On the Outside Looking In: Teacher Training

Via Ed Week

In a way, what's most discouraging about the news from this National Council and associates is the continued emphasis on the relatively (in comparison to other countries) low standards of admission at some (many?) schools of education. The saddest thing is that the cause-and-effect here is so blurred, and the cycle it sets up so clear. We dis our teacher ed programs for being unselective, but there's a certain thing about selectivity: you can only select from the applicants you have. When a profession is regularly subjected to criticism, even humiliation, in the public forum, when a profession is demonstrably underpaid and offered increasingly lower levels of job security, how, then, I ask, is it going to attract all those top-flight applicants that NCTQ/USNWR would like to see in the pipeline? Simply put, as a society we're not going to inspire vast numbers of our top college students to enter the field of teaching until we've figured out a way to make teaching as attractive as financial services or engineering.

The voices, at least in the political and economic arenas, that seem to enjoy slagging teachers and the teaching profession are often enough the same ones that can't wait until we make college into a solidly specialized pre-vocational experience (leavened by football games and beer-pong, perhaps) aimed at producing the "innovators" and entrepreneurs that our society so urgently needs. I get the value in innovation and entrepreneurship, but don't we also need podiatrists, yoga instructors, graphic designers, social workers, farmers, philosophers--and teachers? Sure, we're all humbled by boy geniuses who make zillions with their software ideas while the rest of us toil for our daily bread, but we toilers are necessary as customers for their software and to keep the boy geniuses fed and healthy. (And isn't there an irony in that so many of the boy geniuses have tended to be college drop-outs?)

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How "top charters" screen students

It's no secret that the vast majority of Ohio charter schools are rated F, but what of some of the "high performing" schools? It is with those in mind, we read with interest the article "The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment" .

This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.
Yet little attention has been paid to the mechanisms that generate these differences. One exception is an article in February of 2013, written by reporter Stephanie Simon of Reuters, which described a variety of ways that charter schools “get the students they want” (Simon, 2013):
  • Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.
  • Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.
  • Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

We thought we would pick one charter school and test this hypothesis. We picked DAYTON EARLY COLLEGE ACADEMY, INC. (DECA), as they were elevated by they Fordham Foundation and recently testified on the budget as part of a "coalition of high performing charters".

Following introductions from Fordham’s Terry Ryan, Dayton Early College Academy’s Superintendent Judy Hennessey began to speak in front of the Subcommittee only to be interrupted by Committee Chair Senator Randy Gardner, “Senator [Peggy] Lehner has just commented you lead one of the best schools in the country.”

Jokingly Judy Hennessey nodded and said, “Now we are striving for world class.”

The application process.

Here's DECA's application, which can also be downloaded here.

High School Application 2013-14

The first thing you will note is the application form is 23 pages long, requiring hundreds of pieces of information to be entered including report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records. In fact, all mechanisms mentioned in the reuters article commonly used to screen prospective students. This is a significant barrier that only the most determined parent is likely to scale.

The page where the applications can be downloaded clearly states, in bold, "Incomplete applications will not be considered."

A parent who is likely to complete such a detailed, lengthy application is likely a parent who is going to be engaged in their child's education to a greater degree than a parent who is unlikely to apply.

Furthermore, as is pointed out in the 12 approaches charters use to screen for students, this application is in English only. No second language form is available on the application webpage- making English as a second language applications far less likely.

You will also see that on page 5 of the application

Documents needed for a complete application
 Student birth certificate
 Student social security card

"Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law." is one of the tell-take screening mechanisms charters use.

The DECA application form also requests that applicants document any disabilities or special needs, another potential barrier spelled out in the article.

So we can plainly see then, that while DECA may produce above average results for a charter school, it can do so because it has a highly selective application process that is likely to screen out lower performing students.

The performance results

We were expecting a charter school whose leader professed to be aiming for "world class standards" to be rated Excellent with Distinction. DECA is not, indeed it is not even rated Excellent, instead it rates as "Effective" according to the latest data available from ODE.

Building IRN 009283
Building Name Dayton Early College Academy, Inc
District IRN 043844
District Name Dayton City
County Montgomery
Principal Judy Hennessey
Grade Span 7-12
Open/Closed Status (as of 9/18/2012) Open
Designation Effective
Number of standards met 14
Number of standards possible 17
Enrollment 411
Performance Index Score 2011-12 99.1
Performance Index Score 2010-11 100.5
Performance Index Score 2009-10 96.2
2012 Attendance AYP N/A
2012 Graduation AYP Not Met
2012 Reading AYP Met
2012 Math AYP Met
2012 Overall AYP Not Met
Four-Year "On-Time" Graduation Rate Numerator 2010-11 35

These aren't bad results, indeed compared to the majority of F rated charter schools they are positively giddy. But, given the arduous application screening process, and the "effective" rating, it's a far cry from being world beating, and a very far cry from the world of traditional public schools which have to accept every student from the district that walks through the door.

