Get Updates via Email

Tri-Valley Super Blasts PARCC and ODE

Here's a copy of a letter the Superintendent of Tri-Valley schools is sending to parents
We have started to receive some calls regarding the school district’s position on whether or not parents should consider opting out their children from PARCC testing. I know that many schools around the state have been dealing with this issue for a while, and it appears to have now reached Tri-Valley.

While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC Testing, Ohio got into this testing debacle with little to no input from local school officials. Therefore, I feel no responsibility to stick my neck out for the Department of Education by defending their decisions. What’s happening now... in my opinion, is that parents have figured out what is being forced upon their children, and the proverbial rubber... is beginning to meet the road. However, it is not our goal to discourage nor undermine the laws of our governing body.

Therefore, our position as a school district is that we do not discourage nor encourage a parent’s decision to opt out their child. We must respect parental rights at all costs. This is the very reason I advocate for local control. Our own Tri-Valley Board of Education is in a much better position to make sound decisions for the families of our school district, than are the bureaucrats in Columbus and Washington. I say that with no disrespect toward our own legislators, whom have worked diligently behind the scenes to address the over-testing issue. The unfortunate reality is that the parents who have contacted the school district up to this point, are the parents of high achieving students who undoubtedly would do well on these assessments. We will effectively be rating school districts and individual teachers based on test scores that do not include many of their highest achieving students.

I heard a speaker make the following statement recently, and I think it is a perfect way to illustrate the issues with PARCC testing and over-testing in general:

“When you have a low birth weight baby, you don’t solve the problem by weighing the baby more often” I am quite confident that reason will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, we will respect the rights of our parents to make the best decisions for their children while simultaneously following the laws and policies of the Ohio Department of Education.

Sincerely,
Mark K. Neal
Superintendent
Tri-Valley Local School District
Things are getting heated in the real world.

Technology Test Trouble Plaguing Ohio

We're getting reports from multiple sources of technology related problems with tests. Here's just one screen shot sent to us by a educator administering a MAP test

Rather than more tax cuts benefiting the few, the Governor needs to invest in school technology

4 Big K-12 Issues We Expect In The State Budget

The Governor is set to announce his biennial budget on Monday, February 2nd. Based on conversations, reports, and needs, we expect a lot of K-12 policy to be included in it. Here's a run down of what we expect to see.

1Testing Reforms

We expect to see the elimination of a wide range of testing requirements. Without doubt the increase in testing requirements throughout public education has caused widespread backlash. Students have come under increasing stress, many to the point of illness, and teachers have lost vast amounts of instructional time to testing and test prep.

We reported on ODE's recommendations for testing reduction, and we expect to see many, if not all of those recommendations in the budget. We would not be surprised to see the legislature go even further

Lawmakers heard State schools Superintendent Richard A. Ross’ recommendations on cutting the time students spend taking standardized tests and said they will look to expand on them.

“It’s a good set of recommendations,” Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Centerville and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said, “I think that we may be adding on to some of the recommendations. I see us expanding them as opposed to throwing any of them away. I think the ones that are out there are solid.”

Reducing the amount of testing is likely going to cause all manner of knock on effects, especially for teacher evaluations, where much of the increased testing has come from. The alternatives being discussed, while substantially better for students, might continue to be unfair for educators. The legislature should stay away from using shared attribution - i.e. using a group rating for an individual teacher. Teachers should be evaluated on their own performance.

2Charter School Reforms

You can't open a newspaper, or click an education news story link without hearing about the failure and fraud in Ohio's education sector. It is so out of control that even the GOP legislature and the Governor are expected to act. How far they go will be a real test. Since the inception of charter schools over 15 years ago, the for-profit operators have been shoveling money to Republican politicians to inoculate themselves against such times as they face now.

