Ohio Gadfly Daily

Tom Gunlock

NOTES: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

This piece was originally published in the Dayton Daily News.

When you ask most people, “What should a high school diploma represent?” They’ll tell you, “It means a student has a 12th grade education.” If only that was the truth. Unfortunately, in Ohio, it’s not.

This year’s diploma recipients will have completed 15 required high school courses and at least five elective courses. The required courses include four years of English, four years of math, three years of science, and three years of social studies. In addition, students will have scored proficient on the five sections (reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies) of the Ohio Graduation Test. The dirty little secret, though, is that the Ohio Graduation Test is a test of 8th grade knowledge. Do most students graduate with more than an 8th grade education? Of course. But an 8th grade education is the minimum.

Back in 2010, Ohio made a decision. An eighth grade education isn’t enough. An eighth grade education is not enough for our students to succeed...

  1. Leaders at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center have rejected an offer from Cincinnati City Schools to move to the old mansion next door, which the district recently purchased, saying it’s too small for their needs and would require too much renovation. Maybe they’re sore because they’re getting kicked out of their decorous digs in the first place. Maybe they’re worried because the district will still be their landlord if they take the deal. Or maybe it’s just a negotiating tactic – call it the art of the deal. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/28/17)
     
  2. Speaking of deal making, the school board in Brecksville-Broadview Heights announced this week that pay-to-play fees for sports, arts, cheerleading and more will be cut in half if the district’s upcoming levy is approved. Think these guys spotted the irony? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/29/17)
     
  3. There is a level of irony in this piece also, but it’s a bit less obvious. Lorain City Schools – currently in some twilit valley between Academic Distress Commissions, as we noted earlier this week – has received what appears to be some distressing news in the form of the results of a “social justice audit”. It sounds a bit
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“Government by the people” is one of the most powerful ideas in American government. It represents the belief that, in a democracy, the people hold sovereignty over government and not the reverse.  

I bring this up as a way of considering how far we can deviate from this ideal. Take a look at Ohio’s newly formed assessment committee, which is charged with the important task of reviewing assessment policies. While this is an “advisory” committee with no formal policymaking authority, one expects its recommendations to make headlines and capture legislator attention. The state superintendent recently appointed twenty-three committee members and it’s almost entirely comprised of government (i.e., public school) employees. As you can tell from the table below, public school administrators, principals, and teachers hold eighteen of the twenty-three seats—a large majority.

 

* One member is considered tentative

Administrators and teachers should definitely be part of this conversation. But it’s not right to stack this committee with public employees whose own interests are also at stake. For instance, it’s no secret that many school officials want to weaken Ohio’s assessment...

The manner in which Ohio funds charter schools is controversial and is a serious contributing factor to the antipathy felt toward them. Traditional public school districts argue that Ohio is “taking money away,” even going so far as to invoice the state department of education for the money they feel they’ve “lost” to charter schools. This is one way of increasing publicity around Ohio’s imperfect funding system, but it also fuels misperceptions about how charter funding works and increases hostility between the sectors. It also belies the notion that the state funds children, not buildings or staff positions.

In a recent Fordham paper done in conjunction with Bellwether Education Partners, “A Formula That Works: Five ways to strength school funding in Ohio," we recommend doing away with Ohio’s current method of indirect funding. This approach has state dollars for charter schools “pass through” districts—thus appearing to be a subtraction from their bottom line. The reality is far more complicated and has been explored in previous Ohio Gadfly posts, like “’That’s not how this works!’ – correcting the rhetoric around public charter schools” and “Straightening the record on charters and local...

A recent report from Education Northwest extends previous research by the same lead researcher, drilling down into the same dataset in order to fine-tune the original findings. That earlier study (June 2016) intended to test whether incoming University of Alaska freshmen were incorrectly placed in remedial courses when they were actually able to complete credit-bearing courses. It found that high school GPA was a stronger predictor of success in credit-bearing college courses in English language arts and math than college admissions test scores. The follow-up study deepens this examination by breaking down the results for students from urban versus rural high schools, and for students who delay entry into college.

In general, the latest study’s findings were the same. Except for the students who delayed college entry, GPA was generally found to be a better predictor of success in college coursework than were standardized test scores. It stands to reason that admissions test scores would better represent the current abilities of students who delayed entry into college (call it the final “summer slide” of one’s high school career), and indeed the previous study showed that students who delayed entry were several times more likely to be placed into developmental...

