Archives for category: Ohio

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition sent this commentary by a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, retired Judge A.J. Wagner..

State Board of Education member A. J. Wagner weighs in on testing

Retired Judge A. J. Wagner, member of the State Board of Education, shared his views in a letter to Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee and the members of an ad hoc committee she appointed to examine issues regarding the current testing debacle. His views are worthy of a read.

Dear Senator Lehner and Members of the Committee:

I am writing to you to share my opinion which is formed by the February 2015 Policy Memo from the National Education Policy Center on “Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Time to Move Beyond Test-focused Policies.” I urge you to carefully consider the analyses and recommendations in this Memo.

A compelling body of research exists about the problems with test-focused reforms, as described in the Memo. (available online athttp://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/esea). Key concerns include:

i) Research suggests at least two major problems with test-driven school reforms. First, the tests themselves have validity issues. The resulting scores are only loosely linked to the wide array of topics and depth that we all want for our students. So attaching high stakes consequences to those test scores results in decisions being made on weak data. Second, and probably even more important, when we attach high stakes consequences to test scores we change what and how our children are taught. This is not always bad, since much of what is tested is indeed important. But the overall effect is to narrow our children’s learning opportunities, squeezing out important and engaging lessons.

ii) Not surprisingly, then, we now face the failure of more than a decade-and-a-half of test-focused reforms. Even though we’ve been focusing on the content of our tests and even though we’ve been preparing students to demonstrate knowledge on tests, the testing trends after No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) implementation are almost identical to the trends before NCLB’s implementation. Not only did we come nowhere near the NCLB goal of almost-universal proficiency on standardized tests, we gained no benefit at the cost of broader, deeper learning – and at the cost of pursuing evidence-based practices that could have helped our children.

I urge moving away from test-focused reforms, and to a state role that encourages a focus on sustained and meaningful investments in practices shown to be effective in improving the educational opportunities and success of all students, particularly those in highest need. There are no magic wands, and the formula for success is very straightforward: children learn when they have opportunities to learn; closing opportunity gaps will close achievement gaps.

Key recommendations from the Memo include:

i) Assess students, teachers, and schools using frameworks that paint a more robust, accurate, and complex picture, with multiple data sources and scientifically credited methods of analysis. For example, for students, we might look at authentic performance assessments (http://fairtest.org/k-12/authentic assessment), and for schools, we might look at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Time for Equity Indicators” (http://timeforequity.org) or the National Education Policy Center’s “Schools of Opportunity” criteria (http://opportunitygap.org).

ii) Enrich opportunities through proven interventions such as high-quality early-childhood education beginning before birth. Extend learning time in ways that engage students, rather than just more time on drill-and-kill test preparation. Demand more of our schools, but only when providing the supports for students and teachers to succeed. Address problems not only at the level of individuals, but also at the level of systems. Test-focused reforms detract attention from deeper and more systemic factors that can hinder any student’s opportunity for success, including such factors as poverty, racial segregation, inadequate resources, narrow and ineffective curriculum and assessment.

iii) Involve students, families, educators, and educational researchers in more substantive ways in decision-making processes involving educational policy and reform. It is particularly important to have powerful, listened-to voices arising from the communities that have been targets of educational reform.

This is a brief summary of the Memo, a document supported by over 2000 researchers and professors from colleges, universities, and other research institutions throughout the United States. I urge you to, please, consider the evidence based practices put forth by the National Policy Education Center.

My prayers and best wishes are with you for these important Deliberations.

Judge A.J. Wagner, Retired
Member of the Ohio Board of Education
District 3

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215
ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coaltion for Equity and Adequacy explains the origins of choice in Ohio and how it has evolved into a lucrative for-profit industry. If “choice” meant better education, Ohio by now should have the best schools in the nation. It doesn’t. What has happened has been the transfer of $8 billion out of the state’s public schools to satisfy rightwing, evidence-free ideology.

