Ohio Education Gadfly
VOLUME 6, NUMBER 18
September 26, 2012
Pension fix will cause painful unintended consequences
Despite reforms, Ohio's teacher pension system still has flaws
Ohio should implemenent A-F accountability system
Other states hold their schools accountable through an A-F ratings system, so should Ohio
NEWS AND ANALYSIS
Third-grade reading guarantee: Is money the answer?
To spend or not to spend. Ohio is considering $105 million in spending to support the third grade reading guarantee.
NEWS AND ANALYSIS
Show ponies and workhorses
While the nation fixated on the Chicago strike, educators in Ohio plow ahead with reforms
NEW FROM FORDHAM
Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools
The newest addition to Fordham's library, co-authored by Checker and Jessica Hockett
Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Schools
KIPP schools shine even under rigorous evaluation
Modernizing the State Education Agency: Different Paths Toward Performance Management
Several SEAs around the country are more actively helping troubled schools districts
Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching?
Well-designed evaluations can improve teacher performance
Throwing Money at Education Isn't Working
Higher levels of funding don't ensure better outcomes
Schools Open Doors to New E-Learning Rules, Ideas: Quality Control a Challenge for Virtual Ed.
Concern about the quality of virtual schools
Students assigning themselves homework?
"Independent pacing" indeed
Terry Ryan / September 26, 2012
Governor Kasich is set to sign legislation that will extend the life of the state’s five public pension systems, including the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). The legislative fix includes what the Cleveland Plain Dealer refers to as a “combination of raised retirement eligibility ages, raised employee contribution rates, new guidelines for cost-of-living adjustments or a new formula to calculate benefits.”
In short, lawmakers have bought the current defined benefit pension systems some more life. But the STRS system, and this is true to varying degrees of the other retirement systems, is still burdened by fundamental flaws that will force quality educators to retire sooner than they want, and make teaching and educational leadership less competitive in attracting top talent over the long-haul.
The state’s action has undeniably extended the life of STRS. Consider that the legislation moves the unfunded liability facing STRS from “infinity” to 36 years. By law, state pensions must be able to cover their liabilities within a 30-year period, and 36 is certainly a lot closer to what the law demands than is infinity. So far so good, and considering that states like Illinois can’t even agree on how to make their current pension systems solvent this is something of a success. At least in Ohio taxpayers aren’t likely to face new taxes any time soon to pay for retirement promises made to public sector employees, and current educators can count on their pensions.
But, the changes to STRS
Valentina Korkes / September 26, 2012
Valentina is a legislative analyst for StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement working to improve the nation’s schools.
Every year, Ohio’s public schools are responsible for educating 1.8 million students. To ensure that all students are making learning gains and meeting academic expectations, the Buckeye State needs a system in place to hold schools and school districts accountable for student performance. The Ohio Department of Education is currently redesigning Ohio’s accountability system, and lawmakers have promised to put a new Report Card system into law by the end of December.
In its ongoing efforts to improve student achievement, the Ohio General Assembly can benefit by understanding A-F accountability reforms in other states. Whereas Ohio’s current school rating system uses ambiguous terms like “effective,” “academic watch,” and “continuous improvement” to report on school and district performance, other states are moving towards easier-to-understand, A-F summative ratings. We at StudentsFirst recommend that states issue annual letter grades for all schools and districts based on student achievement. Implementing a letter grading system holds schools and districts accountable for the results they produce, provides parents with understandable information about the schools their children attend, and encourages school improvement efforts.
Done well, A-F rating systems place the focus on students by underscoring student achievement. Because the criteria used to determine school grades are objective and results-focused, educators are held accountable for their students’ progress. Many states that employ A-F school grading systems include proficiency scores, learning gains, and progress
Emmy L. Partin / September 26, 2012
As local school districts prepare to implement the state’s new third-grade reading guarantee, many are bemoaning the increased costs associated with providing more reading assessments and interventions to struggling K-3 readers (as required by law) and retaining more kids. The Ohio School Boards Association called the new law, and specifically its reporting requirements, “an unfunded mandate.”
The legislature did dedicate $13 million in competitive funding to support the new mandate, and last week the State Board of Education mulled recommending $105 million to support the law in the Ohio Department of Education’s FY2014-15 budget request. But would more money make a difference? Let’s take a look at the relationship between funding and reading achievement in the past.
Ohio had a reading guarantee on the books more than a decade ago (it was watered down before taking effect). At that time, with a governor (Taft) who had taken on improving early literacy skills as a primary policy objective and with the state coffers flush, Ohio poured millions into literacy improvement programs and professional development for teachers (via programs like OhioReads, the State Institutes for Reading Instruction, adolescent literacy grants, and summer intervention programs – to say nothing of federally funded efforts like Reading First). Chart 1 shows state funding for literacy improvement initiatives and reading professional development, from FY2000-01 (Governor Taft’s first budget) to FY2012.
