Standards, Testing & Accountability

On October 17, the State Board of Education authorized the Ohio Department of Education to release additional data components of a local school districts’ Report Card, in spreadsheet format. Until the Auditor of State completes his investigation of districts and buildings that are suspected of tampering student attendance records, the data remain “preliminary.” ODE therefore has not yet published an official Report Card for any district in its usual PDF format.

Despite the continuing cloud of suspicion over a few schools’ academic data, we believe that the preliminary data is sufficiently reliable to analyze district and charter school performance in Cleveland and Columbus (Ohio’s largest cities) and Dayton (Fordham’s hometown).

Check out our reports, which answer the following questions (among others):

  • How do charter schools, as a group, perform compared to traditional public schools?
  • Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?
  • How many students attend high-performing schools versus failing schools?
  • How far will the pass rate on standardized tests fall when Ohio moves to the Common Core?
  • How did your local school building perform in 2011-12?

The reports can be accessed through the hyperlinks on each city name: Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton....

In this policy brief from The Future of Children organization, authors Ron Haskins, Richard Murnane, Isabel Sawhill, and Catherine Snow start from the premise that the United States has a two-part “literacy problem”: (1) the current reading skills of U.S. children are “inadequate for the heightened literacy demands of the twenty-first-century economy,” and (2) the widening literacy gap between students from high- and low-income families virtually ensures a permanent impediment to economic mobility for those students left behind.

In Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap?, the authors suggest that adoption of the Common Core Standards is an important first step. In fact, they argue “If American children were to master the Common Core, they would fare better in international comparisons, the American economy would receive a boost, and the literacy achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children might narrow somewhat…giving them a better opportunity to compete.” But standards by themselves, the authors argue, have very little effect on achievement and must be backed up by assessments, comprehensive reporting, curriculum fully aligned with the Common Core, and most importantly high-quality teaching to support all of the above.

The authors are not alone in...

When the next President of the United States and the 113th Congress are sworn into office next year, they’ll be faced with an impending “fiscal cliff” – the perilous combination of cuts in government spending and tax increases that are set to take effect soon. Business people, government officials, and economists all worry that the cliff will slow the U.S. economy to an even greater crawl—meaning fewer jobs, greater market volatility, and negative economic growth.

In the education world, another cliff is on the horizon as the transition to the Common Core looms. In Ohio, let’s call it the 2014-15 PARCC “proficiency cliff.” Everyone – from local educators and parents to state policymakers – should be paying attention and working to ensure student academic progress in Ohio doesn’t slam to a halt like the nation's economy might. Consider the chart below.

Chart 1: Ohio Academic Achievement (OAA) proficiency rates versus projected PARCC proficiency rates, fourth-grade math, for select Montgomery County traditional districts and charter schools (ch).


Source: 2011-12 OAA proficiency rates and PARCC proficiency rates (based on 2011-12 OAA advanced and accelerated rates) are from June...

On Wednesday this week, the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

In this post, and in forthcoming posts, we'll take a look at the ODE data for Ohio's three largest districts: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and for Dayton--Fordham's hometown. We assume that the preliminary data (the release of unofficial, unverified data in June, the September release, and the October release) are sufficiently reliable for an analysis of public schools' data. In addition to an analysis of the 2011-12 data, we also provide a forecast of what proficiency rates for school districts will be when Ohio transitions to the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exams, for English language arts and math in 2014-15.

In Columbus, good, bad, and worse news can be found in its district and charter schools’ academic...

Today, the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

In this post, and in forthcoming posts, we'll take a look at the ODE data for Ohio's three largest districts: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and for Dayton--Fordham's hometown. We assume that the preliminary data (the release of unofficial, unverified data in June, the September release, and the October release) are sufficiently reliable for a city-level analysis of public schools. In addition to an analysis of the 2011-12 data, we also provide a forecast of what proficiency rates for school districts will be when Ohio transitions to the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exams, for English language arts and math in 2014-15. 

Dayton Public Schools (DPS) and Dayton’s charter schools continued their long run of mediocre performance in the 2011-12 school year. Anywhere...

