130th Ohio General Assembly: The Ohio House and Senate have not scheduled hearings or sessions this week. The next session is scheduled on March 12, 2014.
More Election-Law Controversy: Last week Governor Kasich signed into law SB216 (Seitz) Provisional Ballots, one of three controversial election bills that have recently become law. The two other election bills, SB205 and SB238, were signed into law two weeks ago.
SB205 (Coley) prohibits any public office or employee from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. The law allows the Secretary of State to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications for general elections in even-numbered years, but only when the legislature appropriates money for that purpose. The bill also clarifies that voters are responsible for accurately completing absentee applications and absentee ballots, which could be discarded by boards of election if found incomplete.
SB238 (LaRose) eliminates the overlap between early voting and the deadline to register to vote. As a result, the number of days for early voting is reduced from 35 to 28 or 29 days before an election.
SB216 (Seitz) reduces the number of reasons that require voters to cast provisional ballots; allows provisional ballots to count as voter registration for future elections; reduces the number of days after the election in which provisional voters can verify their identity to boards of election; allows provisional ballots cast in the right polling place, but wrong precinct to count; and disallows ballots cast in the wrong precinct and wrong polling place to count.
Also last week Secretary of State Jon Husted launched another election controversy by issuing a directive to boards of election regarding in-person voting before the November 6, 2014. According to the directive, boards of election in all 88 counties will have a uniform schedule. They will be open four weeks before the election from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday-Friday, and on the last two Saturdays before the election from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Voters will also be sent an absentee voter request form.
According to the Secretary of State’s announcement, the voting schedule was negotiated by Democrat and Republican election officials. However, some election officials, organizations, and politicians are protesting, because the schedule doesn’t include hours on Sunday, which is a favored day for voters in some urban counties, and could affect African-American voter turn-out. The schedule also doesn’t include the Monday before elections.
According to the Toledo Blade, Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County Executive and Democratic candidate for governor, held a news conference last week to protest the new election laws and early voting schedule, saying that the recent changes in law will make it harder for working men and women to vote, and will affect minority and urban area voters disproportionately. Cuyahoga County has filed three lawsuits opposing changes in election laws in recent years, and has won them all.
See “Cuyahoga County may fight voting changes” by Jim Provance, Toledo Blade, February 28, 2014.
Statewide Education Symposium: Registration is now open for Ohio’s Spring Education Symposium 2014 sponsored by Race to the Top. The symposium will be held on Friday, March 28, 2014 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. This year the symposium will focus on selecting, developing, and using assessments.
Information about the symposium is available.
First NPE Conference in Austin, Texas: The Network for Public Education (NPE) held its first conference at the University of Texas, Austin on March 1 & 2, 2014. The conference included panel discussions led by Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimson, and Julian Vasquez Heilig, workshops, and a keynote address by Diane Ravitch, who is president of the NPE Board.
The NPE was formed last year to advocate for public education and research-based strategies to improve student achievement. The NPE supports the following:
- A full and rich curriculum for all children, including the arts, physical education, history, civics, foreign languages, literature, mathematics, and the sciences.
- Schools that are subject to democratic control by members of their community.
- Adequate resources to meet the needs of students, such as guidance counselors, social workers, librarians, and psychologists.
- Equitable funding of schools, with extra resources for those students with the greatest needs.
- Reasonable class sizes, so that teachers have the time to help the children in their care.
- Early childhood education, because we know that the achievement gap begins before the first day of school.
- High standards of professionalism for teachers, principals, and superintendents.
- Every classroom should be led by a teacher who is well educated, well prepared for the challenges of teaching, and certified.
- Wraparound services for children, such as health clinics and after-school programs.
- Assessments that are used to support children and teachers, and measure what was taught, through projects and activities in which students can demonstrate what they have learned. Assessments should not be used to punish or stigmatize students, schools, or teachers, or to hand out monetary rewards,
- The evaluation of teachers by professionals, not by unreliable test scores.
