130th General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate will not hold sessions this week, but some committees will be meeting. The House and Senate Education committees will not be meeting.
Straight A Fund Seminar: The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) held its first seminar for those who anticipate applying for grants through the new Straight A Fund. The online presentation is posted on the ODE website.
Writing Student Learning Objectives: The Ohio Department of Education released on September 9, 2013 a new online module to complement the four Student Growth Measure Modules delivered in training sessions held throughout Ohio in November and December 2012.
According to the ODE, “This fifth module, Writing SLOs, contains two components. Module 5A guides viewers through the student learning objective writing process and provides in-depth guidance on data analysis using mock data to formulate appropriate growth targets. Module 5B supports teachers in constructing a student learning objective using available data from their own unique student population.”
The modules are available.
Will the Government Shut-Down?? Once again (this has been happening for the past several years) Congress and the Obama Administration are facing an October 1, 2013 deadline to reach an agreement on federal FY14 appropriations to avoid a government shutdown. Over the past several years Congress and the White House have avoided a shutdown by approving a continuing resolution (CR) that extends federal spending until Congress and the President can reach an agreement on appropriations for the next fiscal year.
However, this year is different. Complicating this year’s debate is an effort by Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The U.S. House of Representatives approved on September 20, 2013 House Joint Resolution 59, which would keep the government running until December 15, 2013, but also would eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Senate has sufficient votes to remove the defund provision, and President Obama would veto the measure anyway, leading to the current stalemate.
A government shutdown would deal a severe blow to our nation’s economy, which is still recovering from the last recession, and would disrupt the lives of thousand of government workers, military personal and their dependants, as well as private businesses that rely on commerce with the government or those employed by the government.
GAO Releases Report on Teacher Evaluations: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on September 18, 2013 a report entitled Race to the Top: States Implementing Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems Despite Challenges. The report was requested by Representative John Kline, Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The report examines the extent to which twelve states participating in the Race to the Top (RTT) grant program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education starting in 2010, have implemented teacher and principal evaluation systems; the challenges the grantee states have faced in designing and implementing these systems; and how the U.S. Department of Education has helped grantee states meet their RTT objectives for teacher and principal evaluation systems.
Race to the Top is one of the largest competitive grant programs ever administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Starting in 2010, the program awarded $4 billion to 12 states to adopt new rigorous standards and assessments, build data systems, recruit, train, and evaluate teachers and principals, and improve low performing schools. The new teacher and principal evaluation systems were required to take into account data on student academic growth, and were to be used to inform personnel decisions, such as compensation, promotion, and retention.
According to the report, the GAO found that 6 of 12 RTT states had fully implemented an evaluation system for teachers and principals by the 2012-13 school year. However, of the six states that had implemented systems, only three had met their target date. The other three states needed extensions for various reasons. The six states that have implemented new evaluation systems are Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
The six states that did not fully implement the new evaluation systems were either piloting them or partially implementing them in 2012-13. Ohio is one of the states that was piloting the system last year.
The report found that state and school district officials cited the following challenges as they implemented the new teacher and principal evaluations:
- Developing and using student learning objectives (SLOs) to assess student academic growth in non tested grades and subjects. State and school district officials reported that it is difficult to ensure that SLOs are rigorous, reliable, and an accurate way to measure student learning and assess teacher effectiveness.
- Ensuring that principal evaluations of teachers are consistent, including classroom observations and evaluations of other evidence. State and school officials noted that principal evaluations are often not consistent with student growth data for teachers. Since the student growth data for teachers is not available until the following year, some are concerned that in the future the results of student growth data for the past year could influence teacher evaluations in the coming year.
- Building sufficient capacity and sustainability. Most state officials and school districts reported that they lacked sufficient staff and expertise to implement the new teacher/principal evaluation systems. They also noted that the evaluation process increased the workload of principals and affected how principals fulfilled their other duties, including implementing the Common Core State Standards. State officials and school districts also reported the high cost of designing and implementing the evaluation systems, and that the RTT grant was insufficient, meaning school districts had to use their own money to develop the evaluations in some cases. Most RTT states also reported that they will not have resources to maintain staff to provide technical support (analysis and student growth data) when grant funds are no longer available.
The full report is available.
More on Double Testing: The U.S. Department of Education released on September 17, 2013 guidelines about student testing and meeting accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act after California and other states began to raise questions about double-testing students.
Double-testing could occur as states field test new assessments, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, while administering their current assessments for accountability and reporting purposes. The new assessments in math and English language arts aligned to the Common Core State Standards are being developed by two consortia: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and are being field tested this coming spring.
