This familiar May visitor to edu-wonks’ desktops looks a bit different in 2013. Typically a bulky digest of all manner of education-related statistics, this year’s Condition of Education is more modern (with a beefed-up report and data website) and more svelte (by over 200 pages). The yearly tome of data now tracks but forty-two indicators across four areas: population statistics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and post-secondary education as well as data on four “spotlighted” stages: trends in employment rates by education attainment, Kindergarten entry timing, rural education, and college financing. From it, we learn that Hispanic immigrants are over three times as likely to drop out of high school than non-immigrant Hispanics; that charter school enrollment is still on the upswing, by 11 percent between 2009–10 and 2010–11; that 60 percent of kiddos aged three to five attend full-day preschool; that only 36 percent of female high school dropouts aged twenty to twenty-four are employed (compared to 59 percent of males of the same ilk); that employment rates among young adult males dropped at least 7 percentage points from 2008 and 2010—no matter their education level; and much more. NCES doesn’t attach policy recommendations to its data dump, but that shouldn’t stop the report from furthering some important conversations. Many, including us, have recently been questioning the “college for all” rhetoric, as an example. The dips seen in employment rates are further proof: We need to think hard about what worthy, non-college...


For advocates of value-added measures of teacher effectiveness, high school presents a conundrum, as testing is less frequent and often in non-contiguous subjects (making it difficult to compare prior years' results). Using data from the ACT's QualityCore program, Dan Goldhaber and his colleagues analyzed two value-added models—the traditional model comparing pre- and post-tests and a more complex analysis that considers individual student outcomes across multiple subjects—and compared their results. The benefit of the more complex model, which uses a "cross-subject student fixed-effects approach," is that it skirts the issue of non-contiguous classes and the need for pretests in subjects that students may not have encountered before. They found that the fixed-effects approach estimated smaller teacher effects (meaning that teacher quality was less important to the final score than other variables), though it is impossible to know which model was "better," as there is no objective measure of teacher quality against which to benchmark. More importantly, Goldhaber found significant variation in the results of the two models: Nearly 10 percent of the teachers who were placed in the top quintile by the fixed-effects model—the top-echelon of educators—were actually in the bottom quintile when the traditional model was used. In the world of high-stakes testing, this is concerning (especially if you're a teacher!) and reminds us that, while value-added measurements have superior predictive power relative to other methods of estimating teacher effectiveness, they are imperfect—and the tradeoffs ought to be made clearer in the popular debate.

SOURCE: Dan D. Goldhaber, Pete Goldschmidt, and...


After a judge ruled last year that Los Angeles was in violation of the Stull Act—a forty-year-old state law signed by Governor Ronald Reagan requiring that principal and teacher evaluations include student-achievement measures, and spurred on by Los Angeles’s ongoing attempt at obtaining a district-level NCLB waiver, Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy announced that, as of next year, the district will “fully implement the evaluation changes” tested in an ongoing pilot program.

After three years of failed negotiations and angst galore, New York City has a teacher-evaluation plan. Teachers’ evaluation ratings will be comprised of student-test scores (20 to 25 percent), school-established measures (15 to 20 percent), and in-class or video-recorded observations (55 to 60 percent). But don’t break out the celebratory flan just yet! Some are balking at plans to assess subjects like art, gym, and foreign languages, and at least one mayoral candidate has already come out against the plan.

On Tuesday, D.C. councilmember David Catania announced seven proposals that could reform the District’s public education system dramatically—including a five-year facility plan and a process for handing over surplus buildings to charters. For her part, Chancellor Kaya Henderson expressed interest in some pieces (e.g., more money to low-performing high schools) but resisted the more dramatic ones (e.g., a set metric that would mandate closure for consistently underperforming schools)....


Do you believe that well-written and timely stories can change minds? Do you have the ability and the drive to research and write those stories? Would you like to work at the forefront of Ohio education policy? If so, you might be perfect as Education Writer and Policy Associate for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Ohio office.

To see more details or to apply, please click here.

  • The Cincinnati Enquirer has created the nifty quiz “How much do you know about the Common Core” to educate readers, while shooting down Common Core misconceptions.
  • With the increase of technology such as iPads and mobile devices, some school leaders and parents are encouraging students to limit technology use and spend more time reading or playing outdoors. 
  • Students in some Ohio schools could soon report bullies via text message as part of a new initiative by Blackboard.
  • A few school districts across the country, including two middle schools in Hamilton City School District (Butler County), have started separating boys and girls during lunch periods and recess in an effort to improve behavior.

According to the authors of The SEA of the Future: Leveraging Performance Management to Support School Improvement, the federal government and state legislatures have asked State Education Agencies (SEAs) to be take a bigger role in improving schools. In the Buckeye State, the SEA is the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). To meet these increasing demands, the authors suggest SEAs transition into a performance management system, a system defined by high standards and goals, the systematic assessment of the organization’s progress, and a willingness to continuously improve and adopt new strategies.

In three interconnected essays, the authors, who are mostly affiliated with the University of Washington's Center for Reinventing Public Education, share what they believe to be the necessary steps to build a successful performance management system: (1) changing the system of support that an SEA offers to improve the organizational capacity of local districts and schools, (2) funneling resources to support the policies necessary to enact district-level change, and (3) engaging stakeholders such as governors, legislators, and advocates to help sustain the decisions made by SEA leaders. The key takeaway is that a successful SEA must be willing to change and respond to the needs of its districts and schools, while being unburdened by the status quo.