- Helping schools that are struggling, not closing them.
- Parent involvement in decisions about their children.
- Students’ confidential information must remain confidential and not be handed over to entrepreneurs and marketing agents.
- Teacher professionalism in decisions about curriculum, teaching methods, and selection of teaching materials.
- Public education because it is a pillar of our democratic society.
Information is available.
First White House Student Film Festival: President Barack Obama hosted the first White House Student Film Festival on February 28, 2014 to highlight the role of technology in K-12 education. He also used this opportunity to announce commitments of $400 million in free software for schools from Adobe and Prezi.
Over 3000 films were submitted by students to the festival, which was held in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Students were asked to submit films that showed how technology was being used to support learning in their classrooms. Sixteen films were officially selected, but other honorable mention films were also included. The selected films can be viewed here.
At the White House event President Obama congratulated the student film-makers for their creativity and film-making and technology skills. He also thanked Adobe and Prezi for their commitments to the ConnectEd Program, and noted that other companies, including Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, Verizon Foundation, have already committed about $750 million in products and free high-speed Internet services for schools. The ConnectEd Program’s goal is to ensure that all schools and libraries have high-speed broadband.
New Coalition Protests Expanded Student Testing: Several national organizations have come together to form Testing Resistance & Reform Spring, a coalition to support efforts to revamp how students are evaluated in schools. The main organizations participating in this effort are FairTest, Parents Across America, United Opt Out, Network for Public Education, and Save Our Schools. The coalition has three goals:
- Stop the high-stakes use of standardized tests
- Reduce the number of standardized exams, and
- Replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments.
The coalition has launched a web site to coordinate several campaigns that help parents to “opt” their student out of state assessments. The website will also provide research about the misuse of assessments and provide information about opt-out laws in different states. The coalition will also be working to change federal and state policies that support standardized testing of all students.
Visit the website.
Website Focuses on For-Profit Charter School Industry: The American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest have launched a new website called “Cashing in on Kids” to provide information, news articles, reports, and commentaries about the for-profit charter school industry.
According to the website, the purpose of Cashing in on Kids is to make sure that “…charter schools and neighborhood public schools function in the best interests of students, parents and community members” by adhering to “…six basic principles of a democratic society: transparency, accountability, quality, oversight, equity and public control.”
See Cashing in on Kids.
Maryland Asks to Delay Teacher/Principal Evaluations: Liz Bowie at the Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland State Board of Education voted on February 25, 2014 to request from the U.S. Department of Education a three-year delay in the implementation of new teacher and principal evaluations. Students in Maryland, and other states, will field-test new assessments based on the Common Core State Standards this year, but some students are still taking state assessments aligned to the former state standards. Officials at the Maryland Department of Education believe that they need at least two years of data from the new tests to evaluate teachers accurately, and that data won’t be available until the 2016-17 school year. The new assessments also need to be validated. The delay is supported by Maryland governor Martin O’Mallory and State Superintendent Lillian Lowery.
The article also notes that Maryland lawmakers are hearing a lot of criticism about how the Common Core State Standards have been implemented, and several bills have been introduced to repeal the standards or delay the assessments.
See “State seeks to delay using test scores to evaluate teachers: New tests with Common Core won’t be ready until next year” by Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun, February 25, 2014.
White House Announces New Initiative to Help Minority Youth: President Obama announced on February 28, 2014 a new initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, to help young minority men graduate prepared for college and work. He also created a task force, My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, to determine which public and private efforts are successful in helping minority youth; how the Federal government can support those efforts; and how more individuals and organizations can become involved.
According to the White House press release, 86 percent of African-American males and 82 percent of Hispanic boys are reading below proficient levels by the time they are in grade four. Minority youth are also more than six times as likely to be victims of murder.
My Brother’s Keeper will engage leading foundations and businesses to “build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color”. Several foundations have already committed over $200 million to support the effort, including The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact. Some of these foundations are members of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, “…a coalition of philanthropic institutions committed to leveraging philanthropy’s role in improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.”
