The Education Gadfly The Ohio
A Bi-weekly Bulletin of News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 5, Number 8. April 27, 2011.
In This Edition

With three different pieces of legislation in Ohio aiming to expand school choice - in the form of both charters and vouchers - the Buckeye State must figure out ways to hold all schools accountable for results (even private schools receiving vouchers). This is especially true given what we've learned about school choice not living up to the theory of the "market." Often, parents and families don't migrate to the best-performing schools; poor schools don't shut automatically because they lose their customer base; and imperfect information abounds on all sides. That's why Fordham argues for a middle ground when it comes to expanding school choice.


The Education Gadfly
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School choice accountability debate: The same thing over and over


Short Reviews

Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation

Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Quality Authorizing for Online and Blending-Learning Charter Schools

The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-career Teachers

The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction

News & Analysis

ESEA reauthorization: What Ohioans should know

Illinois' reforms taking place in dramatically different context than Ohio's


Flypaper's Finest

An early history of teacher pay systems in Ohio

Ohio district leaders should force more concessions in hurried-up contracts

Editor's Extras

Fighting the mathematics blues... with a museum?


School choice accountability debate: The same thing over and over
By Terry Ryan

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 children first and taxpayers second,” he said.

“This is giving away an enormous amount of money,” said state Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron. “There is no oversight in this at all. It’s one of the grave shortcomings in this proposal. But, anytime you’re giving away money, it becomes very popular.”

And, as in previous years, my colleagues and I at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute have entered the fray somewhere in the middle, advocating for a balance between expanding choice and holding all schools accountability for their academic performance. School choice and results-based accountability need to go hand in glove. At least 35 percent of children in the “Ohio 8” cities attend a school other than their district operated neighborhood school. Further, many other Ohio families exercise choice via the real estate market – that is, they buy or rent in a particular neighborhood because of its schools – we are looking at a majority of young Ohioans.

As choice mechanisms proliferate (now including virtual schooling, home schooling, and vouchers along with charters, magnets, and sundry intra- and inter-district options), communities and parents are beginning to understand that educating children is not just something bureaucratic systems do. It’s something that parents select and shape for their daughters and sons – and can change and reshape when needed – much as they select clothes, food, churches, activities, and vacation destinations. But because society also has an interest in the education of its next generation, public policy must set standards, assessments, and accountability mechanisms by which to ensure that educational outcomes are satisfactory, whatever school or mode of schooling a family may elect.

With more than a decade of experience to build on in Ohio, we know the education marketplace left to its own device does not work to the benefit of all children and families. It is supposed to result in parents selecting high-performing schools for their children while shunning low performers. In time, it should lead to either the improvement or closure of weak schools as the good ones gain market share. But in practice, really atrocious schools can languish for years when nobody intervenes. Too many families, particularly in troubled communities simply aren’t – or don’t know how to be – very picky when it comes to choosing schools. They are wont to settle for such (admittedly important) basics as safety, convenience and friendliness and not pay much attention to math scores, graduation rates, and college-going data.

 When children's education is paid for with public dollars, no matter what sort of school these children attend, the public has the right, even the obligation, to know how well those children are learning.... 

This is why the Fordham Institute supports legislative efforts to more effectively rate the performance of all schools. As voucher programs expand, the academic performance of the children in these programs should be tracked and reported publicly using the state’s value-added progress measure. This will allow for the documentation of student progress and help determine whether or not the programs receiving state support add value to children and taxpayers over time.

When children’s education is paid for with public dollars, no matter what sort of school those children attend, the public has the right, even the obligation, to know how well those children are learning the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed in further education and in life. Schools that take public dollars to educate children but that cannot demonstrate their educational efficacy in transparent ways should be put on notice. If they can’t fix themselves in a reasonable period of time, this situation must be addressed for the good of the children.

Like the Groundhog Day experience of Bill Murray’s character, the debate around school choice in Ohio seems to repeat itself over and over. Yet, unlike in the movie, Ohio still struggles to learn from the experience. After more than a decade of school choice debates in Ohio, it is obvious that choice alone is no panacea for what ails education. Yet, in tandem with a rigorous accountability system that faithfully tracks and reports student achievement over time school choice offers the best hope for expanding quality education for all of the state’s children.



News & Analysis

ESEA reauthorization: What Ohioans should know
By  Emmy L. Partin

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 standards or equally rigorous ones). 

Where Ohio stands: Ohio has adopted the Common Core standards in math and English language arts.