Phillis writes:

“The school choice movement in Ohio: Is it about parents choosing good schools or the school choosing good students?

Open enrollment was a product of SB 140, an education “reform” bill more than a quarter century ago in the 118th General Assembly. The rationale set forth for enacting the concept was that parents should be allowed to choose a better academic option in a neighboring district. Although there has been no extensive research regarding why people choose open enrollment, experience indicates that better academics is the least frequent reason for the choice of another school district.

Open enrollment was the precursor to the Ohio privately-operated choice movement. Then-President George H. W. Bush told a large gathering of people in Columbus on November 25, 1991, you have open enrollment and now you need to go the whole nine yards and give a voucher to every student. Bush’s speech was reported in the November 26, 1991 Cincinnati Enquirer article-Bush: Give private schools money, Ohio audience wary of proposal.

The Cleveland Voucher Plan, a brainchild of Akron Industrialist David Brennen and then-Governor George V. Voinovich, followed the Bush recommendation. Ohio’s education choice programs have removed nearly $8 billion from Ohio school districts since “choice” began.

The education choice gospel is preached in a way that resonates with lots of folks. Who would take issue with such a sacred-sounding verse–choice? But the reality is that choice is more about private and privately-managed education entities choosing students than parents choosing a school. Private schools and charters are not obligated to take students and many of them screen out or counsel out students they don’t want.

The irony is that those parents who choose charter schools are, in a majority of cases, opting for schools with lower academic ratings than the district of residence. But that phenomenon, as long as folks are blinded by the empty promise of choice, will continue to lead to consumer fraud. Massive snake oil salesman-type advertising misleads parents. Most of the solicitations for student enrollment do not match the charters’ educational opportunities and results.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Over 100 teachers in Toledo demonstrated in front of school district headquarters, asking the district to opt out of the PARCC tests.

Teachers said there was too much testing and it is used punitively, not to inform instruction.

A post yesterday reported that Florida is considering eliminating district lines so that students may choose to attend any public school, so long as there is space available and parents provide transportation. Michigan has such a system, and districts spend millions of dollars advertising to “poach” students from other districts because every new student means additional money.

 

As reader Chiara points out, Ohio has the same system, and it has intensified racial and economic segregation.

 

Open enrollment, which allows children to transfer from one school district to another, leads to widespread racial segregation and concentrates poverty in many of Ohio’s urban school districts, including Cleveland and Akron.
That’s one finding of a Beacon Journal study of more than 8,000 Ohio students who left city schools last year for an education in wealthier suburban communities.
The majority of students who participated in Ohio’s oldest school choice program are disproportionately white and middle class. Students attending the schools they left, however, are nearly twice as likely to be minority and seven times more likely to be poor.
The program gives parents the option to enroll children in nearby school districts without changing their home address. By doing so, parents must find their own transportation — an act that in itself narrows who is able to make the change.

 

Where is the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU? If a state adopts a policy that demonstrably promotes segregation, shouldn’t someone sue them for knowingly enacting a program to segregate children by race and income?

Laura H. Chapman offered the following comments about Ohio’s shell game of assessment. Among other troublesome issues, Ohio will encourage “shared attribution” for evaluating teachers; that means that teachers who do not teach tested subjects will be assigned a rating based on the scores of students they do not teach.

 

 

Chapman writes:

 

In Ohio, the State Superintendent of Public instruction, Dr Ross, has a request in to Governor and the legislators to lighten the testing load. The “Testing Report and Recommendations” ( January 15, 2015) includes some cockamamie statements about the purposes of tests, along with some revealing stats.

 

Among these highlights are there. Ohio students in grades K-12 spend about 19.8 hours a year taking tests on average. Ohio students spend approximately 15 additional hours practicing for tests each year.

