The Education Gadfly The Ohio
Education
Gadfly
A Bi-weekly Bulletin of News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 5, Number 9. May 11, 2011.
In This Edition

Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. pens an opinion piece on the proposed changes to Ohio charter law, and argues that unless these provisions are removed, it could cause Ohio's charter program to be a "full-fledged contender for America's worst." The Ohio Gadfly also highlights portions of Terry Ryan's testimony on these very provisions (in HB 153), delivered today to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee. And veteran opinion researcher Steve Farkas of The FDR Group responds to a critical review of Fordham's survey of superintendents.

 

The Education Gadfly
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Opinion

Ohio House charter school reforms do detriment to state's charter program

Recommended Reading

Terry Ryan's testimony to the Senate on HB 153

Short Reviews

Update with 2009-10 Data and Five-year Trends: How Many Schools Have Not Made Adequate Yearly Progress?

The Promise of College Completion: KIPP's Early Successes and Challenges

Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community

Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems

Re: Review

Critics of Fordham's superintendents survey missed their mark

Capital Matters

What would be the impact of the governor's school turnaround plan?

"State of Preschool" report doesn't paint whole picture for Ohio

Flypaper's Finest

Akron's school turnaround plan sounds unconvincing

TFA legislation gets signed by Gov. Kasich

Editor's Extras

Budget comparisons, unionism lessons, and rutabaga fries

Opinion

Ohio House charter school reforms do detriment to state's charter program
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute (and its sister organization, the Fordham Foundation) has worked in its home state of Ohio since the late 1990s on a range of school-reform issues, focusing much time and attention on the state’s charter school program. For the past decade, we have worked with Buckeye State charter schools in a variety of ways: as a donor, as a source of technical assistance, and most notably, as a charter school authorizer. While we are unabashed supporters of charter schools as options for students in need and catalysts for improving urban education, we believe strongly in the need for accountability and quality-control mechanisms for the charter sector (and all publicly funded schools). This position isn’t a new one. We’ve been advocating for strong charter-school accountability since the first charters opened their doors in Ohio in 1998 and we’ve issued multiple policy reports recommending accountability improvements (and other needed changes) to Ohio’s charter law (see here, here, here, and here) to name just a few).  The following editorial is a continuation of our advocacy toward improving charter schools in the Buckeye State.

If the Ohio House's version of the biennial budget makes its way into law, the state's mish-mash of a community-school (i.e. charter school) program will become a full-fledged contender for America's worst. It's up to the Senate and Gov. John Kasich to forestall that dire development - and subject this worthy program to the thorough housecleaning and comprehensive makeover it sorely needs.

Ohio's 300-plus charter schools now serve more than 100,000 youngsters, most of them low-income refugees from the state's worst district-operated schools, kids in urgent need of a top-notch educational alternative.

A handful of charters provide exactly that. Far too many of the state's community schools, however, are as educationally moribund as the district schools to which they're supposed to be alternatives - and a sizable subset of these appalling schools are run by for-profit operators more concerned with their bottom lines than with children.

In many places across the U.S., including a few in Ohio, profit-seeking firms operate first-rate schools. But the freedom that makes it possible must be balanced by the public's legitimate interest in whether the pupils in those schools are gaining all the skills and knowledge they need.

It's called "accountability," and getting the freedom-accountability balance right is key to every successful charter-school program. Some Ohioans find it hard to believe that more than a dozen states have really strong charter programs. But they do. And several - e.g. Florida and Indiana - have recently taken bold legislative steps to rebalance laws that had gotten out of whack.

Ohio's law has been out of whack for years, partly because of provisions inserted on behalf of special interests, partly because both legislators and the executive branch have failed to grasp which kinds of freedom and accountability benefit kids, and partly because too many school operators and authorizers either haven't known what they're doing or have placed other interests ahead of students.

The result is overregulation where autonomy is needed, slackness where results-based accountability is essential, restrictions on the growth of quality programs and skimpy funding of worthy schools combined with a whopping waste of tax dollars on poor performers.

That's why almost no top-notch national charter operator wants to come to Ohio. That's also why so many Buckeye charters post dismal scores on state tests every year.

 A thorough overhaul is needed, freeing schools from silly rules while holding everyone's feet to the fire for academic results.  
   
