129th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate are not scheduled to meet this week.
Election News: U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley ordered on October 24, 2012 that provisional ballots cast in the wrong polling place, but in the same county, be counted. The order extends the ruling in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) v. Husted and Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) v. Husted, issued in August 2012, and upheld in part by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The new order also removes a provision allowing the votes of persons who failed to properly sign an affirmation form, to be counted. This provision was not upheld on appeal by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court. The order is available.
PreK-20 Education System Discussed: Connect Ohio held on October 26, 2012 a panel discussion about a new report entitled Broadband and Education: Enriching Ohio’s Students through Technology. During the discussion Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro said the Ohio Board of Regents (BOR) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) need to be working together to support a preK-20 education. The Ohio Board of Regents is now moving into the ODE building on Front Street, and as a result, more collaboration among ODE and BOR staff will be possible. The current ODE building will become the Ohio Education Center. To accomplish a complete merger of ODE and BOR, however, the State Constitution and laws would need to be changed. The Ohio Constitution calls for a State Board of Education, which appoints the superintendent of public instruction, while the Chancellor of the Board of Regents is required by law. The Constitutional Review Commission is currently reviewing proposed amendments, and could recommend this change. A video of the panel discussion is available.
Boarding School for At-Risk Students Moving Forward: The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) approved on October 25, 2012 $16 million to build The SEED School of Cincinnati, a publicly funded boarding school for low income at-risk students, authorized in HB153 the FY12-13 budget. The law requires the school to be set-up as a public-private partnership. The SEED Foundation, which runs similar boarding schools in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, is the only nonprofit organization to respond to a request for proposals to operate the school. The total cost for the school and dormitories is $39.67 million. The SEED Foundation will contribute over $28 million to the project, and will completely pay for the dorms, while public funds will be used to build the school. The school is expected to open in 2014-15. More information is available.
Grants for Charter Schools Need Better Oversight: The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education released in September 2012 a final audit report entitled Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Oversight and Monitoring of the Charter Schools Programs’s Planning and Implementation Grants from August 1, 2007 through September 30, 2011. The audit was conducted to determine whether or not the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) had effective oversight and monitoring to ensure that recipients of the Charter Schools Program’s State Educational Agency (SEA) Planning and Implementation Grant and the Charter School Program non-SEA Planning and Implementation Grant met certain goals and objectives. During the audit period, the total award amount for the SEA and non-SEA grants was $908,946,593 and $31,284,442, respectively.
The purpose of the grant programs is to create new, high-quality public charter schools; to disseminate information about charter schools with a proven track record; to replicate and expand successful schools; to help charter schools find suitable facilities; and to pay for national activities and initiatives that support charter schools. The largest portion of Charter School Program funds are used to plan and start up new charter schools and disseminate information about existing charters in States with charter school laws.
Three SEAs were selected for the audit: the California Department of Education (California SEA), the Arizona Department of Education (Arizona SEA), and the Florida Department of Education (Florida SEA). For the non-SEA grant, all of OII’s files on Arizona charter schools that received the non-SEA grant during the audit period were reviewed.
The audit found the following:
- The OII did not effectively oversee and monitor grants and did not have an adequate process to ensure SEAs effectively oversaw and monitored their sub grant recipients. “Specifically, OII did not have an adequate corrective action plan process in place to ensure grantees corrected deficiencies noted in annual monitoring reports, did not have a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring, and did not adequately review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities.”
- OII did not provide the SEAs with adequate guidance on the monitoring activities they were to conduct in order to comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations. The audit identified internal control deficiencies in the monitoring and oversight of charter schools that received the SEA grant at all three of the SEAs. For example, none of the three SEAs adequately monitored charter schools receiving the SEA grants, had adequate methodologies to select charter schools for onsite monitoring, or monitored authorizing agencies.
- The Florida SEA did not track how much SEA grant funding charter schools drew down and spent. The California SEA had unqualified reviewers performing onsite monitoring.
- The OII did not ensure SEAs developed and implemented adequate monitoring procedures for properly handling charter school closures. The OII did not ensure that SEAs had procedures to properly account for SEA grant funds spent by closed charter schools and dispose of assets purchased with SEA grant funds in accordance with Federal regulations.
The report includes the following recommendations:
The Assistant Deputy Secretary should,
- develop and implement a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring activities
- develop and implement policies and procedures for monitoring grantee fiscal activities, specifically for quarterly expenditure review and annual review of Single Audit reports
- establish and implement requirements for SEAs to develop a detailed monitoring plan explaining the extent of monitoring that will be conducted during an SEA grant cycle
- provide necessary guidance and training to SEAs for the development and implementation of procedures to ensure SEAs have effective monitoring and fiscal controls for tracking the use of funds, and
- ensure SEAs have procedures to properly account for SEA grant funds spent by closed charter schools and for the disposal of assets purchased with SEA grant funds in accordance with Federal regulations.
