130th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate will hold hearings and sessions this week.
Controlling Board Accepts Federal Medicaid Funds: The Controlling Board on October 21, 2013 accepted by a vote of 5-2 $2.5 billion in federal funds to expand Medicaid in Ohio to approximately 360,000 individuals who fall into the “Medicaid funding gap”. House Speaker Batchelder replaced two members of the board to ensure passage of the measure. Governor Kasich has been urging the General Assembly since February to expand Medicaid to cover individuals who would not qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) income assistance program, but would still be too poor to purchase health care insurance on their own. These individuals have a household income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $15,000 for a single person and about $31,000 for a family of four. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate delayed taking action on the governor’s Medicaid recommendation, and instead have been debating several bills to reform Ohio’s Medicaid program to make it more efficient.
As a result of the Controlling Board action several Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit on October 23, 2013 ordering the Controlling Board to vacate the decision. Also as a result, Senator Widener, one of the Controlling Board members who voted to accept the federal funds, introduced a bill (SB210) to cut state income taxes by the $400 million, which is the amount of state funding that will be offset by the federal Medicaid funds.
Tax Reform Bill Moves Forward: The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Representative Peter Beck, accepted on October 23, 2013 a substitute version of HB5 (Grossman/Henne) Tax Reform, which could change tax policies and rules for local jurisdictions. Currently municipalities, villages, and other taxing jurisdictions set their own rules and penalties for collecting local taxes. The multiple regulations, forms, and reporting requirements drive up the cost for Ohio businesses operating statewide, and are reported to discourage businesses from locating in Ohio. The bill would impose some “uniformity” to help businesses navigate the tax regulations in local jurisdictions. The House Ways and Means Committee has been working on this bill for months, and discussions are expected to continue among the stakeholders, which include municipal and local government officials, and representatives of the business community.
Letter Urges President to Reduce Standardized Testing: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, Monty Neill executive director, announced on October 21, 2013 that it had coordinated the gathering of over 120 signatures of children’s authors and illustrators on a letter that asked President Obama to change the way children are assessed in schools, so that schools can “… nurture creativity, exploration, and the love of literature.” The letter was delivered to the White House with the signatures of famous authors, such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and Deborah Underwood, to convince the President that the current federal policies that promote more standardized testing and using student test score results to grade teachers, have a negative impact on children and learning, and should be halted. The letter is available.
Concerns About Student Privacy and Data: Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on October 22, 2013 requesting answers to several questions regarding the increased collection and distribution of data about public school students and the impact on student privacy. The letter asked Secretary Duncan for the following:
- to explain why the rules for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) were changed so that schools could outsource the collection and analysis of confidential student data to third party vendors, and permit other government agencies to access student data
- to provide any analysis of the types of data that are being collected and shared about students
- to explain the types of checks and safeguards that are in place to protect student confidentiality
- to provide any federal standards or guidelines that detail how schools should store and maintain confidential student data, and if the data can be sold
- to explain how students and parents can access personal data collected
The Senator requested a response from the U.S. DOE by November 12, 2013. The letter is available.
Update on Sequestration: The automatic cuts in the federal budget known as sequestration were implemented through the Budget Control Act of 2011, but didn’t go into effect until March 1, 2013, when Congress and President Obama were not able to come to an agreement on FY13 appropriations. The total amount that was reduced from the federal budget was $85 billion. The reductions in spending authority reduced the U.S. Department of Education’s budget by about five percent, including $726 million from Title I funds for disadvantaged students; $579 million from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; $67 million from Impact Aid; $400 million from Head Start; and more.
The bad news is that without Congressional action, another round of cuts will be made in January 2014, and will continue annually for the next eight years. The good news is a bipartisan Congressional conference committee, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), has been formed to develop a federal FY14 spending plan by mid-December. The plan could restore some of the sequestration cuts and avert additional cuts. Stay tuned…..
A summary of the cuts made to the U.S. Department of Education as a result of sequestration is available.
