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The Education Gadfly The Ohio
Education
Gadfly
A Bi-weekly Bulletin of News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 4 , Number 26. October 13, 2010
In This Edition

New From Fordham: How one Ohio middle school trying to turn itself around is the equivalent of "educational malpractice"; a better comparison between Ohio voucher students and their peers; surprising insights on what social studies teachers think, and more.

 

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Editorial

"Educational malpractice" taking place in Ohio's longest-suffering schools

Bold district reforms are a call for all, even Ohioans!

 

 

Short Reviews

High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do

Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners

The Rural Solution

Bumping HR: Giving Principals More Say Over Staffing

Capital Matters

Opportunities abound with online learning

News & Analysis

Voucher student performance: In search of the best analysis

In Case You Missed It

Talking charter schools and more on NPR

Flypaper's Finest

Teachers: "New contract higher priority than Race to the Top"

Don't exploit tragedy to make your policy point

Editor's Extras

Re-Evaluating Evaluations and Other Miscellany

Editorial

“Educational malpractice” taking place in Ohio’s longest-suffering schools
By Terry Ryan and Jamie Davies O’Leary

Last week the Columbus Dispatch featured a story about the worst-performing middle school in Ohio, Champion Middle School located on Columbus’s near east side. Its achievement results on 2009-10 state tests are appalling: 11 percent of seventh graders passed the state math test; less than one in three seventh graders reached proficiency in reading; just 10 percent of eight graders were proficient in science. The school’s disciplinary statistics – there were 2,300 instances of “discipline” last year alone – are more reminiscent of a prison than a middle school.

And its dysfunction is chronic. Only 23 percent of sixth graders at Champion a decade ago (2000-01) were proficient in reading; last year that figure was just above 26 percent. Math scores among sixth graders have actually fallen – from 33 percent in 2000-01 to just 23 percent last year. Such low achievement spanning over a decade prompts us to wonder: At what point does this kind of unremitting failure represent educational malpractice?

The school attempted a turnaround five years ago – it brought in a new principal, mostly new staff, and built a brand-new facility. The overhaul failed, not unlike the experience of nearly all Ohio school turnaround attempts. Terry chronicled this in a piece for the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s Hope, Fears, & Reality: A balanced look at American charter schools in 2009:

Many of the efforts to restructure troubled [Ohio] schools under NCLB have been half-hearted at best, and have led to little real change as most districts have treated this sanction more as a paper compliance exercise than a real opportunity to force dramatic changes in their schools.

From 2004 to 2009, Ohio and its schools spent $48 million dollars in turnaround efforts, yet few if any of the turnaround schools improved.  In part this is because, as the Columbus Dispatch reported last year, “Statewide, and in Columbus, the most popular [turnaround] option has been to change the principal and some or all of the teachers, and try new curricula.” 

Despite failed efforts and tens of millions of public dollars down the drain, Ohio hasn’t changed course when it comes to overhauling its worst schools. The Columbus City Schools are getting a second chance to try to fix Champion, this made possible by approximately $3 million from federal School Improvement Grants (Columbus received $20.2 million to turnaround seven schools). What will the school overhaul entail this time? It’s virtually identical to what has already been tried (and failed) over the last decade. The proposed changes – bringing in a new principal (from another failing middle school in Columbus), adding technology, reducing class size, etc. are commonly applied strategies to school improvement, but there’s no evidence that any of these moves actually improve broken schools.

It’s nothing short of scandalous that the feds and the state are allocating yet more taxpayer dollars to the Columbus City Schools to try and fix a broken school using the same tired reform strategy that has already failed a generation of young people.

The schools and children have largely been left to languish in despair. If this isn't the definition of malpractice, we don't know what is.