The U. S. Department of Education’s Audit Accountability and Resolution Tracking System will be used to track the implementation of the corrective action plan (CAP), which is to be developed within 30 days of the issuance of this report. The CAP will set forth the specific action items and targeted completion dates necessary to implement the final corrective actions on the findings and recommendations contained in this final audit report.
The report is available.
Second Report on Attendance Irregularities Released: State Auditor Dave Yost released on October 23, 2012 a second preliminary report about an ongoing investigation of school districts for irregularities in their reports about student attendance, enrollment, and withdrawals. (Second Interim Report on Student Attendance Data and Accountability System, October 23, 2012). The report examines the results to date for selected school districts with levies on the November 2012 ballot. Aside from some errors in coding student withdrawals, the attendance reports of most of the schools examined were in order, and eight schools are still under investigation.
Schools with a levy on the November 2012 ballot were selected for review based on a metric showing the frequency of students who had test results “rolled up” to the state, because of breaks in enrollment. 81 schools from 47 districts fit the criteria out of a total 184 school districts with funding issues on the ballot. Auditors sampled the attendance records of students “rolled” up to the state rather than reviewing all of the student records with enrollment breaks. This audit also identified another 26 districts which do not fit the criteria, and will be excluded from further investigations.
The first interim report issued by the Auditor’s Office on October 4, 2012 examined 100 schools in 48 districts and found improper withdrawals of students in five school districts. A final report about attendance report irregularities is due next year.
The new report is available.
What is the Best School Reform Effort? A Living Wage!!: David Berliner, the Regents’ Professor Emeritus in The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University writes in the Teachers College Record “….the best way to improve America’s schools is through jobs that provide families living wages. Other programs are noted that offer some help for students from poor families. But in the end, it is inequality in income and the poverty that accompanies such inequality, that matters most for education.” (“Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth by David C. Berliner — 2014 Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 1, 2014, p. – http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16889, Date Accessed: 10/27/2012 3:10:12 PM.)
The essay debunks “wrongheaded” education policies and describes how “occasional successes” in education have become the basis for new education reforms and policies based on “myths”, such as an excellent teacher can turn around the lives of failing students; high-stakes testing programs will make “lazy” students, teachers, and administrators work harder to improve student achievement; national standards will improve student learning; retaining students will improve reading; and high-stakes teacher evaluations will improve teaching. According to the author these “myths” have become drivers of national educational policies, using-up resources (time and money) on programs that “do not work consistently enough for most children and their families, while simultaneously wasting the good will of the public” and “burdening teachers with demands for success that are beyond their capabilities.”
The author believes that these reform efforts mask the real issues that students, families, and schools face: “Powerful social forces exist to constrain the lives led by the poor, and our nation pays an enormous price for not trying harder to ameliorate these conditions.”
The author explains that researchers have determined that the “school effect” accounts for about 20 percent of the variation in achievement test scores (and teachers are only a part of the school effect), while out of school variables (income level, health, food insecurity, mobility, language spoken at home, etc.) account for 60 percent. When examining the results in reading of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) researchers found that socio-economic factors explained 17 percent of the variation in scores of students in the U.S., but only 10 percent of the outcomes for students in countries such as Norway, Japan, Finland, and Canada. The social status of a student in the U.S. has more of an effect on test scores than in other countries, and furthermore, other countries are able to ameliorate the effects of the disadvantaged background of students better than the U.S.
The author also debunks the myth that America’s education system is failing universally. The results of the international study of math and science trends (TIMSS) in 2007 show that American schools with less than 10 percent of children eligible for free and reduced lunch scored the highest in the world, and even students in schools with up to 24.9 percent of students in poverty had scores exceeded by only four nations. In fact over half of the elementary and middle school student population (26 million students) perform well on this international exam. Approximately nine million students (20 percent), however, attend schools where over 75 percent of the student body is eligible for free and reduced lunch, and the average score for these students is over 100 points lower than students in schools with less than 10 percent poverty.
The author writes, “Instead of facing the issues connected with poverty and housing policy, federal and state education policies are attempting to test more frequently; raise the quality of entering teachers; evaluate teachers on their test scores and fire the ones that have students who perform poorly; use incentives for students and teachers; allow untrained adults with college degrees to enter the profession; break teachers unions, and so forth. Some of these policies may help to improve education, but it is clear that the real issues are around neighborhood, family, and school poverty rates, predominantly associated with the lack of jobs that pay enough for people to live with some dignity.”
To improve education outcomes and income equality, the author makes the following recommendations:
- Provide a fair living wage rather than a minimum wage.
- Increase taxes. “Only two countries pay a lower rate of taxes relative to Gross Domestic Product, while 29 countries pay more in taxes, and countries like Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, and Sweden, pay about 75% more in taxes than we do to support civic life (Citizens for Tax Justice, 2011).”
- Require all corporations to pay a minimum tax, and examine tax rebates, which in some cases give tax dollars to corporations that pay no taxes.
- Support early childhood education programs.
- Reduce class size for students in the early grades.
