What to Expect in Ed in 2014

With 2014 just beginning we thought it would be useful to lay down a marker on what to expect in education this year. In no particular order, then.

The 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee

This list may be in no particular order, but one of the first big issues we're likely to see is large numbers of 3rd graders failing their high stakes reading test and having to repeat 3rd grade. According to ODE, more than 1/3 of 3rd graders recently failed the state reading test this fall. We expect the number of failures in the spring to be somewhat lower than 1/3, but it is still going to be a substantial number, unevenly spread-out across the state. Urban and rural districts will be especially at risk.

The impacts of this policy will be severely felt this summer as districts scramble to find the resources to coach up students in order to promote them, and then in the new school year having to deal with a much larger 3rd grade cohort, and a smaller 4th grade class. Many elementary teachers (and teachers with reading endorsements) are going to find themselves being shuffled around.

Parents of students who are retained are not going to be happy either, and lawmakers are undoubtedly going to hear from the education community and parents seeking more flexibility and local control - something the legislature is going to find hard to resist.

Teacher Evaluations
Districts will continue to struggle implementing OTES, with SLO creation and resources for the non-test related components stressing past breaking point. A large number of districts (especially none RttT) have delayed implementation work on OTES, that tactic isn't going to be sustainable. The legislature has an opportunity to relieve some of the unnecessary burden by passing SB229 (which passed the Ohio senate unanimously late in 2013).

*Academic growth factor: Lowers the academic growth factor percentage required on teacher evaluations to 35% from the current 50%. A school district may attribute an additional percentage to the academic growth factor not to exceed fifteen percent of an evaluation. The academic growth factor under the OTES is based on value-added and/or other student growth measures, depending on the subjects and grades in a teacher’s course load.

*Frequency of evaluations: Authorizes local school boards to reduce the frequency of evaluations required for teachers who receive an evaluation rating of “Skilled” or “Accomplished” (the top two ratings).

Word is that the House is having a hard time reconciling the fact this is something they must do. If they fail to pass SB229, or water the relief down, then OTES is almost certain to collapse under its own weight.

Common Core and the online PARCC assessments that come with it require schools to have substantial and robust technology in place to deliver these online tests and handle the massive amounts of data that is going to be flowing as a consequence. The legislature, once again, has failed to recognize the scale of this endeavor and provide adequate funding. Just $10 million has been set aside - a drop in the ocean for over 600 districts to purchase technology and upgrade infrastructure to handle the bandwidth requirements.

ODE recently reported on their technology survey of districts, and the news wasn't good. 1/3 of respondents said they weren't going to be ready, and a staggering 50% more didn't even respond.

What this means is that chaos is going to ensue. Schools, with limited technology resources, are going to be on weeks long rotation of testing, likely with outages and serious downtime problems. A large number will simply be performing paper and pencil testing - causing Ohio to have a 2 track testing system. An online testing regime for rich districts and pencil and paper for the poorer.

We envisage the legislature delaying the requirements by at least a year, and having to commit serious resources to technology purchases in the next budget


Charter Schools
The charter school boondoggle is now a $1 billion a year business. Big enough that their catastrophic failure is becoming a mainstream issue. Tax payers and parents are noticing that the charter school promise is an empty one, and instead of providing more quality choices and competition, is siphoning resources away from higher performing public schools who are having to curb curriculum, institute pay-to-play, and delay building upgrades.

2014 will see calls to reform Ohio's charter schools laws gain in volume and diversity. The legislature, paralyzed by the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter operators, will try to resist calls for reforms. It will be the seminal fight over public education in Ohio over the next few years.

Common Core
Perhaps the hardest policy area to predict is Common Core. It's a complex issue tied up with standards and testing and something for everyone to hate, and perhaps like. The development of Common Core and its implementation has been a huge disaster. Far too little input from educators and parents, not enough early explanation of what it is and why it is needed. This has led to all manner of crazy conspiracy theories and very real distrust.

We suspect as different states react differently to Common Core implementation, we're likely to see less standardization adopted, and a slow down in implementation.

Corporate reformers are going to be on the other end of the accountability stick moving forward. Their ideas and policies are going to be scrutinized against their original claims. Given that most corporate education reform isn't supported by sound research and on the ground findings, they are going to be found wanting. One thing's for sure, the "no excuses" gang are going to be offering a lot of their own excuses.

Join the Future will be here for 2014 documenting, analyzing and reporting on all these issues, and many, many more.