21 tough questions about school reform

Via the Washington Post, civil rights activist James Meredith, asks 21 tough questions about school reform

1.) Children’s Rights: Do you believe that every child in the United States has the right to an excellent public education delivered by the most qualified professional teachers; an education aggressively supported by the family and the community, and an education based on the best research and evidence?

2.) Parent Responsibilities: Would you support the idea of public schools strongly encouraging and helping parents to: be directly involved in their children’s education; support their children with healthy eating and daily physical activity; disconnect their children from TV and video games; and read books to and with them on a daily basis from birth through childhood?

3.) Educational Equity: Do you believe that America should strive to deliver educational equity of resources to all students of all backgrounds and income groups?

4.) Testing Reforms: Much of current education reform policy is built on the idea that the U.S. must catch up to nations that achieve high scores in the international PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests, like Finland, South Korea and Singapore. But since these nations rely on few if any of the reform strategies being promoted in the United States, like cyber-charters, frequent high-stakes standardized tests linked to teacher evaluation, teacher bonus pay, vouchers, and hiring teachers with no experience and no advanced degrees in education – - why would the U.S. implement these strategies without first field-testing them thoroughly?

5.) Teacher Qualifications: If a critical factor in the success of the highest-performing education nations like Finland, South Korea and Singapore, and of high-performing American private and parochial schools, is a highly professionalized, highly experienced and highly respected teacher force, why is the United States pursuing policies to de-professionalize the public school teacher force, including sending recent college graduates into our highest-needs, highest-poverty schools with five weeks of training, no education degree and no experience? What is the hard evidence that such policies improve student outcomes, versus teachers with at least 2 to 5 years of experience and advanced degrees in education?

6.) Evidence for Classroom Products: What rigorous, independent evidence supports the use of computer products to deliver academic benefit to K-8 students as support to, or replacements for, flesh-and-blood teachers? Specifically, what computer products have such evidence of improving student outcomes, when fully tested versus classrooms without such products, and versus classrooms without such products but with more experienced teachers?

7.) Taxpayer Spending on Products: Would you support requiring computer software and hardware companies to fund rigorous independent research to validate the delivery of academic benefit to K-8 students by their products, before billions of dollars of taxpayer money is spent on buying such products?

8.) Taxpayer Spending on Testing: According to one estimate, American taxpayers spend about $20,000,000,000 annually on standardized tests like multiple-choice “bubble tests” but many teachers and students are saying they are hijacking huge amounts of school time that should be used for authentic learning, and thereby seriously damaging our children’s education. What evidence is there that the money and time being spent on high-stakes standardized tests is improving student outcomes and delivering academic benefit to students?

9.) Dangers of Linking Standardized Testing to Teacher Evaluation: A number of experts assert that students standardized test data should not be linked to teacher pay or evaluation because the data can be highly unstable, volatile, misleading or invalid for such purposes and will incorrectly penalize teachers of both high-achieving and high-needs students; arguments presented, for example, on this fact sheet from the Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest.

What is your point of view on this – are these experts correct or incorrect?

10.) Advantages for Students: If the children and grandchildren of people like President Obama and American politicians and business leaders enjoy the benefits of private schools with highly experienced teachers, small class sizes, frequent diagnostic testing and assessments designed by their teachers, rich and full curricula including the arts and physical activity, regular recess, and a minimum of standardized “bubble” tests, should we strive to give the same advantages to all public school students? If not, why not?

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Is Ohio ready for computer testing?

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report on how Ohio schools are not going to be ready for the new online PARCC tests that are scheduled to be deployed next year.

Ohio public schools appear to be far short of having enough computers to have all their students take new state-mandated tests within a four-week period beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

“With all the reductions in education funds over the last several years and the downturn in the economy, districts have struggled to be able to bring their (computer technology) up to the level that would be needed for this,” said Barbara Shaner, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

Districts could seek state permission to deliver the new tests on paper if they can’t round up enough computers, tablets and gadgets to go around, Jim Wright, director of curriculum and assessment for the Ohio Department of Education, said. A student taking a paper test could be at a disadvantage, though. While the paper tests won’t have substantially different questions, a student taking the test online will have the benefit of audio and visual prompts as well as online tasks that show their work on computer, said Chad Colby, a spokesman for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The state really does need to step up and help districts fund this costly mandate that has been foisted upon them. Added to this, the computer industry is going through significant changes as more and more people move away from the traditional desktops and laptops in favor of the simpler more portable tablets. School districts could find themselves having to make costly investments again in the near future if they pick the wrong technologies.

