Ohio Education Gadfly
VOLUME 6, NUMBER 17
September 12, 2012
Ohio's "attendancegate": The innocent are being harmed
The longer Ohio's data scandal lingers on, the more innocent schools and educators suffer.
The crowd out effect of special education
Each additional dollar a district spends on special education may mean one less dollar for general education
From the Front Lines
DECA Prep: Coming soon!
Students create and produce their own vision of education
New From Fordham
Three common-sense ideas for improving special education in Ohio
Can special education be done better while controlling spending?
Recent State Action on Teacher Effectiveness: What's in State Laws and Regulations?
DC-based Bellwether Education Partners examines policies that took major legislative action in teacher effectiveness
Is Retaining Students in Early Grades Self-Defeating?
The pros and cons of state policies that require retention of third-grade students
Big Data for Education: Data Mining, Data Analytics, and Web Dashboards
An IBM-style question to schools: what are you doing to utilize data to improve performance?
Pupils, plans, and productive partnerships
Ohio’s expanding attendance data scandal has the potential to match, if not exceed, the scale of recent test cheating scandals in big cities like Atlanta; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Los Angeles. And the longer it lingers on, the more that innocent schools and educators suffer.
Ohio’s “attendancegate” began in June when the Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus City Schools’ staff had erased more than 2.8 million student-absence days from its attendance system dating back to the 2006-07 school year and instead marked those students as having withdrawn, then reenrolled, in the district. According to the Dispatch, key central office administrators were each responsible for tens of thousands of deletions. The changes not only improved attendance records (one performance indicator on state report cards), but could also improve proficiency test scores. Only the test scores of those students who are continuously enrolled in a school from October until state tests are administered in the spring are included in the school's overall test scores and report card rating. For example, if a child moves among multiple schools during the year, his performance only "counts" at the state level, and does not apply to a particular school or district. Likewise, if school staff altered the attendance record of a child to make it appear as though the child briefly withdrew from the school, his performance wouldn't hurt the school's overall test-passage rates or attendance figures.
Less than a month after the story broke on Columbus it was
Aaron Churchill / September 12, 2012
Economists talk about the crowd out effect most often in the context of private spending versus government spending. The theory is that, if the government spends more, then there’ll be less private-sector spending. Why? Assuming a constant supply of money, a greater slice of government spending means a smaller slice for the private sector.
Yet the crowd out effect isn’t limited to public versus private finance. It’s been examined in light of graduate school enrollment (does enrolling more international students crowd out native students?); the labor force (do overeducated workers crowd out jobs for low-skilled workers?); and even charitable donations (do government grants to nonprofits crowd out private donors?).
Crowding out can occur in K-12 education expenditures also, especially with respect to special education spending. Each additional dollar a district spends on special education may mean one less dollar for general education.
To examine at a glance whether special education is crowding out general education, I calculate the ratio of general education to special education spending for ten districts in Ohio. This ratio indicates how many general education dollars a district spends for every dollar of special education. I then compare the ratio of general education to special education for FY 2002 and FY 2011. A declining ratio provides evidence that special education may have crowded out general education, and vice-versa, an increasing ratio provides no evidence of crowd out.
The table below shows ten districts and their general education
Jeff Murray / September 12, 2012
What do you get when a group of creative and motivated students are empowered to tell the story of their own charter school using video and music? You get a movie-style trailer that illustrates not only what the school means to them, but also what it's taught them. Check out DECA Prep's "coming soon" video, created and produced by DECA students.
In a world where cynicism and defeatism can rain down from the grown ups to the young people - and expect more of this in Ohio and elsewhere when "Won't Back Down" premieres later this month - this bit of real life from imaginative and empowered young people is worth celebrating.
Terry Ryan / September 12, 2012
Special education in Ohio – like in other states – is a maze of complexity, highly bureaucratic and compliance driven, often a point of contention between educators and parents, frequently litigious, and the single fastest growing portion of spending on public education. It has become something of a sacred cow in education and has been largely impervious to change or improvement efforts. Worse, despite the spending children in special education programs are not making gains academically.
Can special education be done better while controlling its growth? This is a question we’ve been asked over and over by school leaders and superintendents who struggle to serve all children well while dealing with tighter and tighter budgets. For answers, in partnership with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, we turned to Nathan Levenson, one of the country’s leading thinkers on doing more with fewer resources in special education and who has done extensive work with local school districts here in the Buckeye State and across the country. The result is a thought-provoking policy paper, Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Special Education in Ohio.