House Passes Bill Requiring Background Checks in Schools: The U.S. House of Representatives approved on October 22, 2013 The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act (H.R.2083). The bipartisan act “…creates consistency across states in criminal history background check policy. It requires public schools to conduct comprehensive background checks for any employee or applicant for employment with unsupervised access to children, using state criminal and child abuse registries and the FBI’s fingerprint database, as well as to periodically update these checks. It would also prohibit school districts from hiring or retaining anyone who has been convicted of certain violent crimes, including crimes against children, crimes involving rape or sexual assault, and child pornography.” Information about the legislation is available.
This Week at the Statehouse
House Education Committee: The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Stebelton, will meet on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM in Hearing Room 121. The committee will receive testimony on HB296 (Johnson/Duffey) Schools-Epinephrine Autoinjectors; HB171 (McClain/Patmon) Released Time Courses-Religious Instruction; HB215 (Devitis) School Safety; and HB216 (Patterson) School Indebtedness.
Here’s Something You Don’t See Often: Elementary school teacher Brian Cleary writes on October 22, 2013 for Education Week that there is Some Good News About Public Schools even though teachers and parents have to constantly listen to complaints to the contrary. Although he knows that public schools are not perfect and wants to improve them, he writes, “But our kids are doing better every year. I see evidence of that too, even when those complaining don’t.”
What is the evidence? Mr. Cleary cites some statistics that show a decline in the dropout rate and an increase in the literacy rate, and then lists the number of accomplished Nobel Prize winners, musicians, presidents, and successful individuals who are products of public education.
He writes, “I am not trying to keep up with the pace of change in the world. I am trying to prepare students for a world of change. I will continue to change the world one student at a time.”
See Some good news about public schools by Brian Cleary, October 22, 2913, Education Week Commentary,
Report Compares Student Progress in Math and Science: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education released on October 24, 2013 a new report entitled U.S. States in a Global Context: Results from the 2011 NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study. The report presents the results from the 2011 NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study in mathematics and science at grade 8 for 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense Schools, and for 47 education systems, including 38 countries and 9 sub-national education systems.
The purpose of the report is to allow states to compare the performance of their students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with the performance of students in other countries who took the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Statistical methodologies were applied to the data to predict the TIMSS results for 43 states, while actual TIMSS results were used for Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina.
According to the report, “Compared to the TIMSS average, 36 states scored higher, 10 states scored comparably, and 6 states scored lower. Massachusetts scored higher than 42 education systems. Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore scored higher than all 52 U.S. states.”
“Among the states, Massachusetts had the highest percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level (19 percent) and at or above the High level (57 percent). Among the education systems, Chinese Taipei had the highest percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level (49 percent), while Singapore had the highest percentage at or above the High level (78 percent).”
The results for the science assessment show that compared to the TIMSS average, “47 states scored higher, 2 states scored comparably, and 3 states scored lower. Massachusetts and Vermont scored higher than 43 education systems. Singapore scored higher than all 52 U.S. states.”
“Among the states, Massachusetts had the highest percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level (24 percent) and at or above the High level (61 percent). Among the education systems, Singapore had the highest percentage of students at the Advanced level (40 percent) and at or above the High level (69 percent).”
Both the average eighth grade mathematics and science scores for students in Ohio were above the average TIMMS scores in those subjects.
Room for Improvement: The National Education Policy Center, Kevin Welner Project Director, released on October 22, 2013 a legislative brief entitled Data-Driven Improvement and Accountability by Andy Hargreaves and Henry Braun of Boston College. The brief examines the Data-Driven Improvement and Accountability (DDIA) movement in the U.S., which has led to schools, and now teachers and principals, being rated and ranked, and recommends ways to improve state accountability systems to focus more on improving education results and reduce the number of negative consequences that have become the by-product of the accountability movement.
According to the authors of the brief, “… DDIA in the U.S. has come to exert increasingly adverse effects on public education, because high-stakes and high-threat accountability, rather than improvement alone, or improvement and accountability together, have become the prime drivers of educational change. This, in turn, has exerted adverse and perverse effects on attempts to secure improvement in educational quality and equity. The result is that, in the U.S., Data-Driven Improvement and Accountability has often turned out to be Data Driven Accountability at the cost of authentic and sustainable improvement.”
