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Today, the ratings bubble burst for Ohio’s schools and districts. With rising standards associated with the state’s New Learning Standards and next-generation assessments now fully in place, as expected, student proficiency rates fell throughout Ohio. Correspondingly, school ratings declined as well. This much-needed reset of academic expectations will better ensure that parents and the public have an honest gauge of how students and schools are performing.

Still, state policymakers have work ahead to guarantee that parents and the public gain the clearest possible picture of students’ college and career readiness. Based on 2014-15 test results, roughly 55 and 70 percent of Ohio students were deemed “proficient” depending on the grade and subject. While these proficiency rates are indeed a more accurate gauge of achievement than in previous years—when Ohio regularly labeled more than 80 percent of students as proficient—the number of students meeting rigorous academic benchmarks continues to be overstated.

When utilizing a more demanding standard for achievement, state testing data indicate that between 30 and 45 percent of students statewide are on track for college and career success. These achievement rates—the percentage of students reaching Ohio’s advanced and accelerated levels—better match the Ohio’s proficiency results on NAEP, the best...

Rural school districts face many of the same challenges as their urban counterparts: lots of students living in poverty, low college-attainment rates among parents, high and growing numbers of ELL students, and difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals. Add the sprawling and isolated geography, weak tax base, and iffy broadband access that plague many rural districts, and we have a daunting set of barriers to the goal of students leaving high school fully ready for their next step in life. As Paul Hill put it recently, if America neglects its rural schools, nobody wins.

Fortunately, according to a new report from Battelle for Kids and Education Northwest, America’s rural schools are not standing idly by. The report looks at the work of rural education collaboratives (RECs), which have been formed across the country in an effort to respond to these very challenges. While there seems to be no handy list—nor a single definition—of such organizations, the authors know what they’re not looking for: top-down collaborations, which they eschew in favor of “informal and organic collaborative structures that are more peer-to-peer and network based.” The identify the right sort of RECs as partnerships that are: 1) committed to a common purpose that creates value for...

Los Angeles is our country’s Mecca for magic and transformation. It’s where long-extinct dinosaurs come alive, marionettes turn into real boys, and Ryan Reynolds gets chance after chance to anchor film franchises. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the wonders extend even to the education realm. In December of last year, it was anticipated that just 54 percent of high school seniors in the Los Angeles Unified School District would graduate on time—a byproduct of the state’s exacting new academic standards, and fully twenty percentage points lower than in 2014–15. Just a few months later, that projection has amazingly shot up to 63 percent. District administrators are hyping the “dramatic gains,” but skeptics point to the role of dubious credit recovery schemes that allow students to make up for classes they originally failed. These programs exist in a black box, to put it generously, allowing no real scrutiny of their rigor or legitimacy. We need to know far more about the online measures that miraculously lift students’ fortunes. Otherwise, the degrees they collect will carry no weight, and the value of a high school diploma will fall like a worthless penny stock.

The...

  1. The dust is currently settling on SB 3, the education bill we reminded you of earlier this week, which was potentially being amended in some not-so-good ways. Well, that didn’t happen in the House Education Committee, but the media didn’t let it go. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on some of those not-so-good amendment proposals in both this piece of journalism from the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/23/16)…and in this op-ed from the Dispatch. Editors there opined in agreement with Chad on this one. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/23/16) The same is to be said of editors in Youngstown, although they didn’t quote Chad to help make their point. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/22/16)
     
  2. No, Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, you may not meet yet. Not until that definition of “teacher” is well and truly settled. What? No. You should have thought of that before you sat down. Next “expedited” court date: April 7. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/24/16) One of the arguments used in court to continue stonewalling the new ADC is that kids in the district are “achieving academically” and that the school district “is not in immediate doom”. So the courts should allow this definition of teacher thing
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The challenges facing rural school districts have much in common with those facing many urban districts: lots of students living in poverty, low college-attainment rates among parents, high and growing numbers of ELL students, and difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals. Add the sprawling and isolated geography, weak tax base, and iffy broadband access that plague many rural districts, and we have a daunting set of barriers to the goal of students leaving high school fully ready for their next step in life. As Paul Hill put it recently, if America neglects its rural schools, nobody wins.

