Senator Recommends Districts use "Self-Reflection" to Reduce Pay-to-Play Fees

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the biggest impediment to a student's school achievement is the poverty level to which that student is exposed. It's why public education advocates have called for an equitable funding system so that students in districts with high levels of poverty can have access to the same opportunities as their more prosperous brethren.

One of the ways this inequity shows up is in pay-to-play fees. Only the students with parents who can afford to pay get to play. Pay-to-play fees have become an increasing mainstay as districts have had to find ways of dealing with budget cuts, especially state cuts, without affecting "core curriculum".

Senator Cliff Hite (R) has released findings stemming from a statewide tour that garnered community insights on participation fees for extra- and co-curricular activities in Ohio schools. The full white paper can be read here.

Here's the 1 page sumary

Sen. Hite had this to say about his report

We can all agree on one thing: extra- and co-curricular activities play an important role in the overall development of students, both inside and outside the classroom. It was important that we heard from all impacted parties in order to best address this issue as the goal has always been to ensure Ohio’s students are given the greatest opportunities to succeed now and throughout their lives.

While we can applaud Sen. Hite for promoting this issue, it's frustrating that the single best solution to this problem, and one which the General Assembly of which he is a member has the greatest control is not mentioned. The General Assembly should increase funding to public schools, and do so in an equitable way.

Instead we have the recommendation that schools should "self-reflect", which frankly is a pathetic recommendation that will lead to no changes. Self reflection doesn't pay for education - money does.

US Department of Education's Belated Fake Epiphany

The US Department of Education has had a belated epiphany. After years of using waivers to beat down educators, they've realized it was counter productive and has only served to destroy morale within the profession. USA today reports:

In his first major speech, the acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King apologized to the nation’s teachers.

Speaking to a small group of teachers, students and local politicians here last month, just three weeks after taking over the post, King admitted the USA’s education debate over the past few years has been “characterized by more heat than light,” and that despite reformers’ best intentions, “teachers and principals, at times, have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces.”

King acknowledged the attacks had come from as high up as his own federal agency in Washington, D.C., where he’d served as a top advisor to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan for more than a year.

"All of us — at the local, state, and federal level, the Education Department included — have to take responsibility for the climate that exists," he said. ”There is no question that the contentious tone has made it harder to have productive conversations."

This new outlook is likely less a real epiphany and more a reaction to the removal of dictatorial powers the US Department of Education was wielding when the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law.

ESSA radically reduces the U.S. Department of Education's authority over state curriculum, standards and testing and curtails the secretary of education's authority over state and local policy making. The law states:

Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any other officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school's instructional content or materials, curriculum, program of instruction, academic standards, or academic assessments; teacher, principal, or other school leader evaluation system; specific definition of teacher, principal, or other school leader effectiveness; or teacher, principal, or other school leader professional standards, certification, or licensing.

King has so little influence now that all he is left with is to show respect and do some listening. Something the Department of Education should have been doing all along - instead of listening to the whims of billionaire corporate reformers.

ODE Understated Number of Failing Charter Schools by 950%

When ODE Applied for a Federal grant to expand even further the number of charter schools it Ohio, it lied on its application form. they were quickly caught, because no one was going to believe only 6 charter schools in the entire state were failing. Embarrassed and forced to correct their lies, the new wishful thinking number they have come up with is 57 - a 950% increase in failing charter schools in the state.

They have also cut the number of schools they claimed were successful by 50% - down to just a paltry 59.

According to ODE's own performance data, the latest of which that is available is for 2013-14, even these numbers seem suspect.

Performance Rating of Ohio's Charter schools 2013-14.

Performance Rating of Ohio's Charter schools 2013-14.

More than half of all Charters in Ohio are rated D or below, and those rated A? Barely perceptible on the chart.

What Are Standardized Tests Measuring?

If the same test produced different results depending upon whether it was taken online or on paper, what exactly is being measured? Here's ODE recently

And here's an article from Real Clear Education titled "PARCC Scores Lower for Students Who Took Exams on Computers"

Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil—a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders.

Officials from the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers acknowledged the discrepancies in scores across different formats of its exams in response to questions from Education Week.

“It is true that this [pattern exists] on average, but that doesn’t mean it occurred in every state, school, and district on every one of the tests,” Jeffrey Nellhaus, PARCC’s chief of assessment, said in an interview.

“There is some evidence that, in part, the [score] differences we’re seeing may be explained by students’ familiarity with the computer-delivery system,” Nellhaus said.

In general, the pattern of lower scores for students who took PARCC exams by computer is the most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math.

ODE would be better taking the time to understand exactly what all of its tests are actually measuring before getting too excited about how many students took paper vs online tests.

Is the College Ready Crisis Overblown?

Buried in a Dispatch article about the failings of ECOT is news that one of the tests used to measure whether students headed to college required remedial classes was useless

For years, the Compass test determined which classes students should take when they enrolled at Columbus State Community College.

But it turns out that too often, Compass, a diagnostic exam sold by the folks who make the ACT, indicated that students needed remedial classes when they didn't. A few days in the classroom or a separate diagnostic test would show that the student should have been in a college-credit class.

Beginning with the spring 2017 semester, incoming Columbus State students will take a different test. The college already was looking for an alternative when ACT announced in June that it was dropping Compass, said Allysen Todd, dean of Arts & Sciences. ACT has said inaccurate student placements were part of the reason.

Is the "Career and College Ready" mantra proclaimed by corporate education reformers all based upon bad data coming from a diagnostic test that was unable to diagnose the need for college remediation?

And just how much money have parents and students needlessly spent on unnecessary remediation college classes because of this erroneous test?

Ohio Legislator Threatens Teachers Who Advise Testing Opt-Out

HB420 was supposed to be a simple bill meant to shield schools from having their ratings adversely affected by parents who chose to have their children opt-out of standardized testing. Then the author of the bill ,  Kristina Roegner (R), instead issued a substitute bill that would criminalize teachers for advising parents to opt their children out of testing.  

Here's the offending language

Sec. 3319.152. (A) No employee of a school district or public school shall negligently suggest to any student, or parent, guardian, or custodian of that student, enrolled in the district or school that the student should choose to not take any assessment prescribed by section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code. This prohibition does not apply to an employee of the district who is a member of an IEP team when determining individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of a child with a disability on state and district-wide assessments for purposes of the child's IEP.

(B) On a finding by the state board of education, after investigation, that a school employee who holds a license issued by the state board has violated division (A) of this section, the license of that employee shall be suspended for one year. Prior to commencing an investigation, the state board shall give the employee notice of the allegation and an opportunity to respond and present a defense. 

(C)(1) Violation of division (A) of this section is grounds for termination of employment of a nonteaching employee under division (C) of section 3319.081 or section 124.34 of the Revised Code.

(2) Violation of division (A) of this section is grounds for termination of a teacher contract under section 3311.82 or 3319.16 of the Revised Code.

Educators have not responded kindly. The Ohio Education Association issued this statement

Sub. HB 420 creates an extreme and misdirected penalty for school employees based on the wildly vague and subjective standard of “negligently suggesting” a student opt-out of a state assessment. 

OEA will not stand for this hostile “gotcha” legal trap and it must be removed from the bill. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R- Hudson), has said that the provision will be removed. But we still urge OEA members to contact their representatives and voice our strong opposition.

You can contact Rep Roegner here and tell her to drop this shameful language from HB420.