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State Board of Ed cites "communist agenda" with Common Core

It seems right wing extremism surrounding the Common Core has reached all the way to the top levels of Ohio education policy circles. According to a Hannah report, a member of the State Board of Education, Mark Smith, had this to say
"My concern is that the PARCC assessments, if they are tied to some of this curriculum, then I see an agenda that's far more in the Common Core than just a curriculum of teaching. I see an underlying socialist, communist agenda -- sorry to use the terminology -- on some of those that are anti what this nation is about," said Smith, president of Ohio Christian University.
Members of the State Board of Education have gone from calling the President of the United States a fascist dictator, to calling statewide standards a communist plot.

Corporate reform is working for the billionaires

What you won't hear at a corporate education reform policy seminar
American families are becoming increasingly polarized along race, class and educational lines, according to a new report released Wednesday, a sign of growing economic inequality that was exacerbated by the Great Recession.

The report, “Divergent Paths of American Families,” found a widening gap in recent years between families that are white, educated or economically secure and minority families, those headed by someone with a high school degree or less, and poor families.

The concern, report authors say, is not that American families are becoming diverse. Advances in civil rights and women’s economic independence have opened up individual choice and transformed the American family in the past 50 years. The concern, they wrote, is that the divisions fall along race, class and educational lines and that they are accelerating.

“I was struck by how strong the divide has become in terms of education,” said report author Zhenchao Qian, a sociologist at Ohio State University. “The gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the children who excel and who lag behind, grew larger than ever in the 2000s.”
You won't hear it because the corporate reform movement is financially propped up by billionaire's and hedge fund managers, and they are making out quite nicely, thank you
The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ’20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock-market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

Now, back to sorting and ranking teachers.

Is PARCC Ready for Common Core?

PARCC, One of the two main consortia, and the one picked by Ohio, developing tests aligned to the common-core standards is asking for proposals technology infrastructure essential the deploying tests and maintaining the data.

PARCC, Inc. released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development, testing, and implementation of the technology necessary to support the PARCC assessment system. The solicitation, referred to as the 'Technology Bundle", focuses on the development of the technical components of the PARCC’s Assessment System that provide essential infrastructure for computer-based assessment delivery and assessment data management.

The solicitation is comprised of two components.
Component 1 – Assessment Delivery encompasses the technical infrastructure necessary to deliver secure, reliable, flexible, and scalable computer-based assessments. The component includes the development of the Assessment Delivery Platform, Assessment Content Repository (i.e., Item Bank), and related Shared Technology Services.

Component 2 – Data Management and Reporting encompasses the technical infrastructure necessary to provide secure, reliable, flexible, and scalable digital data storage, management, reporting, and analysis for PARCC and its member states. The component includes the development of a Data Warehouse, Reporting Engine and Analytics Tools, and the design and testing of Assessment Score Reports.
With the testing due to being this year, this seems a little late, doesn't it?

How much value add do you need to lift performance?

Building off the Fordham Foundations analysis of the 2012-13 school report card data, and interesting question arises. Two of the measures receiving letter grades are the Performance Index and Value-add. Here's how Fordham describes the two
The performance index (PI) rating is a gauge of student achievement within a school or district. The performance index is a scale from 0 to 120, and schools or districts earn more points when students achieve at higher performance levels on Ohio’s standardized exams.
[...]
The second key indicator of school performance is its overall value-added rating, a measure of a school or district’s contribution to or impact on student learning progress. While the performance index takes a snapshot of student achievement—a one-year look—value-added takes a multi-year view of achievement. Value-added forecasts the achievement level that a student should reach by the end of the year, relative to her peers, and is determined by her previous years’ test scores (as many as available, starting with 3rd grade). Then on the basis of her actual performance that year, it determines whether she falls short, meets, or exceeds the projected achievement level.
[...]
Both approaches to viewing a school’s performance have pros and cons. Zeroing in on achievement alone risks mislabeling a school as failing academically, when it may be doing a great job helping students make big gains after starting out far behind. At the same time, focusing only on student progress, while ignoring achievement, may conceal the fact that students, even those making solid gains, remain far below the academic standard necessary to enter college or to obtain gainful employment upon graduating from high school. After all, we don’t just want students to make progress every year; we also want them to be “college and career ready” by the end of their K-12 experience.
That seems reasonable on its face. Here's what Fordham found in some instances
The picture blurs, however, when schools have mixed ratings. A small slice from the 2012-13 report card data in Dayton illustrates the problem.