It’s even more appalling in light of the fact that Champion has a lot of company across the state. There are 257 public schools in Ohio serving 170,000 children that have been deemed by the state as in need of corrective action for five or more years (this represents six years of missing Adequate Yearly Progress).  Of this group of chronic underperformers are 18 schools (Champion ranks among them) that have needed major restructuring for 9 or 10 years – basically ever since the No Child Left Behind Act installed AYP and the concept of corrective action. These schools collectively serve 17,100 students. That’s thousands of kids, and their siblings, who for the last decade attended the very worst of the worst public schools. And other than labeling them in need of overhaul, Ohio has done little more than reshuffle existing programs and line items that perpetuate the status quo. The schools and children have largely been left to languish in despair. If this isn’t the definition of malpractice, we don’t know what is.

Under School Improvement Grant guidelines, schools may select one of several turnaround options, including closure or “restart” (possibly under a proven charter management organization, like Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia that has turned around some of that city’s most violent, underperforming schools). But as we’ve noted previously, most SIG-winning schools select less rigorous turnaround options, typically opting for soft transformation from within. Rarely do school districts fire themselves and hire outsiders to try to fix what they haven’t been able to do for themselves. They just do more of the same-- with the same basic human capital, same culture of “easy does it,” and simple optimism that things will somehow get better. It’s time for a far bolder approach.

Successful school turnarounds are one of the rarest feats in American public education. It is for that reason that then-Fordham fellow Andy Smarick argued for embracing school closures in an Education Next piece a year ago:

Those hesitant about replacing turnarounds with closures should simply remember that a failed business doesn’t indict capitalism and an unseated incumbent doesn’t indict democracy. Though temporarily painful, both are essential mechanisms for maintaining long-term system wide quality, responsiveness, and innovation. Closing America’s worst urban schools doesn’t indict public education nor does it suggest a lack of commitment to disadvantaged students. On the contrary, it reflects our insistence on finally taking the steps necessary to build city school systems that work for the boys and girls most in need.

But to close schools (an undeniably controversial approach), Ohio needs a broader turnaround plan and should pursue a three-part approach. 

First, accept that some schools are simply unfixable and need to be shuttered. Rather than letting these schools languish for a decade or more, the state needs to encourage or even force legislative changes that would close the most long-suffering public schools and disperse these children to other schools in the community. Ohio has legislation that requires the closure of the state’s lowest performing charters and this should be extended to district schools as well. No child should be stuck without hope in a failed school.

We’ve learned from the charter movement that closing failed schools is better for their children than leaving them in a hopeless situation. Fordham knows this first-hand as we have in fact closed two schools and seen children go to other buildings. It goes without saying that these were very tough decisions, but we recognize that closure is sometimes truly the lesser of evils.

The second part of Ohio’s turnaround approach should be assisting districts to develop a workable triage strategy for determining which schools are salvageable and which should close, what data will be used to inform those decisions, and what non-achievement variables should factor into closure decisions (e.g., declining enrollment). This is not a skill set many school district officials possess, nor is it a skill set taught through traditional education programs. The business world is far more familiar with things like closing branch offices and the like and this experience should be applied to schools.

Third, we need a new leadership model for school turnaround experts. More troubled schools might be salvageable if we can bring a new breed of leadership to bear on the school turnaround effort. Without clear and consistent leadership, turnaround efforts fall apart quickly. Researchers and turnaround advocates know this, and this is why administrators in the Chicago school system, for instance, have focused so much attention on finding and developing high-quality school leaders and teachers who are trained to work in a school turnaround environment. This is akin to training nurses and doctors to work in big city emergency rooms or in combat zones. These are professionals with special training and temperament. Having a plan for reform is important, but equally or more important is having a team in place that can implement the plan effectively and see it through its conclusion.

Innovative school leadership programs already are taking root and expanding across the country, ones that train leaders specifically to work in the most troubled schools (examples include New Leaders for New Schools and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, among many). In fact, UVA’s turnaround specialist program has played an important role in some of Cincinnati Public Schools’ recent successes in lifting achievement at perennially underperforming elementary schools.

If Ohio hopes to salvage some of its most troubled schools, it should encourage such programs to develop in Ohio (top-flight business schools here could get into the school repair business) that train school leaders to both launch successful charter schools and turn around troubled schools.  Instead of channeling money into loose and unproven turnaround models through School Improvement Grants, federal dollars could be applied to launching new models of school leadership training – not exclusively own and operated by schools of education – that focus on the unique challenges of both school start-ups and turnarounds.

