Additional Topics

The DNC edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Robert Pondiscio, and Alyssa Schwenk discuss education policy at the Democratic National Convention, along with ways to close the enrichment gap. During the research minute, Amber Northern examines whether weighting Advanced Placement courses higher in student GPAs increases enrollment.

Amber's Research Minute

Kristin Klopfenstein and Kit Lively, "Do Grade Weights Promote More Advanced Course-Taking?," Association for Education Finance and Policy (Summer 2016).

  1. Looks like Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip will not be going home to Chicago this weekend. He has some high-profile visitors to entertain at East High School on Saturday. (WKBN-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) It remains to be seen whether CEO Mohip will have his legitimacy questioned by his guests. It is still most definitely under question by the Youngstown school board as they voted this week to continue their lawsuit against the legislation that created the CEO position in the first place. (WYTV-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) After this piece, I am left with two questions. First, didn’t the board president say at the last meeting that all their votes from then on would be “advisory” in nature and that the CEO would have final say in everything? And second, in that spirit, didn’t Mohip say last month that there would be no further board meetings until after members got training on Roberts Rules and civil discourse at their August retreat?
  2. A city-funded initiative to halt the brain drain in suburban Grove City has run into trouble. College tuition assistance for local graduates to continue their education at one of three higher-ed institutions in the city includes a religious
  3. ...

In 2000, North Carolina’s university system (UNC) announced that it would increase from three to four the minimum number of high school math courses students must complete in order to be considered for admission. The intent was to increase the likelihood that applicants be truly college-ready, thereby increasing the likelihood of degree completion. Researchers from CALDER/AIR recently looked at the UNC data and connected it to K–12 student information to gain an interesting insight into how post-secondary efforts to raise the bar affect student course-taking behavior in high school.

The study posed three questions: Did the tougher college admission requirement increase the number of math courses taken by high school students (North Carolina’s high school graduation requirements remained at three math courses, despite UNC’s higher bar for admissions)?[1] Did it alter enrollment patterns at UNC schools? And did the hoped-for increase in college readiness and completion result?

Overall, high school students did take more math courses after the UNC policy change. As researchers expected, the biggest increases were at the middle- and lower-achievement deciles—high-achievers were already taking more than three courses—but the increases were not uniform across districts. This led researchers to look deeper into...

This report from Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates provides a trove of data on students experiencing homelessness—a dramatically underreported and underserved demographic—and makes policy recommendations (some more actionable than others) to help states, schools, and communities better serve students facing this disruptive life event. 

To glean the information, researchers conducted surveys of homeless youth and homeless liaisons (school staff funded by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act who have the most in-depth knowledge regarding students facing homelessness), as well as telephone focus groups and in-depth interviews with homeless youth around the country. The findings are sobering.

  • In 2013–14, 1.3 million students experienced homelessness—a 100 percent increase from 2006–07. The figure is still likely understated given the stigma associated with self-reporting and the highly fluid nature of homelessness. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homelessness includes not just living “on the streets” but also residing with other families, living out of a motel or shelter, and facing imminent loss of housing (eviction) without resources to obtain other permanent housing. Almost seven in ten formerly homeless youth reported feeling uncomfortable talking with school staff about their housing situation. Homeless students often don’t describe themselves as such and are
  • ...

We at Fordham recently released an evaluation on Ohio’s largest voucher initiative—the EdChoice Scholarship. The study provides a much deeper understanding of the program and, in our view, should prompt discussion about ways to improve policy and practice. But this evaluation also means that EdChoice is an outlier among the Buckeye State’s slew of education reforms: Unlike the others, it has faced research scrutiny. That should change, and below I offer a few ideas about how education leaders can better support high-quality evaluations of education reforms.

In recent years, Ohio has implemented policies that include the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, rigorous teacher evaluations, the Cleveland Plan, the Straight A Fund, New Learning Standards, and interventions in low-performing schools. Districts and schools are pursuing reform, too, whether changing textbooks, adopting blended learning, and implementing professional development. Millions of dollars have been poured into these initiatives, which aim to boost student outcomes.

But very little is known about how these initiatives are impacting student learning. To my knowledge, the only major state-level reforms that have undergone a rigorous evaluation in Ohio are charter schools, STEM schools, and the EdChoice and Cleveland voucher programs. To be certain, researchers...

