Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 8
April 27, 2011
ESEA reauthorization: What Ohioans should know
Quality Authorizing for Online and Blended-Learning Charter Schools
The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction
Fighting the mathematics blues... with a museum?
Terry Ryan / April 27, 2011
In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day Bill Murray’s lead character finds himself reliving the same day in Punxsutawney, PA, over and over again. He despairs and ultimately tries to kill himself over and over again, but after discovering the futility of his effort starts to reexamine his life and priorities.
This is a fitting analogy for the school choice debate in Ohio. Every other year at budget time, lawmakers debate school choice and money. Republicans and their supporters argue for increasing choice, while Democrats and their supporters argue for more rules to constrict choice. This year is no different, but as Republicans took control over the House and the governor’s office earlier this year (they’ve controlled the Senate since 1985) it is their turn to go on the offensive. Over the previous four year’s Governor Strickland and his allies in the Democratic-controlled House tried to defund choice programs and/or bury them with new regulations.
Since February, Republicans have proposed three bills (including the state budget bill) calling for the expansion of both charter schools and voucher. The most expansive proposal (House Bill 136) would make 85 percent of Ohio’s students eligible for scholarships to attend private school. The Cincinnati Enquirer captured the feelings of the current debate when it reported the following exchange:
It’s high time, said Rep. Matt Huffman, the Lima Republican who introduced the bill. Ohio should focus education funding on what individual parents and students want, instead of on what public school officials and teachers say they want, he said.
“This is…about parents and
Emmy L. Partin / April 27, 2011
The education policy debates at the Statehouse might have some of us forgetting that another education debate is afoot on Capitol Hill, over the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the law authorizing federal funding and policy directives for K-12 education; for the past ten years it’s been better known as No Child Left Behind.
What are the major policies related to ESEA? What are the thorny issues holding up its reauthorization? In a new briefing book, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr. take a look at the reauthorization of ESEA to identify the key questions Congress and the Obama Administration must answer in order to reach an agreement on the Act and offer up Fordham’s recommendations for moving forward. You can read the entire briefing book here, an opinion piece from last week’s Education Gadfly here, and continued coverage on Fordham’s Flypaper blog here.
For readers focused on the impact of ESEA here in the Buckeye State, below is a quick take on the ten big issues that Finn and Petrilli identified, Fordham’s recommendation for the direction the feds take, and where Ohio currently stands on each point.
Standards and Assessments
1. College and career readiness. Should states be required to adopt academic standards tied to college- and career-readiness (such as the Common Core)?
Fordham says: Expect states, as a condition of Title I funding, to adopt rigorous (i.e., “college- and career-ready”) academic standards in reading and math (either the Common Core
Jamie Davies O'Leary / April 27, 2011
The Prairie State has captured attention for its recent overhaul of policies governing teacher tenure, transfer, and dismissal. Senate Bill 7 – which has yet to make its way through the Illinois House of Representatives – is significant in that it not only passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate (59-0) but also was introduced by a Democrat (Sen. Kimberly Lightford) and garnered the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and the Chicago Teachers Union.
The substance of SB 7 is good news for schools and students – it ends last in, first out layoffs and allows teachers’ seniority to only serve as a “tie breaker” after performance is considered; gets rid of forced (seniority-based) transfers; and ties dismissal and tenure to meaningful performance reviews. (It also makes the Chicago Teachers Union’s ability to strike contingent on 75 percent approval by membership. For more details, read a summary of the bill by the reform group Advance Illinois.) But what’s more notable than the bill’s details is the broad bipartisan support it earned, the political process behind its passage, and the lessons this bears for Ohio – where similar teacher personnel changes are being passed but in dramatically different fashion.
Prairie State Politics
For starters, it’s worth pointing out that the political situation in Illinois is quite different from that in Ohio, where unions have wholly rejected teacher policy reforms. The Buckeye State passed a bill ending LIFO, streamlining teacher dismissal procedures, and putting performance metrics in place that would supersede seniority – yet a quick
April 27, 2011
A recent study produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation confirms what educators and researchers have long hypothesized: reading at grade level by the third grade is a critical indicator as to whether students will graduate from high school. This study found a strong link between graduation rates and third-grade reading levels, discovering that students who don’t read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who are proficient readers.
To determine the correlation between a student’s ability to read on grade level by the third grade, and his/her likelihood to graduate (by the age of 19) researchers collected data on 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989. Reading progress was tracked using the Peabody Individual Achievement Reading subtest (the database shows whether kids graduate from school by the age of 19). To make reporting more consistent with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the researchers divided reading performance scores into three groups: proficient, basic, and below basic. Furthermore, to gain a better understanding of the impact that poverty can have on reading proficiency, researchers surveyed students’ families every two years, asking them questions about their economic status.
The findings are stark. While 88 percent of students nationwide graduate high school by the age of 19, this fluctuates dramatically for students with different levels of reading proficiency in the third grade. Among proficient readers only four percent fail to graduate; however, students scoring below basic proficiency in third grade reading account for 63 percent of those who don’t
Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Nick Joch / April 27, 2011
In recent months, education reformers have started buzzing about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and several, including Fordham’s own Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli, have proposed substantial revisions. In its latest report, Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Center for American Progress (CAP) lays out its own set of proposals regarding the act’s school turnaround provisions. The report names four key recommendations:
- Dispense School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds only to consistently under-performing schools in districts with strong pools of teachers, the ability to use student data effectively, widespread support of large-scale reforms, and the flexibility required to implement such reforms.
- Allow schools flexibility in selecting a suitable turnaround strategy, but encourage schools to adopt sweeping reforms (e.g., extensive staff replacement) based on “data-driven needs assessment.”
