Ohio Gadfly Daily

In spite of some well-publicized controversies, performance-based teacher evaluations have maintained a strong presence in most states. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examines the policy landscape of teacher and principal evaluations, as well as various states’ successes in using evaluations to inform teacher practice and administrative decisions.

As of 2015, twenty-seven states require annual evaluations for all teachers, and forty-five require annual evaluations for all new, probationary teachers. Forty-three states require objective measures of student achievement to be included in teacher evaluations; seventeen use student growth as the “preponderant” criterion for evaluations; and an additional eighteen count growth measures as “significant” criteria.

Despite these new policies, however, a “troubling pattern” lingers on from the evaluation systems of yesteryear: The overwhelming majority of teachers are still labeled as “effective” or “highly effective.” NCTQ notes this could be the result of several factors, including the fact that few states utilize multiple observations and multiple observers—which is problematic because many principals are either unable or unwilling to “make distinctions about teacher skills” when conducting observations. In addition, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)—which are required or allowed by twenty-two states—fail to effectively differentiate teacher performance. According to...

  1. Chad is quoted on the successes in Dr. Richard Ross' long career in education as he prepares to retire as state superintendent. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/6/15). The formerly-Big D quoted Chad on the same subject the following day. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/7/15) The day after that, Columbus editors opined on the need for an “experienced leader with a strong resume and a commitment to openness” to fill Dr. Ross’ shoes. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/8/15)
  2. A brief but interesting piece here on the topic of extra- and co-curricular activities in Ohio. A state senator will be holding hearings in Columbus, Findlay, Cleveland and Dayton on the subject of availability, access, and fees for things such as band, sports, and field trips in advance of the introduction of a bill trying to make such activities more easily accessible for Ohio students. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 11/8/15)
  3. In the transition time between one Academic Distress Commission and another, Youngstown City Schools’ administration is still working to the academic plan which has been in place for the last year or so. Some folks are confused as to just when that plan will – or even if it will – become null
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  1. The US Department of Education has put a hold on use of the $71 million grant Ohio won from the Charter Schools Program. More conditions were put on the grant due to ongoing concerns about oversight of charter schools by the Ohio Department of Education. You can check out coverage from the Enquirer (which also notes the recent op-ed on the CSP grant written by our own Jamie Davies O’Leary and published in the Enquirer) in Cincinnati (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/15). Also covered in Gongwer in their usual just-the-facts manner. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/5/15). And here’s the DDN version, with one of those headlines. (Dayton Daily News, 11/5/15)
  2. The other big new: Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard Ross announced that he is retiring at the end of this year. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/6/15)
  3. Meanwhile, the president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools penned an opinion piece in the Plain Dealer, looking forward to the implementation of the many charter school reforms contained in the recently-enacted House Bill 2. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/6/15)
  4. The mayor of Youngstown has been advised by his legal staff that he cannot appoint himself
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School finance systems are complicated, often controversial, and subject to a certain amount of speculation. Are public schools “overfunded” or “underfunded”? Are they wasting precious taxpayer dollars or putting them to effective use? From which sources are they receiving their funds, and what strings might be attached? Are our public institutions on solid financial footing, or are they in dire straits?

These are fundamental questions that parents and taxpayers have every right to ask and to which they’re owed clear answers. One crucial disclosure is a district’s statement of revenues and expenditures—akin to a business’s income and expense statement. This report describes how a district raised revenue and how it spent those funds during the past fiscal year.

But you may be surprised to learn that the state revenues received and transferred to charters are also included in a district’s financial statement. You wouldn’t know it by simply looking at the statement: Consider, for example, the statement of revenues and expenditures for Cincinnati City Schools in the figure below.

You’ll notice that the presentation doesn’t clearly display the $57 million received to educate Cincinnati...

  1. Our own Jamie Davies O’Leary is front and center in the Enquirer with an opinion piece explaining why Ohio should not consider returning $71 million in recently-awarded federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/15)
  2. Our own Chad Aldis is heavily quoted in an ABJ piece discussing reaction to the recent CREDO report on e-school performance in more than a dozen states, including Ohio. The piece is mainly about those who are arguing against the report’s dismal findings. Chad is not one of those voices. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/2/15)
  3. The same day, editors in Akron opined to vilify e-school performance in Ohio based on the report. Snappy headline, by the way. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/3/15) Editors in Cleveland opined on the new e-school ratings as well, but took a moment to tie them in to the ongoing do-over of charter sponsor reviews in Ohio. Hold that thought. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/3/15)
  4. Another requested injunction to halt the so-called Youngstown Plan (really just a sharpening of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols currently tightly focused on Youngstown) in its tracks has been denied in court this week. Foes of the plan vow to
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Schools have long been championed as places where we can level the playing field for low-income children. Unfortunately, that leveling doesn’t happen very often. Instead, schools have become the epicenter of not only the achievement gap, but also the opportunity gap— the inequitable distribution of resources and quality opportunities that contribute to the achievement gap.   

