Education News for 11-14-2012

State Education News

  • Schools, governments urged to share costs (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The message to local schools and government entities from Gov. John Kasich’s administration is clear: Team up, and share services to cut costs…Read more...

  • Criminal referrals likely over school data (Columbus Dispatch)
  • As state officials said there’s a “strong likelihood” they’ll refer Columbus school employees for criminal prosecution…Read more...

  • Ohio Education Officials Unveil Plan For Future Based On Tennessee Model (WBNS)
  • Ohio has 400,000 people who need a job and a 100,000 job openings, and officials said the problem is education. For example, only 1 of out 4 Ohioans has a college degree, and many others lack the skills for 21st century jobs…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Accounting policies create transparency in district finances (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Monroe Local Schools officials have instituted new accounting policies to prevent falling again into fiscal emergency and state control…Read more...

  • Mixup delays Marion City school buses (Marion Star)
  • A paperwork mix-up with the state took 14 Marion City Schools bus drivers off their routes, delaying the delivery of students, primarily elementary pupils, from school to their homes…Read more...

  • PAVE program's future at risk after state cuts funding (Newark Advocate)
  • As president of the Prevent Assault and Violence Education program, Emily Minton has talked to countless middle school students about bullying…Read more...

  • Award given to national good behavior program used in many local schools (Newark Advocate)
  • A game designed to reward students for good behavior and used in almost every Licking County elementary school has received its own reward…Read more...

  • Akiva students learn lessons at OSU'S Lake Erie lab (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • They caught fish from Lake Erie using a net, measured sun penetration in the water and scooped plankton from the lake bottom…Read more...


  • Good adviser (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The search for a new superintendent for Columbus City Schools should benefit substantially from the steady hand and sincere concern…Read more...

Obama's 2nd term plan for education

In a newly published policy brochure, the President outlines his second term plan for education

President Obama’s plan for America’s future: Highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 so we can compete and win in the 21st Century economy:

1. Cutting tuition growth in half over the next ten years. We can make college more affordable by continuing tax credits to help middle-class families afford college tuition, doubling the number of work-study jobs and creating incentives for schools to keep tuition down.

2. Recruiting and preparing 100,000 math and science teachers. We can out-compete China and Germany by out-educating them. The STEM Master Teacher Corps and investments in research and innovation into the best ways to teach math and science will help improve math and science education nationwide.

3. Strengthen public schools in every community. Because we can’t compete for jobs of the future without educating our children, we must prevent teacher layoffs. We also must expand Race to the Top to additional school districts willing to take on bold reform. The President will offer states committed to reform relief from the worst mandates of No Child Left Behind, like incentives to teach to the test, so they can craft local solutions.

4. Train 2 million workers for good jobs that actually exist through partnerships between businesses and community colleges.

Kasich cuts bite deep locally

A new report finds that the loss of teachers and other education staff is forcing communities into difficult choices that harm our children’s education and future, including increasing class sizes and shortening school years and days. The report shows that more than 300,000 local education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession – a figure that stands in stark contrast to previous economic recoveries. As a result, the national student-teacher ratio increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, rolling back all the gains made since 2000. Increased class sizes have negative consequences for the future of America’s children at a time when education has never been more important to finding a good job and maintaining our competitiveness as a nation.

In Ohio, as Plunderbund notes, the effects of the Kasich budget have been similar and dramatic, as we now find local communities being asked to pick up the budget pieces

Over 63% of the school levies on the general election ballot are Kasich levies seeking to increase property tax funding for schools to replace the lost of state funding.

We catalogued the full list of school levies on the November ballot, here.

Governor John Kasich enacted Ohio's most draconian education cuts in the state's history, and as a consequence is now causing either local taxes to increase to meet the serious shortfalls, or degrading educational quality with increased class sizes, cuts in programs, nutrition, busing and sport.

