Ohio Education Gadfly
VOLUME 7, NUMBER 1
January 9, 2013
NEW FROM FORDHAM
Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio's High-Performing Urban High Schools
What makes a great school?
Bold reforms in Cleveland and Columbus need new talent to fly high
How school leaders are working to bring talent into school districts
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Ohio's ed system: A lackluster leader
Ohio earns a C- on StudentsFirst State Policy Report Card
The definition of college-ready
New standards spell out assessment thresholds for students to be remediation free
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Beyond Needles: What do we know about Ohio's high-performing schools?
Strong schools require leadership, healthy school culture, high expectations
Why Superintendents Turn Over
Understanding the short-tenure of superintendents.
The Magnitude, Destinations, and Determinants of Mathematics and Science Teacher Turnover
Why math and science teachers leave the profession
SAVE THE DATE
Beating the odds: Inside Dayton's high-performing public high schools
Join us at Stivers High School in Dayton to share ideas about what makes schools great. January 15 at 7pm.
Quality chairs = better education?
Articles of interest from the week
“Nobody is satisfied with the educational performance of Ohio’s poor, urban, and minority youngsters—or the schools that serve them.” This was how we opened our 2010 report Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s High-Performing, High-Need Urban Schools, which examined high-flying elementary schools.
That sentiment is just as true for the high schools we studied in 2012 as it was in 2010 for the grade schools we examined. Yet there are high schools in the Buckeye State that buck the bleak trends facing too many of our urban students. Such schools show significant achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.
Whereas the original version of Needles in a Haystack looked at eight exceptional elementary schools, this report examines six high schools that are making good on promises of academic excellence; specifically, schools that work for low-income and minority students. These high schools make serious efforts not to leave anyone behind. It’s a tall order, as too many urban schools—which we have come to know are those with high numbers of poor and minority students—leave too many children behind. For example: Ohio has 135 high schools that have been identified as “dropout factories”—schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of their students on time. They account for roughly 15 percent of the state’s high schools.
All of our Needles high schools—two each in Cleveland, Dayton, and Columbus—have student bodies that are more than 60 percent economically disadvantaged. Five of
Terry Ryan / January 9, 2013
Some of Ohio’s largest school districts are embracing charter schools as part of their overall district reform strategies. Mayor Jackson’s education reform plan in Cleveland calls for tripling “the number of Cleveland students enrolled in high-performing district and charter schools from the approximately 11,000 students currently enrolled in these schools to approximately 33,000 by 2018-19.” In Columbus, Mayor Coleman’s “education commission” is exploring ways to encourage “the growth of high performing charter schools.” In Cincinnati the district recently announced a new partnership with the charter operator Carpe Diem (a high-performing blended-learning charter school model based in Arizona).
Fordham has long-advocated, along with groups like the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, for better cooperation and creative partnerships between school districts and quality charter schools. As far back as 2007, we argued for a “Portfolio Governance Approach to Meeting the Needs of All Dayton Children.”
Unfortunately Dayton couldn’t run with the concept in 2007, but fast forward to 2013, and according to a new book by Paul Hill, Christine Campbell, and Betheny Gross entitled Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools, there are now close to 30 urban school districts across the country pursuing “the portfolio strategy.” According to Hill, Campbell and Gross leading portfolio districts “support existing schools that are succeeding with the children they serve, close unproductive schools, create new ones similar to schools that have already proven effective, and seek even more effective models…Districts
Aaron Churchill / January 9, 2013
Ohio remains an education reform leader, comparatively, yet still has a ways to go to be top in the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from this week’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.
StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.
Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C-minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350-plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or students with special needs. StudentsFirst also righty recognizes improvements in Ohio’s accountability laws, most recently through passage of House Bill 555. This legislation establishes a clear, A-F grading system for school accountability, and holds charter schools to a higher accountability standard.
A tough grader, StudentsFirst also indicates that Ohio—and other states—still have miles to go in establishing a
Jeff Murray / January 9, 2013
The Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education announced last week the establishment of uniform statewide standards for students entering a two-year or four-year college or university to be considered “remediation free”. House Bill 153, signed into law by Governor Kasich in June 2011, required Ohio’s college presidents to spell out the assessment thresholds that would define “college readiness” and the methods by which this can be determined for students completing high school and wishing to move on to higher education without the need for expensive remedial courses.
The full standards and expectations document works out to multiple pages and is well worth a read, detailing the goals that our education chiefs – and this parent, for one – want to see our students meet.
How to determine whether a student has reached these worthy goals as of graduation from high school: ACT and SAT scores. The essence of the agreement between ODE and Regents is the establishing of cut scores for each content area (except science, which could not be agreed upon in the first round effort) that indicate a sufficient degree of achievement.
Source: Ohio Board of Regents
The establishment of these standards and defining the means of assessment are significant for a number of reasons:
Emmy L. Partin / January 9, 2013
We know that our latest report doesn’t break new ground. There is national research going back decades on the keys to high-performing schools, and more recently there is Ohio-specific literature on the topic. We published a previous iteration of Needles in a Haystack in 2010, which looked at high-performing, high-need elementary and middles schools. Since 2002, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has identified “Schools of Promise” – high-poverty, high-achieving schools – and has published case studies of some of those schools along with Five Lessons Learned from Successful Schools. And late last year, Public Agenda – with funding from the Ohio Business Roundtable, The Ohio State University, and ODE – released Failure Is Not an Option: How Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents from Ohio’s High-Achieving, High-Poverty Schools Explain Their Success.