The report notes, for example, that unlike DDIA practices in other countries with high student performance on international assessments, the measures, targets, and indicators set by states are often narrowly and inaccurately defined; based on short-term results rather than time scales that provide reliable and stable results; are not educationally valued; have little or no direct impact on improving student learning since the results are often released after the students have moved to another grade level; and have led to “gaming and disruptions” that impede student learning. The perverse consequences of the DDIA systems in the U.S. include teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, “undue” attention to the students near the threshold target at the expense of high achieving or high needs students; constant disruptions that destabilize the school and community; and “criminally culpable cheating”.
The authors state that, “…when accountability is prioritized over improvement, DDIA neither helps educators make better pedagogical judgments nor enhances educators’ knowledge of and relationships with their students. Instead of being informed by the evidence, educators become driven to distraction by narrowly defined data that compel them to analyze grids, dashboards, and spreadsheets in order to bring about short-term improvements in results.”
The authors go on to say, that DDIA in the U.S. holds schools and districts accountable “for effective delivery of results, but without holding system leaders accountable for providing resources and conditions that are necessary to secure those results.”
The report includes the following recommendations “for establishing more effective systems and processes of Data-Driven or Evidence-Informed Improvement and Accountability”;
- Measure what is valued instead of valuing only what can easily be measured, so that the educational purposes of schools do not drift or become distorted.
- Create a balanced scorecard of metrics and indicators that captures the full range of what the school or school system values.
- Articulate and integrate the components of the DDIA system both internally and externally, so that improvement and accountability work together and not at cross-purposes.
- Insist on high quality data that are valid and accurate.
- Test prudently, not profligately, like the highest performing countries and systems, rather than testing almost every student, on almost everything, every year.
- Establish improvement cultures of high expectations and high support, where educators receive the support they need to improve student achievement, and where enhancing professional practice is a high priority.
- Move from thresholds to growth, so that indicators focus on improvements that have or have not been achieved in relation to agreed starting points or baselines.
- Narrow the gap to raise the bar, since raising the floor of achievement through concentrating on equity, makes it easier to reach and then lift the bar of achievement over time.
- Assign shared decision-making authority, as well as responsibility for implementation, to strong professional learning communities in which all members share collective responsibility for all students’ achievement and bring to bear shared knowledge of their students, as well all the relevant statistical data on their students’ performance.
- Establish systems of reciprocal vertical accountability, so there is transparency in determining whether a system has provided sufficient resources and supports to enable educators in districts and schools to deliver what is formally expected of them.
- Be the drivers, not the driven, so that statistical and other kinds of formal evidence complement and inform educators’ knowledge and wisdom concerning their students and their own professional practice, rather than undermining or replacing that judgment and knowledge.
- Create a set of guiding and binding national standards for DDIA that encompass content standards for accuracy, reliability, stability and validity of DDIA instruments, especially standardized tests in relation to system learning goals; process standards for the leadership and conduct of professional learning communities and data teams and for the management of consequences; and context standards regarding entitlements to adequate training, resources and time to participate effectively in DDIA.
Accompanying the brief are legislative recommendations to change state DDIA policies and practices to support educational excellence and equity. (See Model Legislative Language for Comprehensive Assessment and Accountability) The legislative recommendations were developed by Kathleen Gebhardt, founder of Colorado-based Children’s Voices, a non-profit law firm that advocates for equitable and adequate support for public education.
The brief and legislative recommendations are available.
Research Shows that the Number of Words a Toddler Knows Makes a Difference: Stanford University psychologists Anne Fernald, Virginia A. Marchman, and Adriana Weisleder recently published a study entitled SES Differences in Language Processing Skill and Vocabulary are Evident at 18 Months. The study, which is available for purchase, was first published online on December 8, 2012, and was published again in March 2013 in Developmental Science, Volume 16, Issue 2, pages 234–248. Information about the study, entitled Language Gap Between Rich and Poor Children Begins in Infancy by Bjorn Carey, was published in the Stanford News on September 25, 2013, and is available.