Lawmakers in California approved a law that limits student testing while the state phases-in the new assessments and suspends for this year counting student results on the new assessments. This decision raised concerns about how schools and districts would be held accountable, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a statement challenging the California decision. (See his statement.)
The U.S. Department of Education guidance allows states to give either their own tests or a consortium field test, as long as each student takes a complete test in both math and English/language arts. States that use the field tests will not be required to report results. They are required to report progress toward their stated goals, for students who take the state’s own tests, and participation rates, in the aggregate and for subgroups. States that use the field tests, and don’t report the results, can request from the U.S. DOE a waiver that would allow schools and districts to retain their current accountability designation for this year.
The guidance document is available.
Child Care and Development Block Grant Moving Forward: The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin, approved on September 18, 2013 the Reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 (CCDBG). The $5.2 billion program was created in the 1990s to expand access and improve the quality of child care, and is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This reauthorization would improve child care program quality for low-income and at-risk children and families; address the nutritional and physical activity needs of children in child care settings; strengthen coordination and alignment to contribute to a more comprehensive early childhood education and care system; meet the needs of children with disabilities who require child care; ensure continuity of services; and ensure the safety and health of children. The act enjoyed bipartisan support and might reach the Senate floor this fall. Information about the Child Care Act is available.
What Can You Learn From the Ohio School Report Card?: The Ohio Department of Education released the 2012-13 Ohio School Report Cards in August 2013. The new A-F rating system assesses school districts and schools on up to nine areas.
An analysis of the report card results by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO), and Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) was released on September 16, 2013. According to the press release, the analysis “…confirms research that shows poverty has a direct correlation to student performance. Using the report cards’ Performance Index (PI) as the measure, analysts examined the relationship between the PI and average income in a school district; poverty rate; percentage of residents with college degrees; and minority population.”
The press release states, “The 123 Ohio school districts considered by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to be suburban districts showed not only the highest PI scores, but also the highest average income, lowest poverty rate and highest concentration of college degrees.”
The analysis shows that as the average income level of a school district drops, so does the Performance Index score. When the PI score is compared to the percent of poverty in a district, as the percent of poverty increases, the PI score decreases.
Report on Race to the Top: The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) released on September 12, 2013 a report entitled, Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement: Lack of Time, Resources, and Tools to Address Opportunity Gaps Puts Lofty State Goals Out of Reach by Elaine Weiss. (the report is available.)
The report examines the status of states and school districts participating in the federal Race to the Top grant program in year three of the grant, which lasts one more year, and how states and schools have met commitments in four areas: new teacher and principal evaluation systems; strong data systems to measure student progress; teacher preparation programs; alternative routes to certification; and turning-around lowest performing schools.
The author states, “Overall, this assessment finds that the key tenet of Race to the Top—that a state hold teachers and schools accountable before helping them establish foundations for success—is deeply flawed. The push to do too much too quickly with too few resources has led teachers, principals, and superintendents to express frustration and stress. Most critical, many of the major problems limiting student and school success remain unaddressed.”
The report is based on surveys and interviews with state officials and school district officials in Race to the Top states, as well as data from U.S. Department of Education reports on state implementation of Race to the Top grants. The report states the following:
- States made unrealistic and impossible promises, including promises to close achievement gaps and raise student achievement, and implementing teacher evaluation systems. Schools and districts were rushed to implement new initiatives without appropriate time to pilot or adapt them.
- RTTT policies fall short on teacher improvement and fail to address core drivers of opportunity gaps. States have not been able to use teacher evaluations to improve instruction; attention has focused on math and reading to the detriment of other subjects; states are struggling to assess teachers in non tested areas and teachers of younger students; states have hired more young, largely uncredentialed novices to teach disadvantaged students; and there has been a failure to address poverty-related impediments to learning.
- RTTT shortcomings have spurred state-district and union-management conflicts that hinder progress. States and school districts lacked the capacity to implement and sustain the initiatives: school districts have postponed, scaled-back, or canceled promised initiatives due to the lack of resources; districts protested state micro-management, limited resources, and poor communications; school and district support for RTTT has decreased in some states; and limited funding and lack of professional development is raising concerns about implementing the Common Core State Standards.
On the positive side, the report found that, “States and districts that laid strong foundations for change, including making teachers real partners, and making union–management collaboration fundamental to the success of reform, have seen the most progress, have encountered the fewest bumps, and seem more likely to sustain gains. District and school culture, which varies tremendously within and across states, also plays a role in determining whether implementation efforts are succeeding or struggling.”