- Provide summer educational opportunities that are both academic and cultural.
- Provide tutoring to students before and after school rather than retaining them.
- Reduce teacher mobility so that low-performing schools have experienced, rather than new teachers.
- Support “wrap-around” services for schools serving poor families.
- Make the school part of the community by offering job training, access to technology, health clinics, etc.
- Develop housing policies to support mixed-income neighborhoods.
The article is available.
Expert Summit on Teacher Evaluation Exposes Issues with Using Value-Added Measures: The Institute of Education Sciences released a summary of a meeting held on August 9, 2012 entitled Learning from Recent Advances in Measuring Teacher Effectiveness. Participants included researchers in the area of teacher effectiveness, value-added measures (VAMs), and student growth models (SGMs). The purpose of the meeting was to examine different perspectives and interpretations about research that is simultaneously being conducted by economists, statisticians, and educators in VAMs and SGMs, and get a better understanding of areas of common ground and what is actually working.
According to the summary, some researchers studying the use of VAMs and SGMs to evaluate teachers believe that there is enough evidence to conclude that VAMs provide real information about teacher effectiveness to support their role in teacher evaluations, particularly when other indicators are also used, while other experts believe that there are “real problems with VAMs; it is not clear how they will function in real-world settings, and so VAMs should only be used with caution.”
Participants discussed and identified a number of questions regarding the use of VAMs and SGMs for teacher evaluations:
- How can evaluators ensure that value-added measures are not biased, and how can unbiased data be collected?
- How can classroom effects be separated from teacher effects?
- Are value-added measures fair, stable, and useful?
- What is the “consequential validity” of introducing VAMs into teacher evaluations? Will there be more emphasis on math and reading at the expense of other subjects? Will there be more cheating? Will students be sorted and selected by teachers? Will student grades be inflated?
- What is the role of the principal in teacher evaluations and how can principals become better evaluators of teaching?
- Can value-added data validate observational assessment of teaching?
- How do the quality, timing, and the properties of assessments affect value-added results?
- Will better statistical models resolve the inadequacies of using value-added data for teacher evaluations?
- How does student interaction with other teachers affect value-added results?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of a combination of teacher evaluation measures?
- How can other desirable student outcomes (range of academic subjects, attitudes, and dispositions) be included in teacher evaluations?
- How does student exposure to a particular curriculum affect value-added results?
- Are current state tests an adequate measure of student learning?
- How are value-added results used to diagnose and meet student needs?
- Should local audits be used as a check and balance on the value-added results used to evaluate teachers?
- What communication tools are needed to adequately inform teachers about the results of their evaluation?’
- How can teacher observations be improved? Using videos to capture classroom instruction was suggested.
- Will teachers have enough time to adapt to teaching the common core standards before student test results are used to evaluate them?
The report is available.
Integrating the Curriculum to Support Learning: Kenneth Wesson, a former psychology professor at San José State University in San José, California, writes in an Education Week article that problem solving in the “real world” requires critical and creative thinking to mentally manipulate a broad range of divergent perspectives using science, technology, engineering, mathematics, language, and art (visual and spacial thinking). (From STEM to ST2REAM: Reassembling our disaggregated curriculum” by Kenneth Wesson, Education Week October 24, 2012.)
According to the author, the conventional delivery system for learning, subject isolation and memorization, does not support the deepest kinds of learning that make substantive changes to the brain circuitry, physiology, and architecture. “Learning is hardly a process of acquisition”, he writes, “but instead is the integration of new elements into a complex web of ever-expanding intertwined knowledge that has personal meaning”. Students need a variety of “bridges” to make connections among the subject-area “silos” of our current discipline-based curriculum to increase the number of neural pathways in the brain.
Students can better learn and describe what they have learned through models, illustrations, and visual information. According to the author, “Developing visual literacy is an essential ingredient in design and engineering. STEAM adds art to the equation, while reading, writing, listening, and speaking are embedded in the ST2REAM model, in which each of the composing disciplines is intentionally deployed to explain and comprehend its counterparts.”
The article is available.
Proposed Tax to Support Arts Education: According to an article in the Education Week voters in Portland, Oregon will have the opportunity on November 6, 2012 to approve a new tax which will be used to support arts education. (“Voters to Weigh New Tax for Arts Education in Portland, Oregon” by Erik Robelen, Education Week, October 24, 2012)
Adults with incomes above the federal poverty line will be taxed $35 per year if Measure 26-146 is approved. This is one of four Portland issues in addition to nine statewide issues on the Oregon ballot this year. Other local issues include a $482 million capital bond for the Portland school district, and a tax increase for libraries.
The arts tax is estimated to raise $12 million a year, and will be used to hire art and music teachers in public elementary schools, and provide grants to nonprofit arts organizations and other entities to make arts and cultural offerings more widely available.
Opposition to the tax is coming from business groups and some who believe the tax is regressive, because low-income adults will pay the same rate as multimillionaires.
The article is available.