He will have a chance to reverse this in his up coming budget, we urge him and the legislature to do so, our future, as the report below indicates, depends upon it Investing in Our Future Report

The Long-Run Impact of the Reduction in Classroom teachers

A recent study, by The Hamilton Project, looked at the impacts of cuts to government employment rolls, including educators. Their findings should open a lot of eyes.

One area where there is a sound body of literature to draw upon is the returns to education – specifically, the impact of class-size on student achievement and lifetime earnings. Drawing on this evidence, we quantify the impact of reductions in the number of public school teachers on our country’s future.

In 2011 there were over 220,000 fewer teachers in America’s classrooms than in 2009, a reduction accounting for nearly forty percent of the decrease in public-sector jobs during this period. This decline in the number of teachers increased the student-teacher ratio by 5.9 percent.

To determine the consequences of these reductions, we assumed that class-size increases were applied equally across all grades in K-12 schools. We then drew from recent research that links future earnings with class size to assess the wage impacts for today’s children, when they become working-age adults.1 All of this is explained in more detail here, but the bottom line is that this research suggests that the Great Recession will live on for decades through the lower future wages for our children.

Of course, an important test for the efficiency of government spending is whether the benefits exceed the costs. The savings from these cuts, in terms of teacher salaries and benefits, are $11.8 billion per year nationwide. While a significant figure, it is substantially smaller than the estimated present value in foregone earnings of $49.3 billion dollars for the children, whose education is affected by larger class sizes. To put a fine point on these findings, this translates into a per-student, per-year loss of nearly $1,000 in future earnings. In summary, the foregone benefits are more than four times larger than the current budget savings!

Investing in classroom teachers then, not only improves the economy today, but vastly improves the economy of the future. There's hardly a better return on investment that can be made. Someone ought to tell columbus lawmakers.

Testing Profits

Now that states and the federal government are attaching high stakes to standardized tests, these tests are coming under increasing scrutiny. They don't appear to be holding up well to this additional scrutiny

A top New York state education official acknowledged Wednesday that the mounting number of errors found on this year's math and English tests has eroded public trust in the statewide exams.

"The mistakes that have been revealed are really disturbing," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said at a Midtown breakfast sponsored by Crain's New York Business.

"What happens here as a result of these mistakes is that it makes the public at large question the efficacy of the state testing system," said Ms. Tisch, whose board sets education policy for the state.

Still, Ms. Tisch said testing experts have told state officials that the exams are valid and can be used to evaluate students and, in some cases, teachers.

Over the past several weeks, a series of errors by test-maker Pearson PLC have come to light, ranging from typographical mistakes to a now-infamous nonsensical reading passage about a pineapple. This is the first year of a five-year, $32 million contract the state awarded to Pearson, which also publishes textbooks.

To date, 29 questions have been invalidated on various third- through eighth-grade math and English tests, which are used in New York City to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade.

Pearson didn't return a request for comment.

Mistake riddled tests are not the only problem being highlighted

Is it okay to ask a child to reveal a secret? Richard Goldberg doesn’t think so. Goldberg, the father of 8-year old twin boys, was dismayed to learn his third-grade sons were asked to write an essay about a secret they had and why it was hard to keep. The unusual question, which Goldberg called "entirely inappropriate" was on the standardized tests given to public school students in the third through eighth grade every spring.
The question will not, however, appear on any future versions of the test, Barra said. "We’ve looked at this question in light of concerns raised by parents, and it is clear that this is not an appropriate question for a state test," Barra said.

Increasingly, calls are being made to make these tests public, so they can be fully vetted.

I learned that the tests themselves are being kept secret because the state Department of Education and Pearson, their test development contractor, wrote strong confidentiality provisions into the contract. My understanding is that this was so that they both could reuse test questions in the future. In order for the questions to be reusable, they have to be kept secret, otherwise students could prep too easily for the tests, and Pearson’s other customers would be able to get the tests from the public domain.

We only know about the gaffes because students exposed them. Educators have been sworn to secrecy. The Education Department has emphasized their concerns about test prep, but to me the secrecy seems rooted in economics: Secrecy saves New York on future test development costs and makes it easier for Pearson to re-sell the questions it created for New York (at New York taxpayers’ expense) in other states.