See My Brother’s Keeper.
Governor Presents the State of the State Address: Governor Kasich attended on February 24, 2014 a joint session of the Ohio House and Senate at the Medina Performing Arts Center, Medina, Ohio, to present the annual State of the State Address. In addition to the usual compliments to the host city, the governor recognized House Speaker William Batchelder, who represents Medina, and, because of term limits, will be completing his final term in the Ohio House this year.
The address included a review of the economic policy changes that the governor and legislature have implemented over the past three years, including JobsOhio; tax cuts; taking steps to make Ohio more business friendly; closing an $8 billion budget deficit; accruing a $1.5 billion surplus for the rainy day fund; and creating more than 170,000 jobs.
The governor described the following new initiatives that are expected to be included in the Mid-Biennium Review (MBR), which will be introduced soon. The governor also said that the MBR will include a “package of proposals to better connect kids with career opportunities in a very meaningful way.” A Fact Sheet that provides more details about the Mid-Biennium Review is available.
Tax Cuts: The governor proposes to reduce to below 5 percent the state’s income tax rate. The address did not include a proposal about how the revenue lost as a result of the tax cut would be recovered, but lawmakers have been discussing other tax reforms and are still debating the severance tax on oil and gas drilling.
School Reforms: The governor said that Cleveland, “is the greatest example of school reform in the North in America”, and would support “anybody in this state that supports a reform agenda to put our children first”.
Higher Education: The governor complimented the presidents of Ohio’s public colleges and universities for developing a single unified plan for new buildings and construction, and creating a new funding system focused on helping students graduate. He proposed an initiative that would provide students entering institutions of higher education in Ohio with a “virtual menu” so that they know the courses that are required for a diploma that will lead to a job. Students would also receive individual guidance to ensure that they complete their degree.
School dropouts: The governor proposed to provide more individual support for students who are at-risk for dropping out of school. The governor proposes that local school districts develop “…unique plans for these students that chart a completely alternative path to their high school diploma. And if that path takes some of them out of the traditional classroom and into real-life job training, so be it.”
Adult Education: According to the governor, there are over a million adults in Ohio without a high school diploma. He proposes to build an “innovative system” to help these adults receive a diploma, credentials, and training through two-year colleges.
Community Connectors: This initiative is similar to some programs currently operating in the state. The governor mentioned Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, Toledo Schools’ Community Hubs program, and United Way’s new efforts in 17 schools as part of the Cleveland Plan. The purpose of Community Connectors would be to “…support the best ideas in our state for bringing together schools, parents, communities, community organizations, faith-based groups, business leaders, and, of course, our students in mentoring efforts based on proven practices.” The program would be supported by $10 million from casino receipts and matching community funds. Communities could receive a $3 dollar match from the state for every dollar spent on mentoring programs. The initiative would include training about workplace culture and professional etiquette.
Online Career Road Maps: This initiative is already underway and should be available in the spring. Students will be able to find the jobs that are “in demand” and the qualifications for those jobs online.
Career and Technical Education: The governor said that the public has forgotten the value of vocational education. He proposes to expand vocational education for seventh grade students.
College Credit: According to the governor not all students in Ohio have the opportunity to earn college credits while in high school. About 30,000 public high school students participated in dual-credit programs out of a potential 500,000 high school students. He proposes to ensure that all students have a dual-credit enrollment opportunity.
Early Childhood Education: According to the address: “To make sure Ohio is doing everything it can to help our youngest learners, we’re raising the standards for publicly funded early childhood education so that more children enter school ready to succeed. And at the same time, we’re going to make sure we’re spending those important dollars in ways that will make a difference. We believe in early childhood education. We’re going to promote it. We’re going to make it work in our state in an effective way.”
Veterans: A new initiative is proposed to award veterans college and academic credits for the training and experience they’ve received in the Armed Forces. The credits will be free.