Appendix A of the report provides an overview of the implementation of RTTT in Ohio and Ohio’s progress in reaching the academic goals outlined in its grant proposal. The overview includes the following conclusions:
- Ohio’s students saw no statistically significant improvement in proficiency in either math or reading between school years 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, as measured by fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP scores. “Through those years, just over one-third of fourth- and eighth-graders were proficient in reading, and the same shares of eighth-graders but 45 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in math. As a result, Ohio missed three of its four 2010–2011 targets (U.S. ED 2012b, 7).”
- Ohio students failed to attain growth targets the state set in English-language arts in grades 3-10 with the exception of eighth grade, and that was only because the target had been set well below the level of the prior year. “Other than narrowly achieving the fifth-grade target, students missed every math goal, and in third and sixth grades performance declined slightly from the prior year, causing the state to miss those targets by more than 7 percentage points (U.S. ED 2013e, 6).”
- Achievement gaps widened among groups of students in fourth-grade math and reading and in eighth-grade reading when compared to Massachusetts (a benchmark state for Ohio), narrowing only the eighth-grade math gap (due to a combination of a statistically insignificant three-point gain in Ohio and the loss of a point in Massachusetts) (ODE 2013, 21).
The report also states, “…… a 2013 RTTT progress report by the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC), a collaboration of researchers from six universities and five other state research institutions, notes that income-based achievement gaps grew slightly. The gap in math increased by 0.3 percent, and the reading gap grew by 0.5 percent, putting the goal of closing them further out of reach (ODE 2013, 16). Race-based gaps grew at a slightly lower rate: by 0.3 percent in math and 0.2 percent in reading. These increases indicate either that low-income and minority students actually lost ground, and/or that any small achievement gains that did accrue went disproportionately to advantaged students, not to those the reforms target.”
- The OERC report also found that the graduation rate in the state is rising, but it rose at a slightly higher rate from 2010 to 2011 in non-RTTT districts than in participating LEAs (OERC 2013, 8).
The report also notes, “And while the race-based graduation gap narrowed slightly, the income-based gap grew a bit. Disadvantaged students also gained slightly less ground in Race to the Top districts in terms of graduation rates—an increase of 1.5 percent in RTTT districts vs. 2 percent in other districts. However, the state did make progress toward its goal of doubling the increase in college enrollment, adding 1,200 additional students between 2010 and 2011; it still has 2,400 to add by 2014 (ODE 2013, 24).”
The report for Ohio concludes: “As set out above, the evidence base does not suggest that changes enacted under Race to the Top could come anywhere close to producing the improvements in student outcomes that Ohio predicted. Nor does any research support the potential for even the most effective reforms to boost achievement in such a short time. That said, the lack of virtually any progress in Ohio in the first three of four years of the initiative’s grant period should give serious pause to its proponents. It should also serve as a caution for states implementing similar policy agendas, and for the Department of Education’s implicit agreement with states that such ambitious goals could be achieved.”
HB269 (Becker) Voter Identification Law Change: Revises the law concerning the identification an elector must provide in order to cast absent voter’s ballots, vote in person at a polling place, or cast a provisional ballot.
HB245 (Barborak) Property Tax Rollback: Extends the 10 percent and 2.5 percent partial property tax “rollback” exemptions to new and replacement levies approved at the 2013 general election and declares an emergency.
SB193 (Seitz) Political Parties: Eliminates intermediate political parties and revises the processes for determining political party status and for establishing new political parties.
The following bills have been assigned to the House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Stebelton:
HB228 (Brenner) School Funding: Reforms the system of funding elementary and secondary education.
HB237 (Thompson) Common Core Initiative: With respect to the Common Core Initiative academic standards and the distribution of student information.
HB241 (Hagan) School Employees-Sexual Conduct: Prohibits an employee of a public or nonpublic school or institution of higher education from engaging in sexual conduct with a minor who is enrolled in or attends that public or nonpublic school.
HB242 (Hagan/Foley) Higher Education-Pay Forward-Pay Backward Program: Requires the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents to consider creating a pilot program called “Pay Forward, Pay Back” to replace the current tuition system at state institutions of higher education and declares an emergency.
HB254 (Lynch/Retherford) Undocumented Aliens-Discounted Tuition: Prohibits state institutions of higher education from providing in-state residency status to undocumented aliens.
HB256 (Sykes/Watchmann) Health Education Standards: Requires the State Board of Education to adopt national health education standards or develop its own health education standards based on the national standards for grades kindergarten through twelve.
The following bill has been assigned to the Finance and Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative Amstutz.
HB245 (Barborak) Property Tax Rollback: Extends the 10 percent and 2.5 percent partial property tax “rollback” exemptions to new and replacement levies approved at the 2013 general election and declares an emergency.
