Ohio Gadfly Daily

Two years ago, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched a $75 million five-year initiative called New Skills for Youth (NSFY). The goal was to expand access to high-quality career and technical education programs that can lead students to postsecondary degrees, credentials, and well-paying jobs.

As part of the initiative, the company partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE, and Education Strategy Group to run a multi-year grant competition for states interested in strengthening their CTE sectors. In 2016, twenty-four states and Washington, D.C., were awarded grants worth $100,000 as part of phase one, which required states to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and develop a three-year action plan. In early 2017, phase two began after ten states were awarded $2 million apiece to expand and improve career pathways for high school students over the course of three years. These states include Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The first year of phase two is now complete, and a recently released 2017 snapshot outlines the “notable progress” that selected states made in designing, enhancing, and scaling high-quality career pathways. Here’s a look at how a few of...

 
 
  1. A final batch (one assumes) of graduation-time stories today. Here is coverage of a recent “signing day” for a small group of Akron-area kids going straight from high school to jobs in the manufacturing sector. In fact, most of them are already working at those jobs earning in the mid-$30,000 range with benefits and tuition assistance for future college work. Most of the talking in this piece is done by representatives of the businesses or the non-profit which worked to connect the kids with the jobs. Akron City Schools reps, wisely (if you ask me), kept quiet. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/6/18) Unfortunately (if you ask me), Mansfield City Schools spokespeople are all over this piece. Why “unfortunately”? Because while this story about rising ninth graders starting out on a dual high school diploma/college degree track already sounds good on the surface, there are enough red flags and question marks for me that I am skeptical of its actual goodness. Red flags such as: The jobs they are being herded into making $30K tops (see above) and the kids needing to work to support their families while still in eighth grade. And questions such as: How were these students
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  1. Lots of superintendent turnover in Butler County school districts in the last few years it seems. The longest-serving supe is just finishing his third year on the job. Those are the only facts I could pull out of this piece, which is, sadly, not very well written. (Dayton Daily News, 6/5/18)
     
  2. In suburban Austintown City Schools, "job ready" for students apparently means "dressing for success". If that is the case, how on earth did it require $100K to get 41 students to that point of “readiness” and why is everyone so happy about it? By contrast, in nearby Youngstown, "job ready" means being able to read and do math at a proper level. And folks there continue to oppose efforts to get all kids to that point of “readiness”. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/5/18) Speaking of readiness, here’s another positive story about a dropout recovery charter school. 275 students graduated from Townsend Community School in far northern Ohio this week. 69 percent are going on to college, 24 percent are entering the workforce, and 7 percent enlisting into the military. That latter figure includes Montana Shears, currently on standby for the Marine Corps after what sounds like a
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When state report cards are released this fall, it will be the first time that overall letter grades are assigned to districts and schools. It will also be the first time that these overall grades are used to identify the state’s lowest performing 5 percent of schools, a requirement of ESSA.

It’s been a while since Ohio’s ESSA plan was in the news, so here’s a quick refresher on how the Buckeye State promised to implement the law’s provisions related to struggling schools. ESSA requires states to identify two separate groups of low performing schools: comprehensive support schools (which include the lowest-performing schools in the state) and targeted support schools (which include schools struggling with certain subgroups). Ohio chose to rename each of these categories—comprehensive support schools are known as “priority schools,” and targeted support schools are known as “focus schools.” Priority schools will be identified every three years starting this September. According to the state’s ESSA plan, there are three ways a school can be identified as priority:

  1. It is part of the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools, based on the report card’s overall grade methodology.
  2. It is a high school with
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The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently added to their trove of teacher preparation evaluations with the 2018 Teacher Prep Review. This year’s study examines 567 traditional graduate, 129 alternative route, and eighteen residency programs across the U.S. (no undergraduate programs were examined). The difference between these programs rests largely on their approach to clinical training: traditional graduate programs require candidates to spend a semester or more student teaching in the classroom of an experienced educator; residencies place candidates in a mentor teacher’s classroom for up to a year; and alternative routes generally lack of student teaching, putting candidates in charge of their own classrooms almost immediately, what NCTQ refers to as an internship.

The report focuses on three key aspects of preparation programs: practice teaching, teacher knowledge, and admissions. To determine quality, reviewers examined whether programs aligned their requirements and instruction with scientific research in each of the three areas. Grades were assigned based on materials like course catalogs, syllabi, and observation forms. Each program was given the opportunity to review NCTQ’s findings and submit additional information.

The first area, practice teaching, evaluates whether programs provide candidates with adequate practice before licensure. NCTQ asserts that in order to...