Fortunately, according to a new report from Battelle for Kids and Education Northwest, America’s rural schools are not standing idly by. The report looks at the work of rural education collaboratives (RECs), which have been formed across the country in an effort to respond to these very challenges. While there seems to be no handy list—nor a single definition—of such organizations, the authors know what they’re not looking for: top-down collaborations, which they eschew in favor of “informal and organic collaborative structures that are more peer-to-peer and network based.” The metrics they use to identify...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece discussing potential amendments to an education bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly. Amendments which many knowledgeable folks fear would weaken new charter school accountability rules which have only been in effect for three weeks. Could be a moot point for the moment, though, as that particular bill has since been removed from this week’s House Education Committee agenda. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/19/16)
     
  2. One bill that’s still on the committee’s agenda is HB 401. We told you two weeks ago about this one: it would require private schools in Ohio to publicly disclose certain pieces of information – like cashflow, enrollment, and background check policies – in an easy-to-access fashion for the general public. Its impetus was, you’ll recall, the so-called “goat rodeo” currently required to access such info. The Enquirer published a guest commentary from a parent VERY well-versed in school choice who expressed support for the bill. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 2/21/16)
     
  3. Grade point averages are a big deal for many schools, parents, and students, especially in terms of college application reviews. Admit it, dear readers, you still remember what yours was. In that spirit, The D took
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Fordham’s latest blockbuster report digs deep into three new, multi-state tests (ACT Aspire, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced) and one best-in-class state assessment, Massachusetts’ state exam (MCAS), to answer policymakers’ most pressing questions about the next-generation tests: Do these tests reflect strong college- and career-ready content? Are they of rigorous quality? Broadly, what are their strengths and areas for improvement?

Over the last two years, principal investigators Nancy Doorey and Morgan Polikoff led a team of nearly forty reviewers to find answers to those questions. Here’s a quick sampling of the findings:

  • Overall, PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments had the strongest matches to college- and career-ready standards, as defined by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
  • ACT Aspire and MCAS both did well regarding the quality of their items and the depth of knowledge they assessed.
  • Still, panelists found that ACT Aspire and MCAS did not adequately assess—or may not assess at all—some of the priority content reflected in the Common Core standards in both ELA/Literacy and mathematics.

As might be expected, the report has garnered national interest. Check out coverage from The 74 MillionU.S. News, and Education Week just for a start.

Or better...

  1. Editors in Youngstown opine in the strongest possible terms urging an end to the stalling of the work of the new Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown City Schools. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/18/16)
     
  2. Editors in Canton opine on the topic of school district fees for extracurricular activities. What is their position on the matter? No idea. (Canton Repository, 2/18/16)
     
  3. Forget the alphabet soup of ESSA and NCLB. In Northwest Ohio, they just call it “the Learning Law”. And here’s what Northwest Ohio parents and school districts think of it. (WTOL-TV Toledo, 2/18/16)
     
  4. Elyria is the 14th largest city in Ohio, but its swagger appears considerably larger these days. Case in point, the school district’s director of academic services, who contends that Elyria City Schools is on track to “bust urban district stereotypes by raising expectations and achievement”. She points to rising graduation rates to make her point. By the end of her report to the school board as covered in this piece, however, she says, “We do a great job of showing progress…but not to the level the state wants.” But I admire her can-do attitude. It is likely infectious. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/17/16)
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It’s well known that students of color are underrepresented in gifted programs compared to white and Asian students. Attempting to understand why, a new study from Vanderbilt University investigates how student, teacher, and school characteristics affect pupil assignment to gifted programs in reading and math.

Researchers derived a data sample of approximately 10,640 pupils from the NCES Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (ECLS-K). The ECLS-K data tracks pupils from kindergarten through the eighth grade nationwide, collecting descriptive information on student, family, school, and community factors with questionnaires administered to parents, teachers, and school administrators. The authors used this study to extract information on student demographics and achievement, as well as school environment, classroom environment, and teacher qualifications and demographics during the first, third, and fifth grades—times when most gifted students are identified in elementary school. Finally, researchers measured the probability of gifted assignment based on each characteristic.

Overall, the odds of black and Hispanic children being referred to gifted programs are 66 percent and 47 percent lower than white students, respectively. Moreover, when student, teacher, and school characteristics were averaged, white students had a predicted probability of 6.2 percent of gifted—whereas black students had only a 2.8...

  1. Some college profs took time out of their busy schedules earlier this week to air their gripes about Ohio’s efforts to allow high schoolers to take college classes via the College Credit Plus program. Nope. I don’t get it either. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/16/16)
     
  2. More than half of Columbus City Schools’ high schoolers don’t attend their “assigned neighborhood” school. District officials are trying to understand the pattern as they work on updating their facilities master plan, but the one parent interviewed for this piece seems to defy pattern analysis. More research is needed. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/14/16)
     
  3. The Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center is conducting a transportation survey, funded by a Straight A Grant. They’re aiming to save the small districts in the region millions of dollars through efficiencies and shared services. Nice. (Zanesville Times Recorder, 2/17/16)
     
  4. Finally, two pieces of good news from Cleveland. Breakthrough Schools announced expansion plans that will bring two of its prep schools to the West side in the next two years. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/15/16) And Cleveland's MC2STEM High School has been awarded an Excellence in Innovation in Secondary Schools award from the Alliance for Excellent Education. (Cleveland
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