Ohio can no longer simply continue dumping more cash into failing schools and applying the same improvement strategies while using the same human capital. To continue this approach is like letting the most ineffective hospitals pay millions for large supplies of a drug that doesn’t work, leaving most doctors and staff in place, and then letting patients die of curable ailments. Educational malpractice – the likes of which has happened at Champion and too many other Ohio schools – is an injustice just as egregious.

Comment

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Bold district reforms are a call for all, even Ohioans!
By Terry Ryan

In a bold—and dare I say inspiring—op-ed that appeared in last Sunday’s Washington Post, 16 school district leaders share a manifesto on “how to fix our schools.” The 16 leaders are responsible for educating nearly 2.5 million children and represent a cross-section of America’s schools—big name superintendents like Klein, Rhee and Vallas are joined by colleagues like Jean-Claude Brizard from Rochester, Eugene White from Indianapolis and LaVonne Sheffield from Rockford, Illinois.

Unfortunately, no Ohio district leaders signed on, but one would hope the ideas shared in the Post op-ed resonate with reform-minded leaders in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland, and can even flower in places like Dayton, Youngstown and Canton.

These district reformers acknowledge that too many kids are stuck in failing schools and hit home the point that teacher effectiveness is the most critical factor in improving education. They outline several ideas to address low performance:

  • Unshackle district leaders and do away with “archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials”;
  • Do away with the “glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher”;
  • Fairly measure and reward teacher performance;
  • Reward teachers who work in the toughest schools or teach more in-demand subjects like math and science;
  • Integrate technology into the classroom so that it can transform instruction; and
  • Make charter schools a truly viable option and ensure that excellence is the only criteria for evaluating schools.

Bold reforms indeed, especially coming from on-the-ground leaders who deal with the politics of education reform every minute of every day. These reformers are showing the way, and now it’s up to the rest of us—policymakers, state, district, and union leaders, teachers, and parents—to rally to the cause. This is surely a doable agenda for reform; even in Ohio.

Comment

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Capital Matters

Opportunities abound with online learning
By Jamie Davies O’Leary

This week Fordham’s newest board member Caprice Young spent some time in Ohio and her visit could not have been timed more perfectly. Young is president and chief education officer of City Prep Academies, a blended learning service provider, former CEO of KC Distance Learning (a leading provider of virtual courses), and also former president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association as well as president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

In other words, when it comes to figuring out how to foster new K-12 learning models on Ohio soil, there’s literally no better person in America to learn from.  And Ohio has every reason to commence rethinking how we use technology in education, and embracing nontraditional, non brick-and-mortar schooling models.

The Dayton Daily News ran a piece about the exorbitant costs of college dropouts in Ohio ($300 million) and while the article didn’t theorize much on the causes of these dropouts, the fact that many students leave high school unprepared and in need of serious remediation seems like one reasonable hypothesis (30 percent of students drop out of four-year programs after one year).  Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch article, “Enrollment rises at online charter schools,” pointed out that despite a moratorium on new charter e-schools (installed five years ago) enrollment in online programs has risen by 46 percent, with 29,000 students now served by such programs.

Consider the first point – almost one in three students drop out of college after the first year. While meeting with central Ohio superintendents, Young described “blended learning” and its ability to serve kids on all ends of the bell curve – those who are behind, those in the middle, and those gifted students for whom traditional schools are boring (she described her teenage self as the latter). For those students who haven’t been well served by public schools – such as those in a juvenile jail– online instruction is a cost-effective intervention that can bring them back up to speed.

Young described one teen felon’s attraction to one-on-one virtual learning: “online, no one knows you’re smart.” Online learning can break down barriers for nontraditional students, help students who are credit deficient, and personalize instruction for those students who typically drop through the cracks.  (And of course it can reach kids on the other end of the spectrum, the gifted or at-risk-of-being-bored.)