Graph of the week

We hear a lot from the Governor and his legislature about the need for students to be "college ready", which is laudable. But there's the rhetoric of "being ready" and the reality of a legislature that is making college harder, especially for students from poor families.

Exhibit A is this graph sent to us by a reader, regarding the states disinvestment in the Ohio College Opportunity Grant

Is an $81 a year tax cut really worth it?

Education News for 01-24-2013

State Education News

  • Ohio's teacher training policies receive C- grade from national group (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Ohio is not picky enough about whom is admitted to teacher training nor does the state require graduates of those programs to pass sufficiently…Read more...

  • Google VP has Ohio’s students on his mind (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Meet Sebastian Thrun, a man who represents a unique component of the “ German” investment Gov. John Kasich is seeking for Ohio this week at the World Economic Forum…Read more...

  • Ideas offered to boost college graduation rates (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Some of the country’s most-influential college presidents are calling on their colleagues to take bolder steps to graduate more students — and stem the flow of dropouts…Read more...

  • Kasich rejects calls for Terhar’s ouster (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Gov. John Kasich says that since state Board of Education President Debe Terhar has admitted her Facebook post about Adolf Hitler and gun control…Read more...

  • School finances remain a concern (Findlay Courier)
  • While excited about the future of curriculum and technology, Fostoria school administrators said this week they are leery of what will happen to school funding as the state tries to balance its budget…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Music education program at Rainey Institute inspires youths from Cleveland schools (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Some call it the most beautiful concert hall in America. And that's where I went Monday -- to Severance Hall -- for a progress report…Read more...

  • Audit citations lead to fiscal changes (Middletown Journal)
  • Missing money and the use of federal stimulus dollars to purchase items that weren’t allowable are among several citations issued in a state audit of Middletown City Schools…Read more...


  • Terhar does history (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Debe Terhar, the president of the State Board of Education, has called into question her judgment as a public official…Read more...

  • Seeing sense (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Columbus Board of Education’s decision Tuesday night to cooperate with a mayoral committee’s review of school-district management…Read more...

Education News for 12-18-2012

State Education News

  • Local schools look at a different disaster plan (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary did what they were supposed to do: The principal and school psychologist tried to stop the gunman when he blasted his way into the building…Read more...

  • Overseer of state’s colleges to retire (Columbus Dispatch)
  • After nearly 30 years of public service, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro will retire on Feb. 1 to spend time lecturing about one of his passions: the problem of wrongful imprisonment…Read more...

  • Attendance probe holds up teacher bonuses (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Potentially hundreds of Columbus City Schools teachers are waiting on bonuses until after a state audit of the district’s data reporting is complete…Read more...

  • Train, arm teachers for defense (Marion Star)
  • Having responsible adults with guns in schools should be part of a comprehensive effort to protect children from tragedies, according to the chairman of the Ohio’s gun lobby…Read more...

  • Cleveland State University criminologist says schools are still the safest place (WEWS)
  • The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown…Read more...

  • Fiscal panel OKs contract (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • The current contract between the city school district and its teachers union was approved by the state fiscal commission before going to the school board for approval…Read more...

  • State Commission isn't ready to approve a new district treasurer (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Liberty school board is ready to bring on a new district treasurer, but the state-appointed commission needs more time before giving its OK…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Cleveland school students can succeed in college, officials say (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • More Cleveland students will head to college ready to succeed and will leave campus with their degrees if members of a strong, evolving partnership have their way…Read more...

  • Bullying prevention an on-going task for schools (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • The battle against bullying is a daily, on-going activity, according to local educators…Read more...


  • Youngstown school system’s problems continue (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • In what universe is it acceptable in this day and age for one of the most troubled school districts in the state of Ohio to have one of the most expensive health insurance plans? …Read more…

Education News for 11-21-2012

State Education News

  • Graduation test to be subbed out (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio will dump its high-school graduation test and replace it with a tougher college-readiness exam and a series of end-of-course tests…Read more…

  • State Educators To Replace Ohio Graduation Test With Course-Specific Exams (WBNS)
  • The Ohio Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education have agreed on a plan to replace the Ohio Graduation Test with college and career readiness tests.…Read more…

  • Ohio high school testing standards to be raised (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Education leaders in Ohio have reached an agreement that will transform the current high-school testing system from minimal standards to a system of higher expectations that will clearly define college and career readiness for graduates.…Read more…

Local Education News

  • Cleveland schools set goal of topping other big-city districts by 2017 (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland school district aims to have state test scores by 2017 that would top those that all other big-city districts in Ohio have now.…Read more…

  • Community leaders launch effort to prepare students for high-skilled jobs (Dayton Daily News)
  • Hundreds of community leaders gathered Tuesday for Learn to Earn Dayton’s formal launch of a cradle-to-career educational initiative that aims to better prepare students for high-skilled jobs.…Read more…

  • Chardon School District to begin search for new superintendent (Willoughby News Herald)
  • The Chardon School District is moving ahead with its search for a new superintendent to take over for the 2013-14 school year.…Read more…