  1. Ohio’s STEM Learning Network is a statewide consortium of standalone, charter, district, and private schools adhering to STEM learning principals developed by Battelle, the state, and other partners. It is ten years old and poised to grow even further in both number of member schools and in topics as the arts become integrated into the paradigm. STEAM heat, indeed. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/22/16)
  2. Somewhat akin to the Loch Ness Monster, there’s been sighting of an actual education story on the main website of the Enquirer! The topic: details on how levy dollars earmarked for preschool expansion in the Queen City will flow should said levy pass in November. You’ll remember that two entities were considering going to the ballot separately for the money but that that recipe for dual failure was averted by an agreement between the two. This is the start of figuring out what the sharing agreement might look like and includes at least one if not two additional “partners”. Does the description of a “Trusted Entity” creating a “Preschool Expansion Organization” sound Orwellian to anyone but me? Oh, and if you’re wondering where Nessie goes when not on the main Enquirer pages, look no further
  3. ...
  1. Everyone and her brother are talking about Cleveland this week. Can’t figure why. But be that as it may: there is some love for the Breakthrough Charter School Network buried deep in this piece on the Cleveland Plan. (Hechinger Report via Huffington Post, 7/20/16) The love for Columbus-based and Fordham-sponsored United Schools Network is front and center in this piece (which I am deplorably late in covering). It is a love letter from a USN teacher to her school, her kids, and her job. Lovely. (Education Post, 7/18/16)
  2. Among other agenda items, the Dayton City Schools board of education this week touted Belmont School, which was named one of 37 “bright spots” across the country by the White House Task Force on New Americans. Specifically, the task force lauded the school for its Welcome Belmont program, which aims to integrate students of different backgrounds by pairing native-born students and incoming immigrant students for the year. The school plans to double participation in the coming year. Kudos. (Dayton Daily News, 7/20/16)
  3. Ohio’s largest online school – and particularly the current kerfuffle over their attendance audit – remained on the minds of editors in Columbus. They
  4. ...

The RNC edition

On this week’s podcast, Alyssa Schwenk, Brandon Wright, and David Griffith discuss GOP education politics and report that Nebraska might replace its state tests with the ACT or SAT. Amber Northern explains which school leader characteristics positively affect achievement.

Amber's Research Minute

Moira McCullough, Stephen Lipscomb, Hanley Chiang, and Brian Gill, "Do Principals’ Professional Practice Ratings Reflect Their Contributions to Student Achievement?," Mathematica (June 2016).

  1. Chad was a guest on a tiny sliver of All Sides with Ann Fisher yesterday. The topic was Ohio’s largest online school, its current tussle with the state over an ongoing attendance audit, and the larger implications for it and others like it depending on the findings. Audio and video are available at the link; the online schools portion starts around 16:45; Chad gets to join in after the journalists have had their bash (sending the nonexistent case to the state supreme court if they do say so themselves), around 35:00. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 7/19/16) The first 16 minutes of this edition of Fisher’s show was spent on the journalists discussing the Republican National Convention. When this show was planned, there wasn’t a connection between the two topics. Fortuitously for radio station, host, and journalists/pundits, a connection arose. Here’s the editorial board at the ABJ to tell you all about it. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/20/16)
  2. Back in the real world, the third and final public meeting hosted by Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip was held this week. Some students finally showed up (including one from a local private school and none from the district’s East High School)
  3. ...
  1. Not sure why the Dispatch decided to pick on one particular private school in Cincinnati to make its point here, but be that as it may, the paper is not wrong in its analysis. Information on private school quality is hard to come by in Ohio, even for publicly-funded EdChoice voucher students. As you may have guessed, this piece is riffing off of our EdChoice evaluation report released two weeks ago. Thanks for the love, guys. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/16)
  2. EdChoice is namechecked in this piece (along with charter schools and open enrollment) about Mansfield City Schools’ imminent release from state-mandated fiscal emergency status. The stats reported here are pretty interesting, especially the comparison between Mansfield and similar districts like Whitehall and Zanesville. It is noted that Mansfield has fewer kids open-enrolled to neighboring districts than those to which it is compared but has more charter and voucher students. Honestly, though, it seems like the inefficiencies of a smallish but spread-out district are what’s really come home to roost here. Kudos to the district for making the needed changes to tighten things up. Next up for Mansfield to tackle: that “at risk for academic distress” albatross. (Mansfield News
  3. ...