Deep Red Opposition to Kasich Funding Plan

As the 130th General assembly gets underway and begins its hearings on the Budget, questions from law makers and superintendents are already starting to heat up - and not from your typical quarters.

the most eye opening example is Superintendent of Franklin City Schools, in deep red Warren county who sent out a letter to residents calling John Kasich a liar, and asking for citizens to join him in removing him from office.

Governor John Kasich was untruthful last week, and in doing so, finally clarified that kids in poor school districts don't count.
As parents and friends of our district, I hope you will do two things: First, please join me in an active campaign to ensure that Gov. Kasich and any legislator who supports him are not re-elected. Second, I hope you will contact our state officials and urge them to ask Gov. Kasich to return to the drawing board on his school funding proposal.

Here's the full letter

Letter to Residents-Mr. Elam

Further difficult questions were posed to the Governor's education advisors during a House education committee hearing. Plunderbund captures on such exchange by Rep Smith (a Republican who won his district with over 65% of the vote in 2012)

During the hearings [video available here at 137:53] Smith asked a very moving question of Richard A. Ross, head the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education. He simply wanted to know what, if anything, this budget would do to help the severely underfunded schools in his district, schools that are laying off teachers and other vital staff and can’t afford to provide simple classes in art of music. Ross compared his schools to the fast growing Olentangy school district in Central Ohio.

“Olentangy schools have German 1,2 and 3, Jewelry 1, Ceramics 1, Sculpture 1, Stage Craft 1, Concert Orchestra,” said Smith. ”These are things that children of Appalachia don’t get exposed to.”

“I’m not asking for synchronized swimming or a swimming pool or anything extra. I’m not asking for violin lessons or cello lessons. What I want for is my kids is music. And art… just give them a basic education,” pleaded Smith.

State Rep Smith also tells the story of Symmes Valley School District where the Superintendent had to layoff his board secretary, transportation director and curriculum director and is now doing all of those jobs himself. Another school district in Smith’s area has lost 40 teachers and the rest have had no raises in four years.

Smith ends by asking Ross asking if there is any “special sauce” in this budget that will help superintendents just provided a basic education to the kids in his district?

the Governor's advisors told Rep Smith that perhaps students in his poor district could learn music online. Then they laughed. They may not be laughing much longer, as opposition to the second worst school funding plan (The worst being their previous plan that cut almost $2 billion from school budgets) is increasing and hardening even in red corners of the state.

Stephen Dyer notes that Governor Kasich ought to be worried. We agree.

Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher Evaluations

A letter, signed by 88 educational researchers from 16 universities was recently sent to the Mayor of Chicago regarding his plans to implement a teacher evaluation system. Because of some of the similarities of the Chicago plan to that of Ohio, we thought we would reprint the letter here.

In what follows, we draw on research to describe three significant concerns with this plan.

Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.” For Type I or Type II assessments, CPS must identify the assessments to be used, decide how to measure student growth on those assessments, and translate student growth into teacher-evaluation ratings. They must determine how certain student characteristics such as placement in special education, limited English-language proficiency, and residence in low-income households will be taken into consideration. They have to make sure that the necessary technology is available and usable, guarantee that they can correctly match teachers to their actual students, and determine that the tests are aligned to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In addition, teachers, principals, and other school administrators have to be trained on the use of student assessments for teacher evaluation. This training is on top of training already planned about CCSS and the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, used for the “teacher practice” part of evaluation.

For most teachers, a Type I or II assessment does not exist for their subject or grade level, so most teachers will need a Type III assessment. While work is being done nationally to develop what are commonly called assessments for “non-tested” subjects, this work is in its infancy. CPS must identify at least one Type III assessment for every grade and every subject, determine how student growth will be measured on these assessments, and translate the student growth from these different assessments into teacher-evaluation ratings in an equitable manner.

If CPS insists on implementing a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student growth in September 2012, we can expect to see a widely flawed system that overwhelms principals and teachers and causes students to suffer.

Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher-evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).

Chicago already uses a VAM statistical model to determine which schools are put on probation, closed, or turned around. For the new teacher-evaluation system, student growth on Type I or Type II assessments will be measured with VAMs or similar models. Yet, ten prominent researchers of assessment, teaching, and learning recently wrote an open letter that included some of the following concerns about using student test scores to evaluate educators[1]:

a. Value-added models (VAMs) of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. For example, different statistical models (all based on reasonable assumptions) can yield different effectiveness scores. [2] Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test. [3]

b. There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. In order to determine if there is a relationship, researchers recommend small-scale pilot testing of such systems. Student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches. [4]

c. Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth. [5] Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations.

Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher-evaluation system.

When a teacher’s livelihood is directly impacted by his or her students’ scores on an end-of-year examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and student changes for the worse, including in the following ways:

a. With a focus on end-of-year testing, there inevitably will be a narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill-and-drill teaching. [6] Enrichment activities in the arts, music, civics, and other non-tested areas will diminish.

b. Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors. [7]

c. The dynamic between students and teacher will change. Instead of “teacher and student versus the exam,” it will be “teacher versus students’ performance on the exam.”

d. Collaboration among teachers will be replaced by competition. With a “value-added” system, a 5th grade teacher has little incentive to make sure that his or her incoming students score well on the 4th grade exams, because incoming students with high scores would make his or her job more challenging.

e. When competition replaces collaboration, every student loses.

You can read the whole letter below.

Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation

Simple thinking, bad reporting

Providing a broad based education for K-12 is a very complex endeavor. It's that complexity which makes it difficult to distill what policies work and what don't, when so many variables affect student outcomes.

However, a cottage industry is being developed to reduce the entire topic of public education to a letter grade or a single number. It's as though these architects of simplicity have read Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and determined that maybe because the answer to "the earth, universe and everything" is 42, it's should be even easier to grade a school as a simple C, or a teacher to a 1.07.

The problem of course is that much like Douglas Adams' novel, this thinking is also science fiction. To distill complexities down to such simple terms, means making highly subjective decisions and ignoring, or worse, being oblivious to, multiple variables.

A few cases in point. Ohio is about to deploy a new school rating system, based upon subjective measures, and ignoring a host of other factors.

As an educator and parent I could rail for days about the lack of actual meaning behind any letter grade, whether an A or an F, and this is a decision that even Rick Santorum would call anachronistic. If your child brings home a ‘C’ on his report card, what does that mean? Does than mean he’s working his ass off and completing all of his homework but struggling with expressing his knowledge on written tests? Or does it mean that he’s uninterested in completing homework that isn’t challenging him while attaining perfect scores on assessments? Or does it just mean that he is earning consistent C’s on every single assignment whether in-class, homework, quizzes, or tests? Perhaps it’s some combination of the above, so what does that tell you or your son about what he needs to do to improve?

See how clear those letter grades are?

Separating the effects of economic factors from school performance doesn't appear to have been one of the major efforts undertaken, even though we have known for a long time that a students socioeconomic status, and that of the school district is the leading predictor of performance, by far.

Another recent example has been the use of teacher level value add scores by New York's print media

The article is a pretty remarkable display of both poor journalism and poor research. The reporters not only attempted to do something they couldn’t do, but they did it badly to boot. It’s unfortunate to have to waste one’s time addressing this kind of thing, but, no matter your opinion on charter schools, it’s a good example of how not to use the data that the Daily News and other newspapers released to the public.
However, we can’t take the performance categories – or the Daily News’ “analysis” of them – at face value. Their approach has one virtue – it’s easy to understand, and easy to do. But it has countless downsides, one of them being that it absolutely cannot prove – or even really suggest – what they’re saying it proves. I don’t know if the city’s charter teachers have higher value-added scores. It’s an interesting question (by my standards, at least), but the Daily News doesn’t address it meaningfully.

Though far from the only one, the reporters’ biggest problem was right in front of them. The article itself notes that only about half (32) of the city’s charter schools chose to participate in the rating program (it was voluntary for charters). This is actually the total number of participating schools in 2008, 2009 and 2010, most of which rotated in and out of the program each year. It’s apparently lost on these reporters that only a minority of charters participating means that the charter teachers in the TDR data do not necessarily reflect the population overall. This issue by itself renders their assertions invalid and irresponsible.

Simple thinking, and bad education reporting is a major impediment to real education reform that will improve the quality of our schools.

Why is it that a politician, such as Mayor Frank Jackson, can put forward plans to eliminate teacher seniority, and it not be pointed out that teaching experience matters, and that if his goal is to improve the quality of Cleveland's public schools, his chosen policy preference is antithetical to that?

Research suggests that students learn more from experienced teachers (those with at least five years of experience) than they do from less experienced teachers (NCES 2000d; Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain 1998; Murnane and Phillips 1981.) These studies point primarily to the difference between teachers with fewer than five years of experience (new teachers) and teachers with five or more years of experience.

If that wasn't simple enough, of course there are even more complex answers to this question.