 

A thorough overhaul is needed, freeing schools from silly rules while holding everyone's feet to the fire for academic results. But the budget passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday would push the state's charter program from mediocre to awful. Its various provisions would:

  • Invite creation of more schools by charter operators with abysmal track records.
  • Encourage "authorizing" of more schools by sponsors whose existing portfolios are riddled with failing schools.
  • Renew the monopoly enjoyed by current "cyber schools" - several are fine but others are pathetic - so quality outfits from other states cannot enter Ohio.
  • Reinstate the Ohio Department of Education as a direct school sponsor despite that agency's dismal performance a decade ago.

How to make the state's charter program great is no mystery.

Indeed, Kasich's own budget plan was a solid start. Crucial elements include encouraging successful operators to clone good schools; leaning hard on authorizers to fix or close bad schools and banning the replication of failure; placing schools' ostensibly independent governing boards in clear charge of any outside organizations that they engage to run their education programs; creating professional and ethical norms for all parties; insisting on transparency around academics, governance, and finances; channeling fairer funding into successful schools; and introducing best practices and expert advice into every step of the process.

That's what Ohio needs. But that's not what the House has given it.

This piece originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.

 
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Recommended Reading

Terry Ryan's testimony to the Senate on HB 153
 
Fordham’s Vice President for Ohio Programs and Policy Terry Ryan will testify to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee later today about HB 153, the pending biennial budget bill.  You can read his full prepared remarks online here. In short, he – and the Fordham Institute – is supportive of much of the education reforms included in Governor Kasich inaugural budget.

Says Ryan:

In a brutal economic environment the Governor’s budget properly focused on the dual goals of improving K-12 education in the Buckeye State while helping schools adjust to doing more with less. The budget pushes reforms that seek to free up school districts to in fact do more with less.

For example, Ryan will testify that:

Probably the most significant item in the budget that has the potential to lead to significant cost savings over the long haul is language that promotes the expansion of innovative and cost-conscious educational service centers (ESCs), while reducing their state subsidy. HB 153 sets the conditions for ESCs to compete in offering professional services statewide not only to school districts, charter and STEM schools, but to other political subdivisions such as municipalities, townships, counties, and other public entities. This should help expand successful educational service centers while also facilitating economies of scale and consolidation of services and service providers. Ohio has built up an overcapacity of government service providers and support agencies over the decades, and HB 153 sets the conditions for right-sizing both the education sector and local government.

 ... It is then impossible to turn around and say that charter school operators should be free of accountability beyond whether or not kids show up at their door.
 
   
 

Despite the good things in HB 153, Ryan argues that watering down charter school accountability is troubling because it sets a double-standard that hurts children and families. Ryan told the Senate Finance Committee Members:

There is a matter of fairness here that is important if we want good public policy around education. This budget deals aggressively with district schools ranked in the lowest five percent of performance index scores for three or more consecutive years. This budget seeks to hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students. This budget provides a “parent trigger” for families in troubled Columbus City Schools. If one supports these policies, as I do, it is then impossible to turn around and say that charter school operators should be free of accountability beyond whether or not kids show up at their door.

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 need to succeed in further education and in life. All 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 and the sake of the taxpayer. No school operator, no school district, no teacher should be above accountability for results. This is what we owe our children.

 
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Re: Review

Critics of Fordham's superintendents survey missed their mark
By  Steve Farkas

Steve Farkas is veteran public opinion researcher, co-founder of the FDR Group, and author of the Fordham Institute’s recent report, Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak.  The following was written in response to a review of the report by the Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center.

The FDR Group’s recent survey of Ohio’s school district superintendents, Yearning to Break Free (online here), conducted on behalf of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, found these local education leaders eager to overhaul the collective bargaining process and to increase their authority over staff and money. “Give us autonomy,” they said, “and hold us accountable for getting results.” Easy to understand, right? Well, two unhappy University of Houston professors reviewing the study ­for the National Education Policy Center’s “Think Tank Review Project” had a lot of trouble comprehending it.

From the get-go in their review, the professors failed to realize that the study was giving voice to the opinions of these school leaders – not our opinions as researchers or even Fordham’s but those of Ohio superintendents. The professors say, “the authors of the study recommend [emphasis added] that ‘two promising ways to save districts money are to give superintendents greater control over combined state revenue streams and to mandate a statewide health insurance plan…’” But the report itself stated “Ohio’s superintendents think [emphasis added] two promising ways…” We (neither the FDR Group nor Fordham) didn’t recommend anything. Yearning to Break Free is a study of perceptions so the whole report is filled with such modifiers as “superintendents believe, say, think.” It’s hard to see how the professors missed that.