The second point is that despite public policy that has thwarted innovation in Ohio and has closed the door to new, innovative virtual providers, there’s evidence of rising demand for online programs. Almost 30,000 students are served by a virtual charter school. And if this week’s meeting at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio is any indicator, district leaders have an appetite for innovative, alternative learning models.  Ohio’s credit flexibility plan allows students to earn credit for distance learning, internships, community service, and other educational experiences (and doesn’t require a standard amount of “seat time”) – an option that district staff in the room were buzzing about.

While undoing seat-time requirements and exploring hybrid models represent uncharted territory for most Ohio educators, there was general consensus that it’s inevitable. This is the pathway down which education is headed – and it’s exciting. The possibilities for using online learning to improve student achievement are exponential, and we’re not taking full advantage of it (yet). Further, a proficiency or mastery-based model makes better sense for students (Young described one New Jersey district using such a model,) and districts should introduce online learning as an intervention for those students having trouble mastering content. This is good for students, and the messaging is much more palatable than introducing technology in a manner that frightens teachers (they may fear it will take their jobs).

Lastly, online learning “unbundles” teachers’ skills and is more efficient than current learning models. For example, teachers who are adept at teaching AP physics or statistics can teach those courses traditionally and in an online format (and reach hundreds more students) rather than teaching AP courses along with basic courses or myriad subjects, etc. And since the online program presents the content (in various modalities suited to kids), virtual teachers spend less time presenting content and more time explaining, trouble-shooting, and interacting one-on-one with students. This is exactly what students, parents and educators want more of and now is the time to create the policies needed to give it to them.

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News & Analysis

Voucher student performance: In search of the best analysis
By Bianca Speranza

For five years, the EdChoice Scholarship Program has enabled students to escape low-performing schools (those rated D or F for two out of the last three years) in Ohio for, presumably, greener pastures in private schools.  Fourteen-thousand students, the maximum allowed by state law, in low-performing schools are using this publically funded voucher to attend private schools of their choice. 

Until recently, performance data on EdChoice students have not been available. But this year, thanks to new requirements in state law, the Ohio Department of Education released data comparing how voucher students perform on state achievement tests with their district counterparts.  The Columbus Dispatch featured this newly available data and concluded, “On the whole, Ohio students who used tax-funded vouchers to attend private schools last school year did no better on state tests than public-school students.”

The reporter reached this conclusion by comparing voucher student performance to the performance of students in their home districts. While this comparison is a reasonable starting point to understanding how well voucher students are doing, the comparison is far from fair. It is problematic to compare voucher students to the average scores of the entire home districts (which include schools of various quality levels, most of which are not low-performing enough to qualify for vouchers).  Voucher-eligible students come from the worst-performing schools and comparing them to an entire district, including high-performing schools, is misleading.  Using this comparison method voucher students will almost certainly always fall short on academic achievement tests simply because they are starting behind their peers. 

A better approach, and one that is doable with the limited data available, is to compare EdChoice student performance to the performance of students in voucher-eligible public school buildings. This creates a more apples-to-apples comparison by allowing researchers to compare voucher students to the underperforming schools from which they fled.  

The Dispatch analysis showed that public school students in Columbus City Schools outperformed voucher students in seven out of twelve academic tests.  However, the opposite is true when one compares Columbus’s voucher students to students in the city’s voucher-eligible schools, as chart 1 illustrates. 

Chart 1: Columbus: EdChoice Students vs. Voucher-Eligible Students

Source: Ohio Department of Education

Not only do EdChoice students outperform their peers in voucher-eligible schools in eight of twelve tests, they do so in some cases by a large margin. It is particularly interesting to note that in seventh- and eighth-grade reading, voucher students score more than 20 percentage points higher than their peers. 

That being said, a look at EdChoice student performance in Cincinnati paints a completely different picture. In the Queen City, as chart 2 shows, EdChoice students only outperformed voucher eligible schools in four of twelve academic tests.

