Ohio Value-added measures poverty

Congratulations Ohio corporate education reformers, you have discovered yet another way to measure poverty. Unfortunately you seem to believe this is also a good way to evaluate teachers.

Value-added was supposed to be the great equalizer -- a measure of schools that would finally judge fairly how much poor students are learning compared with their wealthier peers.

Meant to gauge whether students learn as much as expected in a given year, value-added will become a key part of rating individual teachers from rich and poor districts alike next school year.

But a Plain Dealer/StateImpact Ohio analysis raises questions about how much of an equalizer it truly is, even as the state ramps up its use.

The 2011-12 value-added results show that districts, schools and teachers with large numbers of poor students tend to have lower value-added results than those that serve more-affluent ones.

Of course there are going to be defenders of the high stakes sweepstakes

"Value-added is not influenced by socioeconomic status," said Matt Cohen, the chief research officer at the Ohio Department of Education. "That much is pretty clear."

That is the same Matt Cohen who admitted he is no expert and has no clue how Value-add is calculated

The department’s top research official, Matt Cohen, acknowledged that he can’t explain the details of exactly how Ohio’s value-added model works. He said that’s not a problem.

“It’s not important for me to be able to be the expert,” he said. “I rely on the expertise of people who have been involved in the field.” 

Perhaps if Mr Cohen became more familiar with the science and the data he would realize that:

  • Value-added scores were 2½ times higher on average for districts where the median family income is above $35,000 than for districts with income below that amount.
  • For low-poverty school districts, two-thirds had positive value-added scores -- scores indicating students made more than a year's worth of progress.
  • For high-poverty school districts, two-thirds had negative value-added scores -- scores indicating that students made less than a year's progress.

  • Almost 40 percent of low-poverty schools scored "Above" the state's value-added target, compared with 20 percent of high-poverty schools.
  • At the same time, 25 percent of high-poverty schools scored "Below" state value-added targets while low-poverty schools were half as likely to score "Below."

  • Students in high-poverty schools are more likely to have teachers rated "Least Effective" -- the lowest state rating -- than "Most Effective" -- the highest of five ratings. The three ratings in the middle are treated by the state as essentially average performance.

Is there really any doubt what is truly being measured here? Ohio's secret Value-added formula is good at measuring poverty, not teacher effectiveness.

We predict districts and administrators and those connected to the development of Value-added measures are going to be deluged with lawsuits once high stakes decisions are attached to the misguided application of these diagnostic scores.

Michelle Rhee and the unproven teacher evaluation

Via the LA Times

The debate -- and that’s putting it nicely -- over the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations has always confused me, because the answer seemed so simple. One of the things we ask of teachers -- but just one thing -- is to raise those scores. So they have some place in the evaluation. But how much? Easy. Get some good evidence and base the decisions on that, not on guessing. The quality of education is at stake, as well as people’s livelihoods.

Much to my surprise, at a meeting with the editorial board this week, Michelle Rhee agreed, more or less. As one of the more outspoken voices in the school-reform movement, Rhee is at least as polarizing as the topic of teacher evaluations, and her lobbying organization, Students First, takes the position that the standardized test scores of each teacher’s students should count for no less than 50% of that teacher’s rating on performance evaluations.

But asked where the evidence was to back up that or any other percentage figure, Rhee agreed quite openly that it’s lacking.

[readon2 url="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-michelle-rhee-teachers-20130416,0,4487460.story"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

Erasures demonstrate huge sensitivity in ratings

The Dispatch had another speculative piece of reporting on the attendance erasure issue. We'll leave educator Greg Mild at Plunderbund to go over the substance, or lack thereof, of the article itself. We want to concentrate on something else mentioned in the article which stood out.

At the heart of the controversy is this

Though 7 percent [number of deleted records] may not sound like a lot, it could have a big effect: There are students behind those numbers, and some of their standardized test scores were likely discounted when their attendance records were deleted. That means Columbus’ school grades could have been artificially inflated because of records-tampering.