2. Cut scores. What requirements, if any, should be placed upon states with respect to achievement standards (i.e., “cut scores”)?

Fordham says: Likewise, expect states to adopt rigorous “cut scores” on tests aligned to those standards–cut scores that signify true readiness for college and career. 

Where Ohio stands: Ohio’s State Board of Education has not revisited or raised the “cut scores” for the state’s most recent iteration of tests since the exams were rolled out in 2003, despite a promise at that time to do so. And Ohio’s bar for achievement is demonstrably not a high one. For example, while 78 percent and 82 percent of fourth graders passed the state’s math and reading tests, respectively, in 2009, just 45 percent and 36 percent were “proficient” in the same subjects on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka the Nation’s Report Card. In Fordham’s 2007 report The Proficiency Illusion, Ohio’s state assessments were consistently ranked in the bottom half of all states in terms of difficulty.

3. Growth measures. Should states be required to develop assessments that enable measures of individual student growth?

Fordham says: Require states to develop the capacity to measure student growth over time. 

Where Ohio stands: In reading and math in grades four through eight, Ohio has a strong measure of student progress (value-added) and the state has promised via Race to the Top to develop growth measures in additional grades and subjects.

4. Science and history. Must states develop standards and assessments in additional subjects beyond English language arts and math?

Fordham says: Demand regular testing in science and history, not just reading and math, in order to push back against the narrowing of the curriculum. 

Where Ohio stands: Ohio has academic standards across multiple subject areas; however, the state eliminated testing in writing and social studies in 2009 as a cost-savings measure (science tests are still required).


5. School ratings. Should Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) be maintained, tweaked, or scrapped?

Fordham says: Eliminate AYP and instead require states, as a condition of Title I funding, to adopt school rating systems that provide transparent information to educators, parents, taxpayers, and voters. Such state reporting systems would have to be pegged to college and career readiness and, for high schools, to graduation rates. They would have to rate all schools annually on their effectiveness and include certain elements such as disaggregated data about subgroup performance.

Where Ohio stands: Ohio’s current school rating system relies heavily on student test performance in the middle grades and the state’s low-rigor high school exit exam. Graduation rates currently account for 1/26 “indicators” for a district and 1/12 for a high school. While the state provides some college-readiness information (ACT and SAT scores and participation rates, AP test information), it does not figure those into the ratings schools and districts receive.

6. Interventions. What requirements, if any, should be placed on states in terms of rewarding and sanctioning schools and turning around the lowest performers?

Fordham says: Eliminate all federally mandated interventions in low-performing schools. Allow states to decide when and how to address failing schools.

Where Ohio stands: The state has proved timid to force interventions in low-performing schools under NCLB and other federally incentivized turnaround measures, like School Improvement Grants. Governor Kasich’s pending budget proposals put more rhetorical emphasis on accountability and intervention, but it remains to be seen how strong the new administration will be in forcing district schools to improve. They will surely face a lot of pushback from school districts and arguments about local control.

Teacher Quality

7. Teacher effectiveness. Should Congress regulate teacher credentials (as with the current Highly Qualified Teachers mandate) and/or require the evaluation of teacher effectiveness?

Fordham says: Eliminate the Highly Qualified Teachers mandate.

Where Ohio stands: “Highly qualified,” as a determiner of teacher effectiveness, has taken root in Ohio. Even Senate Bill 5, which seeks to eliminate seniority-based layoffs and tenure for teachers (and other public workers), leans on highly qualified status and other measures based largely on credentials and years of service to “replace” seniority.

8. Comparability. Should school districts be required to demonstrate comparability of services between Title I and non–Title I schools, and if so, may they point to a uniform salary schedule in order to do so?

Fordham says: Rather than demand “comparability” of services across Title I and non-Title I schools, require districts to report detailed school-level spending information (so as to make spending inequities across and within districts more transparent).

Where Ohio stands: Governor Strickland’s House Bill 1 made some good moves toward better reporting and transparency of building-level spending, and Governor Kasich has indicated that his education reform budget (to be unveiled later in his term) will move the state further toward student-based funding and building-level spending accountability.

Flexibility and Innovation

9. Flexibility. Should the new ESEA provide greater flexibility to states and school districts to deviate from the law’s requirements?

Fordham says: Offer states the option of signing flexibility agreements that would give them greater leeway over the use of their federal funds and that would enable them to target resources more tightly on the neediest schools.

