Ohio Gadfly Daily

As Ohio transitions to a next-generation accountability system, educators must come to terms with student-growth models. Within the past year, the Buckeye State has introduced three new indicators of school performance that gauge the academic growth of student subgroups. These new indicators stand alongside a school’s growth performance for all of its tested students. Furthermore, the state now requires districts to implement principal and teacher evaluations, half of which are presently based on student-growth measures.

In view of the growing use of student growth in accountability, Ohio’s policymakers and educators should consult A Practitioner’s Guide to Growth Models. The authors of this must-read report provide a clear description of the seven growth models available—from the very rudimentary to the extraordinarily complex—and helpfully contrast the various models from both a statistical and applied perspective.

Of the seven growth models presented, there are two models that states are incorporating into their accountability systems: student-growth percentiles, or SGP (used in Colorado and Massachusetts, for example), and value-added, or VAM (used in Ohio and Pennsylvania). The key takeaways from this report are as follows:

VAM asks a different policy question than SGP.

According to the report, SGP does two things well—it describes and predicts student growth. Growth description unpacks “how much growth” a student group has made (e.g., classroom or school), while growth prediction gets at “growth to where” (i.e., to a proficiency standard) for a group of students. VAM, on the other hand, neither describes nor...

As 2013 draws to a close, let us turn our attention to the five top education issues that will make waves in Ohio in 2014.

Before we begin the countdown, it’s worth noting that many of these topics are going to look familiar to education-policy wonks for two reasons. First, 2014 is an election year. Historically, there has been less legislative activity during election years, so we probably won’t see a lot of new initiatives. Second, while 2013 was a busy policy year chock full of significant changes, there are still important initiatives that can be best described as unfinished business. Ohio leaders are likely to go back and try to finish what they started.

Without further ado, here are the top five education topics that will hit your radar in the new year.

5. Student data privacy

Concerns about student data privacy have taken center stage as an issue related to the Common Core State Standards. This concern has generated standalone legislation to strengthen Ohio’s data-privacy laws. House Education Vice Chair Andy Brenner has led this effort by sponsoring House Bill 181. The bill prevents the State Board of Education or the Department of Education from releasing or requiring the release of a student’s personally identifiable information to the federal government or to a multi-state test consortium, puts forth specific guidelines for and limitations upon the release of student information, and requires the annual disclosure of any approved student information releases made the prior year. Rep. Brenner shepherded...

John Mullaney

This week, $88 million dollars were awarded in the first round of the Governor’s Straight-A Fund to twenty-four schools across Ohio, out of a pool of 569 applications submitted. This one-of-a kind initiative is intended to incentivize innovations in teaching and learning across the state, to save money to the district, and to prove replicable in order to benefit other districts. The awards ranged from $14 million to $205,000.

I and four other colleagues from the philanthropic sector were among the educators, administrators, and business and venture capitalists invited to sit on the Grant Advisory Committee. One clear message to the committee was that the Straight-A Fund is attempting to create a set of demonstration projects across the state. The Fund holds the promise to truly change the way the public typically thinks of education in Ohio.

The process is creating a portfolio of projects that, if successful, will deliver the public a robust System of Schools with a portfolio of creative learning environments, rather than a one-size-fits-all School System. The grants have been awarded, and that is a good start. For the program to truly succeed, however, the follow-up will be the Governing Board’s greatest challenge. If done well, the Fund will serve as a national model.

For those of us in the philanthropic sector, the selection process was unlike anything we had ever seen. To ensure anonymity and impartiality, the state employed the expertise of statisticians from Ohio State University to assist. The committee was introduced to...

Aimee Kennedy

Two weeks ago, we read that many Ohio college students graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Reporting on the Project on Student Debt’s latest analysis, the Dispatch’s Encarnacion Pyle wrote:

Despite efforts by colleges to hold their costs down, Ohio students who borrowed money and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2012 graduated with an average of $29,037 in student-loan debt…Continued.

Unless those students are writing a check on the stage at graduation, it’s safe to assume that interest will push what they owe to well over $30,000. Thirty-thousand dollars is a lot of money to owe, especially before your career is even underway.

What’s the answer for a system that saddles Ohioans with that kind of debt? Pyle’s piece offers comments and ideas from representatives of colleges and higher-education policy makers.

Could colleges do more to reduce costs? Probably. It’s great to see Chancellor Carey and others are focused on the issue.

Is that the only option? No, it’s not.

Too many students are spending time in college catching up on things they could have (and should have) learned in high school. Too many Ohio students are leaving high school unprepared for college. Why? Put simply, most high schools plan for students to earn a minimum credential that doesn’t provide them entry into either career or college: the high school diploma.

When a student graduates high school, we expect them to be able to choose one of three paths: college, a job, or starting...

The Common Core—the state’s new academic content standards for math and English language arts—has lit a fiery debate across Ohio. Vocal skeptics raise questions such as: Will the state lose its sovereignty in how students are educated? Will curricula become too “narrow”? Will technical manuals replace literary stalwarts like Hawthorne and Twain? Will schools have to assess students ad infinitum?

These are certainly legitimate concerns to raise. But amidst these worries—and in each instance, I might add that the concern is probably exaggerated—a larger question looms: How can Ohio secure its long-term economic prosperity?

Simple. To invest in the development of our children’s knowledge and skills.

The Common Core standards are such an investment. The Common Core places Ohio’s K-12 schools on a firmer foundation to build up its supply of human capital—human knowledge, skills, habits, and creativity taken together—the sine qua non for a robust economy.

