Additional Topics

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to incorporate at least one non-academic indicator—which might include (but isn’t limited to) factors like school climate or safety—into their accountability frameworks. That makes this study published in Educational Researcher rather well-timed. The authors set out to test the theory that reductions in school violence and/or improvements to school climate would lead to improved academic outcomes. Instead, the evidence they discovered suggests the relationship flows in the opposite direction: A school’s improvement in academic performance led to reductions in violence and improved climate—not the other way around.

The study’s authors point to serious gaps in past studies of school climate and safety, many of which illustrated only correlation (not causation) among the variables examined. This motivated them to test the assumption that improved school climate must come first in the chicken-egg scenario. Using six years of student survey results (from 2007–13) from a representative sample of 3,100 California middle and high schools, analysts employed a research design known for its ability to test causality when large-scale experimental designs aren’t possible. (For the curious, this is described as a “cross-lagged panel autoregressive modeling design,” which determines whether variables at different points in...

  1. Kinda quiet this weekend in terms of education news stories. First up, two previews of state board of ed action to occur this week. It appears that board members will hold their noses and approve a proposed set of criteria defining the term “consistently high-performing teacher”. Neither the committee that came up with the criteria nor the board members who have to vote on it seem all that thrilled with what is before them. Why are they going to vote for it then? Because they are required by law to set a definition by July 1 and this is what there is to vote on. Inspiring (Gongwer Ohio, 6/10/16) Also on the agenda this week, adjust the cut scores for two new high school end-of-course math exams that students took this spring. We told you last week that the initial results didn’t look so promising. So the question before the board is to keep the cut scores high and have loads of kids not pass, or lower the cut scores so larger numbers pass. This is such an important issue that our own Chad Aldis weighed in, landing on the side that says that “Diplomas have to mean
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  1. If things go as planned, Cincinnati City Schools’ board of education will pass a resolution next week to authorize negotiations with Phalen Leadership Academies, a charter school network from Indianapolis, with an eye toward opening a district-sponsored Phalen school in the Queen City. The timing is important because formalizing the negotiation status will allow Phalen to apply for Ohio’s new charter school facilities funding, the deadline for which is fast approaching. You can read journalist Hannah Sparling’s pretty awesome description (if I do say so myself) of Phalen’s work in Indy here. But the three months since that piece was published seem to have soured Sparling on the idea. Or else it was her discussion with the leader of the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition that did it. CEJC leader Michelle Dillingham, also a candidate for city council, was quoted in yesterday’s piece vehemently opposing the district’s plan. She “doesn’t know enough about Phalen to rate the model one way or the other, but she didn’t see anything in Wednesday’s presentation that CPS isn’t already offering its students… ‘It’s not really clear what they’re innovating,’ she said.” There you have it. More developments next week, I’m sure. (Cincinnati Enquirer,
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In April, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report examining recent trends in the racial and socioeconomic composition of America’s public schools. Between the 2000–01 and 2013–14 school years, the study finds, the fraction of U.S. schools that were both high-poverty (75 percent or more eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, or FRPL) and high-minority (75 percent or more African American or Hispanic students) rose from 9 to 16 percent.

While the GAO analysts caution that their analyses “should not be used to make conclusions about the presence or absence of unlawful discrimination,” to headline writers at the Washington PostUSA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, the findings suggest “resegregation” in American schools. The Post editorial board declared a “resurgence of resegregation.” But is this a fair interpretation?

There are at least two problems with drawing such a conclusion. The first is that the GAO analysis doesn’t take into account overall demographic trends. During this time period, student demographics were changing in America. As a share of the national student population, Hispanic students increased from 16 percent to 25 percent from 2000 to 2014 (though African American pupils remained virtually unchanged as a fraction of the population). Due to the increase in...

  1. Krish Mohip, the newly-appointed CEO of Youngstown City Schools, came into town yesterday to sign his contract…and to meet with the school board, district staffers, and as much of the public as could be mustered on a Tuesday afternoon. There’s a lot to parse here and I may have more to say about this after I check out all the video from his public remarks. (“Scraped along with C’s”? Dude! Diligent work on the party of the Vindy though.) But I’ll leave you with three observations on the written piece: Mohip seems to have a pretty good track record in Chicago as he tells the story, including significant improvements to some difficult schools. He seems to be trying to be inclusive out of the gate (board, interim supe, teachers, public, etc.). Most importantly he seems to have solidified in his own mind some of the less-clear aspects of the new ADC/CEO framework, including the role he sees for the elected board and for their appointed superintendent. These will be important down the line if/when other districts come under the aegis of the new ADC/CEO framework. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/8/16)
  2. Speaking of one of those districts, here is
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Editor's note: This article was first published on April 23, 2015. It was updated on June 7, 2016, when Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the 2016 presidential election.