 

A chart on page 5 shows that Kindergarten students are tested for 11.3 hours on average, and grade 1 students 11.6 hours on average. These are the lowest times. Add the test prep for a total of 26.3 hours and 26. 6 hours respectively for testing. That is slightly more than the time allocation for elementary school instruction in the visual arts in the era before test-driven policies determined everything about K-12 education.

 

The highest testing times are in grade 3–28 hours, and at grade 10–28.4 hours, not counting the test prep. The spike at grade 3 is from Kasich’s guarantee–“read by grade three” or repeat the whole grade. Dr. Ross wants to cut out some of the current test time for reading (about four hours) by letting grade three teachers do those super high stakes at will, more than once if necessary, with a summer grade three test being decisive for students who have not passed muster earlier. This strikes me as a shell game, not really a reduction but an increase for students who are still learning to read.

 

This report also recommends that testing time be reduced by cutting tests for SLOs. “Eliminate the use of student learning objective (SLO) tests as part of the teacher evaluation system for grades pre-K to 3 and for teachers teaching in non-core subject areas in grades 4-12. The core areas are English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.”

 

“Teachers teaching in grades and subject areas in which student learning objectives are no longer permitted will demonstrate student growth through the expanded use of shared attribution, although at a reduced level overall. In cases where shared attribution isn’t possible, the department will provide guidance on alternative ways of measuring growth” (p.10).”

 

This obscure language about the expansion of “shared attribution” as a way to measure student learning is not clarified by the following statement (pp. 10-11).

 

”…when no Value-Added or approved vendor assessment data is available, the department gives teachers and administrators the following advice.

 

First, educators should not test solely to collect evidence for a student learning objective. The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.

 

Second, to the extent possible, eliminate the use of student learning objective pre-tests. When other, pre-existing data points are available, teachers and schools should use those instead of giving a pre-test.” (pp. 10-11).

 

The convoluted reasoning and ignorance about testing is amazing. “The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.” Student tests are not direct measures of what teachers are teaching. Many tests document what students have or have not learned beyond school. Compliance with legislative mandates means you can ignore undisputed facts and sound reasoning about testing.

 

In the proposed policy, teachers who do not receive a VAM based on scores from PARCC tests (ELA and math) and/or tests from AIR (science and social studies) or from some other VAM-friendly standardized test from an “approved vendor” are asked to get used to the idea of “sharing scores” produced by students and teachers of subjects they do not teach and state-wide scores processed through the VAM calculations. There is no evidence these tests are instructionally sensitive, meaning suitable for teacher evaluation. The state approved tests seriously misrepresent student achievement, especially those from PARCC, because those tests assume learning of the CCSS have been in place, fully implemented, with cumulative learning from prior years.

 

SLOs and the district-approved tests for these appear to be dead (or dying) in Ohio, not because they were seriously flawed concepts from the get-go, but because those tests took longer to administer on average than others. The “loud and clear” demands for less testing are most easily met by cutting the SLO tests (those usually designed by teacher collaboration) in favor scores allocated to teachers under the banner of “shared attribution.”

 

Like many other states where governors and legislators are trying to micromanage teachers, there is an unconscionable insistence that any data point is as good as another, that tests are “objective,” and that junk science marketed as VAM is not a problem.

 

Unfortunately, all of the talk about “high quality” this and that does not extend to expectations for fair, ample, and ethical portrayals of student and teacher achievement.

Ohio seems to have an amazing number of district superintendents with integrity, unafraid to speak up. Superintendent Steve Kramer of the Madeira City schools wrote an open letter to the state superintendent Richard Ross, describing the unnecessary burden of testing.

For standing up for students, I name Steve Kramer to the honor roll.

He writes:

Dr. Richard Ross, Superintendent Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215-4183

Dear Dr. Ross:

This week the Madeira City School District joined districts across the state and nation in implementing the new PARCC and AIR state-mandated testing. After witnessing the monumental amount of time and resources our faculty, staff and administrators have spent in preparing for, and now executing these tests, I am profoundly concerned that they are neither relevant nor important to the high quality instruction Madeira City Schools has been proud to provide for over 80 years.