Chart 1: Dedicated state spending on literacy improvement initiatives and professional
Aaron Churchill / September 26, 2012
A college political science professor of mine once used this analogy to understand politicians: “There are two types of politicians: the ‘show ponies’ and the ‘workhorses.’” The show ponies, he would say, are politicians who love—and seek—the limelight. They’re the Fox News politicians. The workhorses, in contrast, are the politicians who memorize an assembly’s rules and grind away at legislative writing.
The Windy City is the moment’s education show pony. The drama of Chicago’s teachers’ strike, chalk-full of a furious teacher’s union, the tough-talking mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and the veil of presidential politics have shone the spotlight on Chicago. For four days during the week of September 11 to 17 the strike made the front page of The New York Times. As theatrical show—yes, with some substance to boot—one cannot get much better than Chicago, September 2012. (Since this original publication of this article, the strike has ended.)
While the show’s been going on in Chicago, the workhorses of Ohio continue to plow ahead. In Dayton, education leaders are working toward higher quality charter schools, are implementing blended learning models into their classrooms, and are worrying about a fair and efficient school funding plan. In a Sunday news article, the Dayton Daily News highlighted the DECA charter schools, which includes a newly-opened elementary school (sponsored by Fordham) and a high school. DECA serves mostly economically-disadvantaged students from inner-city Dayton; yet, despite this challenge, the school received the state’s highest rating, “Excellent with Distinction” (A+),
September 26, 2012
Exam Schools, by Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica A. Hockett, explores the realm of America’s most selective and highest performing public high schools. The authors identify 165 “exam schools,” so-called because their admissions process is largely based on students’ exam scores.
Four of these schools are located in Ohio: John Hay Early College High School, John Hay School of Architecture, John Hay School of Science and Medicine, and Walnut Hills High School. The John Hay schools (combined enrollment, 852) are all part of Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Walnut Hills High School (enrollment, 2,149) is part of Cincinnati Public Schools. The Ohio Department of Education rated each of these schools “excellent” (A) for the 2010-11 school year.
For a synopsis of the book’s findings, check out The New York Times editorial “Young, Gifted, Neglected.” And don’t forget to take a look at the video below or get your copy of the book to learn more about this exciting slice of American (and Buckeye State) education!
Aaron Churchill / September 26, 2012
Skeptics of charter schools have argued that the impact of charters on student performance can be attributed to their ability to “skim motivated students.” That is to say, in simplified terms: high-flying charters are high-flying, not because of their ability to educate kids more effectively than their traditional public school peers, but because of their ability to attract and retain cream-of-the-crop students.
Mathematica Policy Research, a top-notch policy and program evaluator, has recently looked into this precise question, using KIPP charter schools as its guinea-pig. KIPP, with its 125 schools in 39 states and the District of Columbia, is one of the largest charter school networks in the U.S. In Ohio, it operates one middle school in Columbus (sponsored by Fordham).
The researcher ask whether KIPP schools have (1) higher rates of attrition of its low-performers, compared to their district school peers; and (2) whether KIPP schools have higher rates of “late arriving” high-performers, compared to their district counterparts. If the researchers find higher rates of attrition or late-arriving, one could infer that the positive impact that KIPP charters have on student performance (found here, here, and here) is a function of selection and (de-selection) of students rather than of KIPP’s educational approach.
When the researchers compared attrition rates, they found no significant difference. KIPP schools lost students of the same quality, at the same rate as their district counterparts; in fact, both tended to lose
Theda Sampson / September 26, 2012
This report analyzes the change from compliance to performance management in eight state education agencies (SEAs). The researchers analyzed these SEAs purposely, because they are each taking greater responsibility for the education outcomes of students in chronically poor performing schools. The SEAs under analysis were Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
These states shared some common elements including using data, restructuring their SEAs, use of clear and transparent communication, establishing a sense of urgency, leveraging federal funding threats, and relying on strong leadership. The states differ in their approach to implement the change and, most importantly, how they view the role of local education agencies (LEAs).
Some other characteristics that determine the state strategy for making dramatic changes include how the SEA leader and state boards are selected, if they receive federal money from school improvement or innovation funds and if they have the legislative authority to take over low performing schools.
The SEAs studied have shifted their emphasis from federal regulation monitoring and compliance to organizations focused toward achieving goals and strengthened accountability in troubled LEAS. The researchers group the SEAs’ reform strategies into three descriptors:
- The most disruptive (All-In): The SEA moves failing schools and districts to a new system. Louisiana’s Recovery School District, for example, fits into this reform strategy.
