129th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate will hold sessions and committee meetings this week.
Arguments in Redistricting Lawsuit to be Heard: The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 24, 2012 in Charles E. Wilson et al. v. Governor John Kasich et al., a lawsuit that challenges the way the Apportionment Board re-drew the district maps for the Ohio General Assembly in 2011.
Two Down and Three to Go: Republicans Matt Lynch and Ryan Smith were sworn into office on April 18, 2012, filling two of the five vacant seats in the Ohio House. Matt Lynch now represents the 98th House District and Ryan Smith the 87th House District. Republican vacancies in the 41st and the 85th House Districts are expected to be filled soon, while Democrats are still working to fill the vacant 27th House District seat.
House Education Reports HB437: The House Education Committee, Representative Stebelton chair, reported out HB437 (Roegner/Patmon) School Board Vehicles-out of State Travel on April 18, 2012. The bill increases the number of miles a school district board may authorize its motor vehicles for out-of-state travel.
Education Changes to Sub. HB487 (Amstutz): The House Finance and Appropriations Committee accepted on April 17, 2012 a substitute bill that made further changes to HB487 (Amstutz) Mid Biennium Review (MBR). HB487, as introduced at the request of Governor Kasich, made operating and other appropriations, levied taxes, and authorized the operation of state programs, similar to the biennial budget bill. The following education provisions are still in the bill:
- Allows the .5 Mill Maintenance Levy required by the School Facilities Commission to be used on all district buildings.
- Revises driver training courses.
- Sunsets the Digital Learning Taskforce effective June 30, 2012 instead of June 30, 2013.
Since its introduction several provisions in HB487 have been eliminated all together or assigned to ten new bills, and other new provisions have been added.
Most of the education provisions recommended by Governor Kasich are included in separate legislation SB316 (Lehner), and provisions to implement the Cleveland Education Plan, proposed by Mayor Frank Jackson, are included in companion bills, HB506 (Amstutz-Williams) and SB325 (Lehner-Turner). The House Education Committee is expected to begin hearings on HB506 soon.
Strive Online: KnowledgeWorks has received a $600,000 software grant from Microsoft Corporation to develop an online community to support its subsidiary, the Strive Network, which focuses on supporting children from cradle to career. More information is available.
This Week at the Statehouse
TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2012
Senate Education Committee, Senator Peggy Lehner chair The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9:30 AM in the South Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony on SB316, MBR Mid-Biennium Review. A substitute bill is expected.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012
Senate Education Committee, Senator Peggy Lehner chair The Senate Education Committee will meet at 10:30 AM in the North Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony on SB316, MBR Mid-Biennium Review.
House Education Committee, Representative Stebelton chair The House Education Committee will meet at 5:00 PM in Hearing Room 313. The committee will receive a presentation from Mary Laura Gragg and Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute on the third grade guarantee and A-F grading system for school accountability.
The committee will then receive testimony on the following bills:
- HB233 (Letson/Huffman) Ad Space on School Buses: Authorizes school districts to sell commercial advertising space on school buses.
- HB377 (Duffey/Stinziano) Student Members of Trustees: Grants student members of the boards of trustees of state universities and the Northeast Ohio Medical University voting power and the authority to attend executive sessions,
- HB191 (Hayes/Patmon) Minimum School Year: Establishes a minimum school year for school districts based on hours, rather than days, of instruction and to prohibit schools from being open for instruction prior to Labor Day or after Memorial Day except in specified circumstances.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012
The Joint Redistricting Reform Taskforce will meet at 8:30 AM in the Senate Finance Hearing Room. The Taskforce was created through Sub. HB369 and establishes a Redistricting Reform Task Force, comprised of eight members of the General Assembly, which must create a redistricting reform proposal for consideration by the General Assembly during 2012, and requires that report of that proposal to be issued not later than June 30, 2012.
Senate Education Committee, Senator Peggy Lehner chair The Senate Education Committee will meet at 10:00 AM in the Senate Finance Hearing Room. The committee will receive testimony on SB316, MBR Mid-Biennium Review.
Senate Committee Hears Views About SB316: Education stakeholders testified on April 17, 2012 on SB316 (Lehner), before the Senate Education Committee, Senator Peggy Lehner chair.
SB316 was introduced on March 22, 2012 and is sponsored by Senator Lehner at the request of Governor Kasich. The bill is part of Governor Kasich’s mid biennium review, and makes a variety of changes in education law regarding the state’s system of rating and ranking schools/districts; community schools; dropout prevention schools; preschool/child day care centers; teacher evaluations; blended learning; etc. The bill cleans-up some dates and language in current law, and amends and adopts new sections of law regarding child day care, including Type B family day-care homes (Sec. 5104). The bill does not include the legislative changes for the Cleveland Plan proposed by Mayor Frank Jackson and the business/foundation leaders in Cleveland. Those provisions are included in SB325 (Lehner) and HB506 (Williams/Amstutz).
