Standards, Testing & Accountability

Mega States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the NationCalifornia, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas: Together, these five states educate nearly 40 percent of public school students and more than half of all English language learners in the land. But how well do they do this? This latest report from the National Center for Education Statistics explains. And the results are a mixed bag (nothing new to wonks who have read previous NAEP reports). California’s students gained, on average, twenty-six points in fourth-grade math since 1992, though their average scores in 2011 still lagged behind the national average. And Illinois’s eighth graders’ scores declined in reading and science—the only state where that happened. On the upside, though, Florida’s students made important reading gains: Its fourth graders improved by sixteen points, beating the national average gain (five points), while its eighth graders jumped eight points. While NAEP data are far from causal, Florida’s surge in reading may be due in...

When then-Governor Ted Strickland issued his Evidence-Based Model (EBM) of school funding reform in 2009 we engaged Professor Paul Hill to provide an analysis of the proposals. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Professor Hill. His credentials are impeccable. He is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. Further, Professor Hill has roots in Ohio as a graduate of Ohio State University. He also has family in Dayton.
 
Professor Hill’s analysis of Strickland’s plan was largely informed by the research project he led, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. That six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results. Facing the Future was the work of more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It included more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
 
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Dayton panelists from left: Bob Taft, Rusty Clifford and Lori Ward

The word churn is used within a variety of industries.  Just as customers leave businesses and migrate to competitors for other products or pricing options, students transfer between school districts and buildings. Churn is a reality within Ohio schools.  But what are the reasons for this cycle? School leaders, parents, community members and others gathered yesterday in Dayton and Cincinnati to discuss student churn, what it means for their schools and what might be done about it. A crowd of about 100 gathered for each event.

In November, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP), and nine other funders released a statewide study of student mobility in Ohio. This substantial report was the basis of the conversations hosted by Learn to Earn in Dayton and The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati. 

“Today’s event in Dayton was very eye opening,” said Chatoya Hayes, an audience member who joined the discussion from the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area.  “I think the issue of student mobility is directly altering student success...

Donald Campbell was an American social psychologist and noted experimental social science researcher who did pioneering work on methodology and program evaluation. He has also become—posthumously—an unlikely hero of the anti-testing and accountability movement in the United States. In the hands of accountability critics, his 50 years of research on methodology and program evaluation have been boiled down to a simple retort against testing: Campbell’s Law. But a deeper reading of his work reveals a more complicated and constructive message: Measuring progress (using both quantitative and qualitative indicators) is essential; when using quantitative data for evaluation, the indicators can become distorted or manipulated; and there are concrete steps we can—and must—take to minimize data manipulation and distortion.

Campbell’s December 1976 article, “Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change,” has become a flashpoint in the educational accountability debate. There, he argued,

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Foes of testing and accountability frequently evoke this “Law” to argue against the use of standardized tests and test-based accountability. In a...

In a Senate hearing on February 20, the Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers presented progress the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has made in the past six months on various initiatives. In what he deemed a “crash course,” Sawyers shared the changes being made to the state and district report cards distributed to schools, assessments required for students, and evaluations given to teachers. The superintendent seemed optimistic about the changes related to the Common Core. Sawyers, moreover, paid special attention to the introduction of new Common Core learning standards which he believes will “put the art back into teaching.”

In response to No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, ODE was required to write academic standards that required teachers to follow specific guidelines. Sawyers then compared the 2001 standards against the new Common Core standards.  

SOURCE: Michael Sawyers, “Education Reform Update: Presented to the Senate Education Committee,” PowerPoint presentation, February 20, 2013.

Sawyers explained that changing the language allows the Common Core standards to be “fewer, deeper, and clearer.” By wrapping these standards into clusters, teachers are able to creatively unpack what lessons...

Milwaukee: Saved by Act 10 For Now

Michael Gove, the British Secretary of State for Education, is a man who reads serious books on education and follows their arguments. In a remarkable recent speech, he mentioned some of the intellectual influences that have caused him to shake up the British education world by insisting that students begin learning facts again. One of those influences was my UVa colleague Daniel Willingham, and he even quoted from my 1996 book. But he said that the greatest intellectual influences on his educational thought were the writings of Antonio Gramsci. So here we have a Tory cabinet minister singing the praises of one of the most revered Communist thinkers of the twentieth century. What gives?