But these overall findings ignore the fact that the experience/achievement relationship differs a great deal by context. For instance, the returns to experience appear to vary by where teachers work. The relationship is more consistent among elementary school teachers (especially compared with those in high schools). The effect of experience on teacher productivity may also be mediated by the quality of their peers in the same school – i.e., that novice teachers with more effective peers in the same school do better.

Similarly, there is evidence that experience matters less – or less consistently – in poorer schools (also see here). There are several plausible explanations for this discrepancy, such as the possibility that teachers in poorer schools burn out more rapidly, or that there are difficulties in teaching lower-income children that are harder to adjust to.

The experience factor not only varies by where you teach, but also by what you teach. Math teachers seem to improve more quickly (and consistently) than reading teachers, while newer evidence suggests that the same is true for teachers who remain in the same grade for multiple years.

Finally, it bears mentioning the obvious point that the effect of teacher experience might be totally different if we were able to look at outcomes other than test scores. The idea that experience doesn’t matter after five or so years incorrectly implies that test scores are the only relevant outcome. Nobody believes that is the case. (And, for what it’s worth, teachers with whom I’ve spoken find the idea that they stop improving after four or five years laughable.)

Instead the debate over the Mayor's plan has not revolved around whether it has any basis in supportable fact, but instead around simplistic stories of the politics involved.

There are enough bad actors in the corporate school reform movement willing to put aside hard truths and solid facts in favor of their desire to profit from public education, but that should be no excuse for others to not challenge simplistic thinking and unsupported asertions which can be equally as damaging to the goal of delivering a quality education to all students.

Education News for 02-01-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Youngstown academic distress panel gains Cleveland member (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - The commission overseeing the city school district’s academics has a new member — again. Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction, announced Tuesday that Paul Williams, retired superintendent of Beachwood City Schools and a professor at Cleveland State University, is the academic-distress commission’s newest member. Williams moves into the seat formerly occupied by Adrienne O’Neill. Read More…

  • Ohio receives ‘B’ in report on teaching science in K-12 (Dayton Daily News)
  • Ohio does a better job of teaching science to students in grades K-12 compared to most other states that “remain mediocre to awful,” according to a new report released Tuesday. Teaching science well is crucial to improving the nation’s ability to compete globally, remain prosperous and scientifically-advanced, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. While the news is good for Ohio, which received a “B” grade, the report’s overall findings are troubling because 27 states either earned “Ds” or “Fs” for their standards in a subject many experts said will play a critical role in future high-tech jobs. Read More…

  • Terry Johnson introduces teacher appeals bill (Daily Times)
  • State Reps. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, and Casey Kozlowski, R-Pierpoint, announced Monday they have introduced legislation to create a formal appeals process for school teachers who receive a letter of admonishment in their files from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Currently, when a complaint is filed and investigated, a letter of admonishment may be placed in his or her file as disciplinary action. Read More…

  • Schools link smarts, phones (Dispatch)
  • Teachers in some classrooms confiscate smartphones from students caught texting or surfing social-media websites. Damon Mollenkopf doesn’t bother. The teacher at Westerville North High School actually encourages students to chat with one another on social-networking websites, with the hope that they’re talking about history. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Massillon City Schools treasurer abruptly resigns (Repository)
  • MASSILLON — City School District Treasurer Teresa Emmerling abruptly resigned Tuesday, saying the school board and superintendent are attempting to make her the scapegoat for the district’s financial problems. “I cannot and will not continue to put myself in a situation where the board and superintendent have now started their ‘paper trail’ to corrupt my credibility, integrity and work ethic,” she said, reading a three-page resignation letter at the start of a special board meeting. Read More…

  • Cincinnati School Lunches Setting Example With Healthy Makeover (WKRC 12 CBS)
  • A healthy change is coming which impacts millions of school children. For the first time in fifteen years, nutritional guidelines for school lunches have been revised. Local 12 News Reporter Jeff Hirsh tells us about the change for less junk and more quality. Kids today are getting less tater tots and more produce as part of the new Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The guidelines just announced last week by First Lady Michelle Obama ... things like more whole grains, low fat milk and cheese, and vending machines minus junk. Read More…

  • School? There’s an MCCTC app for that (Vindicator)
  • Canfield - Mahoning County Career and Technical Center senior Elizabeth Blythe scrolled through the center’s new mobile application on her iPhone. “You can check grades on here?” she asked. “Yep, on Progress Book,” said Jacqueline Kuffel, career development supervisor at the school. The app, simply called MCCTC app, launched after the first of the year, allows students, parents and others from the community to check out what goes on at the center. Read More…