State and federal legislation regarding high stakes testing has been enacted with little or no regard to best educational practice. Public school districts have been given no option but to administer the tests as mandated by law. And yet, many of our parents are now seeing first hand the amount of time that these tests are taking and questioning the overall value of their results. I would tend to agree with them.

The Madeira City Schools Board of Education and I have discussed these concerns at great length. While everyone can agree that school districts should have some measure of accountability to its taxpayers, I would argue that when those measures impact an organization’s ability to accomplish its core mission, assessment in the name of accountability has gone too far. This is certainly the case in our K-12 public schools. I urge you as an educational leader in this state to advocate for reducing the amount of state mandated testing and demand a more common sense approach that balances the needs of what we know about our students with how they learn. In Madeira, we are about kids and high quality teaching and learning, not testing.

Three clear recommendations have been talked about amongst my colleagues that I would like you to consider:

1. Continue to review the state mandated test schedule and advocate for reducing the amount of testing to one content area per grade level, per school year, starting no sooner than the third grade.

2. In your review of testing, stay focused on the state mandated tests and not on limiting the amount of diagnostic or meaningful formative assessments that actually help teachers in guiding instruction. The survey you
recently sent out neglected to focus on the state mandated tests.

3. As more mandates are discussed and debated amongst the politicians in Columbus, I urge you to support your
colleagues in the field and stand up for public education and against the misguided policies of lawmakers. Insist that lawmakers and the Ohio Department of Education involve local school leaders on any educational changes PRIOR to implementing new laws. The students of Ohio demand nothing less from the state superintendent of public instruction. Students and valuable instructional time are at risk when we chase practices that are not research-based or for that matter, are contrary to what educational research would say is effective.

I have been meeting the past few months with area superintendents and board members from southwest Ohio about how we can work together to effect change and return local control back to our communities. To that end, parents and community members of Madeira will be asked to join me in sharing their views with our elected officials on state and federally mandated testing as well as other significant issues related to our loss of local control.

Sincerely,

Steve Kramer Superintendent Madeira City Schools

cc:
Senator Bill Seitz
Representative Jonathan Dever
Ohio School Board Representative Pat Bruns, District 4

Su

Ohio has been a profitable state for the charter school industry. Charter leaders make huge contributions to politicians. Politicians make sure that the industry’s cash cows are lightly regulated, if at all. With the right political connections, charters may be rated D or F without any consequences. Should charters be audited? Should they be held accountable for their academic and financial performance? Bear in mind that the essential premise if charter schools was that they were willing to be held accountable inexcjangefpr producing “results.” (Higher test scores.). You might say that this deal has actually warped almost all discourse about the purpose of schooling. It rests on the premise that higher test scores are the fundamental goal of education.

Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost wrote a thoughtful newspaper article describing the dilemma of auditing public-private partnerships.

When does public money trigger public audits? Not when the money flows to a purely private business, like a janitorial service. But what about charter schools?

He writes:

“There’s a messy place where the public and private meet, and the old ideas about accountability aren’t good enough to sort it out. The subject is lurking in the background of the debate over charter-school reform, but it’s wider than that and needs some hard thinking.

The distinction between what’s public and private drives many things in the law. A public entity is subject to open-meetings laws, public-records requirements, public audit and stringent ethics requirements. A purely private entity, such as a sole proprietorship or your family, is not.

But that neat set of labels doesn’t work as well when a thing is both public and private. Lawmakers here and elsewhere are deliberately blending the two — and it seems to be the trend, not the exception.

So, when an entity is a little private and a little public, which rules apply?
For example, a government office generally is cleaned by a contract service, not by government employees. Joe’s Janitorial Service shouldn’t have to open its books to public audit or abide by public-records law. The government is buying services from Joe, and as long as he provides the promised quality of service, it’s no business of anyone’s how he does it or how he spends his money.