The professors had other troubles. They didn’t understand why we would force superintendents to choose between what they called “inappropriate dichotomies.” They balked when we asked superintendents what would be more likely to lead to improved student achievement: “significant expansion of management authority over staff” or “significant increases in school funding.” But the dichotomy is valid and interesting – and it pushes respondents to think harder and prioritize. (By the way, the result was 50 percent to 44 percent.) I’ve got a really unrealistic question for the professors: If you had to choose, would you rather have lunch with President Obama or Lady Gaga? See, even a far-fetched dichotomous question can tell you something interesting about your preferences.

I have my own complaints about what the professors say. The professors said the study aggregates responses for superintendents and charter leaders. That’s just plain wrong – it doesn’t. They talk about a poor response rate when the response rate was very high for a study of this type – 40 percent. Real-world survey researchers – myself included – dream of getting such high response rates on a regular basis. The professors say we don’t know how the superintendents who didn’t answer the survey differ from the people who did. Well, by definition that’s almost always the case. We made extraordinary efforts to get non-respondents to take the survey (see the appendix of the report for more on those efforts). That’s how we got such a high response rate.

Perhaps most amazing to me: in the end, after all the mistruths and mistaken comprehensions, the professors agree that the survey correctly captures the attitudes of superintendents! They say: “some aspects of the report are not surprising…it is entirely predictable that superintendents would like to have greater control over both teachers’ salaries and state regulations.” Oh. So this survey that they claim is badly designed, badly worded, not representative, biased, and narrow somehow got the right answer? Now that is interesting.

 
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Capital Matters

What would be the impact of the governor's school turnaround plan?
By Jamie Davies O’Leary and Bianca Speranza

When Gov. Kasich first introduced his biennial budget for Ohio over a month ago, it was quickly apparent that he and his administration were serious about overhauling the state’s poorest-performing schools. Fordham has long advocated for applying sanctions to not only poorly performing charter schools but chronically troubled district ones as well. In the governor’s budget, and left completely intact in the version reported out by the Ohio House, is a provision that would require districts to reconstitute schools that rank in the bottom five percent of all public district schools statewide (according to Performance Index (PI) scores, weighted averages of a school’s students’ performance on the state’s exams across all tested subjects and grades) for three consecutive years and are rated “D” or “F” by the state.

In similar fashion to the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, districts with such schools could opt to:

  • close the school and reassign students to higher performing buildings;
  • contract with another district, non-profit, or for-profit entity with a track record of success to operate the school;
  • replace the principal and all teaching staff (far more stringent than SIG’s “transformation” option, which would leave half of a school’s teachers in place); or
  • re-open the school as a conversion charter school.

Kasich’s budget also imposed other sanctions for chronically underperforming schools, including testing all teachers’ content-area knowledge in such schools (which we caution against) and allowing parents to “trigger” a turnaround (which has since been removed by the House and turned into a small pilot program).

The closure provisions for chronically troubled district schools seem fair and up-to-the-challenge. Yet which schools would be affected by this? How many students would possibly be displaced? Are the schools slated for overhaul according to this provision really the state’s most troubled schools? How many of them are already receiving federal SIG dollars for turnaround?

To answers these questions, we analyzed PI score data of all public district schools in Ohio from the last three school years (2007-08 to 2009-10), as well as school rating and other demographic data. PI scores range from 0-120. (Note: we pulled out those schools receiving a “zero” PI score, as many of them appear to have received that score for some other reason than legitimately scoring zero. For instance, many zero-PI schools previously had scores of above 100 or 90, illustrating that they were actually high-quality schools and not representative of the lowest 5 percent. Re-pulling the data with zero-PI schools would result in a different list of schools.)

 District schools slated for turnaround

Under the turnaround provision, schools will be closed based on rankings relative to other schools – a metric that some might argue is unfair (why not use an absolute achievement threshold to sanction schools?). However, the list of schools that are in the bottom five percent and rated “D” or “F” is a fairly accurate portrait of the lowest performers in Ohio. The list below includes 93 schools located across 16 different districts, collectively serving 33,695 students. It’s also worth noting that of the 93 schools on the turnaround list, 41 are located in Cleveland, with Columbus coming in second with 13 schools slated for turnaround.