- Evaluate state applications for turnaround grants based on demonstrated commitments to empowering State Education Agencies (SEAs) to intervene substantially in turnaround schools by clustering them into separate districts, expanding school data collection and analysis, and training teachers and administrators specifically to work in turnaround schools.
- Use the provision and withholding of federal funds to hold states, districts, and individual schools accountable for their success or failure in transforming under-performing schools.
Changes to ESEA, particularly the SIG provisions, will certainly affect Ohio, which received $19.5 million in SIG funds earlier this year. Even with the law in its current form, some Ohio schools have already implemented large-scale staff replacements, and one school will likely be run by an education management organization starting this fall. However, some schools receiving SIG
Kathryn Mullen Upton / April 27, 2011
A new monograph from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers examines authorizer (aka sponsor) oversight practices for online and “blended” (online instruction combined with traditional classroom instruction) charter schools, and finds that the development of authorizing practices for these schools lags behind the rate at which such schools are opening across the county.
According to the report, online authorizing practices – including the review of applications, school renewal, and annual oversight – are still in their early stages. (It’s worth noting, though, that some online programs are roughly 10 years old; one hopes that this finding is limited to states where online schools are much newer.) The report also finds that accounting for student achievement is a challenge, given the sometimes unique situations of students in online/blended schools (e.g., students who enroll in online school temporarily to deal with an unusual life circumstance); that governing boards of online schools sometimes do not have the expertise or capacity to adequately oversee the school; that special education presents special challenges in an online context; and, that funding levels and methods for enrollment counts are in flux at a policy level in several states.
Some of these issues are not unique to online/blended models; for example, governance and funding present challenges for any authorizer of any type of charter school. And there are of course minimum performance expectations that can and should be written into a charter (aka contract for sponsorship) regardless of whether the school is online, blended, or brick and mortar (e.g., goals for academic and operational performance).
Most importantly, the
The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-career Teachers
Jamie Davies O'Leary / April 27, 2011
As states and districts seek to overhaul teacher-evaluation systems, this NBER paper answers a salient question: Do evaluations actually improve a teacher’s performance? That’s one hope of reformers and unions alike—that clear and regular feedback will help instructors improve their craft. Based on eight years of data from Cincinnati’s Teacher Evaluation System (TES), the answer is yes—in math, anyway. TES is an evaluation system that uses periodic, unannounced classroom observations coupled with student-work portfolios. For this report, researchers examined data from 2003-04 to 2009-10 to ascertain the impact of TES on mid-career teachers (those in the system for five to 19 years). Building on performance-evaluation research, these analyses looked not just at any immediate improvements incurred during a teacher’s evaluation period, but at the long-term impacts resulting from participation in TES itself.
They do this by comparing achievement of students taught before teacher participation in TES with student achievement during or after TES participation, while also controlling for students’ prior achievement, teacher experience, and relevant demographic variables. Though there were no significant differences found in reading, teacher performance in math improved both during the evaluation period and afterwards. For example, a teacher whose pupils had typically scored in the 50th percentile on math tests before being evaluated begins to see results in the 55th percentile range in the years after evaluation. Teachers who scored in the lowest quartile on their evaluations showed the greatest improvements. As we rethink teacher evaluation, these are promising findings indeed. But be forewarned: A system like TES comes with a lofty price tag—roughly $7,500 for each teacher evaluated (over
April 27, 2011
The title really says it all in the latest Center for American Progress report, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction. Author Matthew Chingos highlighted research on class-size reduction (CSR) and found that placing students in smaller classes had no real impact on student achievement. This is especially problematic due to the exorbitant costs that CSR imposes. Twenty-four states including Ohio have or recently had policies that require schools to reduce class sizes (the Buckeye State just repealed class-size mandates imposed by the last governor). Previous legislation required class sizes as low as 15 (per one teacher), but provided no funding for schools to incur the additional costs imposed by CSR.
Under CSR, schools are often forced to hire new teachers, as well as build new facilities to accommodate an increase in the number of classes. This places additional strain on districts to find resources and personnel. Although teachers and parents generally support smaller class sizes because they are easier to manage and provide students with more individual interaction with the teacher, Chingos cites research showing that teacher effectiveness, not class size, is the chief in-school determinant of student achievement. He proposes that states and districts might benefit by redirecting resources from class size reduction to teacher quality-focused initiatives, as this could simultaneously cut costs and boost student achievement. Additionally, Chingos suggests that districts interested in accessing the benefits of additional individualized instruction might employ the lower-cost option of using new technologies that tailor lessons to individual students instead of the expensive practice of hiring multiple new teachers to achieve smaller class sizes.
With weak evidence
Nick Joch / April 27, 2011
- In case you missed it, the Alliance for Excellent Education recently held a webinar discussing the results of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)’s 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, America’s High School Graduates. Discussants included NAGB chairman David Driscoll and Jack Buckley, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. A video of the webinar is available here.
- The one-teacher-per-classroom model does not fit all, says the Center for American Progress in its latest study, Beyond Classroom Walls: Developing Innovative Work Roles for Teachers. The study examines two school systems in which teachers’ strengths are maximized through block scheduling, peer mentoring, delegation of role learning tasks, and other similar methods of improving student learning via teacher specialization.
- Wondering what implementation of the Common Core standards will look like in reality? Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York City, is trying the standards out through a pilot program, writes the New York Times, and is seeing its teachers make significant changes in their teaching methods as a result.
- Bored with math? Glen Whitney, entrepreneur and former hedge-fund quantitative analyst, believes he is creating a cure for the mathematics blues: MoMath, a museum that focuses on the intersections of math and art. Weighing in at $30 million, the project is no small investment, says Education Week, but Whitney hopes the museum will help children understand that math can be understandable and even fun.