Consider the standards themselves. The English language arts standards expect students to read texts closely[1] and to understand the nuances of how authors’ use the English language.[2] They require high-school students to draw on multiple texts to support their written analyses.[3] I think most  would agree that diligent reading skills, a command of language and vocabulary, and using textual evident to support a written conclusion are fundamental abilities for success in college or a demanding job.

Meanwhile, the math standards expect students to be able to interpret the equation y...

The world of education is no stranger to controversy. The most recent kerfuffle centers on Ohio’s use of the Common Core State Standards which were adopted by the Ohio State Board of Education in 2010.

Opposition to Ohio’s latest academic standards in math and English language arts has sprung up based on half-understood ideas of what standards are, what they’re for, and how they came into being. In an instant, and several years after the fact, the undoing of the Common Core has become a zealous calling for folks urging their school boards and their state legislators to stop the implementation of Ohio’s duly adopted academic standards.

But the Common Core isn’t new for Ohio’s educators, who have been implementing these deeper and more rigorous standards over four school years. Superintendents, principals, and teachers are not only fully aware of but also have been actively engaged in implementing what is required of them and their students under the state’s new academic content standards.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s recent eye-opening series of articles depict how educators are embracing the challenge of the Common Core. These articles should serve to ameliorate the fears of those who oppose the Common Core, while heartening parents, educators, and policymakers who want more rigorous learning expectations in their schools. These articles describe in detail the on-the-ground and in-the-classroom realities of Common Core implementation in Northeast Ohio. These reporters have done a masterful job looking at how education professionals in 26 different districts – from working class...

The nation’s two largest teacher labor unions (AFT and NEA), the largest public-sector employee labor union (SEIU), and other national organizations are rallying today on their “National Day of Action.” Unfortunately, this conglomerate of labor and liberal interest groups has put forward a slate of tired and worn-out “adequacy” principles and solutions that are better suited for another time and place. The principles represent an input-driven, compliance-based public education model that has yielded decades of academic mediocrity and nary a whiff of excellence.

Meanwhile, this coalition portrays any effort from education “outsiders” to reform America’s public school system as “corporate”—not because there is any evidence of a corporate conspiracy but because it polls well in our increasingly polarized society. This is an unambiguous attempt by teacher unions to preserve their monopoly over the public-school system. The message to those outside the union sphere of influence is clear: Butt out.

We won’t be so kind as to accede. For, as we argue below, the seven principles that this coalition has laid out are deeply flawed. If our ultimate objective is for our public schools and students to achieve higher academic performance, Ohio needs a bolder set of guiding principles. To its credit, the Buckeye State (sometimes with and sometimes without labor support) is indeed undertaking bold, promising educational reforms in our K–12 schools.

* * *

Labor’s principle #1: Public schools are public institutions.

Public schools are of course public institutions; as such, taxpayers—individuals and businesses alike—have a...

  • Educator "speed-dating" is being tested as a means to fill numerous teaching vacancies in Cleveland. And it actually kind of works!
  • Ohio's Got (Math) Talent: Lancaster High School student Jaydeep Singh is one of only eleven students in the entire world to get a perfect score on his AP calculus exam.
  • Ohio’s state school board and its members have been scrutinized in the Akron Beacon Journal’s series of investigative reports.
  • The Columbus Dispatch’s editorial board opines on charter school quality and comes out (again) in support of the Common Core.

Public education is a brier field of policy issues. Among the thorniest of all is how to educate America’s high-need students—those who are severely disabled, either physically or mentally. Though they make up a small portion of students, the education of high-need students can have widespread impacts.

In order deliver an adequate (if not excellent) education to those students, schools may need to hire instructors with specialized skills and a full-time nurse, or they may need to purchase expensive equipment. For a small school district or a charter school, serving just one high-need student could stress budgets—and crowd out resources that would have been otherwise allocated to general-education students.

Nevertheless, a civil society should provide good educational opportunities for all children, including those with special needs. But this objective presents policymakers with a seemingly intractable problem: How can states and districts provide the necessary resources to educate high-need students without breaking the bank or straining services for general-education students?

A recent brief by Daniela Fairchild and Matt Richmond, my Fordham colleagues, offers sensible solutions to this conundrum. To begin, they define “high-need students” as those who cost at least three times more than a typical general-education student. In Ohio, this definition would cover students who are identified as multi-handicapped, deaf, blind, or autistic or students who have had a traumatic brain injury.

The authors put forth three recommendations for policymakers: (1) Create “cooperatives,” which would serve high-need students from multiple schools, thereby taking advantage of economies of scale; (2)...

Fordham's Mike Petrilli testifies before the House Education Committee at midnight on November 21. Photo credit: Fordham Institute

On November 20, the Ohio House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would prevent the state board of education from continuing its efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards. The committee previously entertained sponsor testimony on the legislation from Representative Andy Thompson, but this was the first opportunity for the public to testify on this bill.

Hundreds of concerned Ohioans, both supportive of and in opposition to the Common Core, descended upon the Statehouse to make their thoughts known, some arriving up to two hours before the 5 PM hearing. As the hearing time approached, the crowd outside the committee room swelled, and frustration grew as it became apparent that the committee room, the largest in the Statehouse, would not be able to accommodate everyone in attendance. To make matters worse, debate on the House floor ran late, delaying the start of the committee until almost 7 PM.

Undeterred, the mostly anti–Common Core crowd remained and filled the committee room and the Statehouse Atrium (an overflow area that received audio of the committee proceedings). More than forty people signed up to testify before the committee and were split roughly evenly between Common Core supporters and opponents. In the more than six hours of testimony—the hearing ended just after 1 AM—legislators were treated to a...

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