From this, the Department of Education had a remarkable comment

“The math indicates that removing one student could affect the overall rating,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education. “In some districts, it could be one kid. It’s about dropping the right kid.”

Can this be true? Can the ratings of an entire district truly be affected by just a handful of students, or even one? We have an actual true life example, that yes, small numbers of students can indeed cause an entire districts rating to be changed

In Lockland near Cincinnati, removing 36 kids from the rolls — about 5 percent of their student population — lifted the district from a C to a B on the state report card.

Can a school rating system that is so sensitive to just a handful of students truly be measuring the district as a whole? This growing controversy over attendance data is revealing a lot more than people realize.

Voucher expansion pressure

There's some good news being reported today. It appears Columbus lawmakers have listened to the out-pouring of dissent at a number of the Governor's education policy proposals, and are considering changes and delays

Republican leaders in the Senate plan to slow down Gov. John Kasich’s initiatives for holding back third-graders who aren’t proficient in reading and for a tougher report-card rating system for schools and districts.

Under the Senate plan, new report cards would be issued by Sept. 1, 2013, for the 2012-13 school year, not this summer for the current school year. And the so-called reading guarantee would start in the 2013-14 school year, instead of this fall.
School district officials, teachers unions and state education groups have urged lawmakers to hold off on the plan so they can better inform parents and teachers of the coming changes.

Under the amendment, a new report-card rating system planned for this school year would be put off, and a task force would be established to provide recommendations to lawmakers by Oct. 1 about the new letter-grade rating system.

The new school rating proposal had come under specific attack, from many diverse groups, as it would have lowered the ratings on the majority of Ohio's schools. One of the unintended consequences of this would have been to expand the geographic eligibility of the state's private school voucher program

The EdChoice program could also see a significant change not only in the number of schools and students eligible for a voucher, but also where these schools are located under the newly proposed A-F system. Under the proposed A-F system more schools would be rated D and F, resulting in an increase in the number of eligible schools. Using performance data from 2010-11 the Ohio Department of Education ran a simulation to demonstrate how schools might fare under the new system (you can read more about the proposed A-F system here). Using that data 273 schools and approximately 105,000 students would now be eligible for the EdChoice program. A majority of eligible schools still remain in Big 8 districts but a couple of new districts such as Hamilton City and South Western City would now have eligible schools on the list under the new A-F system.

With the state's voucher program massively undersubscribed, expanding the geographic availability would be a boon to the profiteers and their advocates. Not something to be considered while there is a push for greater accountability for private schools that take tax payer funded vouchers.

Given the recent news of the Dragonfly Autism school suddenly shuttering its doors, there's never been a more urgent need for oversight and accountability of these types of schools

Dragonfly Academy, a local private school for autistic children, unexpectedly closed its doors Thursday morning amid allegations from parents that promised services were not being provided.

Parents were notified via text message from the school’s executive director, Brianne Bixby-Nightingale, at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday that the school would be closed Thursday and today for “restructuring,” several parents confirmed.

Dragonfly’s six-member board of directors apparently resigned last month.
Among the parents’ claims are that the school failed to provide required therapies and that it did not have enough qualified staff.

Gallaway confirmed Thursday that both of the school’s intervention specialists had quit.

Former Governor Ted Strickland recently blasted the expansion of Ohio's voucher program Strickland said Ohio's voucher program, which allows students in struggling districts to receive funding to attend private schools, is damaging the quality of Ohio public education.

"Vouchers simply is a way to enter into a private situation where the majority of our students are left behind and a few students may be able to benefit using public tax dollars and I think that's wrong and it's harmful to society," Strickland said.

It's good that lawmakers are now slowing down these corporate reforms and listening to stakeholders. We can only hope this proposed task force takes a long hard look at some of the unintended consequences of the Governor's ideas that might harm public education by increasing further the amount of unaccountable privatization.

Cleveland teachers advance the way forward

According to an excellent news report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) just wiped away all of Frank Jackson's empty rhetoric for why he would not involve teachers in the development of his plan, by presenting a clear set of workable alternatives, that advances the way forward for Cleveland schools..

