronic absenteeism rates are higher in high school: Nearly 20 percent of U.S. high school students are chronically absent, and these teenagers often experience future problems with employment, including lower-status occupations, less stable career patterns, higher unemployment rates, and low earnings.  

The data get even more disconcerting when they’re disaggregated by location. The CRDC explains that nearly 500 school districts reported that 30 percent or more of their students missed at least three weeks of school during the 2013-14 school year. The idea that certain districts struggle more with chronic absenteeism than others caught the attention of Attendance Works (AW), an organization that aims to improve school attendance policies. To create a more in-depth picture of the problem,...

  1. Gongwer noticed the release of Fordham’s report card analysis, released last week. Thanks! Love your spiffy new website too. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/30/16)
  2. The ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the Ohio Department of Education regarding an attendance audit took some sort of lurch on Friday when a judge rejected a preliminary injunction against the state agency sought by the school and some of its parents regarding the parameters of said audit. I can’t say that I understand it entirely, but I think it may go like this: the judge determined that a contract between the school and ODE dating from 2002/3 is not the guiding principal for the current attendance audit and that ODE's current/new definition of attendance is or should be. Unless that ruling is successfully appealed, the judge believes that all other lines of argument the school is currently using to stop the required payback (based on the audit results ODE released last week) will not succeed. Even if I’ve correctly summarized what happened, this ruling probably doesn’t mean that the kerfuffle is over. You can check out coverage of the ruling and what a handful of other, avidly interested, and probably better-informed folks
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  1. State Supe Paolo DeMaria was in Lorain earlier this week to participate in one of the many ESSA listening events going on across the state. Maybe roundtable discussion about state-level accountability doesn’t make for good newspaper articles, or maybe there are more pressing matters in Lorain. Either way, the Morning Journal was far more interested in talking to DeMaria about the new CEO-style Academic Distress Commission heading for Lorain in the very near future. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/28/16)
  2. Speaking of those ESSA listening events, this guest commentary from State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) published Wednesday is mainly an appeal to get more folks to attend the Cincinnati event – held Thursday – with a pretty good click-bait headline. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/28/16) In Queen City education news, the Cincinnati Schools’ board of education this week voted unanimously to sponsor a new Phalen Academy charter school, to be located somewhere on the city’s growing west side. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/28/16)
  3. We told you earlier in the week that “Sheriff” Krish Mohip laid down the law to the Youngstown school board, imposing meeting limits and taking control of those meetings’ agendas from here on out. The board
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Management expert Peter Drucker once defined leadership as “lifting a person's vision to higher sights.” Ohio has set its policy sights on loftier goals for all K-12 students in the form of more demanding expectations for what they should know and be able to do by the end of each grade en route to college and career readiness. That’s the plan, anyway.

These higher academic standards include the Common Core in math and English language arts along with new standards for science and social studies. (Together, these are known as Ohio’s New Learning Standards.) Aligning with these more rigorous expectations, the state has implemented new assessments designed to gauge whether students are meeting the academic milestones important to success after high school. In 2014-15, Ohio replaced its old state exams with the PARCC assessments and in 2015-16, the state transitioned to exams developed jointly by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Ohio Department of Education.

As the state marches toward higher standards and—one hopes—stronger pupil achievement and school performance, Ohioans are also seeing changes in the way the state reports student achievement and rates its approximately 600 districts and 3,500 public schools. Consider these developments:

As the standards...

  1. The attendance audit about which the state education department and the state’s largest online school have been kerfuffling for the last many weeks has been completed. A letter from ODE to the school earlier this week indicated that ODE’s student count is 58.8 percent less than that of the school. The kerfuffle continues. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/26/16) This story has gained some national attention, as you might imagine. Here is a piece from the EdWeek blogs discussing the kerfuffle, ODE’s findings, and the ongoing court case. For good measure, it includes Fordham among the list of charter advocates who have been arguing for more accountability for online schools. (Education Week digital education blog, 9/27/16)
  2. The last release of Ohio school report card data earlier this year saw a newcomer enter the field of test score analysis. And with the new report card data released last week, Mike Molnar, executive director of educational services for Amherst Local Schools in Lorain County, is back at it. Same as last time, his main area of interest is the difference in performance between districts using paper and pencil tests vs. those using online tests. His operative word this year: “seesaw”.
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Twenty-five years into the American charter school movement there remains little research on the impact of charter authorizers, yet these entities are responsible for key decisions in the lives of charter schools, including whether they can open, and when they must close.

A new policy brief from Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance seeks to shed some light on authorizer impact in post-Katrina New Orleans, specifically does the process by which applications are reviewed help to produce effective charter schools? And after those schools have been initially authorized, does that process also shed light on which types of charter schools get renewed?

It merits repeating that the authorizing environment in New Orleans was unlike anywhere else in the country: Louisiana had given control of almost all New Orleans public schools to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Recovery School District (RSD). Independent review of charter applications was mandated in state law, and tons of organizations applied to open new charters.

To facilitate the application process, BESE hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). NACSA reviewed and rated applications, and in most cases BESE followed those recommendations. As the authors point out, NACSA is...