The authors of a recent Manhattan Institute (MI) policy brief discuss how income stagnation and inequality can limit opportunities for kids. Specifically, the brief references “the vastly different pathways available to students from different backgrounds.” To be fair, these gaps don’t exist just because of schools. But as Robert Putnam argues in his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, “Even if schools didn’t cause the growing opportunity gap—and there’s little evidence that they have—they might well be a prime place to fix it.”

So how do we get schools to take on the opportunity gap? What can we do? My colleague, Mike Petrilli, has tackled this question before and emphasizes the importance of social capital. Putnam, on the other hand, emphasizes monetary capital; he advocates allocating money to schools for the exclusive goal of ending the opportunity...

The folks at ReSchool Colorado have big changes in mind for education in the Centennial State. In the works since 2013, this project of the Donnell-Kay Foundation aims to imagine a new education system that “pushes the boundaries of current thought and practice, and better prepares learners to be happy, productive, and healthy people and professionals.” The group has spent the last two years searching for breakthrough innovations through small, discreet projects they call prototypes. The outcomes of these prototypes are meant to inform a redesign of the larger education system in 2016.

A detailed new article gives us a nuts-and-bolts look at one of these prototypes. In this case, the scale was very small: nineteen low-income immigrant families with young children living in Boulder public housing. The objective was to provide everything that these families might need to access high-quality educational enrichment experiences: trips to zoos and museums, swimming lessons, and the like. In short, the kinds of out-of-school activities that rich suburban parents tend to take for granted. The ReSchool team provided, among other things, funding via debit cards (mini-vouchers) to pay for the activities; detailed information guides geared to the knowledge level of the families (meeting...

Five years ago, Ohio established an academic distress commission for Youngstown City Schools that was to oversee wide-scale improvement efforts. Youngstown had slipped into “Academic Emergency” (the equivalent of an F on today’s report cards) and failed to make adequate yearly progress for four consecutive years. It was the first district to sink low enough to activate a statute imposing state intervention.

In 2010, I wrote about Youngstown’s “unfocused, expensive, and misdirected” approach to improving schools, which included spending $2 million on reducing student-teacher ratios, “deploying a comprehensive system of outreach and support” for students that included “a community asset map,” and creating leadership teams whose sole purpose was to foster “collaboration, trust, and communication.” The original improvement plan was riddled with vague and meaningless language. Worse, it demanded no reforms that could actually move the needle on student learning: changes to how teachers teach and are evaluated, how principals make decisions affecting day-to-day operations, or how the district might carve out space for innovations typically stifled by collective bargaining agreements.

Predictably, little has changed since 2010. An update on the district’s recovery plan in March 2013 revealed an alarmingly unfocused approach by the commission,...

  1. House Bill 2 – historic charter law reform in Ohio – was signed into law by Governor Kasich yesterday. Upon the signing, the governor said, “Making sure that our kids aren’t stuck in failing schools has been a priority, and this bill will profoundly benefit our children.” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/2/15) I don’t usually clip letters to the editor, but this one – from NACSA President/CEO Greg Richmond – praising the now-enacted charter reform bill, seemed worthy. (Toledo Blade, 11/1/15)
  2. The state board of education is in the process of updating the standards for gifted education in Ohio. Gifted advocates have some concerns about the process up to this point and some firm ideas about what they’d like to see in the final version of the standards, which are still some months of meetings, public comment, and debate away. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/2/15)
  3. In other news, here’s an in-depth look at funding for special needs students in school districts in Clark and Champaign Counties. District and ESC officials say numbers of special needs students are increasing, along with the associated costs. State and federal funds for services, they say, are flat or shrinking. Kudos for
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  1. The CREDO report on e-school performance release earlier this week continues to ripple through Ohio media outlets. Chad is quoted in Gongwer’s report from yesterday. "Ohio shouldn't back away from its disappointing NAEP results," he said. "This is a benchmark the state should use to gauge its long-term progress." (Gongwer Ohio, 10/29/15). The formerly-Big D recycled Chad’s previous-published quote in this story on reaction to the report by ECOT, Ohio’s largest virtual school… (Columbus Dispatch, 10/29/15) …as well as in today’s op-ed in which editors opine in agreement. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/30/15)
  2. Speaking of Dispatch editorials, here’s an interesting one from yesterday in which editors express happiness that Ohio’s post-PARCC tests have been well-received by educators thus far and urge folks to give the new tests a chance. Sounds sensible. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/29/15)
  3. Leaving the realm of sensible far behind now, loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers may recall the “Leap Frog” reading tutoring program in Akron. It was started by a group of former politicians/candidates with materials and in spaces that were begged and borrowed in a zealous attempt to help city third graders pass the state’s reading test and be promoted to fourth grade. As
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