Where Ohio stands: It is unclear how Ohio might take advantage of such opportunities. As said above, the state has been timid about forcing improvement among its worst schools under NCLB and the last governor moved Ohio toward a one-size-fits-all approach to school funding and spending. However, Governor Kasich’s early policy proposals indicate his belief that local school leaders need more flexibility in how they spend their funds and educate their students, so he may be disposed to such flexibility agreements.

10. Competitive grants. Should reform-oriented competitive grant programs, including Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3), be authorized in the new ESEA?

Fordham says: Whenever possible, turn reform-oriented formula grant programs into competitive ones. Specifically, transform Title II into a series of competitive grant programs, including Race to the Top, I3, charter-school expansion and improvement, a competitive version of School Improvement Grants, and an expanded Teacher Incentive Fund.

Where Ohio stands: While Ohio won Race to the Top funds, the state did not use the opportunity to pass major reform legislation, nor will all of the state’s students and districts benefit from the reforms.


Illinois' reforms taking placing in dramatically different context than Ohio's
By  Jamie Davies O’Leary

 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 glance at local and national news coverage would seem to belie the fact that Ohio has reforms worth celebrating. The obvious reason is that teacher personnel reforms are couched in the controversial collective bargaining bill, Ohio’s Senate Bill 5. Contrast this with Illinois Education Associate President Ken Swanson’s statement regarding his union’s support of similar changes: “You don’t need to attack collective bargaining rights. It should be recognized that unions have a great deal to bring to the table in shaping reforms that work.”

But it’s not just the messaging behind each set of bills that’s different (with Illinois’s original “Performance Counts” legislation sounding emphatically more pro-teacher than Ohio’s collective bargaining rollback). Other political factors were at play. Andy Rotherham, former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton, points out about SB 7’s unanimous passage in the Illinois Senate:

While the narrative is all about collaboration, it’s important to note the context in which that collaboration happened – the teachers unions were boxed in because legislation was going to move and there was a lot of pressure on key elected players.

And in reading the official response from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, the union’s negotiating position does seem precarious:

In an unprecedented effort, the three unions… joined forces to stop these millionaires from turning teaching into a low-wage, high turnover job.

We successfully made the case that the right to strike, seniority, due process and a solid evaluation system all play an integral role to make possible the promise of democracy, equity and quality in public education. Our next challenge is to ensure that that evaluation under the PERA law being constructed now is indeed fair and equitable.

PERA, referring to the 2010 Performance Evaluation Reform Act that was passed to make Illinois’s bid for Race to the Top more competitive, laid the groundwork for SB 7 and is clearly at the top of the unions’ list of concerns. As education observer Alexander Russo suggested on his blog, cooperation from the state’s major teachers unions on Senate Bill 7 may represent an attempt to water down teacher evaluations put in place last year:

A quick look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation: The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off. There’s no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement. There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan. Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn’t respond within 45 days. 

Lengthy Campaign for Change

There is another significant difference between Illinois and Ohio: The Prairie State overhauled the state’s teacher evaluation system over 16 months ago, and SB 7 builds on top of those reforms. Stand for Children’s policy director noted that “without PERA, it would have been very difficult to get at a lot of what we did… PERA laid some great foundation for what's coming next.”

In contrast, Ohio is pushing hard and fast on teacher personnel policies, but putting the proverbial cart before the horse when it comes to ending LIFO, streamlining dismissal, and setting up a merit pay system as there’s not yet a robust, fair, transparent teacher evaluation system in place. This is an important lesson for the Buckeye State. Until teachers and their unions see the roll-out of a meaningful evaluation system that differentiates varying levels of effectiveness, can the state expect them to follow willingly on ending tenure, LIFO, or installing merit pay? To what extent does collaboration a la Illinois matter?

Impact of Advocacy Organizations

Finally, the experience in Illinois points to the usefulness of state education advocacy organizations (EAOs) in building momentum for legislation through months of careful planning and strategy. Advance Illinois and Stand for Children helped broker three months worth of negotiations between all relevant groups and also messaged SB 7 as part of the state’s charge to “build better schools in Illinois.” A quick look at the “Performance Counts” website illustrates the how the messaging behind the campaign matters. The site is user friendly, links into various social media outlets, and the EAOS have helped build a broad coalition of supporters. While Ohio has various non-EAOs that conduct important policy work, research, and some on-the-ground outreach (think School Choice Ohio on vouchers, and KidsOhio and Fordham on research and policy), Ohio has no purebred EAO doing the sort of micro-targeting and messaging that might be necessary to bolster the palatability of Ohio’s teacher reforms.