Whether educators express it through massive surveys, or actual deeds, they continue to prove a deep commitment to reforms that lead to quality learning for students. Cleveland teachers, with their clear set of alternative, have demonstrated that too.

Just a week ago, less than 24 hours after Jackson released his plan, he was complaining that he didn't have a response from CTU. We could be petty and point out that Jackson has now had CTU's proposals for nearly a week and still hasn't gotten around to reading them.

"I'm not in a negotiation or compromise mode," Jackson said. "I'm in an outcome mode. If I'm wrong in how I'm proposing to get there, tell me how I should do it. I'll do anything that gets us the outcome."

Jackson was unwilling to say whether CTU's plan offered the kind of change he wants, but said that "my expectation is that there is something that we have a deeper dive on in terms of conversation and details."

School district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said he has also not had time to review the plan in detail but is "hopeful."

We suggest he and his team now make that a priority. The alternatives put forward by CTU are based upon research and principles that work, and provide for a fair way forward. If Jackson is unable to begin to compromise now he has a credible and clear way forward, it should become crystal clear to all that his objections are political, not pedagogical.

Below is a table of comparisons between current policy, Jackson's plan and the way forward presented by Cleveland teachers.

Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Until the summer of 2013, seniority is the deciding factor in layoffs and recalls. Teachers with short-term, or limited contracts, are laid off first, but based on seniority, then teachers with tenure, or continuing contracts, are laid off based on seniority.

When CTU's contract expires in 2013, a 2011 law makes teacher evaluations the deciding factor. Teachers with limited contracts will be laid off based on evaluations, then teachers with continuing contracts based on evaluations. Seniority is used only as a tiebreaker between teachers in the same pool.

Mirrors the budget bill by making teacher performance the main factor in layoffs and recalls, but removes the distinction between a continuing and limited contract except as a tiebreaker. Also adds other factors to determine the ranking of teachers, including recent teaching assignments and specialties. Would create eight "buckets" that would divide teachers first by their evaluation (ratings of 1 to 4, with 1 being the lowest) and then by seniority. Teachers with the lowest rating and a limited contract would be laid off first, followed by teachers with the lowest rating and a continuing contract, then teachers with the second-lowest rating and a limited contract, then the second-lowest rating and a continuing contract, and so on.
Merit pay
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The contract pays teachers based on their experience and education level, with bonuses for extra duties. Last year's state budget bill required districts to include teacher ratings in their salary schedules but did not specify to what degree. Jackson wants to make performance a major part of a "differentiated compensation" plan for teacher pay that pays more for higher performance, extra duties or teaching subjects where there is a teacher shortage or in troubled schools. The proposed law would mandate that this plan prevail over any new contract. The union has issues with the wording of this part of the legislation. It did not raise objections to the compensation plan itself.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district is testing a plan that mirrors statewide requirements to have an evaluation system that measures teachers half on academic growth of students and half on other factors. The state requires a plan for all districts by the 2013-14 school year, but Cleveland is a year ahead of that timetable. Reaffirms that plan but offers some flexibility in timing. Teachers and the district mostly agree. Teachers want any law changes on evaluation to include extra training and support for teachers who fall short, and to be sure that evaluators are properly trained. They also don't want to jeopardize the federal Race to The Top grant the district and others are using to develop the plan.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district can seek to fire a teacher for poor teaching after either a year-long review process by the principal, or after following that year with a year of peer review and assistance through a system the union has helped set up. Teachers can also be fired for other behavior. Would allow a teacher to be fired for having the lowest evaluation rating two years in a row. Jackson also wants the system to move faster. His plan would give teachers short-term contracts that the district can simply choose not to renew. The teachers union believes the current plan or one developed by its national union is just as fast and effective as Jackson's. Its plan includes help for teachers with low performance ratings before they are fired.
New collective bargaining agreements
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The old contract between CTU and the district guides all new negotiations, and the contract includes several rules on specific issues that roll over in the new contracts. Jhrows out the previous contract and all previous rules and would start negotiations from scratch. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the district could impose a contract rather than reverting to the old one.

