Ohio Policy

Here's an interesting article about Harlem Success Academy, a??New York City charter school whose kindergarten field trip to a farm is more than a cute story about pumpkins and cows.

"The schools haul their students to a farm each year, hoping to expose them to rural life and lift their [test] scores," since questions on New York state tests often center on "livestock, crops, and other staples of the rural experience." A Harlem Success Academy teacher explains, "[the students] are good at reciting and remembering things, but they can't make the connection unless you show it to them."

For most students growing up in urban environments, state test questions that include passages about milking, plowing, cornstalks, and pumpkins are foreign and therefore more challenging, and "educators have long known that prior knowledge of a subject can significantly improve a child's performance on tests."

Though there's no way of knowing the precise impact that such field trips will have on Harlem Success students' test results, this charter school is right to emphasize the importance of content and background knowledge, especially for young readers. Such "real-world" learning might even impress the "21st century skills" camp, although the purpose for Harlem Success Academy's field trips seems less about?? fostering critical thinking, innovation, or creativity (those buzzwords that 21st century folks have a proclivity for) and more about overcoming deficiencies in background knowledge experienced by their...

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I'm usually not the first person to throw my hands up in response to extracurricular programming being cut from schools. If something's got to go in this economic climate, better to be athletics and arts than social studies testing or early college academy high schools.??

Still, it's disconcerting that Ohio schools districts like Reynoldsburg have no junior varsity sports programs left, in part because families can't afford the required $500 athletic fees. And South-Western schools-who have already lost athletic and extracurricular programs- are in the news again as they hinge their hopes on the upcoming November levy. Even if it passes, athletes will still have to pay $150 per sport and there are no waivers for low-income students. For Big Walnut schools, pay-to-play fees could rise to as high as $300 if voters don't pass the upcoming levy.

Why care about cuts to sports programs? I admit that as a lifelong soccer player, I lack neutrality. But more important than my bias is the fact that many student athletes spend years getting good at their sport because it provides a pathway to college. College access can broaden exponentially for student athletes, particularly those whose families don't have savings or the willingness to take on exorbitant amounts of student loan debt.

For some Reynoldsburg students, nearly 30 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, I'd guess that a $500 fee not only threatens their eligibility for a sports season, but potentially blocks their...

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While we at Fordham view the results of the much talked about Hoxby charter study as encouraging and a good rebuttal to charter critics, here's a reminder of the antagonism toward charters in Ohio.??

In this week's Ohio Education Gadfly, we critiqued a report that called for a "scaling back" of charters in Ohio (by Policy Matters, a union-backed organization). Namely, it made broad claims that charters get an unfair "head start" despite using kindergarten test scores that the Ohio Department of Education itself says "do NOT measure school readiness." Also, the report cited literature that charters perform worse than district schools (we pointed out that it failed to mention Hoxby's report disproving claims that charters steal the better students) and didn't distinguish between Ohio cities where charters are doing well and where they are doing poorly.

The author responded quickly to our post, arguing that higher kindergarten test scores among Ohio charter students (despite the fact that not all charters serve kindergarteners) is evidence of cream-skimming and that charters are not reaching Ohio's hardest-to-education children. He also criticizes Fordham for being an "outspoken charter advocate" and says that current charter policy in Ohio "weakens efforts to create a stronger system." And apparently Hoxby's critique wasn't relevant to mention because she studied students in another state. Instead of trying to ask broad questions about how/why New York has a successful climate for charters - the author prefers the easier (and more politically popular) suggestion...

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Eric Ulas

Ohio's school district rating system has been getting criticism lately, and for good reason: the category of Continuous Improvement (a "C" rating) is so broad that it is nearly meaningless.

The graph below illustrates how many indicators were met by 79 school districts receiving a "C" on the 2008-09 state report card. Districts can meet up to 30 indicators, which are based on achievement test scores, graduation and attendance rates.

Number of performance indicators met by Ohio districts with a "C" rating, 2008-2009

Source: Ohio Department of Education

While nearly a fifth of "C" districts met barely any indicators (0-8), another four percent met nearly all of their performance indicators yet still received the same letter grade.

Confused? So are a lot of people. ??

Kettering City Schools met 29 out of 30 performance indicators while Marion City Schools met zero indicators, yet both received a "C" from the state. The reason for Kettering's low grade, as Emmy describes, is that they failed to make AYP with English language learners and special education students. Without this AYP provision in Ohio's rating system, Kettering would have ranked four categories higher, or Excellent with Distinction ("A+"). ??

Conversely, districts such as Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati get a bump up in their ratings because they did make AYP, despite only meeting 6 indicators.??????

In a recent letter to the Dayton Daily News, Terry cautions...

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Tomorrow Duncan will deliver a speech to NASBE members on the role of the federal government in education reform.?? I agree with K-12 Politics that this part of Duncan's prepared remarks is refreshing:??

"I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it. But I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo. I plan to be an active partner. As a nation, we need a federal voice encouraging our shared goal of success for every student and stimulating innovations to reach those goals. But I'm also mindful of this. For nearly 200 years, our federal government was a silent partner. It mostly sat on the sideline while a shameful achievement gap persisted."

Also,

"In cases where children are being underserved or neglected, we have a moral obligation to intervene, and we won't allow fear of over-reaching to stop us."