The following are some highlights from written testimony presented on April 17, 2012 by Superintendent Stan Heffner and three education organizations:
Ohio Department of Education: Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner described in his testimony the education reforms that have been implemented over the past years in Ohio to ensure that students are prepared for college and careers. But, he also argued that the level of academic achievement Ohio students must attain needs to be raised to meet the demands of a changing world.
To ensure that all Ohio students are prepared, the ODE has been working on additional education reforms that would increase accountability and close the learning gaps among groups of students. Changes in law to support some of these reforms are included in SB316. These include increasing the rigor of early childhood education programs, which is supported through a federal Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge Grant of $70 million; Early Reading Intervention (Third Grade Guarantee); Blended Learning; Career Connections; and increased accountability requirements.
Superintendent Heffner said that SB316 would do the following to support Ohio’s education reform agenda:
- Requires all of Ohio’s early childhood settings to be assessed by the state’s “Step Up to Quality” rating system. All early childhood programs will be held to the same high standards.
- Requires that students take diagnostic assessments every year from kindergarten through second grade so that educators can identify students who are reading below grade level and can provide students with appropriate interventions.
- Requires schools to develop a reading improvement and monitoring plan within 60 days of determining that a student requires remediation. If a student is on this plan for two or more years, but is not proficient in reading by the end of third grade, he or she would not advance to the fourth grade. Students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency would be exempt from the retention requirement. A student who does not have an intervention plan for two years will be allowed to advance if the school commits to start or continue intensive intervention services in the fourth grade.
- Defines what constitutes a digital learning environment and requires the State Board of Education to develop standards by March 31, 2013, and allows districts and schools the flexibility needed to implement instruction through a blended learning approach. (This provision is expected to be moved to another bill.)
- Requires that when standards and model curricula are developed in the future, they should include blended learning strategies.
- Requires career connections to be embedded within the model curriculum for all K-12 schools. These connections will be age-appropriate.
- Requires ODE, in consultation with the Board of Regents and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, to develop a Local Report Card for joint vocational school districts (JVSDs) by the end of this year.
- Proposes performance indicators for dropout recovery schools. These indicators will provide a better way to identify schools that are failing to address their students’ needs. If a dropout recovery school continually fails to help raise achievement and graduate students, the provisions in Senate Bill 316 would require them to be closed.
- Proposes a new report-card grading system for schools/districts based on letter grades, “A, B, C, D, and F” to begin in August 2012. There will be a final overall composite grade that is an average of four component grades for School Performance; Student Performance; School Contribution to Student Performance; and Student Performance Gap.
- Allows for more flexibility for local administrators to implement new teacher evaluations by clarifying the definition of a teacher for the purposes of teacher evaluation. This provision will apply to anyone working under a teacher license that spends at least 50 percent of the time providing student instruction.
- Allows someone other than the building principal to perform teacher evaluations.
- Gives high performing teachers additional options to demonstrate their skills and accomplishments.
- Requires teachers to be re-tested if they are rated ineffective for two of the three most recent school years, rather than require all teachers in the 10 percent of the lowest performing schools to be re-tested. Currently the re-testing provision applies to all teachers and is based on the performance of the entire school.
Superintendent Heffner also suggested that language be added to the bill to allow school districts that choose to deliver career-technical education through a compact arrangement or comprehensively on their own, to use the proposed Joint Vocational School District report card to report their progress.
Education Organizations: The Senate Education Committee received combined testimony as “interested parties” from Tom Ash of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Barbara Shaner of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, and Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association. The education organizations support the following provisions in the bill:
- The use of letter grades on the Local Report Card in lieu of the current classifications to increase transparency.
- The development of a report card for Joint Vocational School Districts.
- Exempting Joint Vocational School Districts from the school/district rating systems, because there are only 50 of them.
- The concept of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee to identify and provide appropriate support for struggling readers.
- Efforts to improve the quality of pre-school and early childhood education.
- Allowing high performing teachers to forego a second formal observation in exchange for using some other way to demonstrate their continued growth and progress as a teacher.
- The changes in the re-testing provision for teachers.
- Removing the cap to allow all districts to participate in the Exceptional Needs Program through the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC).
- Using a portion of the OSFC funds currently reserved for districts that have been unable to raise their local share, to fund those districts that have passed their local contribution, secured their required one-half mill maintenance levy, and are now awaiting their turn on the equity list.
- The reduction in the minimum value of a segmented project from 4 percent to 2 percent.
- The development of uniform expenditure standards in order for districts to make comparisons with other districts and to gauge their own effectiveness.
- Using existing federal reporting standards for the purposes of setting Ohio’s new expenditure standards.