The article makes note of the possibility of paper based test takers being at a possible disadvantage over those taking the computer based tests. There has been a significant amount of research over the years on this, and the results seem to indicate the opposite effect - that computer based test takers score lower than paper based tests.

The comparability of test scores based on online versus paper testing has been studied for more than 20 years. Reviews of the comparability literature research were reported by Mazzeo and Harvey (1988), who reported mixed results, and Drasgow (1993), who concluded that there were essentially no differences in examinee scores by mode-of-administration for power tests. Paek (2005) provided a summary of more recent comparability research and concluded that, in general, computer and paper versions of traditional multiple-choice tests are comparable across grades and academic subjects. However, when tests are timed, differential speededness can lead to mode effects. For example, a recent study by Ito and Sykes (2004) reported significantly lower performance on timed web-based norm-referenced tests at grades 4-12 compared with paper versions. These differences seemed to occur because students needed more time on the web-based test than they did on the paper test. Pommerich (2004) reported evidence of mode differences due to differential speededness in tests given at grades 11 and 12, but in her study online performance on questions near the end of several tests was higher than paper performance on these same items. She hypothesized that students who are rushed for time might actually benefit from testing online because the computer makes it easier to respond and move quickly from item to item.

A number of studies have suggested that no mode differences can be expected when individual test items can be presented within a single screen (Poggio, Glassnapp, Yang, & Poggio, 2005; Hetter, Segall & Bloxom, 1997; Bergstrom, 1992; Spray, Ackerman, Reckase, & Carlson, 1989). However, when items are associated with text that requires scrolling, such as is typically the case with reading tests, studies have indicated lower performance for students testing online (O’Malley, 2005; Pommerich, 2004; Bridgeman, Lennon, & Jackenthal, 2003; Choi & Tinkler, 2002; Bergstrom, 1992)

Kasich education team is out of control

A week after the Governor's orchestrated school funding plan announcement, we are still waiting on him to release his actual school funding numbers

Ohioans still can’t see how their tax dollars will be divided among local school districts under Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding plan.

Although Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols had said on Friday that the information likely would be released yesterday, it turns out there was a problem with some of the data and “it’s still being worked on.”

Kasich adviser Barbara Mattei-Smith compiled and used the data to help the administration formulate its funding plan, which was released on Thursday, Nichols said.

The administration initially said such a record didn’t exist, then said it was merely her “notes” and didn’t have to be made public, before now saying the information Kasich relied on in the $15.1 billion education plan apparently was wrong.

Perhaps if his hand picked Superintendent wasn't fired for serious ethics violations, and his hand picked President of the State Board of Education spent less time comparing her ideological enemies to genocidal maniacs, and perhaps if his acting State Superintendent and his deputy weren't both looking for new jobs, we might have had the numbers by now. But if all that wasn't enough, news breaks today of even more shocking failure of leadership at the Ohio Department of Education

The Ohio Department of Education said it fired its chief operating officer after learning he was under investigation for possessing child pornography and then finding such images on his work computer.

John T. Childs, 47, of 2239 Planetree Court on the Northwest Side, was fired on Nov. 2, said John Charlton, an Education Department spokesman. Childs had been on paid administrative leave since around Oct. 15.

“He was under investigation by local law enforcement for child pornography on his home computer. We put Childs on paid administrative leave until we could investigate the alleged charges and we could look at his work computer as well,” Charlton said.

The department turned Childs’ work laptop computer over to the State Highway Patrol, which found thumbnail images "of pornographic nature."

The Governor's education team is out of control. We wish we were just talking about bureaucratic incompetence, but sadly we are now well into the realm of serious failures of ethics and criminal behavior.

Education News for 02-06-2013

State Education News

  • Fewer Ohio students getting free lunches (Columbus Dispatch)
  • For the first time in six years, the number of Ohio students qualifying for free or reduced- price lunches has dropped. Still, a celebration seems premature…Read more...

  • Funding data for Kasich school plan not ready yet (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohioans still can’t see how their tax dollars will be divided among local school districts under Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding plan…Read more...

  • State education official fired after child porn found on computer (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Ohio Department of Education said it fired its chief operating officer after learning he was under investigation for possessing child pornography and then finding such images on his work computer…Read more...