These studies all look at schools serving a large population of economically disadvantaged (ED) students, though the specific metrics vary. Our first Needles report focused on schools in which 75 percent or more of students were ED. ODE and Public Agenda use 40 percent as the threshold. Our new report adds greater precision in defining “high need,” applying additional metrics—three, in fact: 30 percent ED and/or 50 percent ED and/or 30 percent black. Likewise, the studies vary in how they define “high-performing.” Our new Needles report focuses on schools serving poor and black students well, zeroing in on the achievement rates of those subgroups. The
Andrew Saraf / January 9, 2013
That urban superintendents have short tenures—an average of three years—is well known in the education community. But little empirical research has been done to ascertain why or to determine whether this trend holds for suburban and rural supes, too. This study by Jason Grissom (Vanderbilt) and Stephanie Anderson (Washington University) seeks to do both. The authors analyze survey data (of both superintendents and school-board members taken during the 2005-06 school year), as well as administrative and student-achievement data for 100-plus randomly chosen California districts, to identify factors that predict whether superintendents will still be at their jobs three years later. Some of their findings—such as positive correlations between superintendent turnover and district poverty levels and between turnover and board-member dissatisfaction—are fairly intuitive. Others, however, are surprising: There was no significant relationship between turnover and student-achievement growth, for example. Further, district size was only associated with increased turnover in the biggest districts, with the largest 10 percent of districts averaging turnover rates 4.5 times higher than all others. Otherwise, turnover was no more likely in urban than rural districts. Nor does the study yield any evidence for the claim that superintendents generally move to districts with fewer disadvantaged students or higher academic achievement. As more attention is paid to the impact that district leaders have on student achievement, research of this stripe will become ever more relevant—and necessary.
SOURCE: Jason A. Grissom and Stephanie Andersen, “Why Superintendents Turn Over,” American Educational Research
Greg Hutko / January 9, 2013
This new paper adds another frigate to Richard Ingersoll’s flotilla of research papers on teacher turnover. Co-authored with Henry May, it spotlights the reasons why “qualified” math and science teachers—meaning those with a math or science degree—move to a new school or leave the profession. The authors analyzed data from the 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and the 2004-05 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), unearthing some interesting findings. Contrary to popular wisdom, STEM teachers do not exit the profession at significantly higher rates than do educators of other subjects, nor do they seek non-education jobs at higher rates. Rather, they opt to remain within the education sector but in non-teaching roles, such as administration. That’s the good news. (Interesting sidebar: Though salary increases reduce turnover for science teachers, they have little effect on math-teacher attrition.) The bad news is that Ingersoll and May found higher attrition rates at high-poverty schools and those in urban areas because of their “organizational characteristics” (such as salary structure and teacher/faculty influence over school policies like student-performance standards, curriculum, and school-discipline policy). If policymakers want to get serious about keeping their math and science teachers around, fixing these organizational issues would seem to be the place to start.
SOURCE: Richard M. Ingersoll and Henry May, “The Magnitude, Destinations, and Determinants of Mathematics and Science Teacher Turnover.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 34, no. 4 (2012): 435-464.
January 9, 2013
Fifteen percent of Ohio’s high schools are “drop-out factories” – schools that fail to graduate even 60 percent of their students on time. Those students who do graduate often aren’t ready for college or work: College-remediation rates top 70 percent for some of Ohio’s urban school districts.
Yet, some high schools buck these bleak trends and help their students not only graduate, but go on to successful post-secondary careers and opportunities.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently studied six high schools across Ohio that prove that disadvantaged youngsters can learn at levels equal to or greater than their more fortunate peers in the suburbs. Fordham’s forthcoming report, Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing urban high schools, reports on these exceptional schools and how they help their students excel.
On January 15 in Dayton, two of these schools – Stivers School for the Arts and Dayton Early College Academy – will share their stories. Needles’ author, veteran journalist and former news editor of Life magazine Peter Meyer, will discuss what he learned in these schools and others in Columbus and Cleveland. The event will conclude with a panel discussion among the schools’ leaders and audience Q&A.
Questions we expect to tackle include:
- Can great schools help kids overcome poverty and tough home lives?
- Is there a secret sauce to the success of schools like Stivers and DECA? If so, what is it and can it be replicated in other buildings?
- What is the role of
Angel Gonzalez / January 9, 2013
- In the New York Times, Oberlin College professor David W. Orr recently commented on the quality of chairs in public school districts. Stating the choice of chairs “is maintained by profit-seeking school suppliers… who see no other possible arrangement of the body,” Orr reminds readers of what it was like to constantly want to stand up during class to stretch.
- One semester into the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, 40,000 students face the risk of not moving up a grade level. Both educators and policy makers—particularly in districts that see almost 40 percent of their students falling below grade level—are concerned about the potential implications of this law.
- When Ohio shifts to the Common Core academic standards, nearly half a million students who score proficient on current state exams will find themselves falling short under the new standards. This cause for alarm will be a shock to students, parents, teachers, and district officials alike.
- Ohio teachers now have access to an online system that allows them to analyze student progress and personally customize curriculum or lesson plans. Pending teachers’ ability to effectively use this new system, this can be a great tool for streamlining data collection and the use of data to benefit students.