I don’t doubt that Michael Gove might have an impish sense of humor and take pleasure in suggesting to his shadow opponents in the Labour party and in the anti-fact party of educators: “Look, I’m just supporting what the most profound leftist thinker of the twentieth century had to say about education.”...

Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate AccountabilityThis new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education offers a troubling diagnosis: The thirty-five “NCLB flexibility” waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) may have had the unfortunate side effect of allowing states to skirt 2008 regulations that standardized the graduation-rate measurements and held schools accountable for raising those rates. Trivial this is not: Prior to these changes, reported graduation rates were often inflated and always difficult to compare (just like proficiency rates). The 2008 regulations set parameters for consistent, common graduation-rate calculations across schools, districts, and states. Through their ESEA waivers, however, eleven states have re-incorporated “alternative” measures of high school completion (e.g., the GED) in their graduation-rate tracking and reporting, possibly incentivizing schools to “push students towards a GED rather than a standard diploma.” The 2008 policy exposed the low graduation rates of pupil subgroups (minorities, English language learners, low-income students, and students with disabilities) that had previously been masked by averaging the student population; but eleven state waivers contain weak or...

There is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. Yet, there are school leaders across the state and the nation who do it day-in and day-out, and too few get recognized for their great work. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in the charter schools that Fordham sponsors and it is our privilege to tell a little bit of their stories and the impact they are having on students in Ohio. This Q&A with Hannah Powell Tuney, the executive director of KIPP: Central Ohio, is the third of our seven-part series on school leadership. (Please see our previous Q&As with Dr. Glenda Brown, Andy Boy, and Judy Hennessey.) KIPP, which stands for Knowledge is Power Program, is a national network of high-performing, urban charter schools. KIPP Journey Academy, located in Columbus, is Ohio’s first KIPP charter school.  Powell Tuney leads KIPP Journey, which serves 300 students, 91 percent black and 100 percent economically disadvantaged. In 2011-12, the school received a B (“Effective”) rating from the state.

Hannah Powell Tuney became the leader at Columbus’ KIPP Journey Academy when she was just 27....

Last week Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost reported that nine school districts manipulated student attendance data to improve their academic performance results. In response to these findings, Yost offered up thirteen recommendations for reforming Ohio’s system of reporting student enrollment. In an op-ed in Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch, he outlined his primary recommendation: Schools should count students and report enrollment more frequently than once per year.  Specifically, Yost said:

Ohio sends cash to local school systems based on the number of students in the school during Count Week in October each year. September doesn’t matter, and you don’t need to remember November — or January or February. Good attendance during one week locks in a year of state funding.

Money changes things. It drives behavior, frames decisions and affects thinking — sometimes in ways we don’t foresee or want. That’s one of the things I discovered during our statewide audit of attendance practices in schools.

Ohio should count kids every day, not once a year. A year-long financial incentive would drive attendance every day. The good news is that we know how to get the kids in school. Lining up the financial incentives with the goal of regular attendance would help keep...

In October, 2011, The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report called Closing Public Schools in Philadelphia: Lessons from Six Urban Districts, which looked at the process of school building closure in a number of urban districts to help inform the process of closure and repurposing of a potentially large number of buildings in Philadelphia. The process in Philadelphia was expected to take at least two years to complete.

And now a follow-up report has been released that looks at the reality of what happened in Philadelphia and a number of other cities after their “surplus” buildings were closed.  Shuttered Public Schools: The Struggle to Bring Old Buildings New Life looks at the realities of finding new uses for old school buildings in Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Mo., Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tulsa and Washington as well as Philadelphia (where, over two years later, as many as 37 buildings still remain to be closed before they can even reach the “repurposing” stage).

Among the key findings:

  • School districts are not typically set up to become real estate brokers, resulting in slow and problematic transactions;
  • Many buildings remain unsold due to multiple difficulties including neighborhood resistance to
  • ...

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