HB342 (Brenner/Driehaus) Straight A Program: The Ohio Senate approved, and the House concurred with, HB342 (Brenner/Driehaus) Straight A Program, on February 26, 2014. The bill would permit an educational service center to be a partner or the lead applicant of an education consortium seeking a grant under the Straight A Program, and modifies the goals of program. The bill also,
- states that if two or more Straight A Fund proposals have similar scores, the proposal saving the most money will be funded.
- reduces the current $5 million cap on grants for a single school to $1 million.
- stipulates that if an educational service center (ESC) is the lead applicant then at least one school in that ESC’s area must be part of the consortium.
- permits county boards of developmental disabilities to participate in the program.
- clarifies that an ESC can apply for the grant with non-member school districts, as long as one school district in the application is a member of the ESC.
HB416 (Burkley/Hill) Calamity Day Legislation: The House refused to accept Senate changes for HB416, sending it to a conference committee on February 26, 2014. The conferees are Representatives Gerald Stebelton, Andrew Brenner, and Heather Bishoff. The Senate members include Senators Peggy Lehner, Randy Gardner, and Tom Sawyer. The next time the bill can be considered by lawmakers is March 12, 2014, because no voting sessions are currently scheduled in the House and Senate.
The legislative history of HB416 has been unusual. Governor Kasich inspired the bill by commenting publicly that school districts should consider student safety when making decisions about closing due to bad weather. The bill sailed through the House Education Committee, only to be stalled in the House. Some House lawmakers felt uncomfortable supporting legislation that reduced instructional time for students, while teachers still received their salaries. As a result, the House amended the committee-passed version of the bill, and added just two calamity days, rather than four, to the current five, but also allowed school districts to use two days of teacher professional development time to make-up for school closures.
The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Lehner, was working on its own calamity day bill, SB284 (Coley). When the Senate Committee began hearings on HB416 last week, they replaced the provisions in HB416 with those in SB284. When some House members raised concerns about the Senate changes to HB416, the full Senate amended the bill and changed the number of additional calamity days to three, and added a fourth calamity day, which is permissive, if teachers are in school for professional development. Schools can use the extra calamity days if they have made-up four of their contingency days.
The Senate approved HB416 unanimously on February 26, 2014, but the House refused to accept the Senate changes, thus creating the need for a conference committee.
The Senate passed bill also includes permissive authority for boards of education to add thirty-minute increments to the existing school day to make-up for school closures; allows the Ohio Department of Education to approve applications for blizzard bags and online learning; clarifies that graduation ceremonies that have already been scheduled can be held even if the district adds attendance days at the end of the school year; and excuses graduating seniors from attending school after their graduation ceremony has been held. Some of these provisions are also included in SB273 (Gardner).
The bill also includes a provision sought by the Ohio Department of Education, to delay reporting the results of the Ohio Achievement Assessments for grades 3-8 to the General Assembly by a week, to correspond with the recent delay in the administration of the exams, granted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
HB393 (Baker) Career Guide: The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Stebelton, accepted a substitute bill on February 26, 2014. The bill would require boards of education to publish information about job opportunities, career planning, and online education tools available through the OhioMeansJobs website in existing school publications. The OhioMeansJobs website will be available sometime this spring. The bill requires the Ohio Department of Education and the Department of Job and Family Services to develop an online career and education planning tool for students.
HB413 (Stautberg/Brenner) Education Assessments: The House Education Committee received testimony on February 26, 2014 regarding HB413. The bill would prohibit the administration of the PARCC assessments (Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) in the 2014-15 school year; prohibits the renewal of the state’s memorandum of understanding with PARCC; and declares an emergency.
HB107 (Baker) Career Exploration Internships: The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Oelslager, reported on February 25, 2014 HB107 Career Exploration Internships. The bill authorizes a tax credit for businesses that employ high school students in career exploration internships.
HB362 (Scherer/Derickson) STEM Schools: The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Stebelton, reported on February 26, 2014 HB362. This bill authorizes the STEM Committee to grant a designation of STEM school equivalent to a community school or chartered nonpublic school, and makes other revisions to the law regarding STEM schools.