On the other hand, if Brave New World, Inc., contracts to be the police department for your town … well, that’s a different story. Brave New World is no longer simply selling services; it is functioning as the government. Lawyers and political philosophers would say it is exercising the sovereign power of the state — and Brave New World probably ought to be subject to the traditional transparency requirements we impose upon our government.

And in between, there are all these other entities that aren’t quite private, but aren’t really public, either.

There are good reasons for blending the public and the private. Government, because its decisions apply to all of us, is designed to go slow. We shouldn’t make decisions at the speed of business when it’s about liberty, or education, or spending money that was collected by law (taxes).

On the other hand, the private sector has the freedom to move quickly, to react to market forces, to innovate — and to fail. So in certain areas where the government process has become bogged down, it makes sense to bring those private-sector virtues into the mix. That’s the idea with many hybrid organizations empowered by state government (and our tax dollars), from charter schools to privatized prisons to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority.

But then, what does accountability look like?

In Ohio, like elsewhere, the answers are all over the board. There are custom mechanisms drawn into contracts, such as the contract with the state’s private prison contractor. Charter-school management companies are required by statute to provide certain financial information to their schools. The schools then import that information into their own financial statements — which are subject to public audit….

At the same time, it’s mostly or all our money and, therefore, the public’s business. Somehow, treating these entities — usually private corporations — as though they were a sole proprietorship, operating in private, doesn’t seem right, either.
The ongoing debate over charter-school reform is going to happen smack in the middle of this disorganized space in our public life.

How do we protect the public interest while harnessing the best qualities of a mostly private-sector actor? I don’t have a comprehensive answer, but meaningful reform will have these characteristics:

• Information. Although making all the papers of a private corporation public is the wrong answer, the law should require certain relevant information to be provided at particular intervals.

• Independent verification. Some information needs external, independent verification. This could be provided by a firm’s certified public accountants or subject to review by another body. But corporations are used to dealing with this — banks require audited financial information to ensure the numbers are adequate. It’s not growing government to make sure that the information is true. As President Ronald Reagan urged: trust, but verify.

• Segregation of duties. Businesses and governments both make sure that certain duties are done by different people. The IRS has published some criteria for how to think about segregation of duties, which I cited in our report on charter schools earlier this year.

• Governing Board independence.

“Outside directors” — board members who are not otherwise affiliated with the organization — have become a best practice in the private sector, ensuring divergent points of view and oversight of management decisions.

How to approach these factors, and how much weight should be given to them, should be driven at least in part by how much discretion the entity has in exercising the authority of the state. In our examples, Joe’s Janitorial exercises no government discretion, and Brave New World exercised a huge amount.

The details are matters for serious debate. One thing seems utterly clear to me, though: the oval peg of accountability for these hybrid organizations fits neither the square nor the round peg holes we already have. We owe it to Ohio taxpayers and families to fill that hole and repair their doubts about this public-private part of our system of government.

One of my favorite charter school stories is the one about the Lion of Judah charter in Ohio. When it was learned that more than a million dollars had been transferred from the charter school, the lawyer for the church asked the judge to forgive his client because it wasn’t his fault: he saw the easy money and greed got the best of him, what an original defense!

Here is the latest from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

“Finally, the Ohio Attorney General files a lawsuit in charterland

Extremely late, but it may be a good sign. The Ohio Attorney General is going after individuals and entities who received $2 million from a now-closed charter school-Lion of Judah. Financial fraud has been a continuing thread in some sectors of the charter industry since the beginning.

Why didn’t Ohio’s Attorney General sue White Hat Management several years ago when Scripps Howard News Service documented that the company was receiving funding for students enrolled but not attending? The Scripps report-GHOST SCHOOLS-documented a vast difference between enrollment and attendance. In one case, a White Hat charter school had a 64% absentee rate for the 2004-2005 school year. The Scripps Howard report quoted a former principal of the Life Skills Center of Cincinnati, “It’s a cash cow! We all used to sit around and joke about it.” Further he said, “I spent less than $1 million on a $3 million operation. What the *%@& are they (executives at his former company) doing with the other $2 million?”