Table 1: Ohio district schools with PI scores in the bottom 5% for the past three years and rated D or F

schoolturnarounds1.jpg

Source: Ohio Department of Education: Interactive Local Report Card

The average growth in PI over the last three years among these 93 schools is actually negative – overall, the schools slated for turnaround had PI scores fall by 1.4 percent since 2007. In other words, poorly performing schools tend to stay poorly performing or even get worse. Only 39 of the schools experienced positive growth in scores, but except in a few instances, that growth was minimal. Math and reading proficiency averages for these schools are also telling about why they’re in need of a turnaround, with the lowest proficiency rates for third grade reading and math tests at 20.6 percent and 8.7 percent respectively. 

Overlap with School Improvement Grants

Of all the schools listed for closure, 13 have been awarded SIG grants totaling $37,546,632 (over three years). Table 1 above highlights the schools (in yellow) that will receive SIG money and that also would be slated for turnaround status under the governor’s new plan. This overlap raises serious questions around how the state’s turnaround proposals and schools’ existing turnaround plans (funded through SIG) would coincide. Would schools using SIG money get a chance to turn themselves around via their current plans (many of which are “transformation” – a less rigorous option not even included in the governor’s turnaround agenda), or would they be forced into immediate action according to the governor’s plan?

In conclusion, the list of district schools slated for turnaround according to Kasich’s budget seems like a fair representation of the state’s truly troubled schools – though obvious questions remain around the interaction of SIG turnaround plans and the options according to this new provision. While the diagnosis of these schools seems right – they are chronically failing and students attending them deserve better – it also begs other policy questions around human capital. Does Ohio have enough teaching and leadership talent willing to take over 93 schools, or charter management groups capable of taking some of them on? Do neighboring schools have space for an influx of students should they be reassigned? These questions merit serious consideration should the state school turnaround provision get passed in the final iteration of the budget.

 
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"State of Preschool" report doesn't paint whole picture for Ohio
By
 Jamie Davies O’Leary

Ohio recently received distinction from the National Institute for Early Education Research in its State of Preschool 2010 report, but not in a good way. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, the co-director for institute issuing the report said of the Buckeye State:

For a couple of years, [Ohio] was moving up [in the rankings], but last year the state eliminated a major program. Enrollment went way down and spending per child went way down. The program the state does have meets only two of 10 benchmarks for state standards for quality. That puts Ohio in last place. Nobody has a program that is that weak, except for 10 states that don’t have any program at all.

According to The State of Preschool, funding for public preschool dropped by almost $30 million nationally (funding would have fallen by another $49 million if not for federal stimulus dollars). In Ohio, state spending per child dropped by almost half (from almost $7,000 per child to $3,900), and access to preschool, especially among four-year-olds, puts Ohio among the worst in the nation (the Buckeye State ranks 36 out of 40 states with public preschool programs).

At first glance, such statistics are alarming. Funding early learning programs, especially for low-income children who otherwise come to kindergarten ill-prepared and already behind their wealthier peers, is a worthwhile (and preemptive) investment that reaps long-term gains not just for students but society at large.

However, it’s worth considering several factors and trends before sounding the alarms on Ohio’s preschool landscape. First, as the Enquirer rightly points out in the same article, many of Ohio’s preschool programs are licensed and funded via the Department of Job and Family Services and thus are not included in The State of Preschool, which only looked at those programs licensed and funded through departments of education. Thus Ohio’s less-than-stellar profile is based on an incomplete portrait of early learning initiatives.

Second and more importantly, as Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. pointed out in the Education Gadfly in his review of the report:

NIEER’s definition of ‘quality’ preschool, while faithful to widely held views in the early-childhood field, continues to emphasize inputs and processes, not outcomes…. Of their ten big ‘quality standards,’ at least eight are mainly about spending, credentials, ratios, and services, not about kindergarten readiness and other (increasingly measurable) signs that such programs are actually preparing their wee charges to succeed in school.

Especially during times of austerity, Ohio has to do a better job measuring quality than just counting dollars and inputs. This sentiment was captured well recently by the Columbus Dispatch’s Jennifer Smith Richards, who compared the number of poor children and non-poor children in various central Ohio districts scoring in the bottom range on the state’s kindergarten readiness assessment (KRAL). In every district studied there was a significant gap in readiness between poor kids and non-poor kids, with the largest gap at 35 percent. Based on these trends, several central Ohio groups are focusing on increasing readiness in high-poverty areas and even plan to track effectiveness (by examining kindergarten test results of the students who attended their early learning program).