Test-Based Accountability Fails: Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, writes for the Education Week’s Top Performer Blog, that after ten years of federal education policies, “There is little doubt—whether test-based accountability is being used to hold schools accountable or individual teachers—that it has failed to improve student performance. He goes on to say that test-based accountability is “doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.”
The author identifies several problems with state accountability systems and their impact on the teaching profession. He says that using student test score results in two subjects and value-added methods that produce different results each year make “a mockery” of the work that teachers do.
He writes, “Test-based accountability and teacher evaluation systems are not neutral in their effect. It is not simply that they fail to improve student performance. Their pernicious effect is to create an environment that could not be better calculated to drive the best practitioners out of teaching and to prevent the most promising young people from entering it. If we want broad improvement in student performance and we want to close the gap between disadvantaged students and the majority of our students, then we will abandon test-based accountability and teacher evaluation as key drivers of our education reform program.”
See “The Failure of Test-Based Accountability” by Marc Tucker, Education Week’s Top Performer Blog, February 27, 2014.
State Accountability Systems Analyzed: Researchers at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, published in the Educational Researcher in January 2014 an analysis of the accountability systems that states have implemented to qualify for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s (NCLB) accountability requirements.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that states receiving Title 1 funds must meet progressive proficiency targets each year so that 100 percent of students are grade-level proficient by 2014. To receive a waiver from this requirement the U.S. Department of Education established new accountability requirements for states to meet. The study examined the new accountability systems implemented in the forty-two states and the District of Columbia that received waivers, based on four standards of practice regarding the appropriate use of assessment data: construct validity, reliability, fairness, and transparency. The study also examined the rules for determining reward, focus, and priority schools. Schools identified as priority schools, for example, were to receive the most attention from the states to improve student achievement.
The researchers conclude the following:
- ”Although most of the waivers provided positive changes over the NCLB system, the net change is harder to summarize.
- ”In many of the waivers, states have strengthened the construct validity of their accountability systems by using nontest measures and measures of student growth. These changes should capture more of the multidimensional nature of schooling, increasing the alignment between incentives and desired outcomes.”
- Only 33 percent (14 states) added tests in other subjects to their accountability systems, so most accountability systems maintain a “heavy focus on math and English language arts”, which could contribute to the unintended consequence of narrowing the curriculum.
- Most states continued to rely on proficiency status to identify focus and priority schools for improvement, which is problematic, because it penalizes schools serving students from historically disadvantaged groups.
- The type and use of growth measures in state accountability systems varies widely, and some states are not using growth measures to identify focus and priority schools. “The USDOE’s decision to prohibit states from controlling for student demographics will likely create performance measures biased by factors unrelated to school policies and practices. The reliability of growth measures could be increased by using multiple years, but few states implemented this change.”
The researchers make the following policy recommendations:
- ”Moving away from the use of unadjusted proficiency rates and adding additional tested subjects to accountability would improve the construct validity of classifications considerably. Since all states are required to test science, they should include science testing results in priority and focus determinations.”
- ”To further improve the construct validity and fairness of accountability classifications, the USDOE should allow states to create more refined comparison groups for schools by conditioning on student demographics in the construction of school performance measures.”
- “By excluding student demographics from performance measures, the system expects the same performance from all schools regardless of their student inputs, penalizing schools for factors they cannot control.”
- To improve construct validity, states should “move away from within-state achievement gaps and look at gaps within a school and a district. “This would change the focus away from low-performing subgroups to reducing the gap within a school or district.”
- States should use multiple years of data for school performance measures, especially measures incorporating student growth, to improve reliability of performance classifications.
- States should define low-performing schools based on a set of performance criteria rather than setting the bar at the lowest performing 5 or 10 percent of schools.