The education organizations also recommended the following changes to the bill:
- Delay implementation of the proposed new rating system and give the ODE rule making authority to determine the details of the new system, rather than include the details in law. The delay would allow schools/districts time to prepare for the change and inform parents and communities about the new indicators.
- Eliminate the composite grade and take more time to evaluate the components, and consider weighting some of the components more than others.
- Ensure that the report card for Joint Vocational School Districts is tailored to the unique mission of these schools by focusing on academics and successful completion of training.
- Ensure that the focus of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is on intervention and not retention.
- Eliminate the prescriptive elements in the bill regarding the Third Grade Guarantee, and allow districts more flexibility to meet students needs.
- Address the lack of funding in the bill to implement the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
- Increase the investment in early childhood programs, which could alleviate the need for the Third Grade Guarantee.
- Address the funding needed to implement the teacher evaluation system.
- Extend the deadline for non-renewal of teacher contracts to June 1 (from April 30) to provide additional time for principals to evaluate teachers.
- Remove the SB316 provision that would allow a third-party to evaluate teachers, to ensure that there is internal consistency in the evaluations.
- Clarify the evaluation process for principals regarding “observations.”
- Base the evaluation for principals on the Ohio Principal Evaluation System or similar best practices model.
- Use a portion, rather than allocating a majority of the reserved funds set aside for districts that have been unable to raise their local share, to fund those districts that have passed their local contribution.
- Include in the bill a provision to reduce the required one-half mill for maintenance to reflect the portion of a school facilities project that has been completed.
- Provide schools/districts with sufficient opportunities to review, implement, and understand standards for classroom and non-classroom expenditures, including understanding the reporting process, before the standards become effective.
- Allow, rather than delay, the adoption of expenditure standards.
- Delay the implementation of the school district Expenditure Rankings for at least one year.
- Change the Expenditure Rankings system to a Rating System.
- Require dropout recovery schools to be subject to academic rankings similar to school districts and community schools.
- Eliminate language requiring school districts to conduct Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings.
Where Students Live Matters: The Brookings Institution released on April 19, 2012 a new research paper entitled “Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High Scoring Schools” by Jonathan Rothwell. The research paper examines national and metropolitan data on public school populations and state standardized test scores for 84,077 schools in 2010 and 2011, and links zoning data with school test score data.
According to the research paper, where students live matters when it comes to having access to high scoring public schools. The author states, “Limiting the development of inexpensive housing in affluent neighborhoods and jurisdictions fuels economic and racial segregation and contributes to significant differences in school performance across the metropolitan landscape.”
The author notes the following findings:
- “Nationwide, the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams. This school test-score gap is even wider between black and Latino students and white students. There is increasingly strong evidence-from this report and other studies-that low-income students benefit from attending higher-scoring schools.”
- “Northeastern metro areas with relatively high levels of economic segregation exhibit the highest school test-score gaps between low-income students and other students. Controlling for regional factors such as size, income inequality, and racial/ethnic diversity associated with school test-score gaps, Southern metro areas such as Washington and Raleigh, and Western metros like Portland and Seattle, stand out for having smaller-than-expected test-score gaps between schools attended by low-income and middle/high-income students.”
- “Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school. This housing cost gap reflects that home values are $205,000 higher on average in the neighborhoods of high-scoring versus low-scoring schools. Near high-scoring schools, typical homes have 1.5 additional rooms and the share of housing units that are rented is roughly 30 percentage points lower than in neighborhoods near low-scoring schools.”
- “Large metro areas with the least restrictive zoning have housing cost gaps that are 40 to 63 percentage points lower than metro areas with the most exclusionary zoning. Eliminating exclusionary zoning in a metro area would, by reducing its housing cost gap, lower its school test-score gap by an estimated 4 to 7 percentiles-a significant share of the observed gap between schools serving the average low-income versus middle/higher-income student.”
The author writes, “To conclude, across the private, non-profit, and public sectors, there are many compelling efforts to improve the quality of education available to low-income children. In documenting the tight link between housing costs and access to high-scoring schools, this report illustrates the scale of the challenge, and yet, it also shows that reforms to housing and land use policy could have potentially large benefits to the nation’s future by making educational opportunity more equal.”
The report is available.
ALEC Challenged: State lawmakers across the nation have been using the resources of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since 1973 to develop “model legislation” for their own state legislatures to consider. Recently ALEC’s legislative initiatives have been undergoing scrutiny as the public learns more about ALEC’s influence in promoting laws, such as Stand Your Gound laws, which are implicated in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.
An article published on April 20, 2012 in Education Week entitled “Controversial Policy Group Casts Long K-12 Shadow” by Andrew Ujifusa examines ALEC’s influence on education legislation over the past 39 years.