Chart 2: Cincinnati: EdChoice Students vs. Voucher-Eligible Students

Source: Ohio Department of Education

A few additional findings jump out from this sort of apples-to-apples analysis.

Reading proves to be an area of strength for students using vouchers in these two cities. While this is interesting, perhaps a better question to ask is why voucher students are performing so poorly in math?  Is their performance a reflection of their time in the private school or of the teaching they received in the public school from which they fled?

Voucher students had stronger results in the middle grades (6-8) in reading, compared to students in voucher-eligible schools.  Voucher students in Columbus and Cincinnati outdid voucher eligible schools by a margin as large as 25.5 percentage points.

Of course even this sort of data and analysis has limitations. For one, students using vouchers might be more motivated and arrive at private schools at a higher level of proficiency than their peers who stayed behind in the public school. This comparison cannot account for that.  An ideal comparison would be to look at voucher users and voucher-eligible students on the waitlist, and such data could be made available now that Ohio has topped the voucher cap and has unique student identifiers for all students.  Until then, comparing voucher students to voucher-eligible students is the next best thing.

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In Case You Missed It

Talking charter schools and more on NPR
Fordham’s Terry Ryan appeared last week on WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher. From charter school accountability (he says we should close poor-performing schools and asserts that test scores do matter when judging a school’s performance) to school funding (he refutes the idea that more money will solve public schools’ woes), Terry and Ann discuss the major policy issues facing the Buckeye State’s charter school program.  Watch the show here or stream audio here (Terry joins in around the 40-minute mark).

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Short Reviews

High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do
By Emmy L. Partin and Amanda Olberg

Citizenship, patriotism, and political engagement are cornerstones of our republic. Yet not much has been known about the opinions and practices of those with substantial responsibility for cultivating these values and habits—namely, the nation’s social studies teachers. This new AEI report sought to correct that by asking over 1,000 high school social studies teachers (teachers of subjects like history, civics, government, economics, and geography at public and private schools) what they are trying to teach their students.

Some findings are reassuring. For example, over 80 percent of high school social studies teachers think their students should “respect and appreciate their country but know its shortcomings.” (That’s basically what the general public wants schools to teach.) But other findings raise red flags.  Teaching facts is these teachers’ lowest priority, with just 36 percent saying it is “absolutely essential” to teach students key facts (like state capitals) and dates (like December 7, 1941). No surprise then that just seven percent of them are “very confident” that students emerging from their high schools have learned this information. Of course, students are also leaving high school without knowledge that social studies teachers do prioritize.  More than 80 percent of teachers say it is “absolutely essential” to teach students “to identify the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights” yet just 24 percent are “very confident” that their students know those protections.

Social studies teachers believe their classes take a lower priority than other subjects – 45 percent say this happened because of NCLB and 70 percent say this is because of pressure to show progress on math and English language arts tests. (Sixty-five percent of the public school teachers surveyed have been in the classroom since before NCLB was signed into law; it would be interesting to know whether those teachers in particular have seen a shift in the priority given to social studies in their schools.)  But don’t assume these teachers are down on testing and accountability altogether – 93 percent say “social studies should be part of every state’s set of standards and testing.” Perhaps this sentiment is tied to restoring the priority of social studies in schools. Ohio and New York, for example, have eliminated some statewide social studies exams to save money.

This report is interesting, at times surprising, and certainly worthwhile.  Read it here.

Comment

High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do
The FDR Group for the AEI Program on American Citizenship
September 2010

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Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners
By Bianca Speranza

Charter schools that make it their mission to reach the most underserved students must not forget the needs of Latino students and English Language Learners (ELLs). This is topic of the Center for American Progress’s latest report.

Next Generation Charter Schools first outlines the need to serve this student sub-group. Latino students represent one in every five public school students nationally, which equates to around ten million Latino students (with this number projected to grow by 160 percent by the year 2050).  Furthermore, 28 percent of Latino students currently attend chronically underperforming schools, compared to just nine percent of white students. 