Levenson explains that Ohio’s resources for special education - $7 billion spent annually – are “siloed” not only across the K-12 education landscape but also across a dozen or more state and county agencies. In fact, he reports that “less than 50 percent of funds that help provide children receiving special education services are officially special education dollars.”
He suggests three
September 12, 2012
The flurry of legislative activity shot forth from federal teacher effectiveness incentives has made it difficult to keep up with state reform policies. Since 2010, states have built on existing policies, tossed out poor ones, and created others to address areas needing improvement. In Ohio, House Bill 153 (2011 biennial budget bill) made significant changes to teacher evaluations (see detailed coverage here). To track these changes, DC-based Bellwether Education Partners examines policies in 21 states that took major legislative action in teacher effectiveness in this report.
The Bellwether report focuses on regulations that link teacher evaluations to significant personnel decisions. Bellwether gives each state’s policies an “Effectiveness Rating” based on 13 criteria that address areas like evaluation frequency, inclusion of student performance, compensation as teacher reward, and tenure. States can receive up to one point in each area, for a possible total of thirteen. Bellwether awards states with points if their policies address critical areas of teacher evaluation to foster a “more performance-oriented culture.”
Among the top rated state policies are Louisiana (10 points), Florida (9.75), and Indiana (11.75). Forty percent of states received less than half the possible score (less than 6.5). Ohio received a 5.5 rating, indicating that its state policies are not particularly suited to creating a performance-based teacher workforce. However, be careful when drawing conclusions. The report does not examine how well these policies are implemented. As the author suggests, low scores are not an
Jeff Murray / September 12, 2012
Martin R. West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has authored a new study focusing on the pros and cons of state policies that require retention of third-grade students who do not test sufficiently proficient in reading. Such a policy has been in place in Florida since 2003 and that policy has been used as the basis for similar efforts in other states, including Ohio which this year passed and signed into law Senate Bill 316. This law will require third graders to read at a state minimum standard to advance to fourth grade.
These policies rest upon a number of studies that show that proficient reading is the bedrock of all other learning going forward, and that a lack of reading proficiency at this critical stage of learning development leads to lower outcomes over the long-haul (e.g., higher intervention needs and increased dropout rates). West adds to this literature by examining the educational path of Florida students who were retained in third grade in 2003 over the ensuing six years to determine what impact the retention had on those students’ academic advancement.
West finds a significant short-term achievement boost in reading in the first two years in the group of retained third-grade students versus similar-achieving third-grade students who were promoted to fourth grade. There was also a less-significant but still-measurable boost in math achievement as well.
In the longer term, retention in 2003 for reading remediation reduced the
Aaron Churchill / September 12, 2012
“Using analytics, we discovered when it’s drizzling outside, people eat more cake.”
You might’ve seen this IBM commercial: the quaint European bakery, the soothing narrator’s voice, and the iconic IBM-blue letterboxing. The message is simple—use data analytics and improve performance (oh, and by the way, IBM is pretty darn good at data).
In his review of schools’ use of technology and data, Darrell West of the Brookings Institution poses an IBM-style question to schools: what are you doing to utilize data to improve performance? West hints that, really, there is no excuse for schools not to use data. In fact, according to West, schools should use data, and that yes, there are multiple ways that schools can use data.
West enumerates a laundry-list of research on classroom technology. One pathway that technology can improve classroom performance is in reducing the teacher-student feedback loop. Students, for example, can take informal, online assessments that give teachers on-the-spot results, so they can take immediate interventions in a student’s education.
Selling technology as a solution for classroom management will likely be the next step in the more-widespread implementation of technology. And like a good sales pitch, West’s report provides evidence, ideas, and suggestions about how technology can benefit schools when they apply technology in their classrooms.
September 12, 2012
Two Cincinnati schools have put Ohio in the spotlight this month, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Footage of John P. Parker School in Madison and Oyler School in Price Hill will be shown at NBC’s “Education Nation” national summit September 23-25 in New York. Cincinnati’s segment is expected to exemplify how schools, nonprofits and business can collaborate to improve education.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District has turned to Seattle-based organization Education First to help create a road map of its improvement plan. The timetable will be presented to voters by the November, when they vote on a fifteen mill school levy to help fund the program.
Mount Carmel health station, housed in Reynoldsburg High School-Livingston, offers Human Advocacy students a unique opportunity. Students gain first-hand experience in community engagement and learn the role of non-profits, while sharing the space with doctors and nurses.
Charitable Innovations Inc. is Cincinnati’s first student-run micro-financing corporation. Equipped with a team of teenage directors, the nonprofit aims to stretch school dollars by first lending the money to small entrepreneurs in developing countries.