According to the article, ALEC is a Washington-based organization that advocates for free-market policies and limited government. ALEC includes state legislators and representatives from corporations that provide funding for ALEC. Members are organized into task forces that develop policies and model legislation. State lawmakers who belong to ALEC adapt the model legislation for their own state. Close to 1000 bills have been introduced in state legislatures each year based on ALEC model legislation, and 20 percent have become law. Currently the co-chairs of ALEC’s education task force are Georgia State Representative David Casas and Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections Academy, an operator of online schools.
The author notes that ALEC has had “significant influence” on K-12 legislation in states.
“Over the years, ALEC has crafted legislation on such policies as charter schools, alternative certification for teachers, parent-trigger laws, and vouchers for special-needs children.”
The author writes that Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, based in Madison, Wisconsin, monitors ALEC’s influence on national legislation. According to the group’s “ALEC Exposed” website, 69 model education bills and resolutions have been introduced in state legislatures on topics, such as private tax-credit scholarships, virtual education, third-grade retention, and alternative teaching certification.
The article also states that several corporations have recently withdrawn their support for ALEC as a result of the public outrage over ALEC’s role in promoting “Stand Your Ground” laws. A few of the corporations that have withdrawn support are Coca-Cola, Intuit, and McDonald’s. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which had provided grant money to ALEC, has also withdrawn support for future projects.
The article is available.
New Performance Indicators Released: Researchers at the Strategic Data Project (SDP) at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University released on April 18, 2012 three reports on the development and use of Strategic Performance Indicators (SPIs) to examine the trajectories of students K-college using large datasets of student records from school districts participating in the study. The reports released are “Demographic Factors and College-Going Rates”The High School Effect” and “The College Match”.
The Strategic Data Project has been partnering with five school districts to conduct an analyses of a common set of issues using existing agency data, and develop common indicators that can be measured in a standard way and analyzed repeatedly over time. Education systems can then use these indicators to benchmark their progress – both against themselves over time, and in relation to other districts with similar populations.
In “Demographic Factors and College-Going Rates”, SDP analysts compared the college-going rates of students of similar academic and socio-economic backgrounds, but from different racial/ethnic groups. The researchers found that when compared this way, “…the college enrollment gaps between black and white students disappear. In some districts, the college-going rates of black students surpassed those of similar white students.”
The study also found that gaps decline significantly between white and Latino students, although remain substantial in three of the four districts studied.
In “The High School Effect” researchers found that there are wide variations in college-going rates for students with similar levels of eighth grade academic achievement and who attend different high schools within a district.
“This indicator suggests the importance of individual schools in meaningfully influencing their students’ likelihood of enrolling in and succeeding at college.”
In “The College Match” report, researchers found a larger than expected group of highly successful students in each district who either do not attend college at all or opt out to attend less selective post secondary institutions.
Other analyses, conducted by SDP and others, confirm that students are more likely to drop out of colleges that are not sufficiently academically challenging to them. As a result, they are less likely to attain a post-secondary degree.
The partnering school districts in the study are the Boston Public Schools, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, the Fort Worth (Texas) Independent School District, the Fulton County (Ga.) Schools, and the Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Schools. These school districts collectively serve over 500000 students, 56 percent of whom are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and 72 percent of whom are ethnic minorities.
The Strategic Data Project will release its findings about teacher assignment and retention later this year.
Read the reports.
- HB519 (Patmon) School Metal Detectors: Requires public schools to install metal detectors in all classroom buildings unless they obtain a waiver from the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Grants available for Cleveland and Dayton: The MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts Education Program is accepting applications for grants of up to $20,000 from organizations that are full members of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and are located in Cleveland and Dayton. (Non-member organizations should submit a membership application and first-year dues payments at least one week prior to submitting an application.)
Projects must enhance arts learning in K-12 public schools by supporting exemplary community school/public school partnerships that serve large numbers of public school students during the school day; exemplify best practices in creating and sustaining effective partnerships; provide pedagogically sound arts education experiences; prioritize student learning and achievement; and address national, state, and/or local arts education standards.
Applications are due May 17, 2012. More information is available.
Students Thrive in Arts School: An article in the Orlando Sentinel on April 7, 2012, “Success fuels Oscelola School for the Arts’ Popularity” by Leslie Posta, describes how student achievement in the arts and other subjects drives a public school in Osceola County, Florida.
The Osceloa School for the Arts includes grades 6-12 and has an enrollment of 840 students. It is one of central Florida’s highest performing schools earning an “A” rating for eight years in a row, and last year 19 students earned all-state music honors.
The school is open to any student in the county, but students must audition and be accepted. Some students who do not retain at least average scores in their arts courses are asked to leave. Students are required to take two courses in an “arts major” each year in addition to other academic subjects.
The article is available.