Next, it outlines state policies that affect Latinos and ELLs. For example, while most states have lottery procedures for oversubscribed charters, just a few have proactive recruitment and enrollment policies to attract more Latino students. It also points out unfairness in some charters’ access to Title III funding (federal dollars for ELLs and immigrant students) if the number of such students is too low to meet the funding threshold.

The remainder of the report highlights four high-performing charter schools serving large percentages of Latinos/ELLs and exceeding achievement goals among this traditionally hard-to-serve subgroup: El Sol Science and Arts Academy (Santa Ana, California), YES Prep Gulfton (Houston, Texas), the Raul Yzaguirre School for Success (Houston), and International Charter School (Pawtucket, Rhode Island). Drawing on their success, the report identifies several best practices, such as:

  • Simultaneously delivering teaching as a second language and core academic studies;
  • Expanding instruction time;
  • Instituting high expectations for all students, including ELLs;
  • Equipping all teachers and staff (not just ELL teachers) with strategies to better serve this student group.

While charter schools tend to have more freedom and flexibility in many areas, the lessons in the report can also be applied to traditional public schools.  Currently in Ohio 2.3 percent of students are ELLs.  The graduation rate last year among Hispanics was 61.4 percent compared to 88.6 percent for White students.  Furthermore, only 33 percent of Hispanics are proficient in math and only 26 percent of English Language Learners reach proficiency.  There is significant room for Ohio schools to consider the policy recommendations and best practices presented in this report.

Comment

Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners
Melissa Lazarín and Feliza Ortiz-Licon
Center for American Progress
September 2010

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The Rural Solution
By Nick Joch

With all the attention given to urban schools in discussions about education reform, it’s nice to see rural schools get their own headline. In Center for American Progress’s new study, The Rural Solution, researcher Doris Terry Williams describes the rural school landscape:  such districts often spend significantly less per pupil than other districts, many are poor, and students may lack access to social services because of great distances.

After examining existing literature and data on rural schools, Williams visited some of the school districts serving America’s 10 million rural students and conducted interviews there to find out firsthand what was working and what wasn’t. She focused particularly on three schools, one each in Vermont, Maine, and Kentucky, that have adopted a community school model, making everything from Algebra classes to dentist appointments available in one central location.

Although she acknowledges that one size does not fit all, Williams uses her observations of the three schools to identify common challenges policy makers should consider when trying to improve rural schools.  The most interesting of these include:  

  • The pool of potential teachers in rural districts is often quite small, which makes it difficult to recruit excellent teachers and replace ineffective ones. 
  • The federal model for school turnaround is often not applicable in rural areas, where financial resources and opportunities for relocation are often scarce.
  • The Full Service Community Schools Program is currently underfunded, and rural districts with limited resources often find themselves in a disadvantaged position when applying for funding from this and other grant programs.

Unfortunately, Williams spends little time discussing how to overcome significant challenges like teacher recruitment, instead focusing too broadly on the concept of community schools and the benefits of bringing education and social services together under one roof in rural districts.

Even so, the report serves as a reminder of the difficulty of improving rural schools, given the unique challenges they face in areas such as human capital, transportation, facilities, etc. According to 2007 data from the Ohio Department of Education, rural districts make up more than 40 percent of all Ohio districts, and many of these are set to feel the impending state budget crunch particularly acutely. Many of Ohio’s smaller districts may also face the problem of recruiting excellent teachers and would benefit from adopting some of the “work with what you’ve got” teacher recruitment and development proposals Williams puts forward. The full report is available here.