- Some disruption and change (Bounded Disequilibrium): The SEA uses a carrot and stick to move LEAs to implement changes in failing schools. SEAs using this
September 26, 2012
While most people have decided school teachers need to be evaluated, not all have considered the various uses for teacher evaluations. Eric S. Taylor of Stanford University and John H. Tyler of Brown University do just that in their research study, which directly assesses how mid-career teacher evaluations can assist in professional development.
The authors explore whether teacher evaluations can be used as more than a sorting mechanism that weeds out “good” from “bad” teachers. They do this by measuring fourth through eighth grade teacher’s impact on math scores. An individual teacher’s students are examined during the year of the evaluation. Those same students’ scores are also examined before and after having that teacher, to get a better picture of the instructor’s impact.
Results indicate that schools can use well-designed evaluations to improve teacher performance. Teachers who went through evaluations developed skills and changed behaviors that benefitted students a year after leaving that teacher’s classroom. To see these gains, however, the evaluation must be a constructive “practiced-based assessment that relies on multiple, highly structured classroom observations.”
Cincinnati Public Schools uses the constructive evaluation described above for its Teacher Evaluation System, which is expected to cost between $1.8 and $2.1 million per year. While financially costly, teacher evaluation systems may be able to help our lower performing professionals improve in ways that last.
SOURCE: Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler, “Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching,” Education Next 12, no. 4 (2012).
Jeff Murray / September 26, 2012
It is hard to argue with the conclusions drawn by Kristen De Peña of State Budget Solutions in her new report Throwing Money at Education Isn't Working. The provocative title says it all and the analysis is there to back it up. From Arkansas (high spending, split performance) to Texas (high spending, low performance), and from Nevada (average spending, low performance) to Vermont (high spending, high performance) the report notes that higher levels of funding do not necessarily ensure better outcomes for students.
We can of course always question the methodology. While the ACT test is administered in all 50 states, only 27 states test more than 50 percent of high school graduates. So is it fair to compare states like Pennsylvania, where only 18 percent of high school grads take the ACT (most take the SAT) to states like Ohio where 71 percent of high school grads take the ACT? That’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison of student performance across the nation. The same is true for graduation rates, the other academic performance indicator the author uses. The author herself concedes that comparing graduation rates is very difficult from state to state despite efforts within NCLB reforms to unify that reporting nationwide.
However, when the author looks deeper into specific states and spending versus achievement, many of these smaller objections fall away and illustrate the title in clear relief: More money does not equal more achievement. The
David Zheng / September 26, 2012
Ohio is on the precipice of a new era of learning that is available for its K-12 students. In 2005, the general assembly imposed a moratorium on internet-based community schools, but itwill end on January 1, 2013. House Bill 153 permits five new internet-based community schools to open ever year. The moratorium was intended to provide time for Ohio to develop accountability standards in order to evaluate the effectiveness of online community schools.
An article – in the first report released by Education Week in a three part series regarding e-learning – broaches concerns regarding quality standards for virtual education. The author contends that because each state has their own unique e-school policy, there is not a universal set of standards applicable for all states.
Despite these disparate accountability standards, the California Learning Resource Network and the Texas Virtual School Network partnered to write the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) National Standards for Quality Online Courses. The document provides standards for online courses regarding their content, instructional design, student assessment, technology, and course evaluation and support.
The implementation of the Common Core standards may provide more uniformity for academic standards for online community schools, but it is likely that there will still be differences among state e-school policies which will warrant a corresponding standard for online schools, such as the one being developed by iNACOL.
SOURCE: Ian Quillen, “Quality Control a Challenge for Virtual Ed.,” Education Week
September 26, 2012
- A New Haven “turnaround school” has its students assigning their own homework. The new approach is part of an experiment to move from a “normal” class to “independent pacing,” in which students master concepts before moving on. High School in the Community is directly managed by the teachers union.
- Students at Belmont High School are getting a leg up on college readiness. The Educational Talent Search program, sponsored by Sinclair Community College, supports middle and high school students in college decision-making, preparation, and entrance at no cost.
- In an effort to increase mastery on state tests, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools has gotten rid of graded homework, extra credit, and behavior-related grading. Students can practice concepts until they are understood. The District asserts this new system has accountability because it requires more work on behalf of students, not less, when they do not understand material.
- A coalition of three non-profit groups is on an anti-drop out crusade to address areas that prevent students from earning diplomas. Diplomas Now is piloting at three Columbus schools that have agreed to participate in a federally funded study on the program’s effectiveness.