The Governor and law makers have a good set of suggested reforms to work from, including ideas from Fordham foundation and legislation introduced by Democrats in the previous General Assembly. The noises coming from the Republican controlled house are not encouraging though

The first crack at reforms was made yesterday by a pair of Cleveland-area representatives who introduced a bill that would prevent sponsors from selling services to the schools they sponsor, eliminate “sponsor-hopping” by poor-performing schools seeking to re-open, and require contracts with management companies to detail ownership of books, furniture and other assets.

House Bill 2, by Reps. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, and Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, seeks to eliminate conflict-of-interest problems by requiring a school treasurer to be independent of the management company or sponsor. It also would prohibit school employees or vendors from serving on school boards and require board members to disclose any family members doing business with the school.

The bill also would require the Ohio Department of Education, starting in July 2016, to publish an annual performance report of charter school operators.

“This is not a witch hunt on charter schools,” said Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville. “ This is something we need to do to make it a little more fair and balanced and make sure there is more transparency and accountability.”
Not exactly strong stuff, and misses addressing dozens of other real performance and accountability problems charter schools have presented. Public pressure during the budget process will be crucial in getting some meaningful reforms - otherwise we will just be kicking the can down the road for another 10 years - and that's just too much lost opportunity for students.

3Funding

With the improved economy we would not expect to see further cuts to K-12 funding as we have seen in the previous 2 budgets. Indeed we'd like to see some catch-up dollars in this budget. However, the Governor has been promising more income tax cuts for Ohio's wealthiest, so any increases in K-12 foundation funding will be modest at best. This is simply a case of bad priorities.

A likely source of increased funding will come through the continuation of the Straight A Fund - the mini- race to the top grant program the Governor introduced in the last budget. That budget allocated $250 million in total, spread across two funding rounds. We expect more of that.

How schools are going to be funded is still a big question. We've been operating without a funding formula since the Governor ditch his predecessors evidence based model. These things are very hard to create, and we've heard of very little consultation with anyone happening. We suspect whatever the Governor introduced (and his last attempt was a disaster his own party discarded) will be vastly changed during the budgeting process. A lot of words to say we just don't know.

What we do know is that it would be very hard to send even more money to the voucher programs - with 60,000 available, barely 20,000 are being used. Thoughts of sending more money to charter schools should also be off the table this go around given all the negative attention charters have received for bilking tax payers.

4Common Core

We don't anticipate any changes to be introduced by the Governor regarding Common Core. He's a strong supporter, even going so far as to call other Republicans who oppose the standards, liars. That doesn't mean there are forces in his own party that might look at the budget process as a vehicle to attack common core. We doubt those efforts will succeed, but it should be interesting to watch.

Those are the big items we expect to see addressed. There will undoubtedly be other policies pieces introduced too. We'll be reporting in depth during the whole process - stay tuned.

Taxpayers should not be paying for phantom students

After releasing his report on Charter school attendance, the Auditor appears on Captiol Insider and had this to say, according to the Dispatch
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said he was left “speechless” by the discrepancies in attendance his investigators found during surprise visits to 30 charter schools.

Half of the schools had significantly lower attendance than they had reported to the state. Investigators found no students at one school.

Yet the former prosecutor’s 56-page report released last week said he did not determine whether the schools were cheating and couldn’t say whether they had bilked taxpayers, Dispatch Reporter Catherine Candisky notes.
It almost doesn't matter. Of course we must still demand a real investigation, and if fraud has been occurring arrests and indictments must happen, but what the Auditor truly revealed is the massive on-going over-payment to charter schools for students they are not teaching.

If Charter schools are regularly teaching <100% of the students they claim to have, they should not be receiving 100% of the state aid, transferred from local school districts

. These millions of dollars in over-payments due to lax reporting and oversight are bad for taxpayers and terrible for traditional public school students who are being deprived of funding they should be receiving if these charters were billing correctly.

The legislature needs to take a long hard look at how and when money is transferred to charter schools and ensure they are only being paid for student that are actually in their classrooms. No more payments for phantom students

(c) Join the Future