- States should re-evaluate using composite A-F grades to identify schools that need improvement to improve transparency and construct validity. “Although A-to-F systems are, on the surface, transparent, the underlying design of these systems involves a great deal of arbitrariness that makes it difficult for educators and parents to understand performance. Furthermore, keeping indicators separate allows for a more nuanced understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of schools that can be used to tailor interventions.”
- States should evaluate the implementation of their waiver systems and make adjustments. “The problems of NCLB were well known shortly into the implementation, yet little was done to mitigate the unintended consequences.”
See “The Waive of the Future? School Accountability in the Waiver Era” by Morgan S. Polikoff, Andrew J. McEachin, Stephani L. Wrabel and Matthew Duque, Educational Researcher, Published on behalf of American Educational Research Association, December 2013.
HB460 (Brenner/Driehaus) School Restructuring: Authorizes school districts and community schools to initiate a community learning process to assist and guide school restructuring. “Community learning center” means a school operated by a city, exempted village, or local school district or community school established under Chapter 3314 of the Revised Code that participates in a coordinated, community-based effort with community partners to provide comprehensive educational, developmental, family, and health services to students, families, and community members during school hours and hours in which school is not in session.
Resources for Educators: March is Women’s History Month and Youth Art Month. The U.S. Department of Education has included on its website the following recommendations for teachers to engage students and celebrate women’s contributions to the arts:
- Take students on a field trip to a museum (or take a virtual tour) and focus on the contributions of women artists. Start with The National Museum of Women in the Arts at http://nmwa.org/
- View portraits and photographs of famous women and their accomplishments.
- Study American heritage through quilts. Visit the National Quilt Collection, and help students create a classroom quilt based on their creativity and experiences.
- Explore modern dance through an interactive website about Martha Graham, known as the “mother of modern dance”.
Survey Finds Chicago Students Missing Arts: According to a web-based survey conducted in January and February 2014 by Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, 65 percent of elementary schools in the Chicago Public Schools district do not offer two hours of weekly arts instruction. The non-scientific survey is based on the responses from 444 people representing 170 elementary schools in Chicago, which is about one third of CPS schools.
The survey also found the following:
- 14% have no arts instruction
- 51% have less than two hours of arts instruction per week
- 26% have two hours of art instruction
- 9% have more than two hours of arts instruction
- 31% saw a decline in arts instruction this year.
The Chicago Public Schools has an arts plan to ensure that all students have access to arts education, but, according to Wendy Katten, director of Raise Your Hand, schools are not receiving the funds to implement it.
Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education is a grassroots coalition of parents and concerned citizens who advocate for quality public education for all children. Their mission is to help parents become advocates for their children by providing information on policies that impact public education, create networks to share data and practices, and provide tools and support to elicit change.
The Arts are Essential: Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers write for Education Week’s Leadership Blog that the arts are an essential education reform, because the arts engage and motivate today’s students, and make education relevant.
According to the authors, today’s students come to school “ ….with a wider range of values about education, abilities, disabilities, challenges both in and outside of our buildings, health issues, and socio-economic and cultural differences.”
Unfortunately in many schools students are losing opportunities to engage in the arts due to budget cuts, emphasis on testing and accountability, and the narrowing of the curriculum. The authors write that this is too bad, because learning through the arts provides students with “experiences” to prepare them to “…attend to other complex problems in science, technology, engineering, math, and society with the skill, engagement and motivation that every teacher wants for their students.”
They explain that there are school districts that have integrated the arts to teach academic standards in math, science, reading, writing, and social studies, through inquiry and project-based learning. Opening Minds through the Arts in the Tucson Unified School District is an example of an integrated, arts education program, that has been recognized nationally for increasing student achievement for all students, regardless of socio-economic status or ethnic background.
The authors conclude by saying, “Minimizing the arts makes no sense but neither does preserving them as a separate and apart from academics, especially in this time of focus on STEM subjects. They are interrelated. While we are struggling to find the best way to best educate today’s students, we cannot let the arts slip away.”
See “The Arts Are Essential” by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers, Education Week’s Leadership Blog, February 23, 2014.