  • Be on your best behavior, schools chiefs told (Columbus Dispatch)
  • More than 500 school leaders heard Gov. John Kasich reveal his new school budget and reform plan at a meeting in the Polaris Hilton Hotel last week…Read more...

Local Education News

  • School model catches on in New York (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • About two years ago, a steady stream of out-of-town educators – school leaders, nonprofit agencies, education groups – started visiting Cincinnati…Read more...

  • Berea High School students demonstrate the dangers of distractions when driving (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Berea High classmates Caleb Samol and Justin Harris discovered their reflexes suffered while trying to hit a flashing target…Read more...

  • Figure in Columbus schools data-rigging to resign (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The man whose name was uttered again and again in connection with Columbus schools’ student-data scandal — Steve Tankovich — resigned yesterday…Read more...

  • TRECA part of shared service, resource center (Marion Star)
  • The boards of directors of the Tri-Rivers Education Computer Association and Northwest Ohio Computer Association recently authorized creation of a collaborative shared service and resource center…Read more...

  • College rules the day at Oyler School (Marketplace)
  • There’s a parade of cute coming down the hallway -- a gaggle of first graders, walking single file, each one wearing a construction paper crown with a Penn State…Read more...

  • ABLE testing procedure changes upcoming (Portsmouth Daily Times)
  • Scioto County ABLE (Adult Basic Learning Exam), announced this week that the current version of the GED test will expire at the end of 2013…Read more...

$50 million. 3 years. No clue.

More on that awful Gates study

Though science does sometimes prove things that are not intuitive, science does depend on accurate premises. So, in this case, IF the conclusion is that “you can’t believe your eyes” in teacher evaluation — just because you watch a teacher doing a great job, this could be a mirage since that teacher doesn’t necessarily get the same ‘gains’ as the other teacher that you thought was terrible based on your observation — well, it could also mean that one of the initial premises was incorrect. To me, the initial premise that has caused this counter-intuitive conclusion is that value-added — which says that teacher quality can be determined by comparing student test scores to what a computer would predict those same students would have gotten with an ‘average’ teacher — is the faulty premise. Would we accept it if a new computer programmed to evaluate music told us that The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ is a bad song?

One thing that struck me right away with this report is that the inclusion of student surveys — something that aren’t realistically ever going to be a significant part of high stakes teacher evaluations — is given such a large percentage in each of the three main weightings they consider (these three scenarios are, for test scores-classroom observations-student surveys, 50-25-25, 33-33-33, and 25-50-25.)

Conspicuously missing from the various weighting schemes they compare is one with 100% classroom observations. As this is what many districts currently do and since this report is supposed to guide those who are designing new systems, wouldn’t it be scientifically necessary to include the existing system as the ‘control’ group? As implementing a change is a costly and difficult process, shouldn’t we know what we could expect to gain over the already existing system?

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Education News for 12-14-2012

State Education News

  • Tax exemption annoys Upper Arlington school chiefs (Columbus Dispatch)
  • A property-tax exemption for Tree of Life Christian Schools would have been challenged had Upper Arlington schools known about it, school district Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld said…Read more...

  • Veteran awarded diploma posthumously (Lima News)
  • The Lima school board approved a high school diploma Thursday for World War II veteran Ralph G. Washam. Ohio Senate Bill 75 allows schools to grant diplomas to World War II veterans who left school to serve during the war…Read more...

  • Districts turn to fees to pay for activities (Springfield News-Sun)
  • More local school districts have implemented or increased pay-to-participate fees as budgets tighten and voters have said no to property tax requests…Read more...

  • Academic commission takes over Youngstown school district (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • The city schools Academic Distress Commission is taking over budget authority for the school district because of a projected $1.5 million deficit this school year…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Harmony talk turns divisive (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Talk of harmony among racial groups devolved into accusations of communism, racism and McCarthyism at the Olentangy school-board meeting yesterday evening…Read more...

  • Panel starts discussing fix for schools (Columbus Dispatch)
  • With so many members they at first couldn’t all fit at the table in the largest meeting room in City Hall, Mayor Michael B. Coleman kicked off his new “education commission” to examine Columbus City Schools…Read more...

  • Computer error throws off schools’ math competition results (Dayton Daily News)
  • A computer glitch miscalculated the scores at Dayton Public Schools’ Math-O-Lympics competition Saturday, leading some of the wrong teams to get trophies…Read more...


  • Think big for best use of windfall (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • As Vienna trustees discuss what to do with a $3.9 million windfall, they should engage their residents and think big. Really big…Read more...