Ohio Gadfly Daily

NOTE: This is the Foreword from Fordham’s latest report, released today.

Over the past few years, states across the nation have undertaken big changes in public education—a system reboot, if you will. Policymakers have raised academic standards, toughened up exams, and demanded stronger results from schools. Like other states, Ohio has also put into place a standards and accountability framework with the clear goal of readying every student for college or career when she graduates high school.

It’s no secret that a flood of controversy has accompanied these changes. The Common Core, a set of college-and-career ready standards in math and English language arts, has been the subject of great debate. Yet the Common Core remains in place in Ohio and at least forty other states. States have also adopted next-generation assessments aligned to these standards, though the rollout of the new exams has been rocky. As a result of these transitions, Ohio policymakers have temporarily softened accountability and slowed the implementation of new school report cards.

Given the difficulty of these changes, one may ask why we conducted an overhaul in the first place. Why must states, including Ohio, see through the full and faithful implementation of educational...

Only math and reading teachers in grades 4–8 receive evaluations based on value-added test results. For all other teachers—80 percent of them in Ohio—it’s on to Plan B. To evaluate these teachers, schools are using alternative measures of student growth, which include vendor assessments (commercial, non-state exams) and student learning objectives (SLOs, or teacher-designed goals for learning). But how are these alternative measures being administered? What are their pros and cons? The research on this issue is terribly thin, but a new study from the Institute of Education Sciences casts an intriguing ray of light. Through in-depth interviews, the researchers elicited information on how eight mid-Atlantic districts (unnamed) are implementing alternative measures.

Here are the study’s four key takeaways: First, educators considered vendor assessments (with results analyzed through a form of value-added modelling) to be a fairer and more rigorous evaluation method than SLOs. Second, both alternative measures yielded greater variation in teacher performance than observational methods alone. Third, implementing SLOs in a consistent and rigorous manner was extremely difficult. In fact, the authors write, “All types of stakeholders expressed concern about the potential for some teachers to ‘game the system’ by setting easily attainable...

  • Policymakers in Arkansas are granting important charter-like freedoms to traditional school districts. The regulatory waivers included exemptions from burdensome teacher licensure and class-size requirements. District officials argued that these exemptions were needed to open educational opportunities for students, particularly partnerships with local businesses and colleges. One state is cutting the red-tape for their district schools, and so should Ohio.
  • A small tempest is roiling the Clintonville area of Columbus as the best-performing neighborhood elementary school in the city announced that its Kindergarten and fourth grade classes were full and wait-listed resident families were informed their students would be bused to another school outside the neighborhood. Putting aside the red herring of the annex building recently razed on the site, this is actually a good problem to have, especially for the beleaguered Columbus City Schools. How they handle academic success and the predictable popularity that follows - and how neighborhood residents find peace with it - will likely be important for urban districts across the state.
  1. We’ll start today with a couple of out-of-left-field pieces which namecheck Fordham. First up, Mother Jones is talking about presidential candidate (and Ohio governor) John Kasich’s education record. Fordham’s reports on charter school quality in the Buckeye State from late 2014 are referenced. (Mother Jones, 8/24/15) The MJ piece isn’t listed as an opinion piece, although it probably ought to be. Meanwhile, the second charter school hit piece we’re looking at today is clearly marked as opinion. In it, a 16-month-old quote from Chad Aldis from the Columbus Dispatch is recycled. (Al-Jazeera America, 8/24/15)
  2. Back in the real world, Chad is quoted in this piece on what standardized testing will look like in Ohio in the post-PARCC era. (Port Clinton News Herald, 8/22/15) Also in other Gannett outlets.
  3. Here’s a couple more stories on the post-PARCC era, not quoting Chad. First up, Gongwer, which focuses on updates to the Ohio Department of Education’s website re: testing. Toledo City School’s chief academic officer is hopeful that this year’s testing protocols will go better than he says last year’s went. No clues as to who is responsible for making that hope a reality from reading
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  1. As promised, the Ohio Department of Education will create a new charter school sponsor evaluation process after the previous version was rescinded amid complaints that e-schools’ performance were not included as part of their sponsors’ ratings. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/19/15) A three-person panel was named to advise the department in creating the new evaluation process. The panel includes the superintendent of Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools. But instead of interviewing him, the Blade instead grabs a quote from a state representative who “doesn’t have much faith” in the new panel. Sorry, local supe. (Toledo Blade, 8/20/15)
  2. Not to worry, Perrysburg Supe, your own people love you. Or at least your district. 65% of respondents to a recent survey say that Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools deserves a grade of A. Less than 2 percent said the grade should be a D or F. This is a no-stakes poll, really, with a majority of respondents being senior citizens, but still those results have got to take the sting away a little for the boss. (Toledo Blade, 8/21/15)
  3. Speaking of high marks, this guest commentator – a teacher at an online charter school – opines in praise of
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The Education Trust recently responded to two analyses in which I looked at the relationship between  overall and disadvantaged subgroup performance at an individual school level. To summarize their critique, they suggest that even minor differences between overall and subgroup ratings warrant serious concern in an accountability context—possibly including sanctions. For example, a school carrying an overall A rating, but a C rating for disadvantaged students, could be considered to be “growing the achievement gap” and thus in need of an intervention.