Cynics might argue that advocating for more preschool funding should be paramount to parsing through kindergarten test data (then again, cynics would argue we shouldn’t even bother to test children at such a young age). But given Ohio’s fiscal reality, and the fact that enormous gaps in readiness persist between poor and non-poor kids, the state should focus less on NIEER’s rankings on universal access and spending and more on developing creative initiatives to improve effectiveness for the kids who need early learning programs the most.

 
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Short Reviews

Update with 2009-10 Data and Five-year Trends: How Many Schools Have Not Made Adequatae Yearly Progress?
By Andrew Proctor

This report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) is an update to previous research that tracked the number of schools that had not achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as outlined in NCLB. Achieving AYP has proved increasingly difficult as many states require schools to meet progressively higher standards each year leading up to 2014, the year by which NCLB requires that 100 percent of students in every state reach proficiency on state assessments. The CEP has been tracking state and national AYP levels annually since 2005, and this report provides estimates for 2010 data. The previous four years of AYP data come from State Consolidated Performance Reports submitted to the Department of Education. These reports are not yet available for 2010, but CEP created an estimate for 2010 numbers:  The number of schools not reaching AYP has risen to 38 percent nationally, the highest percentage since CEP began tracking this data.

Over the last five years, the number of schools not reaching AYP has steadily increased, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently warned that in 2011 the number of schools labeled “failing” by NCLB may skyrocket to 82 percent. In order to meet the “100 percent proficient by 2014” goal, many states have ratcheted up their achievement targets each year. Schools have found it difficult to keep pace, and even many high-performing schools with a few below-proficient students are receiving NCLB’s “failing” label.

In Ohio, CEP estimated that 39 percent of schools did not make AYP in 2010. However, the current AYP rating system provides limited (at best) information on a school’s performance and is in dramatic need of reform. Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael Petrilli provide their own recommendations in their recent ESEA Briefing Book, advocating that AYP be eliminated, while allowing states to design transparent, data-based information systems for schools. With ESEA up for reauthorization this year, Congress has the opportunity to create a metric that replaces AYP and provides a better representation of whether or not a given school is performing adequately. 

Update with 2009-10 Data and Five-year Trends: How Many Schools Have Not Made Adequate Yearly Progress?
Center on Education Policy
Alexandra Usher, Nancy Kober, and Diane Stark Rentner
April 2011

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The Promise of College Completion: KIPP's Early Successes and Challenges
By Kathryn Mullen Upton

The KIPP Foundation recently released a study of college completion rates of early KIPP students and the results are both good and bad. The good news is that 33 percent of KIPP students that completed eighth grade 10 or more years ago have gone on to graduate from a four-year college. This may strike readers as low, but in context it illustrates a remarkable achievement:  Only 30.6 percent of Americans ages 25-29 have a four year degree as do only 8 percent of such students from low-income families. Thus, KIPPsters are four times more likely to complete college than their peers from similar demographics. The bad news is that KIPP falls dramatically short of its goal that 75 percent of its students earn a four-year degree, and readily admits that the goal has been harder to achieve than anticipated. The report acknowledges that the number of kids these findings apply to is small: they come from the first two KIPP schools that were opened in Houston and New York, the only ones open long enough to have college graduates.  (The Fordham Foundation is the authorizer of KIPP Journey Academy in Columbus, which was not included in this report.)

The report sets forth several action steps that KIPP will take to try to meet their 75 percent goal, including a continued focus on academics and character education; evolving their focus from just middle schools to pre-K through 12 broadly; and improving college support to KIPP graduates (i.e., helping kids find a college that is the right fit, offering social and academic support to students during their college years, etc).

Perhaps the biggest lesson to draw from this report is that much of KIPP’s success lies in the fact that it is self-reflective, transparent, and holds high expectations internally.  As many know, KIPP schools serve a high percentage of minority and low-income students, so considering that only 8 percent of these kids would otherwise graduate from a four year college, KIPP’s 33 percent college completion rate is impressive. It’s likewise impressive that 33 percent is unacceptable for KIPP, despite the fact that KIPP has much to celebrate -- recent data show that 89 percent of kids who completed a KIPP middle school went on to enroll in college, compared with 62 percent of students nationally and 41 percent of low-income students. Kudos to the KIPP Foundation for its honest self-critique and for its position that simply doing better than the status quo is not good enough.