Dr. Diane Ravitch – a founding Board member of the modern Thomas B. Fordham Foundation – came to Columbus yesterday morning to speak passionately about her belief in the public school system. Reading from her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Dr. Ravitch called herself a reluctant crusader. But her belief in public schools as the “entry point to the American Dream” and her belief that public schools are under attack by the “reform agenda” which makes the system “ripe for privatization and private exploitation” compel her to speak out again and again.

She laid out her beliefs that charter schools don’t work, that high-stakes testing creates a negative impact on public schools, and that teachers are being systematically demoralized nationwide. The political and financial motivations of reformers are clear to her and she was adamant that those interests cannot be allowed to defeat the true purposes of education: “showing children that they have talents and abilities” and “to develop citizens”.

As quickly as Dr. Ravitch arrived, however, she was gone, leaving the rest of the 400+ attendees at the Public Common School Preservation Conference to take her words of grandmotherly wisdom borne of...

Though this may fall into the category of self-dealing or nepotism, I have to heap some praise on my TBFI colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee. I’ve know Kathleen for going on a decade in various capacities, and I’ve always thought her to be a super-smart, funny, and independent-minded participant in all things education reform.

As lots of ed reformers fall victim to group-think, Kathleen’s independence has become especially valuable.

But her virtues have become clearer and clearer and more and more valuable over the last couple of years as she’s emerged as a responsible national leader on standards, curriculum, and assessments, especially with regard to Common Core.

As lots of ed reformers fall victim to group-think—this maddening view that we can reach our goals by just pursuing a handful of consensus reforms and showing political “backbone”—Kathleen’s independence (bordering on healthy contrariness) has become especially valuable.

But what’s even more important is that her views are grounded in some pretty remarkable real-world experience. She’s been a teacher; worked in curriculum, assessments, and PD for a high-performing CMO; has worked a great deal on standards and accountability; and much more.

...

Valentina is a legislative analyst for StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement working to improve the nation’s schools.

The most recent data shows that the state of Ohio spends more than $23 billion annually on education, but Ohio students are still struggling academically, with 67% of fourth graders and 64% of eighth graders reading below proficiency[1]. It’s clear that Ohio is investing in its education programs, but it’s not clear whether these resources are being used in the most effective manner.

As I recently wrote, Ohio would greatly benefit from a school letter grading system, which holds schools accountable, empowers parents with information and choices, and improves student outcomes. To maximize the full impact of a school grading system, however, Ohio must pair this information with a strong fiscal transparency and accountability system so that policymakers and the public can understand the impact of their spending decisions.  By developing a statewide, five-star rating system that links resources and investment decisions with student and school outcomes, policymakers can make better decisions regarding school funding.

However, transparency and ratings mean little without accountability. Strong but measured interventions, such as changing who makes resource decisions, must be permitted for schools...

When charter schools first emerged twenty years ago, they represented a revolution, ushering in a new era that put educational choice, innovation, and autonomy front and center in the effort to improve our schools. While charters have always been very diverse in characteristics and outcomes, it wasn’t long before a particular kind of gap-closing, “No Excuses” charter grabbed the lion’s share of public attention. But in this rush to crown and invest in a few “winners,” have we turned our backs on the push for innovation that was meant to be at the core of the charter experiment?

Hopscotch
The debate over education reform has become so polarized that people are painted neatly into boxes and told that they are either "in" or they are "out."
Photo by Jan Tik.

Of course, the top charter-management organizations (CMOs) got this level of attention the old fashioned way: They earned it. The best CMOs—like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First—have done amazing work. The teachers put in long...

Two main takeaways emerge from this latest College Board report on the most recent SAT scores: 1) Participation rates are at an all-time high; and 2) as more adolescents sit for the three-hour exam, average scores decline. First, a bit about participation rates: This past spring, roughly 1.66 million students took the SAT, about 52 percent of the Class of 2012 and 6 percent more than in 2008. Of that number, 45 percent were minority students (up from 38 percent in 2008). Twenty-eight percent reported that English was not their exclusive first language (up four percentage points from 2008). And 36 percent reported that their parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or less. In sum, the 2012 testing cohort was the College Board’s most diverse to date. That’s the good news. Now for the scores. (Recall that there are now three parts of the SAT: To the traditional critical reading and mathematics sections, College Board added a writing section that was first tallied in 2006. Each section is scored from 200 to 800, with a perfect score [obviously] of 2400.) The mean subject scores...

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