 
 
  1. The Dispatch dug more deeply into the issue of districts across central Ohio dropping GPA and class rankings in favor of the Latin system. Turns out that a 4.0 just isn’t what it used to be and it’s stressing everyone out. Everyone in high end suburbs, that is. Latin saves lives, y’all. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/3/18) Things are a little different in Akron City Schools, as you may have suspected. Here is more detail on the Akron students in the Class of 2018 using the state’s one-year temporary alternative paths to reach graduation—with the hand-holding help of the good folks at ACS. Excerpts from Chad’s ABJ op-ed denouncing these alternatives are included as well. But the main point here is the story of the two students highlighted. When a reporter takes this route—illustrating a larger issue by showing how the issue affects some regular folks—I always assume that she has done so specifically because those people most cogently illustrate the point and that other examples were discarded as being outliers. If that is the case, then I believe that the stories of the ESL student whose English proficiency level inhibited test passage (but who earned graduation via service hours
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  1. Let’s start the day with a spate of graduation-time stories. First up, yet another Ohio school district is getting rid of “antiquated” class rankings in favor of the Latin system. Future Hilliard grads, you have been warned. (ThisWeek News, 5/29/18) Elsewhere, Mahoning County High School graduate Marquale Armour gave full props to the staff of his dropout recovery charter school for helping him turn his life around to reach this moment. Said staff gave him some pretty solid props right back. Nice. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/1/18) Similar story, it seems, for this Chillicothe grad. Access to an online school helped a teen mom stay on course after the birth of her child. (Chillicothe Gazette, 5/27/18) Kudos, also, to Tiffany Baker. Her claim to fame? She is the sole member of the Class of 2018 at her school. Not only has she successfully completed her K-12 education, her school—St. Rita’s School for the Deaf in the Cincinnati area—will continue to serve her for the next two years via their Career Plus Program. At the end, Tiffany will start the next chapter of her life “with a career she loves”. I’ll bet it’s going to be something awesome! (Middletown
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If kicking the accountability can down the road were an Olympic sport, Ohio policymakers would win the gold medal. The latest example comes from the State Board of Education, which recently recommended that the state legislature again push back the overall A–F rating to fall 2019. The rating is slated to appear on school report cards for the first time this September and will be based on 2017–18 data. According to Patrick O’Donnell of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, legislators are mulling the Board’s proposal.

The key word in the previous paragraph is “again,” as Ohio has already delayed overall grades before. Rewind to December 2012 when the legislature passed House Bill 555 and shifted the state from its former school-report-card framework to the A–F format used today. That legislation eliminated the old overall ratings—designations such as “Effective” and “Continuous Improvement”—and called for summative A–F grades starting in 2014–15.[1] Yet as the time drew near for the release of overall grades, lawmakers backed off and delayed them until the 2015–16 school year. Then, in true Britney Spears fashion, they did it again one year later, pushing back the overall rating to its current release...

 
 

Headlines this year have largely focused on teacher pay. But just a few years ago, a different set of teacher-policy issues were in the limelight, including teacher evaluation, tenure, and collective bargaining. At that time, states were pursuing aggressive reforms challenging decades-old laws that many viewed as more protective of educator jobs than promoting student learning. Though not all of these efforts yielded dramatic changes, Florida eliminated tenure for new teachers starting in July 2011. Instead of facing extensive and often costly dismissal procedures, this reform allows school leaders to remove low performers from the classroom by not renewing annual teacher contracts.

In theory, removing tenure in K–12 education can both positively and negatively affect student achievement. On the one hand, it may increase achievement as teachers are incentivized to focus more intently on student learning, knowing their job is on the line each year. Over the long haul, the overall quality of the educator workforce may improve if incompetent teachers are removed more swiftly and frequently than they are today. On the other hand, school leaders may be prone to poor judgment and erroneously dismiss some effective teachers. Proponents...

 
 

In a recent analysis of the Academic Distress Commission (ADC) system currently in place in Youngstown City Schools, my colleague Jessica Poiner shows significant deviations from the six habits of highly effective school district turnarounds. These deviations have undoubtedly contributed to a slow start for much needed reform efforts. But the plan is not solely to blame. Youngstown’s history is riddled with apathy and neglect. Even the most miraculous of turnaround plans would have had to contend with a depleted system resistant to change. Here are a few examples of how this neglect has immeasurably complicated the early work of the current ADC and its CEO.

Transportation

Mere days after taking the reins in 2016, Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip received an in-depth report on the district’s transportation system from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). That report detailed numerous flaws and failings related to bus driver background checks and training, maintenance schedules, efficient routing, and expenditures. With just weeks to go before the start of the school year, every driver had to be rechecked and retrained and every route had to be replanned just to reach baseline operational capacity.

Neither the six habits nor the recent ...

 
 

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