A recent report by the State Auditor showed a great disparity between attendance and enrollment in several charter schools. In March 4 testimony before the House Education Committee, State Auditor David Yost admonished the committee to craft legislation to correct this type of abuse and enforce it via criminal penalties.

The Attorney General should be aggressively protecting taxpayers and students from blatant charter fraud. The lawsuit against those associated with the Lion of Judah charter is a good start.

William Phillis.

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Ohio has the second largest voucher program in the nation, after Wisconsin. We now know that half the vouchers are going to students who never attended a public school and are not “fleeing” from a “failing school” in which they were “trapped.” They are taking advantage of public money to attend private and religious schools, which their families would be paying for absent the voucher program. So taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools. It also turns out that many vouchers went unused. The rhetoric about waiting lists is phony. There is no evidence that students in voucher schools outperform their peers in public schools. There is much evidence–from Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C. that they do not. But the legislators don’t care. What is their goal?

 

 

Even as Ohio’s private school vouchers remain dramatically underused, there appears to be no rush to re-examine their need.
…..

The state offers 60,000 EdChoice vouchers for children in struggling public schools, and fewer than one-third were used this school year, according to data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Education.

 
In addition, the state in 2013 created 2,000 vouchers for low-income kindergartners across Ohio regardless of the performance of the public district. For this school year, 2,000 low-income first grade vouchers were added.

 

The state is advertising that 2,000 low-income second grade vouchers will be added in 2015-16, although that will require an appropriation in the state budget.

 

Nearly 3,500 of the 4,000 available low-income vouchers were being used as of Friday.

…..
Students who use the traditional EdChoice vouchers to attend private schools essentially take their state funding with them. Marion City Schools lost more than 40 students to vouchers this year at a cost of nearly $160,000.
In fiscal year 2012, Ohio’s public schools lost $75 million to EdChoice vouchers.

…..

The majority of those students in Marion attend St. Mary Catholic School, and Principal Jack Mental hopes the increase in students eligible for vouchers will lead to an increase in voucher kids whom his school attracts. The private elementary school has about 42 students on vouchers, making up 40 percent of the total school population.

 

Mental said the school has had some enrollment struggles — it will suspend teaching eighth grade next year because of a lack of students — and he is unabashed in his desire to sell the benefits of vouchers to area residents. He said he will reach out to parents through advertising, direct mail and social media.

 

“This could be a lifeline to our school,” he said, noting that he hoped to add 30 new students through the voucher program for next school year…

If the low-income program continues to expand, it is expected to cost taxpayers more than $100 million each year by 2025-26.

 

The state offers 60,000 EdChoice vouchers for children in struggling public schools, and fewer than one-third were used this school year, according to data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Education.
In addition, the state in 2013 created 2,000 vouchers for low-income kindergartners across Ohio regardless of the performance of the public district. For this school year, 2,000 low-income first grade vouchers were added.

 

The state is advertising that 2,000 low-income second grade vouchers will be added in 2015-16, although that will require an appropriation in the state budget….

 

Kaleigh Frazier, spokeswoman for School Choice Ohio, said her organization has been doing consistent outreach through community events to share information about the program with families.

 

“What we see in the voucher program is steady growth every year,” she said. “We’re still finding there are many families that don’t know there are options available to them.”

 

The use of vouchers has grown from 3,141 in 2006-07 to 22,347 this school year. Of course the number of available EdChoice vouchers also has risen, from 14,000 in 2006-07 to 64,000 this year, including the low-income variation.

This is a video of three girls at Elyria High School taking a PARCC practice test. Two of them are honor students. As you will see, they find the test questions baffling.

The girl in the middle has started a new group called the Badass Student Organization. It is likely to spread.

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