  1. At the risk of diluting the cool factor of my kids’ current favorite word, reporter Patrick O’Donnell appears to be “nettled” over the possible expansion of private school vouchers in Ohio. If building a case against such an expansion is indeed his goal, he’s got his work cut out for him since such an expansion has been mooted from both the state and the federal level. Thorough as O’Donnell always is, he makes sure to note the limitations in data and generalizability of our 2016 study on the EdChoice Scholarship program, quoting Chad thoroughly on their nature. Nevertheless, he appears to be launching a one-man campaign to bring that data to light, despite the limitations. First up, Cleveland Metropolitan School District in general vs. voucher schools in general in reading and math. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/26/17) Part two of the campaign is more specific: CMSD’s magnet schools vs. St. Ignatius and several other well-known private high schools. Wonder if it’s just a coincidence that O’Donnell took an in-depth look at those magnet schools in profiles published a few weeks ago? Guess we’ll find out, if this current series continues. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/26/17)
     
  2. So, it appears to
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  1. During the divisive teachers strike in Louisville, Ohio, we learned that there were also serious divisions between Louisville and other nearby towns. Getting “outsiders” to staff classrooms during the strike was not only problematic because of the whole “crossing the picket line” thing but also because folks in Louisville held some deep animosity toward folks from other districts nearby. As you may recall, this has to do with sports. And while the teachers strike is over now and the internal wounds are starting to heal, sports-related beefs are much harder to fix. You will recall that the seven other member districts of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference voted to dissolve and reform said conference (for no explained reason) without Louisville. As a result, the Leopards are facing life as a member of no athletic conference at all and they are having a difficult time finding opponents to fill their 2018-19 football season…except for “private school football powerhouses” apparently looking for some easy pickings. It all sounds pretty desperate to me – to the point of Louisville leaders being urged to rejoin the league they left nearly 30 years ago. And even those wounds may not have healed yet. (Canton Repository,
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When the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) went into effect in 2011, it was the culmination of a process that began back in 2009 with House Bill 1. This bill was a key part of Ohio’s efforts to win the second round of Race to the Top funding, which, among other things, required states to explain how they would improve teacher effectiveness.

Beyond bringing home the bacon, Ohio’s evaluation system aimed to accomplish two goals: First, to identify low-performing teachers for accountability purposes, and second, to help teachers improve their practice. Unfortunately, as we hurtle toward the end of the fourth year of OTES implementation, it’s become painfully clear that the current system hasn’t achieved either goal.

To be fair, there have been some extenuating circumstances that have crippled the system. Thanks to its ever-changing assessments, Ohio has been in safe harbor since the 2014-15 school year, which means that the legislature prohibited test scores from being used to calculate teacher evaluation ratings. As a result, the full OTES framework hasn’t been used as intended since its first year of implementation in 2013-14. But even back then, OTES didn’t offer much evidence of differentiation—...

After much criticism, state superintendent Paolo DeMaria decided to delay Ohio’s submission of its ESSA plan until September. One of the chief complaints was that the plan did not propose any cutbacks on the number of state assessments students take, and a committee is now forming to examine whether any could be culled.

The committee will find that most state assessments must be given to comply with federal law. ESSA, like No Child Left Behind before it, requires annual exams in grades 3-8 in math and English language arts (ELA); science exams once in grades 3-5 and 6-8; and one high school math, ELA, and science exam. This leaves just seven of twenty four state exams on the table for discussion: four social studies assessments, two high school end-of-course exams, and the fall third-grade ELA exam. Ohio students spend less than 2 percent of their time in school taking these state tests.

While eliminating any of these assessments would slightly reduce time on testing, doing so also comes at a steep price. Let’s take a closer look.

Social Studies Exams

Ohio currently administers exams in grades 4 and 6 social studies and end-of-course assessments in US...

  1. Despite what was discussed – and however heatedly that discussion was had by board members this week – I am reasonably certain that neither the number of school buses actually available to be driven (HOW MANY do they want?!) nor the ages of those vehicles are part of the ongoing problems Dayton City Schools is having with student transportation. But please carry on with your plans. (Dayton Daily News, 3/21/17)
     
  2. The Enquirer this week confirmed one half of what was rumored in a WCPO-TV piece we clipped on Monday – the Cincinnati school board voted to invoke the take-back clause of their lease agreement with the Clifton Community Arts Center. Shortly, a 365-day clock will begin to tick for the CCAC to vacate so the magnet school across the street can expand. No formal word from the board yet on whether the much-smaller and likely-in-need-of-some-work mansion next door will be offered for rent to CCAC. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/20/17)
     
  3. Youngstown schools’ CEO launched a new series of community input sessions this week to find out what district parents want from their schools. Unfortunately, only 1 parent showed up for the first meeting on Monday, although there
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