Hillary Clinton is America’s first woman to be a presidential nominee for a major political party. In November, she and Tim Kaine will take on the Republican Party's Donald Trump and Mike Pence and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and William Weld. Clinton has been a public figure since 1979, when she became the First Lady of Arkansas, so she has said much about education over the last thirty-seven years. Here are some of her more recent views:

1. Common Core: “Well, I have always supported national standards. I've always believed that we need to have some basis on which to determine whether we're making progress, vis-à-vis other countries who all have national standards. And I've also been involved in the past, not recently, in promoting such an approach and I know Common Core started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum…What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous…Remember a lot of states...

  1. Kudos to Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and sister school DECA Prep (sponsored by Fordham), two of the schools admitted to Ohio’s STEM Learning Network this year. They join a consortium of high-quality tech-focused schools across the state which include charters, traditional district, private, and standalone public STEM schools. Keep up the good work everyone! (Ohio STEM Learning Network, 6/6/16)
  2. Recall that StateAuditor! Man had some strong words for the Ohio Department of Education a couple of weeks ago. In a depressingly predictable turn of events, folks from all parts of the ideological spectrum seized upon his words to advance their own agendas. The D chatted with state board members and state legislators who were all over the map with ideas about how to “fix” the department, with little apparent agreement as to what the problem was. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/30/16) Yost himself took time to expand on his thoughts about ODE’s “problems” in a commentary piece in the Plain Dealer last weekend. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/3/16)
  3. Confession time: I loathe Facebook. The level of discourse I have found there – in general – makes Twitter seem Aristotelian by comparison. Imagine my reaction, then, when the
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Compiler’s note: We’ll be catching up today and tomorrow from last week’s vacation.

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on the weekly Statehouse News Bureau chat show “State of Ohio” this past weekend. He was joined by Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer to talk about the new Know Your Charter report on the history of federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds in Ohio. Very interesting discussion, starts at 8:40 on the video. (Ohio Public Media’s Statehouse News Bureau, 6/3/16)
  2. Aaron Churchill spoke to Cincinnati journalist Mike Brown about charter schools recently. Aaron’s quotes and several other Fordham historical references constitute a small part of this epic blog post (nearly 3500 words) that tries to tie the case study of one recently-closed area charter school with the entire history of charter schools in Ohio. Fascinating effort. Never knew this blog existed. (Cincinnatians for the American Dream blog, 6/1/16)
  3. Chad is quoted extensively on the adoption by the Capacity Committee of the state board of a set of changes
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The Family Feud edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk discuss the debate sparked by Robert Pondiscio’s recent article, the Department of Education’s proposed ESSA regulations, and Kansas’s school funding debacle. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines whether a teacher observation framework can affect student outcomes.

Amber's Research Minute

Andrea Lash, Loan Tran, and Min Huang, "Examining the validity of ratings from a classroom observation instrument for use in a district’s teacher evaluation system," WestEd (May 2016). 

Derrell Bradford

You can only watch a dragon eat its tail for so long before you feel compelled to intervene.

As I’ve watched the education community react to Robert Pondiscio’s argument that the Left is driving conservatives out of education reform, I’ve been increasingly frustrated to see so many people whom I like and respect (from Marilyn Rhames to Justin CohenChris Stewart, and Jay Greene) take aim at one another. I’m also convinced that the teachers’ unions are all having a good laugh at us while we play this verbal game of the Dozens amongst ourselves.

At the center of this conflict: A dividing line is being drawn between “markets” and “equity” as principles driving change in our schools. These two themes are both found in the underlying conflict of Pondiscio’s piece about the contrast between market/conservative solutions like school choice and the power of a movement like Black Lives Matter (with which the more progressive wing of the reform movement identifies).

I believe that Pondiscio’s piece only featured Black Lives Matter and the agenda of this year’s New Schools Venture Fund Summit (which I attended) as a proxy for capturing the changing view and face of the education...