Their approach, however, fails to recognize that in school rating systems, a one- or even two-rating deviation may not reflect significant differences in performance. Bear in mind that with growth results, we’re dealing with statistical estimates of learning gains that also include a margin of error. In some cases, schools receive different letter grades, but their underlying growth results aren’t distinguishable from each other.

Consider an example using one school’s overall and subgroup results (Chart 1). As you can see, the range of plausible values for the gains made by all overlap with those made by low-achieving students. As such, we cannot rule out the possibility that the two groups’ gains are actually identical. We...

When Governor Kasich signed the budget on June 30, two significant changes to Ohio’s assessment system became law. First, safe harbor was extended through the 2016 17 school year; second, PARCC ceased to be Ohio's state test. Soon after the ink was dry, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced that the state would use tests developed in consultation with AIR for all subjects during the 2015–16 school year. (AIR provided Ohio’s science and social studies assessments in 2014–15 and also developed Ohio’s former tests—the OAA and OGT.)

Throughout the month of July, questions loomed surrounding what these tests would look like, how they would be administered, and when teachers and school leaders would receive preparation resources. Not all of those questions have been answered, but some have. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.

Test features

For many people, one of the most attractive aspects of the new ELA and math assessments is that they are shorter than PARCC tests. While PARCC tests are (depending on subject and grade level) around four or five hours each, the state tests that Ohio students will take this year will last approximately...

COMPILER’S NOTE: Gadfly Bites is back from its summer recess and resumes regular thrice-weekly publication today. First up, a recap of important news pieces published over the last ten days.

  1. We noted yesterday that the term “rampant uncertainty” is something of a misnomer in regard to charter schools in Ohio. There IS “rampant bad publicity” around charter schools, which isn’t new but is problematic, not only for charter school supporters but also charter haters. Case in point, this op-ed from the Toledo Blade, which must thread a fine needle in jumping on the bandwagon against charter schools (naturally) while reminding readers that some of the best schools out there are charter schools, including the Toledo School for the Arts. (Toledo Blade, 8/9/15).
  2. Same goes in Cleveland, where this op-ed pours together all of the charter school issues but comes out with a specific opinion against online schools, rather than against the charter sector writ large. Kudos for the Alice in Wonderland reference. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/16/15)
  3. The state board of education and state superintendent are targets of journalistic and editorial ire under a heading that can probably be called “rampant opportunism”, no needle-threading required. Governor (and
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It’s that time of year: Parents are perusing the back-to-school section with their perhaps not-so-eager-to-return-to-school children. Teachers, meanwhile, are gearing up for—or are already attending—in-service and professional development sessions that aim to prepare them for the year ahead. While studying class lists, decorating classrooms, and prepping lesson plans for a new year is exciting for teachers (trust me, walking into the teacher store before a new school year is just like coming downstairs on Christmas morning), the black cloud of professional development (PD) looms. And then it remains.

In a new report entitled The Mirage, TNTP (the nonprofit that brought us The Widget Effect) took a deep dive into teacher PD in three large traditional districts and one midsize charter network. The findings were not pleasant. In the traditional districts, an average of approximately $18,000 was spent on development per teacher, per year—totaling anywhere from 5 to 11 percent of the districts’ annual operating budgets. Overall, district teachers spent about 10 percent of their typical school year in PD. Despite all that time, however, ratings showed only three out of every ten teachers substantially improved their performance, based on the districts’ own evaluations. While beginning teachers...

COMPILER’S NOTE: Gadfly Bites is back from its summer break. Today, a recap of Fordham In the News pieces published over the last ten days. Regular publication schedule restarts tomorrow, August 19.

  1. More than a half-dozen Gannett outlets (including the Cincinnati Enquirer) carried a story last week looking at the status of charter school law reform in Ohio – stalled – and suggesting possible reasons for the hold up of what had been a bipartisan push to improve charters in Ohio. Well, really only one reason is touted. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in response to that key assertion: “I think to suggest (contributions) had an effect is only speculation… Members in both parties get lots of campaign contributions from lots of people.” Lawmakers interviewed insist they want to make sure the bill is right before passing it. (Zanesville Times-Recorder, 8/8/15)
  2. Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted – and Fordham’s charter sponsorship portfolio is summarized – in this piece regarding what is called “rampant uncertainty” in the charter school world in Ohio. The piece lumps together a number of separate issues (sponsor ratings, audit findings against individual schools, sponsor accountability, the aforementioned stalled bill, etc.) in
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