OAC Executive Director Announces Retirement: Julie Henahan, executive director of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC), recently announced that she will retire August 1, 2014, ending a 30-year career with the OAC. While at the OAC, Ms. Henahan served eight years as director of the grants office and four years as deputy director. She was appointed executive director in September 2006 and successfully guided the OAC through restructuring in response to dramatic budget cuts and staff reductions as a result of the recession.
Ms. Henahan was instrumental in securing several major federal grants during her tenure with the agency, including the annual partnership grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, totaling more than $18 million. She has also represented the OAC on several boards and committees during her career, including the board of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA, Washington, DC) and is also chair of its Governance Committee. She recently served on the Ohio Holocaust Memorial Committee and serves in an advisory capacity to The ELEVEN, a public art project in Canton, Ohio celebrating the eleven most important moments in NFL history.
The Ohio Arts Council Board, Jeff A. Rich chair, has not announced the process that will be used to select the next executive director.
Comprehensive Study Supports Field Trips: EducationNext recently published the results of “….the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum.” The study was conducted by Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, with Brian Kisida, a senior research associate and Daniel H. Bowen, a doctoral student. (See The Educational Value of Field Trips: Taking students to an art museum improves critical thinking skills, and more.)
The study was conducted in 2011 at the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas. The Crystal Bridges endowment covers all expenses for students to visit the museum, and the demand for school tours is high. Researchers created matched pairs among the applicant groups requesting tours based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors, and then randomly assigned which applicant would be in the treatment group and receive a tour that semester, and which applicant group would be in the control group and have its tour deferred. Surveys were administered to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools on average three weeks after the treatment group received its tour. The researchers report the following results:
- Students who participated in the school tours were able to recall a great deal of factual information from them. “For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting At the Camp—Spinning Yarns and Whittling knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied on slave labor. Similarly, 82 percent of those who saw Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter could recall that the painting emphasizes the importance of women entering the workforce during World War II.”
- Participating students displayed stronger ability to think critically about art than the control group, and made more observant comments when asked to describe art. “We express the impact of a school tour of Crystal Bridges on critical-thinking skills in terms of standard-deviation effect sizes. Overall, we find that students assigned by lottery to a tour of the museum improve their ability to think critically about art by 9 percent of a standard deviation relative to the control group.”
- Participating students displayed more historical empathy, which is the ability to understand and appreciate what life was like for people who lived in a different time and place. “Students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges experienced a 6 percent of a standard deviation increase in historical empathy.”
- Students displayed more tolerance. “Overall, receiving a school tour of an art museum increases student tolerance by 7 percent of a standard deviation. As with critical thinking, the benefits are much larger for students in disadvantaged groups. Rural students who visited Crystal Bridges experience a 13 percent of a standard deviation improvement in tolerance. For students at high-poverty schools, the benefit is 9 percent of a standard deviation.”
- Students displayed an interest to visit art museums. “Interest in visiting art museums among students who toured the museum is 8 percent of a standard deviation higher than that in the randomized control group. Among rural students, the increase is much larger: 22 percent of a standard deviation. Students at high-poverty schools score 11 percent of a standard deviation higher on the cultural consumer scale if they were randomly assigned to tour the museum. And minority students gain 10 percent of a standard deviation in their desire to be art consumers.”
- The benefits of a school tour are generally much larger for students from less-advantaged backgrounds. “Students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students, typically show gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample. Disadvantaged students assigned by lottery to receive a school tour of an art museum make exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and becoming art consumers.”
Researchers noted the following policy implications as a result of the study:
- School field trips to cultural institutions have notable benefits.
- Students experience improvements in their knowledge of and ability to think critically about art, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher tolerance, and are more likely to visit such cultural institutions as art museums in the future.
- It is particularly important that schools serving disadvantaged students provide culturally enriching field trip experiences.
- Policymakers should consider these results when deciding whether schools have sufficient resources and appropriate policy guidance to take their students on tours of cultural institutions.
- School administrators should give thought to these results when deciding whether to use their resources and time for these tours.
- Philanthropists should weigh these results when deciding whether to build and maintain these cultural institutions with quality educational programs.
According to the authors, “We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.”
Governor’s Residence to Showcase Ohio Art: Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich announced last week the opening of Spotlight: Featured Artists at the Ohio Governor’s Residence in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council. The program will feature the works of a different Ohio artist every three months at the Governor’s Residence.
The program will start on September 25, 2013 with three works of Columbus artist Wallace Peck, who was a featured artist at the 2012 Greater Columbus Arts Festival and recently had a solo exhibition at the Lindsay Gallery in Columbus’ Short North.
Information about Spotlight, is available.