Archives for category: Ohio

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.


Steve Kramer Superintendent Madeira City Schools

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


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.

I am pleased to add Superintendent Greg Power to the honor roll. He spoke up to those in power in Ohio, bluntly castigating them for the “assessment madness” that is ruining education. His statement was posted online by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.


Bill Phillis of the Coalition writes:


“The email from Greg Power (posted below) to State Superintendent Dr. Ross expresses the viewpoint of a lot of school administrators and teachers throughout the state and nation. As the Governor and 131st General Assembly gear up to unleash more K-12 public education legislation, other public school personnel may wish to weigh in on policy matters that relate to the education of Ohio’s children.”



Dear Superintendent Ross:


I write from the field to provide feedback regarding the ongoing drive by our state and federal governments to make public education “accountable.” As an advocate for the children of the Little Miami Learning Community, I can no longer remain silent regarding the legislated testing and assessment madness that has been thrust upon our schools. What has been occurring over the last several years and what is about to be unleashed upon our students and staff is nothing short of government malpractice. In fact, I believe the following quote from the 1983 A Nation at Risk is most applicable to what is being done to public education: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Simply replace the phrase “unfriendly power” and insert our “state and federal governments.” In essence, the narrow assessment frenzy is moving us toward achieving the mediocrity referenced in the above quote.


In the name of “accountability” the new, different, and increased high-stakes assessments are in fact driving our learning environments to become so narrowly focused that the state and federal governments are creating a generation of stressed and bewildered test takers. What is being done to our children does not place their needs in proper perspective, nor does it properly support the efforts of our teachers with our children. Our schools cannot create successful, well-rounded students when there is such an overemphasis on high-stakes assessments. I would hope that it is not public education’s goal to create adults who perform well on high stakes tests, but rather adults who are good citizens with the requisite skills necessary to be economically successful citizens. Do employers require their employees to take annual high-stakes assessments on the job? What is going on now is wrong!


Recently, you made some recommendations to reduce and modify assessments and indicated this will require changes in the law. However, it appears that the “fix” will be to legislate a limit, resulting in local districts doing away with meaningful assessments that support the specific learning needs of students while maintaining the high-stakes state assessments. My district uses student assessments to progress monitor so we can ensure each student is progressing with appropriate supports and interventions. I would hate to see this go away because of a state mandated time limit on assessments. There are assessment frameworks available which provide both progress monitoring for formative instruction as well as providing summative student data which shows growth over time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the state to adopt such a framework absent the current high stakes framework?


As we prepare for the state-wide infrastructure test this Thursday and for the first of two twenty-day test windows beginning in February, our curriculum director, special education director, EMIS coordinator, technology director, principals, assistant principals and teachers are being required to abandon their primary functional roles to prepare for these assessments. These staff members have spent countless hours and will continue to spend countless hours in these preparation activities as we continue to receive ever changing protocol guidance that often contradicts and causes follow-on support requests from your Ohio Department of Education offices. Departmental guidance has certainly been untimely, ever changing, and at certain points unknowable. I believe the unrealistically legislated timelines of implementation for all of these changes cause even more concern. Why would anyone create such a set of circumstances? We certainly will be seeing the “fruits” of this legislative wisdom coming to full fruition in the coming months.


Of added note, our district continues to incur added expenses as we work to meet all of the requirements needed to support this mandated testing without the benefit of any added financial support from the state or federal levels. Our district has spent and will continue to spend dollars on technology to support the online components of this testing, and will most likely add staff to support this assessment framework. The costs associated with all of this are being borne in large part by the local tax payers. These dollars are better spent on other needs to support our students and their learning needs.


A guideline limitation of 6%-10% has been placed on the number of students who can utilize the “read aloud” accommodation on the ELA portion of the state assessment. We have been in contact with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children and have discussed our concern with this limitation at length. We do not wish to be out of compliance with the federal IDEA requirements related to our students who possess an IEP. We have been informed by your department that if we cannot attain the 6%-10% limitation on the “read aloud” accommodation, our test results above this threshold may be invalidated. After having been informed last November that districts needed to work toward this 6%-10% guideline threshold (not achieve it) we now receive ODE guidance that we must be at or below this threshold. All of this just days before the first test. Our district will endeavor to do what is right for our kids and provide the “read aloud” accommodation as verified by our teams. We will do this irrespective of what appears to us to be the arbitrary 6%-10% limitation.


Each community should have the kinds of schools it desires. We believe very strongly in local community control. My district, like many across the state, has been blessed with great kids, families, and staff. Little Miami is a great community where all of our stakeholders work toward supporting each child. In the current context of what has been legislated and mandated, continuing with measuring, assessing, quantifying, and grading our kids, staff, and schools does not provide the supports necessary for each child to succeed. In fact, the current state and federal approach hinders our schools from being able to do so. There is growing displeasure and mistrust of all that is being done to public education in the name of accountability. Please work with us to stop this madness.


Best regards,



Greg Power, Lt. Col. USAF Retired
Little Miami Local Schools

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio helped to create an excellent website that allows anyone to review and compare data about charter schools and public schools in Ohio. All the data comes from public sources. Know Your Charter is a product of Innovation Ohio and the. Ohio Education Association.


“When we started, some criticized us for only posting district and charter school data. They said the only “fair” comparison (even though it is districts that lose money from the charter school funding system, not schools) was to look at building-to-building data. We chose to look at district-level data first because it is districts, not individual schools in them, that lose money to charters.


“Well, today we posted the building data as well. So now it is possible to compare every Ohio school building — district or charter — with each other, as well as districts. This adds to the comparative data available at Know Your Charter. Including the building level data increases by 17 the number of data points now available for the public to compare. Adding those 17 points to the 26 from the original site and there are now 43 data points for comparing districts, schools and charters.


“Can we finally stop claiming Know Your Charter isn’t fair? Everything is there for all to see. And what you’ll see is that urban buildings more than hold their own with charter schools overall — outperforming them on proficiency tests while having higher levels of poverty. You’ll also see that less than 10% of charter school children are in buildings that outperform urban districts. Overall, urban buildings do better than charters, with a few exceptions in Cleveland and other places.


“The time has come to stop debating whether the Ohio charter school program is working. It clearly isn’t in the vast majority of cases. It’s up to the state to figure out how to make it work better for the kids in the charters without unduly hampering the educational opportunities for the 90% of Ohio children in local public schools.”


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