The union objects entirely to this proposal.

It proposes instead creating a new contract that starts from scratch for three specialty schools within the district, Campus International and two MC2 STEM schools, and it would be in place by July 2013. Those schools would be exempt from layoff and recall rules that apply to the rest of the district.

Tenure/continuing contracts
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Teachers can apply for a continuing contract after three or seven years of service, depending on when they were hired, and their removal becomes much harder after that. If teachers meet experience and continuing education rules, continuing contracts are generally granted. All new teachers would not be eligible for continuing contracts and existing teachers would have strict limitations on applying for them. Even then, continuing contracts would be granted at the discretion of the CEO and school board. The union completely opposes the plan, saying that if the district does not offer job security, it will be at a recruiting and hiring disadvantage.
Reforming low-performing schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The law allows reallocation of resources, redesigning academic programs or giving extra assistance to students. The district and CTU must negotiate any changes in work rules or hours. The two sides have reached agreements for some schools in the last few years. The district CEO would have wide authority to close or reshape a school. The CEO could lay off or fire teachers or change the length of the school year or day in order to reorganize the school.

The teachers union wants to forbid the layoff or firing of teachers just because they work in a low-performing school, regardless of their individual performance.

It proposes turning low performing schools into "New Generation" schools that would focus on failing students in the third through seventh grades. Those schools could have a year-round calendar, an extended school day and work with social services agencies.

Union presence in district-sponsored charter schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
If a district converts a school to a charter school, a 2011 law allows it to exempt the school from any unions as soon as the current contract for that union expires. Jackson sought this change last year so his plan does not propose anything further. The union wants to repeal the rule. It also wants more leeway to try to organize teachers in any charter school sponsored by a district. This would let teachers at the district-sponsored Breakthrough charter schools talk with CTU without fear of reprisals and possibly unionize.

Education News for 03-13-2012

Statewide Education News

  • How the state will rank school spending (Dispatch)
  • Among the slew of school rankings we'll see on this year's report cards is a best-to-worst efficiency ranking based on per-pupil spending. The rankings will be based entirely on operational expenditures -- money spent to run the school district. So no facilities spending will be included. Read More…

  • Group wants students to withdraw (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - A community group plans to target the city school district’s 1,500 lowest-performing students, asking their parents to withdraw them from the schools. Jimma McWilson of the Community High Commission declined to specify how those students would be targeted, or during what time frame. The commission, which McWilson says includes about 50 members plus several affiliated groups, called a news conference Monday at the East Side branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Read More…

  • Kasich hails Cleveland school plan (Dispatch)
  • Gov. John Kasich is praying and begging for support for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to overhaul the city’s schools, saying it’s a model that could be used in urban districts across Ohio. “I’m begging you as human beings to not let this go down the drain,” Kasich told the State Board of Education at its monthly meeting yesterday in Columbus. The governor urged the 19-member board to back the plan, which might be included in a mid-biennium review of the state budget that Kasich plans to unveil on Wednesday. Read More…

  • State to lower ratings of area schools (Findlay Courier)
  • Almost every area school district that received an "excellent" rating on last year's state-issued report card would see that rating demoted if a new, tougher evaluation system is used. Arcadia, Findlay City, Liberty-Benton, McComb and Van Buren schools were all given excellent ratings, the equivalent of an A, for the 2010-11 school year. Had the new evaluation system been in place, all five districts would have instead received an "effective" rating, the equivalent of a B. The state plans to begin using the new system this year. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson unveils draft legislation to support schools plan (Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND - Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson hopes to line up a legislative sponsor for his schools plan yet this month and is aiming for the necessary changes in state law by May and a tax increase this fall. Read More…

  • New school rating system would reduce grades (Coshocton Tribune)
  • COSHOCTON - All county schools would drop a grade level if judged by a new system the state plans to put in place. "They're increasing the rigor, and it's nothing that we haven't anticipated," said Rick Raach, Ridgewood Local School District superintendent. Read More…