Short Reviews

Double Jeopardy: How Third Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation
By Bianca Speranza

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 graduate from high school. Unsurprisingly, third-grade reading is hugely predictive of success later in school and in life.

Poverty also predicts whether a student will graduate from high school. Twenty-two percent of students who live in poverty don’t graduate from high school and this number jumps to 32 percent for those students who have spent more than half their lifetime in poverty. Subsequently students coming from poverty-stricken families are in “double jeopardy” – they are more likely to have lower reading scores and thus be at higher risk of not graduating. Twenty-six percent of children experiencing both poverty and low reading scores fail to graduate from high school.

In the 2009-10 school year, 10 percent of all third grade student who took the Ohio Achievement Assessment test had a below basic reading proficiency. When broken down further 17 percent of students coming from economically disadvantaged families had below basic proficiency in third-grade reading. Furthermore, only 71 percent of economically disadvantage students in Ohio graduated last year. Ohio must find a way to increase third-grade reading scores among all students to bolster their chances of graduating later on in life.

Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Donald J. Hernandez
April 2011


Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
By Nick Joch

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 funds have not made progress in implementing substantial reforms, as we’ve pointed out in the past, one of many reasons an ESEA overhaul is long-overdue.

Incentivizing School Turnaround: A Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act

Jeremy Ayers and Melissa Lazarín
Center for American Progress
April 2011


Quality Authorizing for Online and Blended-Learning Charter Schools
By Kathryn Mullen Upton

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 report points out that policy must keep pace with the growth of online learning. The absence of best authorizing practices could hamper the long-term viability and quality of online and blended programs which, to be sure, will be part of the nation’s K-12 educational landscape for the foreseeable future. Note to selves, Ohio, on both the online and blended fronts.

Quality Authorizing for Online and Blended-Learning Charter Schools
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
John Watson and Chris Rapp
April 2011


The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-career Teachers
By Jamie Davies O’Leary

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 the course of the six studied years). If districts or states plan on taking it to scale, some financial juggling will be in order.

The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-career Teachers
Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler
National Bureau of Economic Research
March 2011


The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction
By Andrew Proctor

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 that CSR is effective, and schools being forced to make do with limited resources, states should undo CSR policies and free districts up to reward the best teachers for taking on larger class sizes, an idea that is currently in the governor’s budget proposal.

The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction
Center for American Progress
Matthew M. Chingos
April 2011


Flypaper's Finest
A selection of the finest offerings from Fordham's blog, Flypaper.

An early history of teacher pay systems in Ohio
By  Terry Ryan

Ohio’s recently passed SB5 would make Ohio the first state in the country to mandate performance pay for educators. The law wipes out the step-and-lane salary schedule that has been the basis of teacher pay since the early part of the 20th century… It is interesting to go back in time and see how the current step-and-lane system emerged. My friend and long-time Daytonian Nancy Diggs wrote a book in 1997 on the life of Evangeline Lindsley called My Century: An Outspoken Memoir. Lindsley was one of Dayton’s truly outstanding 20th century educators and was recognized as one of city’s Ten Top Women in 1981. Lindsley also served as president of the Classroom Teachers Association in Dayton, and was elected as only the second member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Education Association in the 1930s. In My Century Lindsley shared how the single-salary schedule came to be in Dayton during the Great Depression. Read the full post here.

The Education Gadfly
Read the rest on Flypaper.

Ohio district leaders should force more concessions in hurried-up contracts
By Emmy L. Partin

Ohioans are waiting to see if Senate Bill 5… can be repealed at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, teachers unions and local school districts are working fast to avoid the legislation’s consequences, at least anytime soon… Changes to state law cannot trump existing collective bargaining agreements…We’ve seen a rash of one- or two-year contracts agreed to recently as a result of SB 5…A few locals have negotiated longer agreements, like Bexley, outside Columbus, where teachers and the district agreed to a four-year contract in quick fashion (a single day!)…What’s missing from many of these agreements are attempts to deal with the fiscal cliff the state and local governments are driving off that would require dramatically different budget cutting than what’s been done in the past. I understand that unions are eager to rush contracts to avoid the effects of SB 5 on their members. But shouldn’t district leaders, in exchange, be demanding at least a few changes that will actually put them in a position to deal with the “new normal” they will soon face? Read the full post here.

The Education Gadfly
Read the rest on Flypaper.

Editor's Extras

Fighting the mathematics blues... with a museum?
By Nick Joch

  • 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. 





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