According to the Stanford News, the Stanford psychologists conducted an experiment to determine how quickly children (18 months old) from families with high and low socio-economic status (SES) responded when they were asked to identify an object. A high-definition video camera was used to record the child’s reaction and how quickly the child responded to the question. The researchers found that, “At 18 months, toddlers in the higher SES group could identify the correct object in about 750 milliseconds, while the lower SES toddlers were 200 milliseconds slower to respond.” Unfortunately, when the test was conducted six month later with the same children, the gap in response time between the children from low and high SES had increased even more. Researchers also asked parents to report the number of words in their child’s vocabulary, and found that, “Between 18 and 24 months, the higher SES children added more than 260 new words to their vocabulary, while the lower SES children learned 30 percent fewer new words over this period.”
The researchers explain in the study that children with a limited vocabulary struggle to learn to read, because they are unfamiliar with the meaning of the words, some of which they have never heard.
The researchers also stress that “…regardless of economic circumstances, parents who use more and richer language with their infants can help their child to learn more quickly.”
States Piloting Changes in Teacher Preparation Programs: Seven states, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington, are participating in a two year pilot program called the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) to transform education preparation programs and teacher entry systems to the teaching profession. The pilot program was developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Chris Minnich executive director, based on the work of a task force of state education chiefs and representatives of the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education. The task force released in December 2012 a report entitled Our Responsibility, Our Promise, Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry in the Profession, which included recommendations to prepare learner-ready teachers with deep knowledge of their own content and how to teach it, an understanding of how to teach students with different learning needs, high expectations for all students, skills to motivate and engage students, the ability to use student assessment data to adjust instruction, and leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.
The pilot program focuses on the following three state policy levers to improve teacher preparation programs: licensure, program approval, and data collection, analysis and reporting:
- ”Licensure: States will strengthen and change educator licensure standards and requirements to ensure teacher and principal candidates recommended for licensure demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the high expectations for all students, and help teachers and principals continuously improve their practice throughout their careers.”
- ”Program Approval: States will raise the bar on the approval process for all educator preparation providers to ensure they deliver high-quality, rigorous training to potential educators, as demonstrated by performance assessments that show that candidates can apply what they’ve learned in actual school settings and with the range of learners they will likely encounter.”
- ”Analyzing and Reporting Information to Improve Preparation Programs: States will formalize and refine the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting educator pre-service and in-service performance data to ensure this information is used as tools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce.”
Information about the pilot program is available.
Arts Grants Available for High Schools: Americans for the Arts and VANS Custom Culture are partnering to make available the Vans Custom Culture Grants program for public high schools and charter schools that serve students in grades 9-12 and support arts education in their school community. The grants are intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts as an integral component of an excellent education, and to support activities that are consistent with local and national learning standards for arts education. Ten (10) schools across the country will each receive a $2,000 grant to support their work in providing high-quality music and/or visual arts instruction for students. The application deadline is November 15, 2013. The application is available.
Blog Provides College Prep Timeline for Students Pursuing Higher Education in the Arts: ArtsBridge is a consulting service for high school students in the performing and visual arts. The ArtsBridge Blog provides a monthly planning guide to help students and their parents prepare and meet deadlines for applying to colleges and universities with a focus on the performing and visual arts. The ArtsBridge website also includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions about pursuing higher education in the arts, including information about the application process, auditions, and meeting deadlines. Visit Artsbridge.
New Study About the Impact of Arts Education on Student Achievement: Researchers Judith Phillips, John Harper, Kayla Lee, and Elise Boone at Mississippi State University, the John C. Stennis Institute of Government, released on October 22, 2013 the results of a study of the Whole Schools Initiative (WSI), commissioned in 2011 by the Mississippi Arts Commission. The study is entitled, Arts Integration and the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative, A Stennis Institute Study for Decision-Makers, W. Martin “Marty” Wiseman, Ph.D., Director. The primary authors are Judith Phillips, John Harper, Kayla Lee, Elise Boone. The study is supported by Mississippi State University, John C. Stennis Institute of Government and the Mississippi Arts Commission.
