Ohio Gadfly Daily

In September, Ohio was awarded a federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant, winning the largest slice of the pie among eight winning states ($71 million). Soon after, following on the heels of last summer’s charter school sponsor evaluation scandal at the Ohio Department of Education, there was significant backlash and a hold placed on the funds. Concerns stemmed from the fact that the grant application described Ohio as a “beacon of charter oversight” (before the state passed landmark legislation in October promising to make that a reality) and overstated the performance of its charter sector.

As part of the effort to salvage the grant, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) submitted revised data on charter school performance. Applying a more rigorous definition of failure[1] yielded fifty-seven low-performing schools, in contrast to the six listed in Ohio’s initial application last July.[2] Given these discrepancies, it’s appropriate that the feds are conducting their due diligence in asking ODE to update its application and demonstrate that it can manage the funds effectively. Meanwhile, those of us observing the ongoing debate from the sidelines should hope...

  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...

A recent study from the National Center on Education and the Economy examines teacher professional learning in four systems: British Columbia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. These places have two key similarities: They are considered high-performers as measured by student achievement on international comparison tests, and they view teacher professional learning as central to the job of educating students.

In particular, each system is built around what’s called an “improvement cycle,” which directly ties to student learning. The cycle follows three steps: First, assessing students’ current learning levels; second, developing teaching practices that help students get to the next stage of learning; and third, evaluating the impact of the new practices on student learning and refining them.

The authors of the report are careful to note that the improvement cycle doesn’t work in isolation—it requires strong links between leadership roles, resource allocation, and the focus of evaluation and accountability measures. To make the cycle work and to create a culture of continuous and meaningful growth, schools must organize improvement around effective professional learning, create distinct roles for the people who lead professional development, advance teacher expertise, share responsibility between teachers and administrators for professional growth, and build collaborative learning...

Last year, we at Fordham wrote quite a bit about teacher policy. We talked about changes needed in teacher preparation, teacher licensure, and teacher evaluation. We also spilled some ink on innovations in teacher credentialing, teacher roles, teacher professional development, and other potential changes to teacher evaluations. By the early days of 2016, we realized that a year had passed, and—despite some debate—nothing had actually changed. Teacher policy in Ohio was pretty much ignored. The advent of a new federal education law promises to shake things up, and it could be the jolt of energy that Ohio teacher policy needs. But what should legislators and administrators know about teacher policy before they start crafting programs and reforms in the wake of ESSA? Let’s take a look.   

Teacher licensure

When lawmakers in Ohio discussed tackling deregulation last year, one of the policies they proposed was to deregulate state mandates regarding teacher licensure for eligible high-performing districts. The move generated some controversy, which is unsurprising, considering that licensure is an area of teacher policy that’s rife with conflicting research. However, that hasn’t stopped Ohio from getting ...

  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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  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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  1. The state has asked the judge to lift his stay on the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, to at least allow the four seated members to meet and begin work, even if the fifth member is still in question. “Without immediate intervention from this court, [the children of Youngstown] have no hope that anything will be different in the coming school year,” wrote the state’s representatives. No word as to whether they asked “pretty please” or not. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/12/16)
     
  2. We told you last week about the fancy new Lorain High School currently under construction – how local pastors love it, how it won’t have metal detectors (not because they’re not necessarily warranted, but because “knuckleheads” can fairly easily get past them), and how it will have a crap ton of space dedicated to the local community college for dual enrollment courses. But this last item could mean the end of the 10-year-old “Lorain Early College Program”, dedicated to getting first-generation students into college. At a minimum, the existing program will have to change. Some folks are unhappy about this turn of events. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/11/16)
     
  3. And finally this week: Beef School. Line forms
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  1. Here are some things we learned during this week’s state board of education meeting. Ohio’s learning standards are still in the process of being revised. Said the dude from ODE: "We're looking for revisions, not a debate on whether you like standards-based education.” Not everyone got that memo, it seems. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/9/16) The next permanent state supe is still in process of being selected. A lack of consensus among board members on things like the qualifications required of applicants and pay level could hold up said process for a long time. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/9/16) ODE is still figuring out how to handle school report cards in the face of parents opting their children out of testing. Looks like they are going to be giving schools two different grades – one with untested students getting “zeroes” and one with untested students not being counted at all. Nothing could go wrong with that, could it? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Cleveland PD opine with a vote of no-confidence in the Ohio Department of Education with regard to charter schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
     
  3. We all know the old SchoolHouse Rock tune about how
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Detroit Public Schools recently made national headlines for the heartbreaking conditions of its school facilities and a widespread teacher “sick-out.” For Detroit, these are sadly just the latest hurdles to overcome: The public school system has been in dire financial straits for many years, while national testing data indicates that the district’s students are among the lowest-achieving in the nation.

A report from the Lincoln Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on land use and tax policy, provides a fascinating angle on the Detroit situation. It highlights the massive problems that the Motor City encounters when trying to finance public services, including education, through its local property tax system. Consider just a few bleak statistics reported in this paper: 1) The property tax delinquency rate was a staggering 54 percent in 2014; 2) roughly eighty thousand housing units are vacant—23 percent of Detroit’s housing stock; 3) and 36 percent and 22 percent of commercial and industrial property, respectively, sat vacant.

The report also highlights ways that property tax policies exacerbate the school system’s revenue woes. First, property tax abatements—tax breaks aimed at spurring re-investment—have reduced or exempted the tax liabilities of more than ten thousand properties. Whether the benefit...

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