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On Charter Schools, Auditor Yost Makes Promising Noises

During his swearing in, Auditor Yost had this to say
Charter schools will remain a major focus in Auditor Dave Yost's second term, the Republican announced Monday.

Mr. Yost, who was sworn in during a morning Statehouse ceremony, told reporters that while he plans to also prioritize public records, board accountability and data integrity, charter schools will be "front and center" during the first year of his new term.

"We audit every charter school now, if the legislature chooses to give us additional tools or greater responsibility we'll do that - we'll be part of that discussion too," he said. "I think there's some things that need to be addressed. There's multiple ways of doing it and that debate will unfold and I'll be part of it over the next few months."

The auditor launched an investigation into 19 charters managed by Concept Schools last year. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, October 14, 2014)

In addition to charter schools, Mr. Yost said he intends to focus on board accountability, saying he's "very concerned about the uneven quality of the unpaid boards that we charge with supervising various public functions."

"I'm not sure the lines of responsibility are sufficiently clear or that boards are being given the tools they need to succeed," he said. "And that goes from a small charter school board acting in a public behalf all the way up to large institutions spending millions of dollars."
That's good to hear. However, we are still waiting for his report on Horizon schools. He seemed much swifter, and public, with his investigation of data tampering at Columbus City Schools than he has been with this important investigation. A quick look at recent campaign finance reports show that Yost has been a significant beneficiary of contribtiuons from the charter sector, taking in almost $50,000 from David Brennan (White Hat) and William Lager (ECOT) alone. Only time will tell whether that was a sound investment by the for profit charter folks.

STUDY: Teachers Find No Value in the SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System

A new study published in the education policy analysis archives titled "Houston, We Have a Problem: Teachers Find No Value in the SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS®)" looks at the use of Value-add in the real world. Their findings are not shocking, but continue to be troubling as we enter a high-stakes phase of deployment.
Today, SAS EVAAS® is the most widely used VAM in the country, and North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee use the model state-wide (Collins & Amrein-Beardsley, 2014). Despite widespread popularity of the SAS EVAAS®, however, no research has been done from the perspective of teachers to examine how their practices are impacted by this methodology that professedly identifies effective and ineffective teachers. Even more disconcerting is that districts and states are tying consequences to the data generated from the SAS EVAAS®, entrusting the sophisticated methodologies to produce accurate, consistent, and reliable data, when it remains unknown how the model actually works in practice.
As you can see, the findings here are directly relevant to educators in Ohio. The report looked at a number of factors, including reliability, which once again proves to be anything but
As discussed in related literature (Baker et al., 2010; Corcoran, 2010; EPI, 2010; Otterman, 2010; Schochet & Chiang, 2010) and preliminary studies in SSD (Amrein-Beardsley & Collins, 2012), it was evident that inconsistent SAS EVAAS® scores year-to-year were an issue of concern. According to teachers who participated in this study, reliability as measured by consistent SAS EVAAS® scores year-to-year was ironically, an inconsistent reality. About half of the responding teachers reported consistent data whereas the other half did not, just like one would expect with the flip of a coin (see also Amrein-Beardsley & Collins, 2012).

Reliability Implications
Unless school districts could prevent teacher mobility and ensure equal, random student assignment, it appears that EVAAS is unable to produce reliable results, at least greater than 50% of the time.
A random number generator isn't an appropriate tool for measuring anything, let alone educator effectiveness that might lead to high-stakes career decisions.

Furthermore, the study found that teachers are discovering that despite claims to the contrary, the SAS formula for calculating Value-add is highly dependent upon the student population

teachers repeatedly identified specific groups of students (e.g., gifted, ELL, transition, special education) that typically demonstrated little to no SAS EVAAS® growth. Other teachers described various teaching scenarios such as teaching back-to-back grade levels or switching grade levels which negatively impacted their SAS EVAAS® scores. Such reports contradict Dr. Sanders’ claim that a teacher in one environment is equally as effective in another (LeClaire, 2011).
In conclusion, the study finds
The results from this study provide very important information of which not only SSD administrators should be aware, but also any other administrators from districts or states currently using or planning to use a VAM for teacher accountability. Although high-stakes use certainly exacerbates such findings, it is important to consider and understand that unintended consequences will accompany the intended consequences of implementing SAS EVAAS®, or likely any other VAM. Reminiscent of Campbell’s law, the overreliance on value-added assessment data (assumed to have great significance) to make high-stakes decisions risks contamination of the entire educational process, for students, teachers and administrators (Nichols & Berliner, 2007). Accordingly, these findings also strongly validate researchers’ recommendations to not use value-added data for high-stakes consequences (Eckert & Dabrowski, 2010; EPI, 2010; Harris, 2011). While the SAS EVAAS® model’s vulnerability as expressed by the SSD EVAAS®-eligible teachers is certainly compounded by the district’s high-stakes use, the model’s reliability and validity issues combined with teachers’ feedback that the SAS EVAAS® reports do not provide sufficient information to allow for instructional modification or reflection, would make it seem inappropriate at this point to use value-added data for anything.
the full study can be read below.

Read more: STUDY: Teachers Find No Value in the SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System

The great charter school rip-off

Last week when former President Bill Clinton meandered onto the topic of charter schools, he mentioned something about an “original bargain” that charters were, according to the reporter for The Huffington Post, “supposed to do a better job of educating students.”

A writer at Salon called the remark “stunning” because it brought to light the fact that the overwhelming majority of charter schools do no better than traditional public schools. Yet, as the Huffington reporter reminded us, charter schools are rarely shuttered for low academic performance.

But what’s most remarkable about what Clinton said is how little his statement resembles the truth about how charters have become a reality in so many American communities.

In a real “bargaining process,” those who bear the consequences of the deal have some say-so on the terms, the deal-makers have to represent themselves honestly (or the deal is off and the negotiating ends), and there are measures in place to ensure everyone involved is held accountable after the deal has been struck.

But that’s not what’s happening in the great charter industry rollout transpiring across the country. Rather than a negotiation over terms, charters are being imposed on communities – either by legislative fiat or well-engineered public policy campaigns. Many charter school operators keep their practices hidden or have been found to be blatantly corrupt. And no one seems to be doing anything to ensure real accountability for these rapidly expanding school operations.

Instead of the “bargain” political leaders may have thought they struck with seemingly well-intentioned charter entrepreneurs, what has transpired instead looks more like a raw deal for millions of students, their families, and their communities. And what political leaders ought to be doing – rather than spouting unfounded platitudes, as Clinton did, about “what works” – is putting the brakes on a deal gone bad, ensuring those most affected by charter school rollouts are brought to the bargaining table, and completely renegotiating the terms for governing these schools.

(Continue reading at

Top 7 tips for Improving Public Schools

  • Discourage teacher turnover by downplaying the importance of having money and respect
  • Maybe get some underprepared, overconfident recent college graduates in there to figure things out
  • Federal law that prevents Dylan from raising his hand and wasting everybody’s time with the wrong answer
  • Tattoo grades on foreheads to shame low performers
  • Toss Northrop Grumman another $4.5 billion and see what kind of curriculum it pumps out
  • Whatever you do, don’t change anything about a property-tax-based funding system in which rich schools get richer while poor schools get poorer. That’s working just fine.
  • Cut losses and reallocate funding to nation’s prison system

You might be fooled into thinkinng these are the latest ideas from Students First, alas no.

The Testing Camera

This video by author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds is a both current reality and cautionary tale about what testing does or can do to our children.

The fascinating story about the testing camera raises questions about education in general and about testing in particular.

(c) Join the Future