PolitiFact Ohio, a "fact checking" operation ran by the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided to check out the following statement by Cleveland teachers
"The (Jackson) plan (for reforming Cleveland schools) lacks any data or methods proven to raise student achievement."
PolitiFact goes through a number of cases, based upon assertions made by CEO Gordon
"And while Gordon conceded "there is no empirical study that shows the portfolio strategy is the one strategy" he said there is some evidence that some of the approaches in the Jackson plan have worked to raise test scores."
PolitiFact looked at some "evidence", and so shall we.
For example, Gordon mentioned research that has been done by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The non-profit group recently issued a report on a number of big city school districts trying reforms similar to those in Jackson’s plan.
The group’s report looked at Denver schools, where many teachers voluntarily opted for a merit pay system instead of the standard teaching contract. Known as the ProComp program, it ties teacher pay to education levels and offers bonus pay to teachers who work in the toughest schools and whose students score higher on tests.
Researchers at the University of Colorado found "significant and positive ProComp effects at both middle and high school for both math and reading, and the effects are larger at high school than middle school." The researchers cautioned, however, that it generally was the more effective teachers who opted into the program.
ProComp was funded by voters to the tune of $25 million in order to pay teachers more. Unless there's a provision in Frank Jackson's plan to ask voters for an additional $25 million on top of the $65 million deficit, we can see straight away that the Jacksons plan and the Denver ProComp system are not at all similar and worthy of comparison.
But let us pretend Frank Jackson's plan does involve giving teachers up to almost $4,000 a year in bonuses. According to a recent study of the ProComp system, researchers found
DPS has experienced significant student learning gains across grades and subjects, but it is not clear that this was the result of ProComp. There was not a consistent pattern across grade levels and subjects in the relationship between ProComp and observed achievement gains. In some cases, the gains appeared primarily among students with ProComp teachers, while in other cases it is NonKProComp teachers who appeared to be more effective. Though puzzling, these findings are consistent with research on other well known interventions that include elements similar to ProComp.
Clearly there is no evidence, as the Cleveland teachers said, that this kind of compensation improves student performance. Gordon and PolitiFact are WRONG.
PolitiFact's next step was to look at the Colorado Innovation Schools Act
Another approach tried in Colorado — a 2008 law called the Innovation Schools Act — gives school officials who opt into the program greater school autonomy and flexibility in operations and academic decisions. "The innovation schools are experiencing growth in test scores but many were exceeding state averages prior to being innovation schools," said a recent report from researchers who have studied the schools.
There are just 21 innovation schools - an incredibly small sample, but according to a recent report
Innovation schools did not tend to look drastically different than other schools.
Innovation schools have experienced high rates of mobility among teachers and principals. Their teachers tend to be somewhat less experienced and are less likely to have master’s degrees than teachers in comparable schools
There are not yet clear trends to help us understand how Innovation will affect student achievement.
They sound an awful lot like most Cleveland charters, and like most Cleveland charters they rely upon less experienced, less qualified teachers, and are not producing better results than traditional schools. Gordon and PolitiFact are WRONG to look at Innovation Schools as evidence of successful reforms.
Next PolitiFact uses this
The Baltimore school district — after working hand in hand with the union — implemented a reworked teacher contract largely based on teacher evaluations and student test scores. That contract only went into effect last year so it’s too soon to say whether it has improved student test scores.
In their own words, there is no evidence this works to improve student achievement, exactly what the teachers in Cleveland claim. Why did PolitiFact even introduce this as evidence? Moving on.
The Jackson plan also calls for increased learning time through either longer school days or a longer school year, a hot topic among educational academics. Research on the subject is mixed — a fact Gordon acknowledged. "Well, no one factor in of itself is a magic bullet solution," he said. "You are going to find time studies where it did work and time studies where it didn’t work."
Now we're getting desperate. So how does PolitiFact rule on this mountain of evidence?
Ohio AFT union head Melissa Cropper said Mayor Frank Jackson’s sweeping plan to improve Cleveland schools "lacks any data or methods proven to raise student achievement" as she labeled the proposal an attack on teachers. For PolitiFact Ohio, a key part of that statement is "lacks any."
While the specific approach Jackson mapped out for Cleveland hasn’t been proven, it does clearly contain elements that researchers suggest may work — at least in some cases -- such as merit pay for teachers, greater flexibility for schools in how they go about their business and longer school days or school year.
On the Truth-O-Meter, the claim by the Ohio Federation of Teachers rates Mostly False.
Huh? "Elements", "may work", PolitiFact contort their own piece to arrive at this ridiculously tortured conclusion. There is no evidence based on research that shows that what is proposed in the "Cleveland Plan" will work (though we hope some of it does!), to then arrive at a conclusion that the teachers are "mostly wrong" is absurd. This should come as no surprise as the Plain Dealer has been carrying the water for Frank Jackson and his SB5 plan on their opinion pages from the gitgo - and that's a Fact, totally true.