  • School district grades drop under new rating system (Times-Recorder)
  • Three Muskingum County schools were rated excellent on the last state report card, but none of them would have achieved that rating under the state's new evaluation system. In fact, almost every Ohio school district rated excellent or higher on the state's 2011 report card -- the equivalent of an A -- would drop to a B or lower under proposed changes to the rating system. Read More…

  • State gives Lorain Schools a ‘D’; Under new grading scale, not one district in Lorain County earned an ‘A’ (Morning Journal)
  • Under the proposed changes in how the state grades school districts, not one district in Lorain County would receive a top mark from the state. Under the new A to F grading scale, the highest grade a Lorain County school would receive is a B, according to the Ohio department of Education. Read More…

  • Resident praises embattled principal (Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin)
  • OLD FORT - During an Old Fort Local Board of Education meeting Monday evening, a district resident spoke out in support of an administrator who was suspended without pay Feb. 27. After the board spent 20 minutes in executive session, Anna Alexander described Tom Weaver, principal of grades 7-12 and athletic director, as a wonderful person and decent man. Read More…

  • New Riegel board learns of new grading system for school districts (Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin)
  • New Riegel Board of Education members learned a new accountability system may go into effect that would change the school's state report card significantly. Superintendent Elaine Nye said the Ohio Department of Education has submitted a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the new system. Read More…

  • Parents set up experiments (Vindicator)
  • Canfield - Students at Hilltop Elementary are spending the week playing with science. On Monday, Hilltop fourth-graders took turns with hands-on science, technology, engineering and math experiments that were designed and organized by about 50 parent volunteers over the course of several months, said Principal Cathy Mowry. Throughout the week, the other grade levels also will participate. Mowry said the experiments were created with the kids in mind. Read More…

  • Willoughby-Eastlake Schools proposes new grading scale (News-Herald)
  • While many supporters are still celebrating the passage of the Willoughby-Eastlake School levy, the school board got back to work and had its first meeting at Kennedy Community School on Monday night since the election. A revision to the district's grading scale was proposed that would put Willoughby-Eastlake more in line with other schools, Superintendent Steve Thompson said. "What we have found is that our grading scale is higher than almost every school district around," Thompson said. Read More…

  • Lakota schools' budget ax falls (Enquirer)
  • LIBERTY TWP. — When Lakota students start next school year, they will see fewer teachers, staff specialists and have fewer course options, thanks to about $10.5 million in sweeping budget cuts approved Monday night by the district’s school board. The Lakota board voted to accept some of the deepest budget reductions in the 18,000-student district’s 55-year history. The district is running out of money after voters have rejected three tax hikes in two years. Read More…

  • Spring Valley to close, saves district $300K annually (Morning Journal)
  • ELYRIA — Spring Valley Early Childhood Center will close at the end of the year, sending young students to other buildings in a move that will save the district $300,000 annually, according to Superintendent Paul Rigda. Kindergarten students now attending Spring Valley will attend Windsor Elementary School, 264 Windsor Drive, in the fall, and Spring Valley’s preschool classes, for developing students and special-needs children, will be at the district’s Administration Building, 42101 Griswold Road. Read More…


  • Use caution with open enrollment (Tribune Chronicle)
  • Now that Liberty Local Schools has approved open enrollment, the district has a fighting chance of escaping state fiscal oversight sooner rather than later, improving its academic standing and avoiding another levy request on a community beleaguered by an extraordinary tax rate. The Board of Education last month unanimously approved reinstating open enrollment. This is noteworthy because so many parents attended the meeting to oppose the decision, and the district closed enrollment two years ago in answer to parental protests. Read More…

  • Enhanced degree (Dispatch)
  • Any way that students can get a head start on a quality college education — and at a discount — is welcome. Reynoldsburg City Schools students soon might get the opportunity to graduate with both a diploma and an associate’s degree, through a partnership being considered by the district and Columbus State Community College. Officials still are working out details, including how much the high-school students would have to pay for the college credit, but a Columbus State spokesman says the cost will be “dramatically less” than the $79 per college credit hour that other students pay. Read More…