Comment

The Rural Solution
Doris Terry Williams
The Center for American Progress
September 2010

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Bumping HR: Giving Principals More Say Over Staffing
By Theda Sampson

This insightful policy brief examines the amount of control the average principal wields over hiring and HR decisions in the very schools for which they are ultimately accountable. It looks at state laws, regulations, and district policies in 101 large school districts (containing 20 percent of public school students in the US) and names several factors standing in the way of principal autonomy over teacher hiring decisions:

  • Centralized hiring and assignment. Districts make most hiring decisions and determine where teachers will be deployed. (This begs the obvious question of how principals can be held fully responsible for student achievement when they don’t select their own teachers.)
  • Teacher evaluations. The inability of teacher evaluations to distinguish effectiveness (in part, with student growth data) makes them feckless as part of the hiring/firing process.
  • Teacher seniority and teacher placement. Principals do not have significant decision making ability when it comes to who is transferred into their building. As decisions are often based on seniority, principals may have to take a teacher with more years of experience over another who might be a better fit. In fact, only six districts in the study allow performance to be a deciding hiring factor.
  • State dismissal laws. Limiting the reasons for dismissal to incompetence, immorality, or neglect of duty does not allow principals to fire ineffective teachers and ultimately make the best decisions for their schools.

NCTQ offers three basic solutions:  allow a teacher’s performance to be given weight over experience, deny teachers of having a job for life regardless of effectiveness, and give principals the freedom to end contracts.  Overall, this paper gives serious direction as to how school leaders can gain control over their largest resource – staffing – to ultimately improve student outcomes. See the brief, here.

Comment

Bumping HR: Giving Principals More Say Over Staffing
National Council on Teacher Quality
September 2010

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

Teachers: “New contract higher priority than Race to the Top”
By Emmy L. Partin

The teachers union in a suburban Columbus district has pulled out of Race to the Top, putting the district at risk of forfeiting almost a million dollars ($960,000) in RttT grant funding and many of the reforms that would come with it… The teachers aren’t opposed to the requirements of the grant or the changes it will bring about.  Rather, they are withdrawing from RttT in protest that contract negotiations between the school board and the union have not been resolved.  Read the rest of this post here.

The Education Gadfly
Read the rest on Flypaper.
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Don’t exploit tragedy to make your policy point
By Jamie Davies O’Leary

When I first heard the news about a Los Angeles elementary teacher killing himself, I cringed. First and foremost I was saddened… I understand the anger expressed by Rigoberto Ruelas’ families, friends, and colleagues at the LA Times for publishing results showing that he was ineffective, as this was a source of stress in his life when he made the decision to end it… I think it’s utterly inappropriate for Ed Week blogger Walt Gardner (or any other reporters, for that matter) to draw a direct line from the Times’ analysis to this suicide, calling the “humiliation” that Ruelas faced (“reminiscent of the use of pillories in colonial America”) a cause of his suicide. Read the full post here.

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

Re-Evaluating Evaluations and Other Miscellany
By Nick Joch

  • Students who complain their teacher doesn’t know what he’s talking about may have a point, according to a new study by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Science teachers across the country are teaching subjects in which their knowledge is limited at best, the study claims, and many states are doing little to stop it. Also worth a look is the NCTQ’s new Teacher Quality Checklist.
  • Rising college tuition got you down? School Choice Ohio (SCO) is here to help. SCO recently ran a special series of blog posts on Advanced Placement (AP), Early College High Schools, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), and College Tech Prep, all options that help students earn college credits, or even an associate’s degree, while still in high school. And parents will breathe a big sigh of relief: enrolling their kids in these programs won’t cost them a dime in extra fees. More information is available on SCO’s blog and in their latest Jumpstart brochure.
  • School choice at all costs: Worth it? Not according to a new National Affairs article by Frederick M. Hess. Proponents of school choice, Hess says, have made fools of themselves—and the reforms they support—by insisting that choice, regardless of whether or not the choices available are actually good ones, is the cure-all our ailing schools have long been waiting for. It’s time for the choice movement to re-think, re-group, and re-focus, he says.
  • “They don’t mean anything.” That, in a nutshell, is the common consensus on teacher evaluations today, but The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is seeking to change that, starting with its new report, Teacher Evaluation 2.0. The report details what precisely makes current evaluation practices problematic, as well as six principles TNTP sees as crucial to formulating a new, effective evaluation system.
  • What do political ads, education policy, and the National Education Association (NEA) have in common? Much less than you might expect. This NEA ad, currently running in Ohio, is very clear in its political message, but somehow education policy and schools didn’t make the production cut.

Comment

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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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