 The Promise of College Completion: KIPP’s Early Successes and Challenges
KIPP Foundation
April 2011

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Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community
By Bianca Speranza

It is no surprise that the Latino population in the United States is growing rapidly. Between 2000-2010 the national Latino population increased by 15.2 million people, more than half of the overall population growth during that time period. The Latino community is also young on average. There are 17.1 million Latinos under the age of 17, and they comprise 22 percent (one in five) of all prek-12 students currently enrolled in America’s public schools. This rise in population combined with the youthfulness of the Latino population makes them a vital component to our future success as a nation. However, educational statistics among the Latino population are troubling: Latinos have low participation in early childhood education programs; subpar graduation rates; and less than 15 percent of them go on to receive their bachelor’s degree.

A recent report by the Department of Education highlights the state of education in the Latino community, drawing attention to areas that must improve:

  • Early childhood education: Future success in education is often contingent on the educational experience that children receive at an early age. Latino children represent the largest segment of the early childhood population, however less than half of Latino children are enrolled in an early childhood program.
  • Low graduation rates: One of the main goals of the public education system is to see that all students graduate from high school equipped with necessary skills to enter college. Currently one in five students in the public school system is Latino, yet almost half of them never graduate from high school. Latino students also participate less frequently in Advanced Placement courses.
  • Supporting English Learners: English learners comprise 10 percent of the Nation’s students in grades K-12. Sadly, more than two thirds of ELLs score below basic proficiency in reading and math.

Ohio is also experiencing Latino population growth, and educational underperformance of this subgroup.  According to the recent 2010 Census data the Latino population in Ohio increased by 63 percent since 2010, and they now represent 3.4 percent of Ohio’s total population.  Academic performance for Latino students in Ohio is also cause for concern. Graduation rates for Latino students are 61.4 percent, compared to 88.6 percent for white students.  Proficiency rates are also subpar for K-12 Latino students, with only 63.4 of third grade students proficient in reading.  As the Latino population continues to grow nationally and in Ohio, policy makers and educators must find ways to improve their educational attainment.

 Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community
Department of Education
April 2011

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Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems
By Nick Joch

In state capitals across the nation, policy makers and education reformers are calling for more rigorous teacher evaluation systems.  In its latest report, Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems, the Brookings Institution describes a mathematical framework for assessing the effectiveness of evaluation systems. The report accompanies and explains the reasoning behind an evaluation system effectiveness calculator developed by the Institution. The calculator assesses teacher evaluation systems that use student value-added data, based on five criteria:

  • Differentiation. The evaluation system should rate teachers so that a meaningful spectrum of teacher effectiveness can be observed (e.g. 99% of teachers rated effective is not acceptable).
  • Correlation. Differentiation should be based on teacher characteristics that are likely to significantly influence student achievement.
  • Consistency. Evaluations provided by the system should be predictable from year to year: A teacher rated “highly effective” in one year should receive a similar rating in future years.
  • Diverse methodology. The evaluation system should not use value-added data alone, but should also use classroom observations and/or other methods to produce a more complete picture of a teacher’s effectiveness.
  • Universality. Because of diverse methodologies, all teachers, even those for whom no value-added data is available, should be able to be evaluated by the system.

Many states and districts do not favor a universal teacher evaluation system and would prefer to develop their own systems instead. The report proposes that this calculator be used to set standards for such localized systems, thereby creating a national standard by which to judge teacher evaluation systems but not mandating a national system. The report suggests that this might be accomplished by including the calculator or a similar tool in a reauthorization of ESEA.

The Passing Muster model may prove problematic in some ways, as some critics contend, but the report raises important issues regarding the creation and implementation of effective teacher evaluation systems. In Ohio, recent amendments to HB 153 (Governor Kasich’s budget bill) would require districts to use student value-added data as at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations and to lay off teachers in order of evaluation rating, not seniority. These reforms are certainly a much-needed improvement, but implementation will be the deciding factor in whether or not the new evaluation systems will actually be effective.

Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems
Steven Glazerman, et al.
Brookings Institution
April 2011

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

Akron's school turnaround plan sounds unconvincing
By Bianca Speranza

An article in the Akron Beacon Journal  about school turnaround caught my eye. Butchels High School and Perkins Middle School both received the second lowest rating (Academic Watch) on last year’s report card and as a result will merge into one school (Butchel- Perkins) in hopes of better performance  starting in the fall of 2012. The schools have been trying to turn themselves around for some time, to no avail… While the reform intentions here should be applauded the plan is problematic for a couple of different reasons.  How are school officials determining who will teach in the new school versus who will be placed elsewhere? Is it seniority-based? Or do they have other metrics for determining who goes where?  Simply pushing teachers around – some of who might be ineffective – from one school to the next won’t solve the problem. Furthermore, if the same leaders are simply transferred over to the new school will anything really improve? Finally, the New Tech approach is costly to implement and sustain. The district will have to pay $500,000 up front to set up the new school and train the staff. They are also applying for several grants and hope to receive $5 million over the next three years to help sustain the new school.  What happens when the funds dry up, or if they don’t get the grants at all? Read the full post here.

The Education Gadfly
Read the rest on Flypaper.
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TFA legislation gets signed by Gov. Kasich
By Jamie Davies O’Leary

Gov. Kasich signed long-awaited legislation to enable Teach For America to have a home in the Buckeye State.   Now that legislation is official – and TFA can place teachers across all grades and subjects (the primary barrier for the last two decades) – several important questions are cropping up. With which districts will TFA partner? How can it expect to place teachers as districts – especially large urban ones like Cleveland that are likely TFA partners – are laying off veterans? How can Ohio avoid headlines like this, and avoid tossing new corps members into a controversial thicket like what’s happening in Kansas? Read the rest of this post here.

tfasigning1.jpg

The Education Gadfly
Read the rest on Flypaper.
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Editor's Extras

Budget comparisons, unionism lessons, and rutabaga fries
By Nick Joch

  • On the hunt for timely lesson plans? The April issue of Ohio Schools, the OEA’s monthly newsletter, recommends lessons on unionism, but the Buckeye Institute’s write-up is more than a little skeptical of using the classroom to enlist student support for the labor movement.
  • The latest contribution to research on what works in the classroom comes from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Victor Lavy. In his paper What Makes an Effective Teacher? Quasi-Experimental Evidence, Lavy finds that Israeli students receive striking benefits from both “traditional” (knowledge-focused) and “modern” (analysis-focused) teaching styles, and opines that the two styles be specifically targeted to particular types of students for the greatest gains in achievement.
  • Ever wonder how Governor Kasich’s school funding budget stacks up against proposals in other states? Bruce Baker of School Finance 101 takes on the question, comparing Kasich’s budget with Andrew Cuomo’s (New York) and Tom Corbett’s (Pennsylvania) and concludes that the Ohio governor’s cuts, though at first glance progressive, will be regressive (i.e. the neediest districts get hit the hardest) in the long term.
  • In response to the debate over the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of our nation’s ed schools, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has created a new site called “Transparency Central” to make public the curricula and requirements of teacher preparation programs across the nation. The site is part of NCTQ and US News and World Report’s larger project of evaluating these programs, a project that hasn’t exactly received rave reviews from teacher colleges.
  • Forget mystery meat and vegetable mush. The New York Times reports that the prep school taste for academic distinction has carried over to the cafeteria at many New York private schools, where lunch menus include “turkey-and-ricotta piadina with arugula” and “oven-roasted rutabaga fries”, among other gourmet creations. In other news, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Healthy-living initiative has recently brought professional chefs to several central Ohio schools in hopes of making healthy eating palatable and fun.

 

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The Ohio Education Gadfly is published bi-weekly (ordinarily on Wednesdays, with occasional breaks, and in special editions) by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Have something to say? Email the editor at ohiogadfly@edexcellence.net. Would you like to be spared from the Gadfly? Email ohiogadfly@edexcellence.net with "unsubscribe gadfly" in the text of your message. You are welcome to forward the Gadfly to others, and from our website you can even email individual articles. If you have been forwarded a copy of Gadfly and would like to subscribe, you may email ohiogadfly@edexcellence.net with "subscribe gadfly" in the text of the message. To read archived issues, go to our website and click on the Ohio Education Gadfly link. Aching for still more education news and analysis? Check out the original Education Gadfly.

Nationally and in Ohio, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, along with its sister organization the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, strives to close America's vexing achievement gaps by raising standards, strengthening accountability, and expanding high-quality education options for parents and families. As a charter-school sponsor in Ohio, the Foundation joins with schools to affirm a relentless commitment to high expectations for all children, accountability for academic results, and transparency and organizational integrity, while freeing the schools to operate with minimal red tape. The Foundation and Institute are neither connected with nor sponsored by Fordham University.


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