School Building Public School Type Performance Index (Achievement) Rating Value-Added (Progress) Rating % Economically Disadvantaged
Kemp PreK-8 School District D A >95.0
World of Wonder PreK-8 Schoo District D A >95.0
Klepinger Community School Charter D A >95.0
Horizon Science Academy Dayton Charter D A >95.0
Dayton Leadership Academies- Liberty Charter D A >95.0
These schools, according to the data, are producing very healthy learning gains within distressed student populations, but are still unable to promote these students in to a successful academic career. Just how much extra learning, and for how long does a school need to provide A rated value add in order to lift achievement from a D to an A?

Here's the Fordham report

Parsing Performance Analysis of Ohio's New School Report Cards

Will the Straight A Fund board shoot straight?

This years state budget introduced the Straight A Fund, a scaled down version of the Federal Race to the Top. The fund will distribute $100 million this year and $150 million in 2015. Individual school districts, charter schools, STEM schools, and JVS districts can apply for grants of up to $5 million while partnerships between schools and colleges, universities and private groups can get up to $15 million.

The application process will soon open, and the first round of winners and losers are expected to be announced in late December.

The winners and losers will be decided by a small board of people hand picked by the Governor, The Speaker and the Senate President. Those appointments have just been finalized, so the board will look like this

Dr. Richard A. Ross, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio Department of Education
Representative Gerald Stebelton, Ohio House of Representatives
Colleen Grady, Education Policy Advisor at the Ohio House of Representatives
Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz, Director of Education Initiatives at the Cincinnati Business Committee.
Superintendent John Scheu, Sidney City School District

As you can see, it is packed with ideologues and corporate reform supporters, and meets for the first time on September 11th, 2013.

What can we expect?

We expect that a significant number of grant applications from traditional public schools to focus on meeting unfunded mandates such as the 3rd grade reading guarantee, and technology needed to implement the Common Core testing regime, we don't expect too many "innovative" plans to be submitted, given the nature of the one-time money and the inability to sustain any non capital projects. Indeed, with the exhaustion of much of the RttT money we are seeing and hearing a lot of scaling back on projects that program created for the same reason.

We also expect to see a large number of charter schools apply for this money, and we suspect given the nature of the Straight A Fund Board, they will enjoy an oversized share of the money.

Scoring of grant applications will therefore be an important part of the process. ODE has this to say about scoring Straight A Fund applications

As awards from the Straight A Fund are competitive in nature, it is also anticipated that scorers will be necessary to read and review applications. As directed by the enabling legislation, Straight A Fund applications must be sustainable, have substantial value and lasting impact, and meet one of three programmatic goals: student achievement; spending reduction in the five-year fiscal forecast; and/or use of a greater share of resources in the classroom.
If you are interested in being a scorer, and we encourage you to do so, you can signup to find out more here.

Update

The Department of Education will post applications online by the end of the week with submissions due Oct. 25. The governing board will meet Nov. 12 and Dec. 3 to make final decisions on what will be funded. The money is slated for Controlling Board approval Dec. 16 with awards delivered in January

Charter schools 2013 performance woes

According to analysis by the Fordham Foundation, a right leaning supporter of corporate education reform policies and sponsor of a number of Ohio charter schools, Ohio's charter schools continue to underwhelm in performance. Fordham analyzed the data from this years newly released and revamped school report cards. Here's what they found

As can be seen from the charts above, the vast majority of traditional public schools in Ohio are scoring either at or well above a C grade.

Almost the opposite is true when one looks at Ohio's charter school performance index. Even Fordham notes
When achievement and progress ratings are joined to examine overall performance, it is clear that there are more low-performing than high-performing charters
The data is more favorable to charters than on first examination too, because 25% of charter schools are exempt from these performance ratings. Dropout recovery charter schools, if included, would drag the aggregate charter school performance in to the gutter. A skeptic might be forgiven for thinking that the legislature had this in mind when they made the exemption.

At the end of the day, and after 15 years of experimentation, just 2 percent of Ohio's charter schools earned an A on achievement. Is that really worth a continued $1 billion investment?
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