While the rhetoric is nothing new, the difference between Duncan and scores of others using such no-excuses language is that, well, Duncan's got a lot of money to bargain with. And, he represents an insurgence of new thinking in the Democratic Party, which people are noticing and reiterating. In today's New York Times, Kristof writes:

?? "Democrats have too often resisted reform and stood by as generations of disadvantaged children have been cemented into an underclass by third-rate schools. President Obama and his education secretary, Arne...

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The Education Gadfly

In this week's edition Jamie evaluates a report calling for Ohio to scale back its charter school program because charters allegedly get a "head start" with kindergarteners who are more prepared for school. But the report (among other weaknesses) uses an inappropriate piece of data to measure school readiness.??

In a timely Q&A, Mike interviews Fordham board member and former Massachusetts education commissioner David Driscoll, who shares insight on the standards development process in the Bay State and lessons for Ohio.

For "Capital Matters," Emmy describes a proposed Senate bill that would make significant changes to Ohio's school rating system, particularly to safeguard those relatively high performing districts that took a hit this year.

Other features include a recap of our conference, World-Class Standards for Ohio, as well as Flypaper's Finest and a reminder to check out Fordham's latest report (whose title we love by the way) - Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Standards in 2009.

??...
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Sec. Arne Duncan made the first (of three) speeches intended to recruit an "army of great teachers" when he spoke to UVA's Curry School of Education last Friday. But his address wasn't the typical rally cry for the teaching profession (although it did include feel-good phrases like "Our children need you" and "A great teacher can change the direction of an individual's life").

Duncan's take on America's teacher preparation programs was in tune with other parts of his agenda that have surprised (and angered) teachers unions - such as Race to the Top's guidelines emphasizing charter schools and teacher evaluations linked to student test scores, and his speech to the NEA last summer that pointed out the tendency for teacher contracts to "put adults ahead of children" and the subsequent need for teacher merit pay.??

His Virginia speech called out teacher training programs for being "theory-heavy and curriculum-light" and for not preparing teachers "for what awaits them in the classroom." Duncan outlined the need to expand human capital pipelines such as Teach For America and The New Teacher Project, in addition to overhauling teacher preparation programs (which certify 22 times as many teachers as alternative programs). Specifically, he cited the need for education programs to train teachers in the use of student achievement data, to better prepare them to work in high-need schools, as well as to track graduates in order to measure their success in the classroom.

Duncan's unapologetic focus on critical reforms,...

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Eric Ulas

Video is now available from our recent event, World-Class Academic Standards for Ohio, which was held October 5 in Columbus, Ohio.

What do state and national experts make of the "Common Core" standards effort??? How can states go about crafting top-flight standards??? How will the Buckeye State respond to the Common Core effort and a recent legislative mandate to upgrade its standards? ??Click on the links below to find out.

Opening Speaker:

Why World-Class Standards?

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Panel Sessions:

Current Efforts to Create National (???Common???) Standards

Michael Cohen, Achieve Inc.

Gene Wilhoit, Council of Chief State School Officers

Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute, moderator

Highlighting the Efforts of Top Performing States??

David Driscoll, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education

Stan Jones, former Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education

Sue Pimentel, StandardsWork

Bruno Manno, Annie E. Casey Foundation, moderator

Moving Forward in Ohio

Deborah Delisle, Ohio Department of Education

Eric...

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Eric Ulas

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is a charter-school authorizer in our home state of Ohio and we currently oversee six schools in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield.??In the Buckeye State, academic performance of schools is gauged by both student proficiency rates and progress (using a "value-added " measure).??Schools are expected to help students make one year or more of academic progress annually and are given a value-added ranking of "below," "met," or "above" corresponding with how much growth their students made. We're proud of the academic progress our schools made last year compared to their district and charter peers. The following chart shows the percent of students in schools by "value-added" rating for Fordham-authorized schools, the home districts in which they are located, and charter schools in the state's eight major urban areas.

Percent of Students in Fordham-authorized Schools, Home Districts, and "Big 8" Charter Schools by Value-Added Rating, 2008-09

Source: Ohio Department of Education interactive Local Report Card

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The question of whether schools and districts should play a role in battling childhood obesity has been prevalent in the news lately. Last week, the New York Times highlighted new citywide regulations on baked goods (among the strictest in the nation, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and yesterday, it ran an article on new regulations for vending machines in schools. A new report from the CDC indicates that in 2008, fewer schools sold soda or sugary fruit drinks or sold candy and "fatty" snacks than in 2006, suggesting that significant headway is being made in the childhood obesity battle (especially by states like Mississippi and Tennessee).

And on the flipside, Core Knowledge posted an interesting blog about a mother in upstate New York who is fighting a school policy that actually prohibits her son from riding his bike to and from school.

The New York Times article also makes a point that's worth noting - there's a correlation between student health and performance on standardized tests.?? Since schools and states are the ones being held accountable for student performance, will more of them start regulating things that affect student learning conditions?

In the Buckeye State, the answer is - not yet. Ohio has yet to join the ranks of states that have implemented regulations on bake sales and vending machines, passed laws requiring children to be weighed in schools, or set healthier standards for school lunches than federal...

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