The two year study examined the impact that arts integration has on the academic performance of 4,275 students enrolled in Mississippi public elementary schools and 1,172 students enrolled in Catholic elementary schools that are currently participating in the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative.
According to the study, “…the percentage of students scoring “Proficient or Above” on standardized Language Arts and Mathematics Mississippi Curriculum Tests, Grade 4 Mississippi Writing Assessment Tests, and 5th Grade Mississippi Science Tests was significantly higher at schools participating in the Whole Schools Initiative that had effectively implemented the WSI integration model when compared to student performance statewide and when compared to district level student performance for the school district within which the WSI school was located. WSI schools that effectively implement arts integration were found to have reduced or actually eliminated the academic achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students. In WSI schools that effectively implement arts integration, a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students score “Proficient or Above” when compared to all students (not just economically disadvantaged students) at the district and state level, across multiple grade levels, and across multiple subject areas on standardized tests.”
The report includes the following recommendations:
- Provide school administrators and teachers with resources, professional development, and information on specific practices to address the new Common Core State Standards through arts integration
- Increase the number of elementary schools participating in the Whole Schools Initiative and expand the adoption of arts integrated learning by early childhood education programs
- Prioritize Whole Schools Initiative resources to maximize the benefits of arts integrated learning for children during early childhood and elementary school
- Expand teaching artists programs, increase access to teaching artists, and use teaching artists to augment the implementation of the Common Core State Standards
- Leverage the existing resource of K – 12 Arts Specialists
- Develop state policies that reinforce the adoption and expansion of arts integration education models
- Increase arts integration professional development opportunities
Information about the study is available.
Arts Programs Affected by Sequestration: Joy Resmovits of the Huffington Post writes that schools that receive federal Impact Aid are losing federal assistance as a result of the mandated federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Schools that receive Impact Aid serve students from families in the military and Native Americans, and usually have high concentrations of students from low income families, and few local resources to compensate for the loss in federal funds.
The author writes that the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools released the results of a survey of 298 schools in 42 states affected by the cuts in Impact Aid, and found that almost half of the schools reported that they have deferred maintenance and purchases; eight have closed or consolidated schools; 54 have reduced arts and cultural programs; one school has eliminated courses in native languages; and many schools have cut teachers and other staff positions, which will affect efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and provide professional development for teachers and curriculum coordinators implementing CCSS.
Unfortunately, the author goes on to write that these schools will face a new round of federal cuts in January 2014 unless Congress and President Obama can agree on a federal budget and restore the funds lost through sequestration.
See Sequestration Cuts Lead To Bigger Classes, Shuttered Arts Programs In Schools, Posted: 10/22/2013 7:29 am EDT Huff Post Politics by Joy Resmovits .
Soft Skills Matter: Carol J. Carter writes for the Huffington Post that, “… employers often cite communication, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, ingenuity, innovation, and risk-taking as the most sought after skills in new hires.” These skills are often referred to as “soft skills” or intrinsic skills, and are even more important for some employers than content knowledge.
Where can students learn these skills? According to the author students would be better prepared for the world of work through gaming, athletics, and music. Many of the “soft skills” are developed by artists through study, practice, and performance. The author also cites an article in the New York Times entitled “Is Music the Key to Success?”, which includes interviews of Woody Allen and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who say that music “… sharpened their collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas.”
The author also points out that not all students have the opportunity or the means to learn these soft skills through extra-curricular activities, so there must be more ways to fit learning these soft skills in the classroom.
See How Soft Skills, Passion and Connection Can Promote Learning, Competence and Employability Posted: 10/21/2013 2:56 pm by Carol J. Carter, The Huffington Post/The Blog.
This update is written weekly by Joan Platz, Research and Knowledge Director for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education. The purpose of the update is to keep arts education advocates informed about issues dealing with the arts, education, policy, research, and opportunities. The distribution of this information is made possible through the generous support of the Ohio Music Education Association, Ohio Art Education Association, Ohio Educational Theatre Association, OhioDance, and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.