  • District details $2.5M in cuts if levy fails (Dayton Daily News)
  • BEAVERCREEK — Elementary students’ art, music and physical education programs will be chopped in half while middle school and high school students will face higher pay-to-participate fees and fewer elective classes if Beavercreek City Schools’ 6.7-mill levy fails on March 6. The district announced $2.5 million in cuts to address the projected budget deficit if voters turn down an emergency operating levy request for a third time. Read More…

  • Evans under fire from Canton teachers' union (Repository)
  • CANTON — The superintendent of City Schools is defending her record as the leader of Stark County’s largest school district as the teacher’s union demands a closed-door meeting with the Board of Education to air its concerns. The Canton Professional Educators’ Association has sent a letter to the school board seeking an executive session meeting with the board. If it doesn’t get the meeting, the union says it will make a public statement saying it has no confidence in Superintendent Michele Evans. Read More…

  • Bedford schools offered $10,000 for ad-sign contract (Toledo Blade)
  • TEMPERANCE - The Bedford Public Schools could be in line for additional money for Bedford Community Stadium, the board of education was told at its committee of the whole meeting last week. Superintendent Ted Magrum said a Bedford business has offered to pay $10,000 a year for 10 years in return for being allowed to place ad signs at the press box and baseball and softball fields. The superintendent did not identify the business but said negotiations were under way. The Bedford High School Alumni Association has been the contact with the business, he said. Read More…


  • Bus stop (Dispatch) Kids who ride school buses operated by First Student Inc. to charter and private schools in Columbus should thank the State Highway Patrol trooper who showed recently that he’s looking out for their well-being. The Columbus City Schools should do the same, by keeping constant vigilance on this private transportation provider. A trooper who stopped a First Student bus for running a red light, which is alarming enough, was so shocked by the condition of the bus that he followed it to the company’s garage to perform some spot-checks on it and other buses. Read More…

  • From the Statehouse to Steubenville (Beacon Journal)
  • If you haven’t noticed yet, John Kasich likes to do things a bit differently. The governor appeared to take pride a year ago in delivering the State of the State address with little in the way of a prepared text. No matter, evidently, that the speech turned into something closer to what you expect at a fund-raiser, complete with the umpteenth rendition of how Kasich once worked with the liberal Ron Dellums during their days in Congress. Read More…

Clippy as the model for Bill Gates involvement in schools

Remember the obnoxious, hyperactive paperclip that popped up in Word when you were trying write a letter? As soon as you typed "Dear," up popped up Clippy:

It looks like you're writing a letter.
Would you like help?


You'd been writing letters for decades, but Microsoft insisted you needed what they called "proactive help." And there was Clippy insisting he could show you how to do your job better. No matter how many times you clicked "Just type the letter without help," Clippy would pop up again, insisting you must need help.

Your train of thought melted as you tried to remember how to get rid of the dorky paperclip.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal , Stanford professor Clifford Nass reports, "One of the most reviled software designs of all time was Clippy, the animated paper clip in Microsoft Office. The mere mention of his name to computer users brought on levels of hatred usually reserved for jilted lovers and mortal enemies. There were 'I hate Clippy' websites, videos and T-shirts in numerous languages." Nass observes that "Clippy's problem was that he was utterly oblivious to the appropriate ways to treat people. Every time a user typed "Dear," Clippy would dutifully propose, "I see you are writing a letter. Would you like some help?" --no matter how many times the user had rejected this offer in the past."

And he wouldn't stop smiling. You're pounding the keyboard trying to find the "DIE!" function but he keeps smiling.

YouTube offers a hilarious "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" audio segment on the death of the reviled Microsoft mascot. Listeners voted this the funniest segment of all time. The show host Peter Segal says, "One day the engineers at Microsoft said, you know, the people using our products, they're frustrated, they're angry, but they're not insane with rage. How can we focus their rage? How about if just in the middle of doing something, an animated paperclip pops up on the screen and says: 'Can I help you? What are you doing? Oh, can I see?'"

The segment includes the Bill Gate memo titled "Clippy Must Die."

But now, teachers across America are discovering that Clippy has been reborn--with Gates barnstorming the country with pronouncements about effective teaching. Never mind you've been teaching for decades, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is there popping up with compulsory proactive help, insisting they can show you how to do your job better. No matter how much you beg, "Just let me teach," Clippy Bill is there insisting you must need help.

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Turgid mandates

Gov Brown of California just issued a veto of a state bill that would have expanded testing even further than an already prescriptive system. We're not sure what our favorite line is, because there are so many good ones, but if pressed, "Lost in the bill's turgid mandates is any recognition that quality is findamentaly different from quantity." would be a contender.

Here's the entire veto letter.

SB 547 Veto Message