Two things strike me as odd about this. First, it’s uncommon to keep tests completely secret after the fact of their administration. Letting people see the test is a basic part of education.

The purpose of testing is to measure how well a student knows subject matter and to identify what areas need work. If the only thing one knows about a child’s performance on a test is his grade, and one can’t review the actual test, the test is pedagogically useless and can only serve a punitive purpose.

If the broader community of parents, educators and researchers can’t see tests, then we have no way of judging the connection between them and curricula or how to help our children.

A paper by the National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy titled "Errors in Standardized Tests: A Systemic Problem" found

This paper contains a sizable collection of testing errors made in the last twenty-five years. It thus offers testimony to counter the implausible demands of educational policy makers for a single, error-free, accurate, and valid test used with large groups of children for purposes of sorting, selection, and trend-tracking.

No company can offer flawless products. Even highly reputable testing contractors that offer customers high-quality products and services produce tests that are susceptible to error. But while a patient dissatisfied with a diagnosis or treatment may seek a second or third opinion, for a child in a New York City school (and in dozens of other states and hundreds of other cities and towns), there is only one opinion that counts – a single test score. If that is in error, a long time may elapse before the mistake is brought to light – if it ever is.

This paper has shown that human error can be, and often is, present in all phases of the testing process. Error can creep into the development of items. It can be made in the setting of a passing score. It can occur in the establishment of norming groups, and it is sometimes found in the scoring of questions.
Measuring trends in achievement is an area of assessment that is laden with complications. The documented struggles experienced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Harcourt Educational Measurement testify to the complexity inherent in measuring changes in achievement. Perhaps such measurement requires an assessment program that does only that. The National Center of Educational Statistics carefully tries to avoid even small changes in the NAEP tests, and examines the impact of each change on the test’s accuracy. Many state DOEs, however, unlike NCES, are measuring both individual student achievement and aggregate changes in achievement scores with the same test – a test that oftentimes contains very different questions from administration to administration. This practice counters the hard-learned lesson offered by Beaton,“If you want to measure change, do not change the measure”(Beaton et al., 1990, p. 165).

Furthermore, while it is a generally held opinion that consumers should adhere to the advice of the product developers (as is done when installing an infant car seat or when taking medication), the advice of test developers and contractors often goes unheeded in the realm of high-stakes decision-making. The presidents of two major test developers – Harcourt Brace and CTB McGraw Hill – were on record that their tests should not be used as the sole criterion for making high-stakes educational decisions (Myers, 2001; Mathews, 2000a). Yet more than half of the state DOEs are using test results as the basis for important decisions that, perhaps, these tests were not designed to support.

Finally, all of these concerns should be viewed in the context of the testing industry today. Lines (2000) observed that errors are more likely in testing programs with greater degrees of centralization and commercialization, where increased profits can only be realized by increasing market share,“The few producers cannot compete on price, because any price fall will be instantly matched by others .... What competition there is comes through marketing”(p. 1). In Minnesota, Judge Oleisky (Kurvers et al. v. NCS, Inc., 2002) observed that Basic Skills Test errors were caused by NCS’ drive to cut costs and raise profits by delivering substandard service – demonstrating that profits may be increased through methods other than marketing.

It clearly appears that profit is winning the day over quality, when it comes to standardized tests.

Here's the full paper.

Errors in Standardized Tests: A Systemic Problem

Who are the businesses making threats to children?

Gongwer, March 12th, quoting Governor John Kasich

"I think what's going to happen in Cleveland (if the legislation doesn't pass), I've been told the business community is walking away," Mr. Kasich said. "They're not going to support levies; they're done; they're finished with what's happening there."

These businesses that the Governor references ought to step forward from behind the skirt-tails of the chamber of commerce. People have a right to know who is making threats towards their children's future so they can decide if that's a business they wish to continue to support.