As cities in Ohio become leaders in education reform, it is becoming increasingly necessary for ODE to help support and sustain these policy reforms. Fortunately, state superintendent Dick Ross has a track record of innovating at the district level...


Teach For America (TFA), the demonstrably effective teacher placement and preparation program, is wrapping up its first year in the Buckeye State. In 2012-13, TFA placed 34 teachers in schools and pre-K centers in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky area and another 50 in Cleveland-area schools. (Six TFA teachers taught at Dayton Liberty Academies, Fordham-sponsored charter schools, and Fordham has supported TFA’s start-up efforts in Southwest Ohio financially.)

A series of articles (accessible here, here, here, here) by reporter Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer kept tabs on three of Ohio’s inaugural class of TFA teachers: Sarah Theobald, Paige Fryer, and Tierra McGee. Theobald taught preschool at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Fryer taught first grade at Impact Academy, a charter school, and McGee taught seventh grade at Holmes Middle School in the Covington (KY) School District.

What do the Enquirer articles tell us about TFA teachers? Three characteristics are apparent:

1.)    They’re resilient – Theobald, the pre-K teacher, reported the challenge of having three Spanish-speaking students in her class. With the help of her peers, she’s managed to integrate them into her classroom—and she’s also made learning Spanish a priority.  

2.)    They learn fast – Fryer, who teaches at Impact Academy, reported how she quickly learned on-the-job teaching tricks. One was as simple as giving students clear instructions. McGee, who teaches at Covington, found that role-playing engaged her students, so she adapted her lessons accordingly.

3.)    They achieve results –Fryer, for example, achieved 1.5...


By July 1st, Ohio law will require public school districts (charter and district) to establish a teacher evaluation policy. The evaluation policy must conform to a framework that depends half on student growth on test scores and half on classroom observations.[1] Based on these measures, teachers will earn an overall rating: accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

In our recent survey of superintendents, Ohio’s teacher evaluation policy received mixed reviews. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) said that teacher evaluations would become accepted practice five years hence. And, 42 percent said that teacher evaluations would lead to “fundamental improvement” in the state’s K-12 school system. So, there’s modest optimism toward teacher evaluation.

But there’s undeniable angst about the policy details. Nearly all superintendents (93 percent) think that they’ll be lawsuits when personnel decisions are based on Ohio’s evaluation framework. And nearly all (86 percent) think that the classroom observation mandate will “put too much pressure on principals.” One superintendent said

“It will over-tax the principals and render them useless. They will need to spend so much time on evaluations, they will not have time for anything else.”

When one looks at the Ohio Department of Education’s website, one can see from whence this sentiment emerges. For example, the “teacher evaluation resource packet,” which operationalizes the classroom observation portion of the policy, clocks in at 22 pages. By simple extrapolation, this suggests a small mountain of paperwork for a principal who supervises 20 teachers.

Is there a...


In both our role as researchers and as a charter school authorizer we have come to appreciate over-and-over again the critical importance of school leaders in making schools great. Yet, there is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in 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.

Today’s Q&A is with Rick Bowman, the superintendent of Sciotoville Community School, located in rural Southern Ohio. Tragically, we recently learned that Quintin Howard, a 17-year-old senior at Sciotoville passed away in a single vehicle accident on May 25th. At a candlelight vigil for Mr. Howard, Bowman led a prayer and encouraged the community saying “This is a family. They’re not going to be alone. They’re going to have all of us, and we’re going to have each other to work together to get through this very difficult time.” This is a reminder that school leaders are not only a school’s chief executive and chief academic officer. Sometimes, they’re a community’s consoler-in-chief.

For additional context on Sciotoville, see our documentary The Tartans, which can be viewed here. This is the seventh of our seven-part series on school leadership. (Please see our past Q&As with Dr. Glenda Brown, Andy Boy, Dr. Judy Hennessey, Hannah Powell Tuney, Chad Webb, and T.J. Wallace.)...


This week I am joining members of CEE-Trust for a conversation on some of the nation’s most promising city-based school reform efforts. CEE-Trust is a coalition of 33 reform organizations like MindTrust in Indianapolis, Mayor Karl Dean in Nashville, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, New Schools for New Orleans, and the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland. Fordham is a founding member, and this is one of my absolutely favorite groups to spend time with because the people involved are leading implementers and practitioners of school reform. They are all doers.

In years past I always left the CEE-Trust meetings wishing more were happening in Ohio’s cities. But, this year is different. Ohio’s big cities are rapidly becoming leaders in school reform. In fact, I’d argue there is no state with three major cities doing more than what is happening in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Consider the following.


In early 2012 Mayor Frank Jackson (who appoints the school board) unveiled his “Plan for Transforming Schools.” The Jackson Plan required changes to state law and in July 2012 Governor Kasich signed House Bill 525, which gave the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its superintendent Eric Gordon new flexibilities to deal with the city’s long-suffering schools. Key elements of the plan included:

  • Keeping high-performing and specialized teachers during layoffs by making tenure and seniority only secondary factors in those personnel decisions.
  • Paying teachers on a “differentiated” salary schedule based on performance, special skills and duties, as opposed to years of
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